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In my neverending quest for anime that have nothing to do with "normal highschool boy/girl who does X thing WHEN SUDDENLY" stories, I recently came across Maoyu Maou Yuusha, often called Maoyu, which is another of ARMS' productions and is based on a light novel series by Mamare Touno, who also wrote the Log Horizon novel series. What drew me in first was the character design by Hiroaki Karasu, who would later do the character design for Brynhildr in the Darkness (in a similar vein to Seiji Kishimoto doing the character design for Himawari! and its sequel series after working on Elfen Lied), but what really sucked me in was how it flips your expectations of the story on its head in the first five minutes.

The unnamed Hero, simply named Hero, fights the Demon King, but it turns out the Demon King is a woman and is actually very friendly! Not only that, but she's in love with him and proposes they find a way to end a war with as few casualties as possible both during and after. I wasn't expecting low fantasy mixed with politics, economics, and a love story. There's not a lot of action to be had aside from a few battle scenes, but I'm kind of glad for that, because what Maou and Yuusha (Demon King and Hero) are trying to do is end the fighting by bettering economic conditions so that once the war ends, it won't be continued under replaced figureheads for the respective armies, people won't go starving, become enslaved by whoever wins, or any other number of post-war calamities that aren't typically presented in shows where characters must defeat an opposing army, demon or human, at all costs. Rather than present an instant end to the war as a good thing, it does the opposite and explores what can be done to limit the suffering of everyone involved so there won't be another war later on. It's a solid deconstruction of the ages-old "Hero must vanquish the Demon King" story and variants thereof; it takes these roles we're all familiar with in fiction and actually studies them and shows us how harmful falling into these black and white modes of thinking can be. Nobody in Maoyu is overtly evil. Even the scummy merchants are just greedy more than anything.

I'd recommend anyone give it a watch, but since it's a lot of "talking head" type of animation at times, it can be pretty boring unless you go into it knowing there won't be a lot of action. It's one of ARMS' better works from a purely artistic standpoint, I think. Due to the characters not needing to run around and swing swords so often, leaving many scenes to take place in static environments, extra care is taken to the backgrounds and art designs, so there are few instances of QUALITY animation that ARMS sometimes falls into (Elfen Lied and Brynhildr have some particularly glaring instances of it). Every movement the characters make is fluid, and this even extends to the fanservice.

...and now, I'm halfway tempted to make artwork of Lucy in Maou's iconic dress.

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