Anime: Hataraku Maou-sama!/ The Devil is a Part-Timer!
Studio: White Fox
Original Run: April 4, 2013 – June 27, 2013
Genres: Action, Comedy, Fantasy
(Spoilers for the entire series)
The Demon Lord Satan’s quest to conquer all of Ente Isla with his demon army is foiled by Hero Emilia and her comrades. While on the verge of defeat, Satan uses the last of his power to open a portal to modern day Earth. He and his loyal general Alciel find themselves stranded in Tokyo with no power and no way to return home. They both assume human identities. It doesn’t take long for Satan to resolve to take over not only Ente Isla but Earth as well.
Satan (Maou Sadao) finds a job at a fast food restaurant while his general (Ashiya Shiro) seeks ways to return home. Their life settles into a quiet routine until the Hero shows up once again, having followed Satan to Earth with every intention of finishing him off.
Everything about this anime from the name to the premise to the damned OP had me hooked. Unfortunately, my excitement didn’t last past the first three episodes. A story about Satan trapped on Earth without his magic and being forced to do things the human way has great comedic potential. I wanted to see how a demon king would cope with being forced to work at a fast food joint to make ends meet. But instead I found a Gary Stu of a demon king, a host of characters I failed to give two shits about and comedy that fell flat more often than not. I’m not saying the anime is all bad – it’s not. Parts of it are definitely entertaining and the characters, though I don’t particularly care for them, all have their moments.
I’m actually a little confused about this anime because there are parts I like when taken separately; little moments that were amusing or heartwarming enough to coax out a smile or a laugh. But when I consider this as a whole, I just feel disappointed. Let’s see if I can explain why with any degree of coherency.
The beginning is brilliant and attention-grabbing. The demons’ wholescale slaughter of humans and their subsequent retaliation are presented in a way that vividly illustrates the dire situation at Ente Isla in a handful of minutes. Maou’s parting threat, uttered with wide, crazed eyes and a booming voice, naturally makes you curious to see exactly how this guy will deal with the entirely different world he’s about to be dumped into. And then any and all gravitas disappears into thin air the moment they set foot on Earth because – well because. I have no clue why, it just happens. The disparity between how the characters act on Ente Isla and how they act on Earth is my major issue with Hataraku Maou-sama. Over on Ente Isla, everything is gloom and doom and murder. On Earth, everyone is friendly and redeemable and consequences are a fucking joke.
You would expect a demonic tyrant to have some issues with his sudden fall in power and station. But instead, we find him to be a competent, sincere worker seemingly utterly at ease with his job and his human co-workers. His general, Alciel, comes across as more concerned for their situation than his master. The Hero, Emilia/Emi, initially seems like a threat to Maou’s peaceful existence on Earth but it doesn’t take long for her to devolve into a tsundere character that never quite gets around to offing her sworn enemy. Never mind that he’s responsible for the death of her father and countless others. Even when actual villains are introduced, it’s only for them to be easily defeated once Maou feeds on human fear to power up. On one hand, it does show us that Maou is still the demon king and as strong as that implies despite his kind and sweet exterior. On the other, the fate of the ‘villains’ is nothing short of ridiculous. One is magically reformed and joins Maou and Alciel at their home. The other goes from puppy-skinning-evil-asshole to sleazy-but-inconsequential-pervert within the span of a single episode. There’s no rational explanation for any of this. It just is.
To make matters worse, the comedic elements don’t compensate for the lack of logic. There is immense potential in how the characters of Ente Isla would adjust to living on a completely different world but this part is almost entirely skipped and by the end of the first episode itself, we see them all comfortably settled on Earth. Instead, the comedy is more focused on character interactions that are usually a little too slice of life-y for comfort. The fantasy element never goes away but it’s never made good use of either. The parts where it does get serious not only feels out of tune with the rest of narrative but are also ruined with ill-timed humor.
In short, Hataraku Maou-sama is a mess. A somewhat amusing mess but still a mess.
Here we have Hataraku Maou-sama’s weakest aspect. The characterization is utter crap. From major to minor characters, there is neither logic nor consistency to the way most of them behave. It makes for some entertaining antics at times but strains credulity to the point of ruining the whole story.
First of all, we have the eponymous Maou/Satan. For me, he was one of the more tolerable characters but that had less to do with him than how unappealing the others were. King Satan, the demon lord, is shown at the beginning to be a fearsome tyrant who has no problems subduing a weaker race or letting his army run rampant slaughtering humans. But the Maou we see on Earth is an amiable, even kind man who’s about as demonic as my pet spitz. He’s polite and sincere to his human boss, watches over his co-workers and is willing to help even the Hero who ousted him. It would have been believable were this a result of character development, i.e, if his experiences on earth shaped him into such a man. But as it stands, we just get to see him switch from evil demon to sweet boy next door without so much as batting an eyelash.
Hero Emilia or Emi is even more of a disaster. She comes to Earth to kill Satan…except that she never really gets around to it. For some reason. Maybe she felt sorry for him. Or maybe it’s because he gave her an umbrella. I have no idea. I find it hard to buy into the explanation that she initially spares him because he’s powerless because logically, that would be the best time to kill him. Emi’s backstory serves to cast her inaction into more confusion. Maou and Lucifer’s invasion resulted in her father’s death. That’s even shown to be her motivation for fighting. In the light of that revelation, her already confusing decision to spare Maou becomes all the more perplexing and downright nonsensical particularly since, during their first few encounters, Emi has no idea about Maou’s newfound harmlessness. Maou and Emi’s frenemy relationship, with its not-so-subtle romantic undertones and couple jokes, makes even less sense when you take the above points into consideration.
The other characters are not all that better. Alciel would make a wonderful househusband but he does have an unfortunate tendency to prioritize cape-fetching over actual battles. Lucifer does a complete 180 far too fast and is an appalling example of the ‘defeat means friendship’ trope. The less said about James-clone the better. Suzuno and Chiho both feel more authentic than the rest of the cast combined.
I did enjoy their antics in certain scenes but they are in no way well-written or well-developed characters.
Art and Music:
The art is pretty solid throughout. The beginning sequence in particular requires mention as it did an excellent job of setting the mood (which was ruined pretty quickly afterwards but oh well). Otherwise, we just have the generic but polished character designs and some nicely detailed backgrounds.
The music doesn’t really stand out, except for the opening theme which is upbeat and catchy. The ending theme is pleasant but not really remarkable.
If you want light-hearted, often ridiculous comedy with a side of fantasy, this might be your thing. Not my cup of tea though.