Maou-sama and when Demon Kings stopped sucking

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Stories about demon kings in anime have been around as long as I remember yet the stories are relatively the same. A hero, by that we mean the good guy, by that we often mean the protagonist, goes on in his quest to vanquish the nefarious existence of this shady two-horned, cape-wearing character publicly called the demon king (because whysoever would you make yourself an easier target). Let me tell you something about demon kings and why I have watched Maou-sama and rather watch it than any of its predecessors.

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It’s old

Some of them aren’t nearly as bad yet there are times you probably wish to see something more this type of stories can offer. As a long time anime watcher you feel that probably any of these stories would have worked years ago when the concept was relatively fresh when at least old animation made it look sinister but now they don’t.

There is a point when such stories don’t cut it anymore. You expect something more than a hero vs. demon king story to surprise you. Regrettably, it doesn’t happen. Regrettably, it’s the same stuff with slight variations of the same thing. It’s old and moldy.

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It’s cheesy

Demon Kings stories are cheesy. Vanquish the big evil? A story where the hero is sure to win in the end? That sounds really thrilling! I may not be a fantasy fan to care much for stories in these dragon and prophesy filled RPG worlds but a big reason is due to how cliche the main premises are : Old demon kings stories follow the super ancient recipe of hero swears to defeat the demon king, the two fight, demon king dies embarrassingly making it seem like another 2-bit villain.

Such stories are mostly about the hero in essence and there is little development from the demon king side, again making the big evil to remain resigned to play the role of the loser. What makes this standard demon king stories cheesy is how predictable they are, unbalanced character development and unoriginality.

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Not about high school kids (Because we needed more of them)

Because it’s either a RPG inspired story or that when it comes down demon kings. Demon King shows still tightly caters to a younger audience as in they still create their characters and set their stories in the forever unchanging era of high school every so often weakly mixing it up with the thrilling prospect of its close synonym “academies” like the entire plot is supposed to change by this (everyone loves school clubs). That change is rarely noticeable.

What Maou-sama does right is slightly touching the subject unlike your average animated popular light novel who completely based the setting on it. Maou-sama’s best move has been to not make a show where characters have real jobs, responsibilities, a direction, and put aside the teenager mentality and everything that comes along with that era such as long monologuing and the first days of school. Instead we have protagonists who have successfully completed their education without us making us go through their daily routine and how overbearingly protective the protagonist’s confused little sister is.
Talk about real surprises.

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Real Life

So we know this “demon King” figure and what he does and we also know what this “hero” figure does. We have them figured out too well because their roles are so deeply ingrained in us. One is evil, the other one is good. One wins and the other loses. Rarely and successfully comes forth a title that explores different angles from this type of classic, by now tired, story. Personally I rather have a burger flipping romantically dense demon king who cares more about his immediate financial situation than your power hungry demon king right now. I rather have an unheroic tsundere, borderline stalker, hero than your average one in a shiny armor. I would have lost interest in Maou-sama had it been another of hose stories set in some fantasy world following the same script (possible ancient prophesy tucked in there an all that). Seeing these two figures playing new roles to them and seeing them adapting to society as regular people bringing reality to a fantasy setting is immensely more appealing than anything the Demon King vs. Hero has previously offered.

It is more interesting for me to see authors making the best of classic sets ups and making it into something else. Sure, the old approach also works but and you may or may not like any those three list above but wouldn’t you like so see something more?

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A change of pace

Similar to what Maoyou did, Maou-sama continues to give this popular, by now tired, demon king story a fresh reboot where stories contain, even if ever so slightly, fresh stories than there were years ago. Because even working formulas stop working when they get old and poorly made stories with those formula eventually decease to function.

Authors, continue to delve deeper into your imagination. As long as we can have better more thought-out variations of what we already know I’m on board. For that thanks, Maou and the like are in order.


4 thoughts on “Maou-sama and when Demon Kings stopped sucking

  1. I don’t know, pretty much all the anime I’ve seen involving demon kings have been parodies of RPG games. This, Maoyuu Yuusha, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, Level E, Mahoujin Guru Guru, etc. Maybe I’m just blanking, but what shows did you have in mind that play the demon king angle straight?

    • Slayers’s Ruby Eye Shabranigdo, Record of Lodoss, Oda Nobunaga as an antagonist in general, namely Samurai Deeper Kyo’s Nobunaga “Sixth Heavenly Demon King”, Dragon Ball’s Piccolo Daimou (pure evil), Ragnarok’s Dark Lord (actual name) Battle Royal High School (87’s) big twist but fundamentally the idea of demon king, Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma, Twilight of the Dark Master’s villain.

      The big evil of a series. Note that the difference between demon kings and dark lords in these stories are semantics, always referring to the big evil of that world/time. Demon King is restrictive term but it basically refers to a big ancient evil or the embodiment of darkness occasionally requiring to be awaken or that is told in legends (may we rest assured they are all defeated until next time). They function basically as forces to be ultimately defeated rather than actual characters since the focus are the main characters anyway and their quest to eventually vanquish this evil.

      The idea of demon kings and dark lords as omnipotent, sinister, and endlessly evil figures set in some fantasy realm or in a superstitious period of history are still more standard than parodies in my opinion, though parodies are quite popular lately.

      • I guess I’m just watching all the wrong stuff, haven’t seen a single one of those shows somehow…

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