More words Judge Brett Cullum doesn't often write outside of anime reviews: "sand-dwelling panda".
"Caught between a giant panda and the sushi brigade!"
Yuri Shibuya is your average Japanese teen who likes to play baseball. He's pretty much an ordinary guy—not too cool or tough, but also not a nerd or soft. Yet when he tried to save a classmate from bullies, he found himself head first in a toilet. The toilet sucked him into an alternate world where he is The Demon King. It is a place where humans and demons are at war with each other, and Yuri has come to save them all. Or so I think. It's kinda hard to really suss out exactly what's happening here, but it's still charming, good-natured fun.
Kyo Kara Maoh! is an enjoyable romp that blends many genres deftly into a simply drawn but elaborate epic. It is all about beautiful boys, psychic powers, Medieval feudal kingdoms, silly one-liners, great quests for magical artifacts, and not-so-subtle homoerotic themes. In other words—standard anime. Kyo Kara Maoh!: God Save Our King! (Volume 3) continues the saga of Yuri and his alternate world companions with a steady pace. It offers few new insights, but does set up a new obstacle for Yuri to face by the close of the final episode on the disc.
The story starts off with the imminent civil war between Stoffel's militia and the current regime's army. Yuri has been kidnapped by Stoffel, and attempts escape through a little cross-dressing. On the battlefield Yuri turns in to the Demon King, and things get out of control as swirling winds disarm both sides. With that plot wrapped up, the series moves on to a quest to find the Demon Flute. Yuri sets off with his fiancée Wolfram, loyal bodyguard Conrad, and the military leader Gwendal. In the desert Wolfram and Conrad are separated from the royal party by a giant sand-dwelling panda. Left only with Gwendal, Yuri must find a way to win the sour swordsman over and find the mysterious artifact. Things get a lot more complicated when the pair are mistakenly identified as "elopers," and come under the scrutiny of a human tribe who object to mixed marriages, and assume Yuri is human and Gwendal is a demon (although they have no problem with two guys marrying). Before long you can bet Yuri will come out of the closet as the Demon King, and play a little flute to save the day.
The series was produced for television by NHK in 2004. It relies on a very traditional animation style, and seems oddly retro when held up against the more aggressive use of CGI in other anime series. The art is crude by modern standards, but the show doesn't suffer much from this simplicity. Truth be known, with such a circuitous plot I am pleased something about Kyo Kara Maoh! is straightforward. The series has raised many questions over these last three volumes, and not answered any of them.
I find myself wondering how far the split between Yuri and the Demon King who takes over his body is. Yuri changes physically in to a full-grown man when the King manifests, and his powers flare up in amazing ways. Is the Demon King the real person in this fantasy plane, and is Yuri simply a vessel? Yuri blacks out when he turns, but the Demon King seems to remember Yuri's actions and opinions when he renders justice. Exactly who is controlling who, and why is the division so prominent? Will Yuri learn to control it, or will one day Yuri be gone and the Demon King be in his place?
Kyo Kara Maoh!: God Save Our King! (Volume Three) falls in line with the previous releases from Geneon. The transfers are rock solid with nary a hint of digital artifacts. The color saturation is deep and true, and even the desert scenes in this installment are rendered well. You can chose either the English dub or the original Japanese vocal tracks in stereo. Conceptual art galleries are included, but nothing else. You get a healthy five episodes, which brings us to the fifteenth out of thirty-nine in the series. The episodes here are fast moving and have a lot of emotion, so the show appears to be gathering some steam. It remains as irreverent as ever. It makes for a fun afternoon or two with its quaint appearance and serpentine plots.
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