This week’s episode of Maoyuu mixes things up a bit. We have found ourselves focused on the economics and science of agriculture and trade. This week, we also find ourselves spending some time looking at the characters involved. The way it finishes, it tried in inject some character development and plot devices into the story. And it’s tried to do this in the previous episodes as well. While that’s typically a good thing in an anime, it’s not in this case here. To be blunt, this story has never been about the characters, their emotional development, and their growth as ‘people’. and should never be.
Anime enthusiasts love to throw the term “Character Driven” around all the time. It’s where the characters take center stage and drive the plot. It’s where their experiences and emotional changes, are the story itself. It’s what they use to describe shows like K-ON!, to explain the lack of world development aside from the girls themselves. In converse, you have action or plot driven stories. In these tales, the story itself is more important the individual characters. These tales are about the big picture. There’s a certain linearity to the story, regardless of character development.
Maoyuu takes plot driven to the extreme. If the title alone wasn’t your first hint, then you’re not paying attention. None of the characters in the story have proper names, with each one of them only being addressed by his or her title or occupation. Demon King, Crimson Scholar, Hero, Young Merchant. Not a single proper name. These characters are nothing more than role players in the greater story. Each one in their place, for the sole purpose of relaying the information that this story wishes to convey.
And that’s why this episode is a failure. Rather than follow the linearity in the story, they cut and chop and piece together parts of the story in order to create the illusion of more character development that there really is. In these first four episodes, relationships have been shallow. A contract that sounds a lot like a marriage, followed by the instant familiarity that Hero and Demon King have with each other? That’s all it supposed to be. Nothing more than superficial relations to act as a sort of comedic relief as the plot shift between scenes and stories.
So when they attempt to make these character developments to be more than they are, it’s piss poor and haphazard. To this point, no time has been spent doing any sort of reasonable exploration by diving deeper into the emotional state of the characters. So when they attempt to fast track it in short moment, nothing is really gained. It comes off disjointed and awkward.
As this story keeps moving quickly through the source material, I’m sure this wont be the last time the anime adaptation will falter in the story telling. There is too much plot nuance and teaching taking place, to cram all it into a 12 episode season. The director needs to find a balance between this improvisation, and clearly conveying the key elements of the narrative. Because without doing that, they’re going to abandon the one thing this story has going for it.