“It’s not as impressive as you think.”
I was driving home this afternoon when a Radio Lab episode featuring Malcolm Gladwell came on the radio. Of course, Malcolm was talking about Blink, the book which inspired this blog’s thin slicing posts. That book came out in 2005, my first thin slicing post was in 2005, and it’s 2013 now. It’s been eight years. It’s been a long, strange trip through Cluster Edge to Allison & Lillia to Soft Tennis to Tamako Market. But one thing this segment reminded me of was the dangers of introspection where trying to reason why you like something makes you misjudge why you like it. For thin slicing, it’s always better to go with your initial gut than trying to digest what happened (which is basically most bloggers trying to get shows they think their readers like rather than what they like). That’s something this Radio Lab reminded me to avoid. I don’t let others influence my judgement, and I have my rankings set before I even start writing about the shows. (I mean, why not just rank all shows by their A-WAR if we’re going by popular opinion?) And my gut tells me… Hataraku Maou-sama! (The Devil Is A Part-Timer) is fucking awesome.
(Thin slicing is still being worked on. I am immensely busy. I’m old. I have a new puppy. And I’m still slaving away on this blog that has been pretty much obsoleted by post-blog social media. So, yeah, nothing fast from me. I’m the slow media.)
One thing this show absolutely nails is timing. Nothing misses a beat. All the jokes, all the situations, all the plot– timed like a Japanese subway. It makes every other comedy look like Cal-fucking-train in terms of proper timing. And because of this timing, the jokes have more impact, the episodes flow together well, and the show goes by enjoyably fast. You know how there’s the legend where Einstein says that time is relative, for example: sitting next to a pretty girl seems infinitely faster than sitting through a boring lecture. Well, Sadao Maou is that pretty girl.
(Scripted by Masahiro Yokotani, who did Futakoi, Himawari, Maria Holic, and Keroro. Basically, hit or miss, but at least competent.)
Speaking of timing, didn’t we just finish a slightly unfulfilling anime about a Demon King and Hero who get tangled up in a romantic comedy slash finance story? Wasn’t the Demon King secretly a decent person? Wasn’t the Hero clueless at basic social interaction? Didn’t the female have long red hair? Didn’t the male have short spikey hair? Wasn’t there a haremette with ridiculous melonpan that the less ample haremette didn’t get along with (at first)?
Pretty much all the situations the characters get into are tropes, but just done really well or a slight variance that make sense to the characters. I am not sure how to properly explain it, but, for example, once Demon King goes apartment shopping, you just know he’s going to end up in the slummiest apartment (which looks suspiciously like the apartments Jesus and Buddha live in Saint Young Men… and it would be 1,000% awesome if they were living under Satan)… and Hero is going to end up in a nice Taiga-style apartment, even if she’s just a lowly call center office lady.
(I also like how the characters aren’t high school students. Yes, I know there’s a variant of this franchise where they are in high school, but not every anime needs to be high school-based.)
I also love how quickly Demon King and Alsiel become typical Japanese low-tier workers, the kind that Takizawa was fighting for in Eden of the East. Just comical how a powerful leader of another world so quickly becomes a part-timer at Mickey Dee’s. Then I remember how quickly Keroro went from special forces commander to lowly pet of the Hinata household. It all makes sense now…
(Am I the only one bothered by the fact that Maou is not a part-timer? Why is the anime named “Part-Timer” when he gets a promotion in the first episode? And I still don’t get this trend of lazily naming anime after their basic plot point. Would “Star Wars” be better if it named “Hick Saves Galaxy”? Or “Game of Thrones” be named “Only Slightly Rapey This Week”?)
I like how the poor Hero is reduced to working in a call center. It’s just a great contrast how the once great warriors now work such menial jobs, and how quickly they adapted to them. I’m just sad that Alsiel is a housewife. He deserved better. I was thinking he could have been a florist.
(Yoko Hikasa voices Emi, and she does a great job on the role. She’s just constantly in her tsundere and stern Mio voice most of the time, and it works for Emi. Occasionally, she goes soft Mio, and it’s a fantastic contrast especially since it’s like she accidentally lets her guard down– oops– SHIELDS UP QUICKLY AND MUST RETALIATE! I only wish we get a karaoke episode now…)
“That’s why I can’t allow you to go on a day-to in that UNIQLO outfit.”
My favorite line thus far. Oh Alsiel, you’re like both a mom, housewife, and big sister to Maou. I just like the running joke that Maou is always wearing UNIQLO, but UNIQLO is looked down upon in Japan… but UNIQLO is huge elsewhere. I am not a fashion expert (where’s the Fashion Czar?!), but I would suspect fashion in Japan to be more rigid to price whereas in America fashion is more to taste and fit rather than price. But the line shows a few things… one, the show is modern enough to get UNIQLO’s place in modern culture. Two, the show is not afraid to mine material outside of typical otaku tropes for material (like UNIQLO might be too advanced for hardcore fanboys tweeting about Girls and Panzer)… hey, the main character hides gravure magazines under his bed! Three, Alsiel is awesome.
(Of course, Sasaki was surprised that Maou showed up to the day-to in something beyond UNIQLO… which was UNIQLO clothes with a nicer blazer/sports coat. I don’t know about that look. Especially in hot as heck summer Tokyo. Oh well, at least he’s not wearing Superdry.)
“Because I’m the Demon King. I’m supposed to inconvenience the Hero.”
Another brilliant line. I just loved this response. Hey, I was totally busy during lunch, and you could have easily gotten your landlady or the chick who digs you to help you out. Why did you get me to bail your ass out? “Because I’m the Demon King. I’m supposed to inconvenience the Hero.” Checkmate.
The catfight between Hero and Meat… err… Sasaki? Excellent. Anime needs more of this catfighting than of haremettes holding hands and wishing for peace a la Da Capo III or Photokano. Reminded me of Urd and Belldandy’s early days when Bell wasn’t a Buddha with wings and boobs, which days I so dearly miss. Unfortunately, Emi and Sasaki get along better, but I do wish for more catfighting.
(Random symmetrical docking fanservice. Because I haven’t posted any in forever.)
And Sasaki looked adorable with her puffy argument face. It’s a distant, cuter cousin of the emo facial distortion.
Studio is White Fox, which had a nice run of Tears to Tiara (undervalued) Katanagatari (correctly valued), Steins;Gate (2011 anime of the year) before combo breaking with Jormungand, which was a huge step back in everything, especially animation quality. Hataraku? The animation is average to above-average with a nice color palette, and the character designs aren’t superb, but they get the job done. I do like all the outfit changes, and this show actually pays attention to what the male characters wear. I mean, Demon King and Alsiel might have an UNIQLO wardrobe, but their outfits change from day-to-day. While many shows now vary outfits for female characters, not a lot outside Kyoto vary outfits on male characters.
(I guess bottom line: the animation is better than Steins;Gate. It’s not Kyoto or Production IG quality, but it doesn’t detract from the show.)
The scene where Demon King is going to use the last of his demonic powers to make french fries… OH MY OHARUHI-SAMA, now I know why McDonald’s fries are so good. They are infused with demonic power.
(I also want one of these Japanese McDonald’s french fry holders. Why don’t we get this in the US?!)
Lastly, from my readers…
MacrossFan: “Jason, which NEX do you have? How is it working for you? Am torn between the 6 and 7.”
I have a Nex 7, and I bought it when it first came out (so long before 6 came out). I love the camera, just so much smaller and convenient than my old 40D. I mostly use the 24mm or 50mm prime with it, and both are great lenses. I don’t think there’s a big price difference these days between the 6 and 7, but I would wait until the 7n comes out if you can wait. Otherwise, both the 6 and 7 are great cameras. One caveat: there’s no good tripod quick release mount options for it. Most block the screen tilt or the battery access or both. I’m still looking for a good one.
rsy: “You should write more posts where you bash an anime. One per season (usually through thin slicing) isn’t quite enough.”
The problem is I need to be inspired to write, and I hate forcing posts. Like this post… it flowed out of me like diarrhea out of my puppy after she eats something she shouldn’t be eating. If I have to force a post, well, it’s going to be as inspired as one of my Hanasaku Iroha posts. And no one wants that. Not you, not me, not my puppy.
nekomimimeido: “What? Your blogging this instead of the other better mecha anime that is Suisei no Gargantia?”
You mean when Strike Freedom Gundam rained a hail of lasers and destroyed an enemy fleet with God-like pinpoint precision and lethality?
kaydub: “i’m just hoping we get at least one episode of nae kicking everyone’s ass in bike shorts.”
Steins;Gate version or Robotics;Notes version?
(Sorry, no YTAMR this time around! Try harder next time.)