I’m just going to start off by saying that this review will be more negative than it is positive. I really wanted to like this one because it seemed like a really fun concept (at least in the beginning). Unfortunately, Maoyu – Archenemy & Hero lost its way after a few episodes and never really recovered properly. It’s a pretty package with a few shining moments, but overall a very bland and overly convoluted end product. Now that I’ve filled you with such positivity, we can begin the review. Spoilers ahead.
After arduous battles and countless sacrifices, the Hero (that’s his name; I’ll be referring to him as Yuusha for the rest of this review) has finally stormed the great halls of the Demon King. All that is left is to slay the monster and end the war. He expects a tough battle and a lot of resistance; what he doesn’t expect is a beautiful woman who fights with rational words rather than weapons. As it turns out, the Demon King (hitherto known as Maou for clarity) also wants peace, but she wants a ceasefire rather than a victory for either side.
Maou then goes undercover with Yuusha to live in the human realm and introduce technology that will help society progress (including advanced farming methods, new crops, a printing press, and even gunpowder), earning her the title “The Crimson Scholar”. Maou has discovered that the current war is being fueled by those in power, including royalty, the church, and even merchants. This war is meant to maintain power over the people, and she means to end it in a peaceful and natural way by advancing society. Promising, yes?
As I said before, it eventually loses focus. There are a lot of mini plotlines introduced, presumably to make the story more three-dimensional and interesting. While this in itself isn’t a bad thing (and can actually add a lot of great variety), most of them aren’t very strong plotlines. By the end of the anime, only one of them really grabbed my attention and felt resolved in a satisfying fashion (more on that in a bit).
Among the introduced plotlines is a bit of a love triangle between Maou, Yuusha, and one of Yuusha’s former companions, Onna (I say “a bit” because Onna never really stands a chance; it’s fake conflict). It really only shows us a vulnerable side of Onna for an otherwise stoic character.
Another plot is Yuusha’s inner conflict with his purpose. He doesn’t feel worthy to stand with Maou as an equal contributor in the quest for peace, so he spends a lot of the show separated from her, helping to further her plans remotely. He has always been a weapon of war and now he wants to be an instrument of healing. But again, it never succeeds in drawing the audience in and making them believe this is a real issue. Even Onna eventually talks to Yuusha, pointing out the unnecessary distance he’s putting between the two of them since he has the ability to teleport around the realm in an instant. He could be off taking care of Maou’s plans in a distant city and be home for dinner effortlessly. The end result of this is drama that is obviously contrived and filler.
Another seemingly useless plotline is the manipulation of the markets by merchants. This is an obvious nod to the hugely popular Spice & Wolf, but it’s a shadow of it at best. We do eventually see the beginning of market manipulation by means of food supply control, but by the end of the show, it almost felt like a pointless plot. Yes, it was used to spark a reason for war between the north and the south, but that war was started and ended in less than two episodes. Hardly a looming threat. The solution of the weaker southern nation to ending the war was indeed clever, but they had to show so much so quickly that it all ended up feeling rushed and it was over before the conflict even created real tension.
I did say there was one arc that caught my attention as interesting. Early in the show, two girls flee to the human estate of Maou and Yuusha, seeking asylum from their abusive owner. They are taken in and trained as household maids. The younger sister (named Imouto, who could have guessed) serves as a cute distraction from the rest of the story. The older sister, Ane, uses the opportunity to learn from Maou, taking in lessons such as triggering prosperity on a large scale for the nation. Slowly, her confidence is built up until a single pivotal moment.
Maou has to be absent for business in the demon realm, but has left behind a charmed ring that will change the appearance of whoever wears it to make them look like Maou. In her absence, the church declares The Crimson Scholar to be a heretic who must answer for her crimes (an obvious power grab as they see their control weakening with the introduction of new technologies). It is agreed that Ane will take on the appearance of Maou and go with the church, only to be rescued in transit by Yuusha; this keeps the southern government clear of guilt and conflict with the church, which could be seen as a declaration of war.
However, when Ane is taken into custody, rather than simply taking her from the town, the Church decides to try to make a public example of her in front of the people who love her. They chain her up, beat her, whip her and do everything they can to humiliate and discredit her. Eventually Ane breaks, unable to take the accusations. The wishes and desires she had held deep within her as a slave for so long burst forth into a speech that could be titled “I Am Human.” Years of pent up frustration at being the insect who only obeyed orders with no free will burst forth. It’s raw and impressive, and you can feel the ripple effect run through the crowd as they realize what they’re being told. Don’t simply take the church at it’s word; think and reason for yourself.
But that moment stands alone; the rest of the show is entirely unexciting and unimpressive in comparison (and that moment doesn’t happen until the ninth episode).
It’s unfortunate. Maoyu – Archenemy & Hero feels like wasted potential. I think the issue is they tried to do way too much for a show with only 12 episodes. If they had taken the time to stretch the story out over 24 episodes it might have been much more effective. Then again, I’m not sure there was anything else exciting enough to fill that many episodes. What I do know is that what we were presented didn’t work. It needed a lot more polishing to make it entertaining. It feels both rushed and unfinished. I wish I could recommend this anime just because the first couple of episodes really were exciting, but I cannot.