Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Aug 1st 2010
Demon King Daimao
Episodes 7-12 Streaming
On Hiro's island of birth, Akuto and his entourage run afoul of a foul old man named Mr. X. Blows are exchanged and Hiro, desperate to save his little sister Yukiko, follows the dictates of a blatantly self-serving local legend to acquire the powers of an aesthetically questionable hero. Unfortunately the position of hero requires him to defeat the Demon King...or at least give it the old college try. In the meantime the demons at the academy are feeding off of Akuto's mana, which apparently acts like demon PCP. Before Akuto can really do anything about it he's spirited off to be Junko's unwitting man-bride, and before he can do anything about that he's spirited off to defend Keena from the unwanted advances of a time-traveling villain with a clunky name. Unfortunately doing so means killing the gods, which would pretty much make him 100% pure Demon King. Naturally all Hell breaks loose.
The second half of Demon King Daimao begins with perhaps the single worst episode of anime it has ever been my misfortune to watch. It starts off innocuously enough: The usual harem nonsense, unconvincing "emotional" turns, and generalized unevenness in full attendance, along with the rumblings of magical combat and the eternal hope that maybe it'll tackle Akuto's Demon King problem head-on. All very normal. And then Mr. X shows up and the episode goes straight to hell—faux Go Nagai-style. Shadows become pronounced, Akuto's muscles swell to Schwarzeneggerian proportions, everything gets angular, and Mr. X immediately kidnaps kid sister Yukiko and starts licking her armpits. A giant sea slug is raised from a lake and sicced on a nearby town, and Hiro acquires the world's ugliest, and most weirdly perverse, power suit, which he directs at the sea slug in a series of Mazinger maneuvers. It's obviously meant as some sort of parody, but it isn't funny or clever so much as bewildering and disturbing. Give the series credit for thinking outside the box, but sometimes the box is there to keep you from wandering naked into disasterland.
That foray into disasterland is the series' death-knell. Prior to that episode, there was always a chance, however slim, that the series would somehow even out and salvage something compelling from the tattered mess it had made of its promising premise. After watching aesthetic atrocity Mr. X slop saliva all over his nubile captives, no such illusions remain. When the follow-up episodes bog down in some unfunny business involving an arranged marriage, when they betray Akuto's atypical intelligence by having him act the dunce in a romantic farce, it's hard even to get mad anymore. This is a series so obviously off the rail, so clearly destined to become a train wreck, that you can do nothing but sit back and watch it crash and burn.
And crash it does. Having spent its first nine episodes with eyes affixed firmly to bust and buttock, having squandered every opportunity to develop its plot and left its (relatively) strong cast to atrophy while it amused itself with dropping them into dumb rom-com situations that challenged them not in the least, the series is left with three measly episodes to cram in a finale. A villain is introduced—a time-hopping pretty boy—and one of the girls is put in mortal danger (Keena), which forces Akuto to fully assume the role of Demon King. This puts him at odds with Junko and newly hero-ized Hiro, even as a divine (as in hatched by the gods) conspiracy is implicated in his dark destiny.
It isn't a terrible set-up for a climax, but the restricted time frame—made all the more so by the occasional return to romantic complications best left in limbo—leaves it no space to unfold. Events are mashed up against one another like frightened sardines in a particularly small can, and you can practically see the series eyeing its watch as it plows through emotional confrontations, stripping them of all resonance. The pace is hectic, the progression of events is sloppy, and betrayals of character are common as there is no time to sufficiently justify anyone's behavior. The effect is disastrous, lending even the most obviously premeditated events an air of pulled-from-the-rear randomness. Akuto's long-anticipated transformation in particular is so flagrantly unconvincing that it fairly burns the enjoyment out of the entire climax. And then, just to bake the ashes a little more, the series reaches for the reset button, looks you right in the eye, and presses it. Crash. Burn. And with any luck, never return.
So catastrophic is the narrative self-destruction that it's difficult to honestly enjoy even the non-plot-dependent qualities. The pervasive high-end fan-service becomes a hindrance during the climax, time being an endangered resource even before panty shots start eating it up. The way the intrusive censorship yanks us out of the fights doesn't help either. From a purely technical perspective, the fights themselves are excellent. Their mix of impact-heightening shortcuts, punchy intercutting, smartly-deployed animation, and magical CGI glitz is rock-solid, and the inclusion of the student council and various ninjas and villains mixes things up nicely. But while undeniably cool, they aren't very interesting—a direct consequence of us not caring whether the participants live or are reduced to ectoplasm.
A similar argument can be made about Tatsuya Katou's score. It has some wonderfully hammy flourishes up its sleeve, particularly on the orchestral fantasy and modern rock ends of its sonic spectrum. But they're utterly wasted once the series runs amuck and splatters itself on its own finale.
There is one thing you can take from this particular wreck—a little lesson of sorts about what happens when you use fan-service, not as a spice, but as a meal unto itself. Allow the purveyance of naked girl-flesh to edge out basic storytelling, and like Demon King Daimao, chances are you'll choke.
Overall (sub) : D+
Story : D-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Butts, boobs, and violence aplenty; eventually grows a plot and deals with Akuto's destiny.
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