Maou-sama is one of the few shows that stands out among this season’s pack, offering a splendid interplay between the generic and the original. Sure, it doesn’t forget to pander, but it also doesn’t forget to leave you laughing along the way. One of the most worrisome problems with Maou-sama‘s framework is whether or not it can keep its ambitious plot consistent throughout the show, while not losing the comedic integrity that makes Maou-sama so charming. To a degree, episodes have shamelessly flown by with a swing and a miss, but luckily enough, this one manages to squeeze out some of its greatest hits.
You can tell by the casual pace in this episode, and its self-contained plot, that Maou-sama has practically lost all of its original intent by now. (Was there any doubt from the beginning?) But this is alright since it’s been the slice-of-life—only slightly enhanced by the fantasy realm—which keeps viewers intrigued. In fact, it was much of the fantasy elements that sullied Maou-sama’s charm, in the same way that a lot of the tiresome shipping and pseudo-harem relationships became boorishly reinforced. The show’s at its best when on that comedic whimsical binge, and the show’s at its worst when emulating the very shows that it (occasionally) mocks.
Yet, there’s one thing which leaves Maou-sama so personable in every episode. Can you get enough of the facial expressions? I swear they must make half of White Fox’s budget!
(This lasts all of 3 seconds.)
Plot-wise, the episode fixes most of its attention towards the girl trio, shamelessly playing as the singular girls-hangout-in-bikinis episode. For good or bad, events come and go as haphazardly as in Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers. A janitor bumps into Emi and loses his keys, a monkey manages to escape and find those keys, and then the gang all happen to meet together when converging on the lost monkey. It’s a chain of events that lacks any sensibility, and yet much like in Satoshi Kon’s film, Maou-sama stays lighthearted enough so that it doesn’t bother you with its defying-all-odds unrealism. Are the chances any worse than a Devil working at a MgRonald’s?
The breast jokes are a great example of Maou-sama‘s balance, with clear pandering on one side, and yet humorously played in more than vapid ways on the other side. Maou-sama deftly skips along the border between the lewd and comedic gold. From the mere sight of the jiggling monstrosities and the lack of subtlety in screenplay, it becomes apparent from first sight just how crude the fanservice will be in this episode. Yet, its own self-awareness becomes its strength. While Chiho’s bosom may rival those of last season’s Maou, Emi’s commentaries along with MgRonald’s bombastic imagery aren’t always so generic. Further, the show manages to elevate any passing hesitation by continuing its low brow non sequiturs and curbed facial remarks. It never fails to ridicule itself in this situation (as it should be).
It’s difficult to argue what makes something funny, but consistency in tone is what distinguishes this material from simple pandering. It’s with the same ostentatious self-ridicule that makes the breast jokes a fun-loving, running occurrence (and hopefully three times doesn’t make it too redundant). Similarly, all the small touches, such as giving the monkey Sadao’s name, freshen up the series to something not so stale as an all-out girls-only fanservice episode. In another scene, Maou-sama reels out the quintessential fanservice shot: slowly panning over a wallpaper drawing, glossed with overfiltered girls in bikinis, smiling cute faces, and high-pitched voices emitting the most
salacious innocent tones. The last shot glosses over to kawaii Suzuno-chan, who ends the sequence with a muffled, apathetic grunt.
Everything in the episode isn’t so praiseworthy though. For instance, I can’t tell how to receive Sadao when he once again displays his prowess. His dapper young self in a MgRonald’s outfit make the scene seem ridiculous as a comedic attempt, but the action-oriented screenplay and rising rock n’ roll track ask you to take it more seriously. Then again, the outfit relays the fact that it’s just a commonplace activity for him (supportive of his tiresome sigh at the end), so the result is a…mixed feeling.
I also don’t see the need to flaunt these types of cliffhangers and reveals so often. I mean, WHAT? Sentucky Fried Chicken’s manager is a villain too? (and likely the one who released the crocodiles) Again, you’re asking me to take this seriously with the passing train and built-up suspense, but the context in and of itself is absurd. And it is him, right? Please don’t pull a Hentai Ouji and say that it’s the SFC manager’s twin brother…or something.
Just when I thought this episode would end on a bitter mark, Maou-sama brings back some of its original poor-college-student dynamic among the intellectual triumvirate. At this point of the show, it’s become a routine activity (and hence almost forgettable), but it’s nice to see Maou-sama keep a solid pace and remind us of the epic status quo.
Overall, the episode holds a great balance between the humor and the pander, and is certainly one of the betters in these past weeks. I’m still twiddling my thumbs with how they’ll resolve the SFC vs MgRonald’s conflict, with Mr. Manager now more than he seems. Tossing in another superpowered fight seems almost inevitable by now, and that certainly doesn’t make me excited for the next episode.