Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Impressions: MAOYUU

One of 2013's newest shows, Maoyuu bridges grave politics and romantic humor through the clumsy, adorable interactions of its characters, the male Hero and female Demon King. The various preview images of the show caught my attention because the Demon King's horns reminded me of the main character in the esoteric Ico and Shadow of the Colossus games. Thankfully Maoyuu has more going for it than just the horns - they turn out to be fake.

Clearly in satire, the Hero's mission is to go into a fight and kick as much ass as possible in the earnest belief that it will solve humanity's problems. Hero assumes the demons started the present war and are going around terrorizing villages and possessing innocents. After all, that's what demons do, right? The Hero charges into the Demon King's palace expecting a band of soldiers and a cackling warlord to greet him, but because this is an anime, all Hero finds is a disarming woman who warmly receives him. She is the Demon King, with a crest tattooed deep inside her cleavage as proof of her title. Following the bizarre formalities, we get down to politics, something Hero knows nothing about.

Humanity's ruling class is thriving thanks to the war effort: the wealthier nations give war funds to warring nations, which boosts local economies and creates new jobs, and provides the ruling classes with a larger buffer zone as the warring states take demon land. There's no incentive to end the war; these facts ring true for both human and demon forces alike. So, the Demon King proposes an absurd solution: she and the Hero should marry, showing the world that there can be a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Anime antics aside, the Demon King's speech is powerful on two levels. For one, it demonstrates how violence can be justified so long as there's someone to point a finger at and some evidence that they've harmed you; who hit whom first is a moot point, especially if you're in possession of charisma and misinformation that persuades legions to join your cause. 

The speech takes on even greater significance once the Demon King removes her horns, which are attached to a headband. After the initial shock and hilarity wore off, I realized something: there was not one overtly monstrous "demon" in the entire first episode. If the Demon King looks just like an ordinary girl, then who is humanity really fighting against? Are these "demons" merely people who have been "demonized" by another kingdom? The only instance of visible monsters in the show was at the very beginning, when we are shown a knight and demons as depicted on an ancient map. If the rest of society is as dull-witted as our Hero, then those monsters can be entirely fantastical. I haven't read the light novels, so I'm hoping no one replies with a solid, "Duh, Nelson, of course there's no actual demons!"

Taking these points further, I have to admit that the Iraq and Afghan wars that began after the events of September 11th, 2001 are what came to mind when watching Maoyuu, especially since America is still engaged in combat. Naturally 9/11 served as catalyst to enter Iraq and Afghanistan, but America has held interest in the area since before the first Gulf War. Once America entered the middle East, finding the enemy wasn't so cut and dry, either. You have to look for terrorists, who usually look like everyone else, which means more innocents are caught in the cross-fire. Haven't many innocent Muslims been demonized, unfortunate casualties in a war on Muslim extremists? Eventually we end up with a giant mess that proves difficult to pull out of for any number of reasons. According to Maoyuu, having either President Bush or Obama marry Osama bin Laden would have been a viable solution to the problem.

Look, I'm not turning this anime blog into a political forum. But I do like to study people, and in its own clever way so does Maoyuu. I have no guarantee Maoyuu will continue down that path or merely settle for a Romeo and Juliet romance. Even so, I like what I see so far, because any anime that makes me sit awhile and think long after the credits roll is a decent one in my book.

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