El Sijo's Blog

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Maoyu: Archenemy and Hero

Maoyu

This is an Anime series I started watching recently. At first I expected it to be another parody of Fantasy Role-Playing Games in the same vein of The Devil is a Part Timer!; however while it has its funny moments, it is more of a romantic drama than a comedy- and one with surprising historical insights, as well!

Adapted in 2013 from a Japanese novel, Maoyu takes place in your typical Fantasy World where humans and “demons” have been at war for 15 years. But as the Hero of the story (who is never referred to by name, nor are any of the other characters, only by their title) finds out, not only is the war spurred on by those on both sides who profit from it, but the Demon “King” is a beautiful woman- and she wants peace! So, they enter into a secret alliance to end the war and improve the conditions of living for everyone. Demon King, under the identity of “Crimson Scholar”, begins introducing revolutionary social ideas in the human realm, such as new forms of agriculture; while the Hero begins fighting to free the Demon Realms from tyranny.

They also begin falling in love. Which leads to its own, mostly hilarious problems. 😉

I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this. The show’s components do not fully mesh well; it can be too realistic at times, too fantastic at others, and too silly at yet others. But, everything -the characters, the story, the animation, etc.- is done so well, I can’t help but like it.

Let’s look at those elements, one by one (with as few spoilers as possible: )

The Historical Drama: It’s surprising how many historical facts there are in this show- the kind most fantasy series choose to ignore. Yes, entire wars (such as the Crusades) were fought due to ulterior motives of the Church and the Nobility, not for the reasons claimed; serfs were slaves in everything but name; and terrible famines happened that were solved by the discovery of new crops such as potatoes. The parallel of the hatred between humans and demons being similar to the one between Christians and Heathens is obviously intentional as well.

The Romantic Comedy: One of the novel’s adaptations was as a Harem-style video game and you can see the influence in the Anime as well- every female character seems to have a crush on Hero! With the difference that you *know* from the start that the main characters are in love (they know it too, they are just too shy to spit it out.) Make no mistake though- while there is some fanservice, and some characters act like lovesick girls at times, this a very progressive show; the women are very badass, being brave warriors or wise teachers- even more so than all the male characters, which is truly rare.

The Fantasy Action: The most glaringly out of place parts are the ones taken directly from video games: why do the characters have no names? Because in the early RPGs, the player was supposed to name them. And for all the historical realism, the heroes are incredibly powerful (just as if they had been raised to level 100 after hours of playing.) Magic is real here too (the hero teleports just like many RPG protagonists, who gain a similar ability late in the game so the player doesn’t have to walk them all the way back through the lands he just explored.) But ironically, the Hero realizes that all his power will never solve the real problems of the world.

Maoyu can be an uneven experience, but it’s also an intriguing, even moving one. It’s like watching a PG rated Game of Thrones (except the Maoyu novels actually came first.) I heartily recommend it to lovers of fantasy and romance.


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Review: Brave Story

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Brave Story is a 2006 animated movie by Japanese animation studio Gonzo. It is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name that was also adapted as a comic book and video game.

For the most part, it is the traditional “child who goes into a magical world on a personal quest” story that we have seen since before the Oz books. But there are a few outstanding factors in Brave Story. The first is the beauty of its design and animation; easily the best I’ve seen outside of Studio Ghibli. Also, while the story is predictable, it is harrowing at points, and it contains at least one twist that threw me for a loop.

The main character is a boy named Wataru. He’s a your typical highschooler until his family literally shatters around him- his father leaves his mother for another woman and his mother falls ill (in the original book she tried to commit suicide!) This causes him to go on a quest to another world, named Vision, through a portal he (conveniently) found in an unfinished nearby building. There he’s given a “hero sword” and told he can have one wish granted by the “Goddess of Fortune” if he finds out the five magical gems that fit into the sword’s hilt. He decides to use the wish to regain his family. Thing is there’s another kid from Earth, Mitsuru, on the same quest, and he’s much more ruthless than Wataru. And the reason for his quest is quite shocking when you learn about it.

Along the way, Wataru makes friends, of course: there’s Kikima, a Lizardman who thinks Wataru is his “good luck charm”; Nina, a catgirl looking for her father; and (my personal favorite) Kutz, the leader of the law-enforcer Highlanders and one badass lady!

While the quest starts with your typical challenges such as passing trials and slaying monsters –and more than a few hilarious moments- it eventually turns much more deep. The characters are forced to deal with their true motivations, and the consequences are realistic. And then there’s that twist near the end that had me going “huh”? But I still appreciate it for not turning out like you would have expected.

Brave Story was quite an enjoyable experience, especially for a movie that was barely over an hour long! You’d think it would feel rushed, but the pace worked for me. I recommend it to everyone except to very small children who might be scared by some of the monsters designs (and some of the topics hinted at, like suicide.)