The mixed-media franchise aside, the one thing that stuck with me in Maoyu Maou Yuusha pilot was the way the story is portrayed from a simple archetype into a nuanced and developed world. It’s Disney-esqe and it evokes the feeling of a pop-up book.
It’s not uncommon in the era of remakes and reboots to see some nursery tale reborn as a modern interpretation. I mean, what the hell is this? Joking aside, the story about a hero vanquishing some evil overlord serves as the pages in which the first-time viewer flips as s/he walks through this 2ch-original tale.
What “pops up” is the multidimensional aspect of the story. While the characters remain flat and 2D-like, their complexity blossoms like a fractal image with each word coming out of the Maou’s mouth. Sure, the Hero’s reaction was cute and Maou’s naivete was cute as well, but the story’s heft increased ten fold from the first encounter to their moment of contract.
The multiplicity of the narrative’s depth expands, too, as cuts and flashbacks show us the world beyond the grim-dark, empty castle. We see merchants and kings, cheering or troubled, and forces moving behind the shadows. Characters that the bizarre duo will eventually encounter on their journey to the world outside of their war-torn destiny already make their appearances, even before the Maou undresses her headpiece.
Maoyu’s world, as set by the pilot episode, is really nothing that special. But it was that flat underpinning which sets the baseline to what we were to expect. I think the way the story pops in the pilot episode is largely credit to the animation direction… It also makes me wonder if having a billion different manga spinoffs make a difference when the eventual anime finally comes together.
Bonus: A good contrast can be seen in Da Capo III’s pilot episode. The funny thing is, by this point, there is a large amount of background material built into that franchise, with two full-blown otaku-minded mixed-media pushes in the two previous Da Capo sets of games. So what does the first episode do? Boil it down to the basic template as much as possible. In fact it feels artificially done, and in a way that might mislead viewers. Instead of elaborate relationships and a huge back story about the magic tree, we just get, welp, what we get. Knowing this show, though, it’s probably just to get you focused away from the back story so they can bring it to the foreground later, with more impact. Well, we’ll see. It’s something they can’t just leave alone (and they aren’t hopefully, with the ex-eternal-17 character on the screen from the first episode).
PS. Magic Knight Rayearth.