When the fifth episode of Hataraku Maou-sama! finished I had a truly important decision to make, one that I usually do not have to do. Were I to continue watching the series, and with my very own eyes witness how it gradually declined in quality, or were I to drop it and remember how fantastic its first five episodes actually were?
The reason for this was my worry of Hataraku Maou-sama! suffering from the same disease almost every other light novel title does: the “Only the First Light Novel is Good Disease”, or OFLNGD for short.
This idea of mine comes from the fact that, judging by almost every light novel anime adaptation I have seen, most light novels start out rather good but progressively become worse as they go on. One thing they all have in common is that they wrap up their story concept in the very first light novel, as in the one that was the foundation of the entire series, and therefore do not have anywhere left to go.
All they do is to artificially prolong the story by either introducing new characters or repeating the same thing over and over again. This is the case in titles such as Kokoro Connect, Sword Art Online and Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko.
Since the majority of anime adaptions I have seen so far have suffered from this particular problem I was prepared for the worst, especially when I saw that Hataraku Maou-sama! got a whopping eight light novel volumes and is still on-going. That certainly gave me the vibes of a series not really advancing its story.
So color me happy when it turned out that Hataraku Maou-sama! was an actual bliss to watch. It was one of the best anime comedies in recent years and completely nailed its concept of having characters from a medieval fantasy setting end up in our own world. Seeing a demon king struggle making a living off working at “MgRonalds” while adjusting to his new human life was nothing short of fantastic.
But sadly nothing lasts forever and soon it was time for Hataraku Maou-sama! to become infected with the OFLNGD.
With the fifth episode finished, Hataraku Maou-sama! had nowhere left to go. It had achieved its goal. The journey had ended. Our main characters had adjusted to their new human lives, the demon king and the hero had become “friends”, plus a villain had been defeated to bring a climax to the story. Furthermore, our main characters even had the chance to travel back to their own world which was their goal all along.
What was there left to explore? Yes, we could have learned more about the evil church or why the demon king now was such a nice person in comparison to his past self. But would that carry the rest of the series? When its concept had already been fully realized?
“Of course not”, I believed.
“No way!”, I told myself.
Today, with the ninth episode recently having aired, I know the answer.
I should have dropped Hataraku Maou-sama! after episode five.
With every subsequent episode it triggered more and more warning flags. The previous villain now became a friend (who did not add anything to the character dynamics), a new character was introduced and overall nothing really progressed. Our demon king still had the life of a cheapskate, just like before. He also wanted to travel back to his own world, an offer he had declined earlier. And the hero still never tried to kill him. It was status quo.
And at the moment Hataraku Maou-sama! has tangled itself up in a mess of misunderstandings, the most basic of all clichés. It is far from exciting and it has become hard to still care for the series. The little possible plot it had left, the evil church, has briefly been mentioned and may play a larger role in the remaining four episodes. But it has been entirely overshadowed by the repetitive comedy hijinks and thus its weight and importance has been lost.
Overall, Hataraku Maou-sama! still has its great moments. It is not a disaster, but more of a shadow of its former self. Truth be told, it is painful to see the once brilliant series having ended up like this. I should have dropped it while it was on top. It would have been like an awesome two-hour long movie.
Instead I got yet another light novel title overstaying its welcome.
And this makes me sad.