Director: Naoto Hosoda, Series Composition: Masahiro Yokotani
Voice Actors: Ryota Ohsaka, Kanae Itō, Yōko Hikasa, Hiro Shimono, Yuuki Ono, Nao Tōyama,
Studio: White Fox
This First Impression has been a very long time in coming. Indeed, I am up to episode 8 when I should have written this after episode 1 and chucked it out like a regular aniblogger. It’s not because the show is bad. I really, really like it and think it’s bloody funny.
We are in another dimension. One where magic and religion hold sway over the populace, beasts’ stalk the earth and Gods’ reside in the sky. In one corner of this world the Devil King Sadao is the lord of the underworld, he is dread and cruelty incarnate. He has declared war on humanity.
He is close to conquering the continent of Ente Isla.
His four demon generals and their armies of monsters and the undead have stormed across Ente Isla and razed entire villages, putting civilians to the sword and crushing armies raised up against them.
But when all seems lost Hero Emilia unites humanity and with her combined forces she kills three generals and pushes Sadao’s evil minions back to his castle and lays siege to it and battles him.
On the verge of being beaten by Hero Emilia, Sadao creates a portal to so that he and his last loyal general Ashiya may escape to another world.
He enters the portal and finds that this other world is in our reality. More specifically modern-day Tokyo.
Furthermore, he has lost his demon form and looks like a human! His first priority might be to gather his strength and plan his next attack on Hero Emilia and Ente Isla but he has lost most of his powers. In this world magic does not exist, science and technology provide the framework for life. Sadao has a human body and all of its attendant needs. He still has vestiges of the old world, his funny language and clothes but he is essentially a nobody.
The police pick Sadao and Ashiya up assuming they are foreigners who are cosplaying and have run into difficulty. They take pity on them and give them a meal. But Sadao is not impressed. Using what’s left of his magic he discovers the lay of the land, where he is, the language spoken and what he needs to survive: Tokyo, Japanese, money and a bank account, ID cards and a place to stay.
Things start off well as he steals money and forges documents (how evil!) but his Devil King skillset pretty much revolves around “Conquering the World” which is mostly useless in his new situation and so he is forced to take up a temporary part-time job at MgRonald’s serving burgers and fries to puny mortals who would have trembled in his presence in his previous life. Yes, all thoughts of taking his revenge on hero Emilia are brushed aside in this new and terrifying world where he and his servant Ashiya must fend for themselves.
Going from conquering the world to working as a freeter to pay the rent must be humiliating! Not for Sadao who quickly adapts.
He has goals but they revolve around becoming the best employee possible and being made permanent at his McGronalds. Living in poor conditions on the edge of poverty he soon forgets about his former life and focusses on his work because nobody else is going to pay the bills.
He keeps putting off his original goal of world domination as his present concerns take priority such as making sure the chips are fried but then out of nowhere Hero Emilia appears outside MgRonalds and swears vengeance. Only she doesn’t have her armour and isn’t carrying her sword, she is dressed in a yellow short-sleeved top and jeans and carrying a handbag. She is armed, though! Unfortunately it’s a cheap ¥100 knife. She too has been stripped of her powers in this new world and forced to take up work that is beneath her.
Unlike Sadao she still keeps her grudges and keeps threatening to destroy him but in this new world and in their new and reduced forms her threats sound bizarre. When the two bring up their past lives they really sound demented and they both know it.
Soon they begrudgingly work together, buying lunch and providing shelter for each other. It turns out they both sort of like living in Japan. In this new life they are treated not as oddities but as friends and coworkers and while they do miss their past lives the travails of their present situation and the nice parts (katsudon! A promotion at work!) are of much more concern and their former identities drift away.
This alliance grows deeper as more characters from Ente Isla show up bringing back the politics and violence from their old world. Some have powers, some don’t. All are amazed at this new world and forced to act differently and reassess their place in the world they come from and the one they are in.
Like I said in my 2013 Spring Season Picks, while the fish-out-of-water concept is not totally original it has great potential for comedy if the writing is sharp enough. To wit, fantasy heroes and villains reduced to working dead end jobs and secretly boiling away with ideas and magic that they keep hidden lest they come across as crazy and frighten normal people around them.
The anime does make great comedy out of it because the characters are likeable and their journeys have an original slant.
The contrast between what Sadao, Ashiya and Hero Emilia were in the past and what they are in their present circumstances is well done.
The first ten minutes of episode one is all Final Fantasy and serious before Sadao steps through the portal to Tokyo. Then the anime gains a whole new character which is where the comedy comes in as we witness stock fantasy characters – honourable hero, evil devil lord – reduced to nobodies and living on the minimum wage, trying to acclimatise to life in our reality and be normal. It turns into a comedy of miscommunication and stumbling through interactions with regular people.
Demon lord Sadao must work a regular job at a McGronalds but he quite likes it and his loyal general Ashiya takes the role of a housewife while brave hero Emilia works at a call-centre. In a new world and with new identities, their concerns run the range of working hard to get a promotion at work and getting to the food sales at local supermarkets.
Sadao’s joy at being made permanent at McGronalds is actually quite familiar to anyone who has had to work part-time and it is made all the more amusing when you consider at one point was a mass-murdering demon overlord who wanted to conquer the world.
The key thing is definitely the characters who are all very likeable and do have a degree of originality. It is fun watching Sadao go from pure evil to quite a nice guy who enjoys his job and is popular with his workmates. Even more fun comes with watching Emilia struggle with the fact that Sadao is adapting well to the new world while she is struggling to control herself around her mortal enemy who she remains suspicious of.
The reality of their wage slave existence undercuts any grandstanding speeches and potential action scenes so characters go from sublime to the ridiculous in an example of bathos. Emilia finds that striding down a set of stairs in high heels and having to fit demon hunting work around your regular 9 to 5 is tough especially when armed with a cheap knife and not your demon killing sword!
Magical battles start around episode six but the writers maintain the dichotomy between fantasy and reality with new characters showing up from Ente Isla which allows the anime to poke fun at their wonderment of modern conveniences like computers and flat-screen televisions and their bafflement over how their magic powers and weird costumes don’t fit in with the reality of the new dimension.
The best aspects of the anime, aside from the smart redressing of the familiar premise is the sharp dialogue and presentation. The animation at the opening of episode one is very fluid and colourful and it maintains this quality for the most part. The epic fantasy battles that were so well animated they sent shivers up and down my spine. The locations, whether fantastical or normal are all very detailed and enjoyable to look at.
For all the colour and whizzing around I really like character design most because of the wonderful array of faces detailing the frustration and anger.
Thanks to the designs I never get tired of watching Emilia!
While the dialogue of the characters are not as insightful or as incisive as Hikki and Yukino in My Youth Rom-Com they are still amusing to listen to. We know their real identities and magical abilities but others don’t and so any talk about being heroes and demons comes off as sounding like the ramblings of demented people.
Overall the anime has maintained its high quality and is consistently funny. I genuinely look forward to each new episode. Not as much as Attack on Titan or Aku no Hana which are God-tier but enough to know I will be entertained.
As far as the theme tunes go, I like the opening one especially which has become my new theme tune.
Not so fond of the end theme though.
¹The title Hataraku Maou-Sama is known as The Devil is a Part Timer but my literal translation is Demon Lord at Work since hataraku is the verb for ‘to work’ and arubaito means ‘part-time job’.