Hataraku Maou-sama! – Episode 3

Hataraku Maou-sama!

I get the feeling this will be the last episode of setup for this very smartly written comedy. So far we’ve established our base conceit, we’ve grounded our four characters in their world, and we’ve begun to explore the various dynamics between them. The foundations of a classic sitcom are all there – the animosity and begrudging respect between Maou and Yusa, the seemingly obvious rivalry between Asriel and Yusa, the constant shifting between hero-worship subservience and mother hen disapproval between Asriel and Maou, and the fawning respect Sasaki shows Maou. Based on that info, the only dynamics really left to establish are those between Sasaki and the rest of the cast – and would you look at that, the preview for this episode implied Maou and Sasaki are going on some kind of date. That promises some comedy, as Maou’s dead-serious commitment to his new life always does – but the other classic side of this weathered sitcom chestnut is the group of friends sneaking along “for his own good.” Will we get Asriel and Yusa bonding over how Sasaki isn’t good enough for their precious/hated Maou?

See, that’s the thing – a lot of the jokes and situations here are pretty reliable standards, but the characters are written so wittily and affectionately, and the execution of the jokes is so top-notch, that it just doesn’t matter. It’s like a jazz riff on a classic progression – we’re not here for the melody, we’re to watch excellent artists show us their take on it. Let’s get to it.

Episode 3

1:25 – Those action cutaways of Maou putting on his MgRonald’s hat and apron are a pretty great elevator pitch for this entire show.

2:12 – I kind of appreciate the fact that the whole OP being reused show footage means they put every single goddamn dollar into the actual production.

2:30 – Eva trick turned industry standard #754 – bad memories always find people in the bath

3:39 – “Sure, I don’t have a shift. Let’s talk!” Normally this kind of plucky male obliviousness is a symptom of bad writing, but considering Maou still believes capitalism allows for class mobility, from him I can believe it

5:46 – Welp, her certainty it’s a demon makes me pretty certain it’s our wayward Head Priest. A priest wanting to erase both the hero and the demon king… wait, could this show actually be about something?

8:00 – See, you’d think this show is a one-note joke, but it just keeps finding new ways to play with that concept. The main trick is grounding their theatrics in a variety of modern mundanities (meddle with the epic hero… by forcing her to bail them out. Insult Alsiel’s skills at a general… by mocking his inability to maintain a well-stocked refrigerator), but the way the two sides of this coin both bounce so naturally off each other and come up so naturally as part of their conversations and characters is just really nice stuff

8:30 – Acting tsundere about her right to kill Maou before anyone else does. I think someone invented that harem comedy in a thread here…

9:20 – Omigod we get a fashion montage of Alsiel dressing up Maou for his date. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, SHOW

11:54 – And here we finally are. Yusa runs into Alsiel shadowing them on the date – perhaps the entire point of this episode. Savor it

12:46 – Goddamn this dynamic is great. Yusa immediately goes from blistering rage at what evil deeds her nemesis may be planning, to resigned disappointment that his plans include no evil deeds whatsoever

14:33 – “No, waaaait…” as she defiantly… walks through an automatic door.

20:32 – A lot of this isn’t particularly great, but that’s mainly because they’re for some reason using this last quarter for a huge infodump of plot catalysts, as well as to set up the Yusa/Sasaki dynamic. However, I did like the dialogue both in their fight and in Yusa’s light prodding afterwards – which makes sense, since a show that can write characters well enough to make personality-based jokes work should definitely be able to make personality-based drama work too

And Done

Ooh, I really like that twist at the end. Perhaps three episodes in is a little too soon for Maou to get his powers back, but not his old personality – but they’ve skipped months already, and that’s just not what this show is about anyway – it’s about their current selves, not the transition to their current selves, and that’s honestly how I prefer it.

The infodump stuff about trans-world sonar and earthquake magic and blah blah blah was honestly pretty lackluster, but I guess if one artless, humorless exposition-spiel was required to set the board for the rest of the show, I’m fine with that.

Otherwise, the episode was fine. I don’t think it was quite as funny as either of the first two, but I think that’s mainly because Yusa and Sasaki just aren’t as funny as Maou or Asriel, and this episode foregrounded both of them. Hopefully, now that all four leads have been properly introduced, as well as the larger conflict established, the show can settle into a more comfortable groove and fall back on its excellent writing and humor