Hataraku Maou-sama!! – 04
I’m relatively bored with Hataraku Maou-sama this season if I’m honest, but there are complicating factors here. Soredemo Ayumu feels very much like a digest series to me, and it would need a dance partner for that to happen. Bucchigire is pretty much dropped, and Samidare strikes me as an all or nothing deal – I either drop it altogether or keep dissecting it. It’s singular. So the up or down decision on Maou-sama isn’t entirely straightforward.
I would make note of this though – while Samidare obviously draws the headlines here, this is a sneaky bad production. Yes there’s actual animation and it even has a modicum of fluidity to it, but that’s about all. This show is as generic as it gets in terms of execution – there’s basically no direction happening here. Not only that but the characters are consistently off-model and kind of ugly generally speaking. It’s just rote, one cut after the other, with no thought to actually using animation to tell a story. And frankly I don’t think the premise of Hataraku Maou-sama is compelling enough to survive that sort of treatment.
I’m going to give the next arc a chance to win me over, since this series is very arc-driven to be sure. Nothing (certainly not the moeblob) is grabbing me so far, but the comedy is working marginally better than the drama. But however many more eps I give it (it won’t be a lot), this series is going to have to show me more than it has so far.
Soredemo Ayumu wa Yosetekuru – 05
A funny thing is happening with Soredemo Ayumu. Rather than the premise wearing thin pretty quickly, I’m actually finding it more appealing as time passes. I can only chalk this up to Yamamoto-sensei having a certain magic touch with this sort of material, because there’s no way it should have the shelf life it does. An awful lot of this is recycled Takagi-san if we’re honest, but I guess it’s just different enough not to feel too repetitive. And the dynamic between the leads is certainly different if nothing else.
There’s no question Ayumu is residing squarely in Urushi’s head at this point (literally, given her new year’s dream). His being kind of a chad has something to do with that – for now I believe his repeated critical verbal hits are unintentional, but her hit points are basically gone. He’s pretty fearless too – when she scolds him for taking a photo of her struggling to reach a shelf at the bookstore, he innocently replies “this is a video”. The guy reading shoujo manga is a theme Yamamoto clearly loves, and I suspect we’ll be hearing more about “Checked By You” before it’s done.
Next we have a tsundere grandpa running an okonomiyaki shop (restaurants being open January 1-3 is indeed rare in Japan). He was a friend of Urushi’s real grandfather, and as such is full of embarrassing tales for Ayumu to tease out of him. He insists that the kids leave as soon as they finish eating, then makes them an okonomiyaki the size of a manhole cover. On the way home they run into Urushi’s cat Kin, who immediately takes a shine to Ayumu. That bit where he raves about Kin’s features after commenting how pets resemble their owners is one of the funniest so far, even if does test the limits of how much benefit of the doubt one will give him regarding his intentions.
As for the B couple, the dynamic is obviously very much reversed here. One can hardly think Sakurako is wholly innocent in re-enacting bits from the movie on Takeru. And what the hell was with the ending, anyway? The finale for the main paring is a phone call under the covers, which was about as couple-y as high school interaction gets. This is indeed a different sort of dance than with Nishikata and Takagi, befitting the difference in their ages, and I suppose that’s essential to why this series can succeed as a distinct entity. So far, it’s working – for me, anyway.