Hataraku Maou-sama! is Overstaying its Welcome

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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.

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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.

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Dang it, I need to trust my gut feeling more often.

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.

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44 thoughts on “Hataraku Maou-sama! is Overstaying its Welcome

  1. Flawfinder says:

    I tried looking at the eighth episode of Maou-sama, realized I disliked it as much as I did the rest of the series, and never bothered with it again.

  2. etiehr says:

    Nice analysis. I think it’s a sign of an inexperienced writer to resolve everything within the first installment. A talented writer will resolve just enough to make it a bookend, but keep a greater portion of questions unanswered in order to not die out with later additions.

    Do you feel that the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise suffered from OFLNGD?

    • rarely_upset says:

      There isn’t much analysis going on at all.
      He states that many things start off good and then drag on. This is true in many aspects of life, even beyond entertainment media.
      He then states that this applies to Maou-sama.

      In addition, it seems that his problem with the show is that the plot is dropping off, which goes to show that he’s missing the main draw of the show.

      • Marow says:

        You nailed it 🙂
        To me, Hataraku Maou-sama was more than a typical “Keroro” or “Squid Girl” type of story. But after the fifth episode it became just that.

    • Andmeuths says:

      I’m not sure whether it would be safe to say this. It depends on what you think of Disappearance, Honestly speaking, unless you’ve read the Suzumiya Haruhi post-disappearance arc, it is impossible to make that judgement – personally, I think Haruhi Suzumiya averts this syndrome in the longer run.

      You must keep in mind that for many LN authors, this is their first big break. Many of them are actually at the stage where most Western Fantasy authors are still writing short-stories and fanfiction when they actually get published. Therefore, we see OFLNGD – authorial newbies who are pushed to write a sequel (or capitalize on their early big-break) and therefore produce a weaker second arc/volume. However, authors do recover from the OFLNGD- it has happened. I would argue that Haruhi Suzumiya is one example, as is Shakugan no Shana, and even SAO (controversially)

      In-fact, I think the OFLNGD syndrome emerges because most anime adaptations of LN’s don’t go beyond the second story arc. And for most authors, the second story-arc often tends to be the weakest – this is the case for SAO – all LN readers would probably agree ALO was dreadful,

      From then on, the story tends to either die, or the writing quality improves dramatically in a recovery, in the third or fourth arcs. Unfortunately, unless you are a regular Baka Tsuki prowler, most western anime fans only see that weaker, second arc slump, and then proclaim OFLNGD, especially when no second season or third season is forthcoming. Again, going back to SAO, the third and fourth and fifth arcs clearly show the marks of an improving author recovering from the second arc slump.

      The aversions of OFLNGD usually are aversions though, because far more material is animated or translated, to the point the author begins having fresh inspiration, coupled with the mark of a more seasoned author. This happens, IMO in Haruhi Suzumiya (Disappearance IMO shows the hallmarks of experience), Shakugan no Shana (where the second half of the second season and the third season clearly demonstrates the author climbing over the OFLNGD barrier), etc…. and finding either fresh inspiration, or perhaps daring to take a previously downsized vision and expand upon it. And yes, LN authors often downsize their initial vision – SAO’s first arc is an egregious offender.

      In-fact, I have another example to drop to you: Boku Wa Tomodachi, where the slump at the end of the first season, the shaky start to the second season, followed by a much more substantial later half of Next was no coincidence. Authors do recover and transcend from the OFLNGD slump- which is why LN novel readers often moan that the anime ends before the series quality recovers.

      In-fact, it might be heresy (but since I’ve already committed the heresy (especially on MAL, but also certain blogs) of praising the later arcs of SAO, I would commit one more), but Date a Live is one example where the adaptation is so fast that it basically get’s over the OFLNGD hump – the weaker second arc is cleared over by mid-season, and we get the recovery in the much better received third arc.

      Then, there’s Accel World, whose first cour didn’t even seem to hit OFLNGD, but rather the “weak beginning syndrome” (Medaka Box and Negima, both mangas ironically was prey to this, AW is one LN example I can think off-hand with the same malady). It was only in the last half that the story really dramatically improved.

      I suspect that if Maou-sama got a season 2, we might see the author overcoming the OFLNGD hump – I’ve not read the Maou-sama LN’s mind you, but based on other LNs, either Maou-sama’s author would have lost his audience, or he would have gotten over OFLNGD.

      • Marow says:

        This was an interesting read. Thank you for commenting 🙂
        I have heard others mention that authors usually become better as the series go on (although, naturally, this is not always the case). But since so many anime end with the second, or maybe third, light novel, I cannot really judge 😦

        But it’s funny how you mention Haganai, since that is a series where it clearly shows that the author got better. Personally I’d love to read what happens after the end of the second anime season since, if the sayings on forums are true, the series will now enter “Part 2” where things will heat up.

        It would be rather fun to try reading light novels one day… at least we got a few translations in English here and there!

    • Marow says:

      To etiehr:

      Do you feel that the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise suffered from OFLNGD?

      Honestly, it’s hard to say since the first season handpicked chapters from different volumes. And the second season basically only got two arcs. Then we have the fantastic Disappearance movie.

      What I can say, however, is that I felt the second season was rather weak, not counting the Endless Eight nightmare. The movie project, the “Sigh arc”, simply wasn’t all that fun, since we never really saw the characters shine. It was also really slow.

      Ironically, that very arc is also the second light novel. So interpret it how you will.

  3. Artemis says:

    I agree to some extent. If I cared about the plot more than the comedy, I probably would have dropped this series quite quickly, but since I’m here primarily for the laughs, I have no particular issue with the overall plot. Whether or not the serious stuff gets resolved is secondary to the amusement factor for me – it’s been a long while since I’ve found a comedy anime that actually makes me laugh like this, so I intend to enjoy it without getting bogged down by the serious(ish) backstory. From what I can tell, I doubt that the creators intended the plot to be the draw card of the series.

    • Marow says:

      I hear many feel that way. As in, they watch Maou-sama for the laughs.

      To me, it was perhaps 50% plot and 50% laughs? They complemented each other. So it feels like something has been lost at the moment…

      Would be fun to hear what the creator had in mind when creating the series 🙂

  4. alsozara says:

    Wait, Hataraku Maou-sama! (HMS from here on out) was good? Assuming their main focus was to be a comedy, HMS was, at best, mediocre to begin with and has declined to nearly unwatchable. I don’t think it’s made me laugh out loud once the entire series, because it doesn’t seem to understand that the funadmentals of comedy are tension, surprise and catharsis.

    If this is honestly making anyone laugh-out-loud I fail to comprehend such a sense of humour, and if it doesn’t but people are ok with that, I am deeply concerned for the comedy standards of the aniblogosphere.

    Seriously, does this show actually make you laugh? Like, properly laugh, not just snicker or make a wry grin?

    • Marow says:

      Yep, it actually was! Many were surprised. I didn’t even start watching it till I got a recommendation!

      Seriously, does this show actually make you laugh? Like, properly laugh, not just snicker or make a wry grin?

      Hard question, since I rarely show emotions, especially laughter ^^’

      I have, however, actually laughed a few times, especially in the first episode since I was caught off-guard. I had no expectations, so it really took me by storm.
      Most of the time, though, I merely grin a little and think “heh, this is actually kinda funny!”. Just like with most anime. Laughing is mostly when I’m, as I said, am caught off-guard… which Nichijou often did.

  5. Nopy says:

    I’m actually enjoying these later episodes of Hataraku Maou-sama just as much as the first five. Maybe it’s because I valued the comedy more than the plot when I started watching the series.

    • Marow says:

      Most likely, yes 🙂
      And I have a feeling I am slightly biased since I expected it to become worse. However, I’m still having a fun time with it, not just as fun. Except episode six. That episode is just astrocious.

  6. Mushyrulez says:

    Eh, Maou-sama still has a lot to go. It’s barely scratched the iceberg of cultural assimilation; you can plainly see the contrast between Emi and Maou’s respective lifestyles as manifestations of differing impacts of the same cultural norms applied to more and less malleable personalities. They developed this quite well with the climactic scene in episode 4, but they definitely haven’t exhausted this idea.

    ….Unfortunately, the author, like most light novel authors, was probably drunk and high when writing it, so I doubt he even considered its counternormative subtext…. oh well, I’ll keep on blogging it and maybe, just maybe, if one tries hard enough one can squeeze enough meaning out of even dried plums, right?

    • Marow says:

      ….Unfortunately, the author, like most light novel authors, was probably drunk and high when writing it, so I doubt he even considered its counternormative subtext

      Every story doesn’t have to have some sort of hidden meaning… 😛

  7. froggykun says:

    I didn’t pick up Maou-sama because I strongly suspected that the disease you mentioned would start to kick in before the anime even ended. Guess I’ll wait for the anime to finish, watch the first five episodes in sequence, and then call it a day. Thanks for writing this post up.

    • Marow says:

      Sounds like a plan! If you only care for the laughs, though, you can continue watching. Personally I find the comedy becoming a bit stale (with episode 10 relying on… breast jokes), but it still has its moments.

  8. Fist Of Legend says:

    I have to disagree. I think the primary goal of the story is comedy, with the side goal of exploring Maou and Emi’s characters and pasts. When we still don’t know why Maou is the way he is, and when Emi still doesn’t know, we can’t have any real closure.

    They both were relatively well adjusted to human life on Earth by the end of episode 2. For Emi, this makes a certain kind of sense: she has been raised in a more human culture and at first glance has more human experiences and motivations. For Maou, the answer is a mystery. Why would the Demon Lord show such concern for humanity after engaging in a war of conquest against them? What drove him to his war? If the story ends at episode 5, it makes no sense. We have an evil overlord who suddenly turns good for no apparent reason. His character development is completely illogical up to that point. Only by seeing his past can this be revealed to be either logical or illogical development. Was he always nice, but misunderstood? Was he in possession of some secret about the Church and human society on Ente Isle that led him to engage in the war? Did he even realize what his war was doing? Was the war anything like what we were originally shown at all, or was it all Church propaganda?

    And Emi still thinks Maou killed her father (or is responsible for his death). She might not hate him with a passion anymore, or want to kill him on sight, but she definitely still has some hangups about him, and doesn’t understand him at all either. She can’t really become close with Maou until she knows why her father died and why Maou was engaging in the war. She has reached a point by episode 5 where she’s seen proof of Maou’s apparent transformation (he doesn’t murder people, he risks his life to protect them) but to her that development is as illogical and nonsensical as it to us. Before she can learn Maou’s side of the story, she can’t have closure and neither can I.

    Further, the comedy hasn’t (to me at least) become stale at all. It is still fresh. You could say that it’s simple-minded and obvious, but that’s part of the fun. When Maou and Ashiya have a funny “fish out of water” moment, it makes me chuckle, even though I’m expecting it. I think it’s taking it’s time, and maybe moving a bit too slowly with the main plot, but I don’t mind the lazy pace so much because thus far it’s still been primarily a comedy. There are some shows that are comedic, but also have a serious story that is running underneath, but then there are shows that have a somewhat serious story running underneath, but are comedies at heart.

    To each his own, but for me, Maou is pretty far away from overstaying it’s welcome or becoming stale. I think the first arc might have been a bit rushed, but overall I’m enjoying the show now as much as I ever did.

    • Marow says:

      His character development is completely illogical up to that point. Only by seeing his past can this be revealed to be either logical or illogical development. Was he always nice, but misunderstood?

      I definitely agree with what you wrote. This is the stuff I’d like to learn more about! But at the moment this has been pushed to the side, which is my issue. Perhaps it won’t even be resolved in this season!

      Right now, the only thing we have to by is a scene in episode four (or was it three?). Maou and Emi did start talking about their past lives, but were interrupted.

      What could be gathered, however, is that Maou didn’t really seem to be an evil Demon King for the sake of being evil. It seemed that he was evil because he didn’t realize what he was doing, but having become a human opened up his eyes. Another possible thing would be, like you wrote, that the Church somehow forced him to start a war.

      These are really interesting things and I’d love to see Hataraku Maou-sama! go back to mixing plot and comedy like it did in the beginning. But now I only end up disappointed with every new episode.

  9. Gisei says:

    The plot line was quite solid though, but i have to admit you are right, it lost quite alot of what it was going for, maybe they ran out of ideas, i mean Demon king, struggles with the daily life of humans having no other choice its quite hilarious even just to think about. but so much for that. they could’ve just made it tv shorts maybe 3 minutes per episode? hahaha

    • Marow says:

      Haha, I don’t think a shorts series would suffice for Maou-sama. 🙂
      Let’s hope it gets better if it were to have a second season.

  10. A-GUY-STOP-ASKING says:

    Seriously, why did you all bag on it so much? I just finished watching the last episode and is a very good show! The comedy flares up a little, but basing your opinion of all LN shows is that they will all suffer from OFLNGD is stupid! Watch all of it then give your opinion. Here’s a metaphore, don’t stop half way during cutting down a tree, and say it *was* hard work! Cut the tree down and then boast about, christ!

    • Marow says:

      I watched it all. It lost all of its flare in the second half and became rather poor. If it weren’t for the fantastic first arc I probably wouldn’t like the series.

      What’s wrong with basing my opinion on something that always seem to happen to light novel adaptations, which in this case felt very obvious considering how Maou-sama had already wrapped up its entire concept?

  11. jin0uga says:

    I agree with you. Up till episode 5 or 6 i found the story refreshing, but after that it just went stagnant. I was quite disappointed with the ending, but it was enjoyable though.

  12. clownavenger says:

    I still see a few things that could happen if the story continues. First off i am not even sure if the war in ente isla was good vs evil but it may have just been like any other war. Just a pointless battle of two opposing factions. I don’t think the church was sparring demons as they took over villages. kinda reminds me of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.

    • Marow says:

      Yes, there’s probably something more to the war that we don’t know yet. Perhaps a second season will deal with it? Apparently Maou-sama sold quite well, so it’s possible there might be a sequel.

  13. Fury says:

    This actually went straight into my favorites bin. I really liked the show.

  14. […] And Hataraku Maou-sama! started to overstay its welcome. […]

  15. Hey , It has come to attention that u the writer of this article/crude review are i need of highschool DXD both the anime and light novel

    You are welcome

  16. chiibug says:

    I liked the show and I would like a second season (just to answer some unresolved questions,) but I’m inclined to agree with your assessment.

  17. Von Hohenheim says:

    i don’t know what is wrong with me…
    But i loved this anime ^^…all the episodes! (and i am forward looking from a second season)
    It’s very rare to find an anime i don’t like (since i do a little research to find if it is kinda good, or a waste of time)
    Also, i loved SAO from ep 01 to 25 (again..what is wrong with me?) and i even read the LN (almost all of them^^)

    I think, since i’m a somewhat new anime fan, i never saw that kind of anime (Medieval Lord cast off time in modern era)..and perhaps that was something who contributed for me to like this series ^^

  18. Guy says:

    Ha! I marathoned the first 5 shows and enjoyed them a lot, then I watched the other episodes as they aired and liked them less – it often happens to me, and it’s sometimes hard to tell whether the problem is due to episodes 6+ being worse, or due to me enjoying shows more when I marathon them…

    Also, people discussing how funny this show is always made me shake my head, even when I liked it I never found it “funny”, at most it brought a smile to my face.

  19. hana says:

    emi and mao is so cute being together i want a pair up and a good ending like shakugan no shana season 3

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