Judge Josh Rode would take Burger King over Demon King any day.
Is it good to be king? It's hard to be king!
The world of anime has all sorts of categorizations to describe its various incarnations. The artwork can be simple or stunning. The genres range from fantasy to sci-fi to modern drama. Inside each set are hundreds of subsets, all of them tangled together to form an almost infinite variety of characters, storylines, and possibilities. So why is it that many of them wind up feeling kinda the same?
Facts of the Case
Akuto Sai (Chris Patton, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) transfers to the elite Constant Magic Academy. Once there, his future is predicted: he will someday be the Demon King, the last incarnation of which was just as evil as the name portends. Needless to say, he quickly becomes a reviled figure around campus, but a bevy of gorgeous women in skimpy clothes stand up for him and smooth the path to his destiny.
• "Strange Surveillance Agent"—A green-haired girl starts following Akuto everywhere so she can report on his actions.
• "A Slightly Intimidating Senior"—The top woman on campus makes an attempt to get Akudo under her power.
• "The Isolation Cell is Fun?"—Akudo must spend the night in an isolated building, but he's doesn't go alone.
• "Caution! Underground Labyrinth"—A treasure map leads Akudo to the underground lair of the Demon King, where he connects with his destiny…and a huge dragon.
• "Let's Go to the Beach School!"—A school break on an island leads to a battle with a mutant sea cucumber.
• "The Legendary Hero Emerges?!"—An unexpected hero arises on the island and defeats the sea cucumber.
• "Eyeing Her Over?"—A stolen demon egg hatches, releasing a monster on the city.
• "Crazy Fuss About an Arranged Marriage"—Akuto unsuspectingly agrees to get married.
• "Akuto's Great Capital War"—Akuto decides he has no choice but to destroy "god," the computer that controls the world's mana.
• "The Girls' Final Battle"—All the girls choose sides in the war and face personal challenges.
• "The Perfect Ending?"—Akuto gets to the seat of god, but it's not quite what he expects.
If you have ever watched any anime, you've seen this show. It steals from every anime convention it can get its hands on. Really bright high school students? Check. Reluctant hero who doesn't realize his own power? Check. Several female classmates who would clearly give one of their ovaries to be with him? Four checks. The list goes on: a guy who gets a supersuit that can fly and has an advanced weaponry system despite being skintight; a talking dragon; magic using the body's chi, except they call it "mana" instead, which is its own stereotype. And, of course, really short skirts. Demon King Daimao takes this one a bit further; it earns its TV-MA rating with a whole lot of cartoon nudity.
I'm not necessarily opposed to nudity, but there's no reason for it here. Nearly every scene has at least one shot of someone's panties and poor Junko (Luci Christian, Samurai 7) is naked, or nearly so, for at least a quarter of the series. It serves no purpose but to cause early-teen boys to drool, and is therefore nothing but a crutch when there's really no need for one. Because, despite everything, Demon King Daimao has the makings of a pretty good show. The characters are likeable and the chemistry is pretty good, especially between Akudo and Junko, his friend and reluctant love interest. Their fractal relationship is the energy that drives the show. Whenever one of them comes close to telling the other how he or she really feels, something messes it up and leaves them even more confused about each other. It feels very real, and somehow never gets to the point where one of them is just being dense while the other is clearly moon-eyed.
But then there's Kena Soga (Melissa Davis, Devil May Cry), who floats around and eats rice and may or may not have been an orphan that Akudo met a long time ago. And Korone (Maggie Flecknoe, Clannad: After Story), an android sent by the government to keep tabs on Akudo and then told to seduce him, although it's never clear why. And, finally, Fujiko Eto (Eileen Dover), who at first wants to control Akudo, then wants to serve him. Oddly, despite the fact that Akudo is the Demon King, Fujiko is the only person who actually controls demons during the course of the show. These three are meant to be heartwarming and/or funny characters, but usually they're just annoying, and only Kena gets any real closure by the end.
If I had to guess, I'd say that Demon King Daimao was originally planned as a much longer show. The first five episodes play out at a relatively leisurely pace, with some nice character building. Then, the moment Akuto comes into his power, the show becomes a torrent of disjointed action, with strange fights and unnecessary characters popping up everywhere, all while Akuto easily figures out how to use his new-found prowess. The last quarter dumps a truckload of mythology on its unsuspecting audience and fast-forwards to a confusing ending. Several scenes get cut short and there are gaps in the flow where scenes were clearly cut, leaving a lot of loose ends and dangling character arcs by the time the twelve episodes are complete. The means and motives of several key players end up muddled, underutilized, or abruptly opposed to their previous tendencies.
The animation falls in the middle of the anime art continuum. Neither as cartoonish as a Dragonball Z nor as stylized as a Cowboy Bebop, it lands in the general vicinity of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Lighting and shading are well done, but some of the profile shots seem a little off balance. The 2.0 stereo sound is good and voices are clearly audible but I'd have liked a little more oomph during the battle scenes. The only extras are alternate opening and closing credits and a fairly extensive gallery of production drawings.
Demon King Daimao draws from every anime stereotype it can think of and panders to the lowest common denominator, but thanks to the engaging leads it almost works anyway. A sad waste of potential.
Akudo and Junko are acquitted. The rest of the show is found guilty on all
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Sentai Filmworks
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