The Summer 2020 Preview Guide
The Misfit of Demon King Academy
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Misfit of Demon King Academy ?
What is this?
Two thousand years ago, the man Anos Voldigod was known as the Demon King for using power so overwhelming that he destroyed everything and even killed off the gods. In modern times, prophecies indicate that his resurrection is imminent, so five youths are to be chosen through rigorous testing to enter the Demon King Academy and train to be prepared to become the Demon King. On the day of the entrance exams, Misha Necron, an applicant with prodigious magical power and special eyes, encounters an arrogant young man who's a fellow applicant. Though not a noble or a pureblood, he backs up his attitude with power too overwhelming even for royalty to handle and professes to, in fact, be the Demon King reborn. Since he also has an out-of-tune sense of humor, no one is sure if he is joking or not.
How was the first episode?
When looking over the glut of isekai light novel adaptations, I sometimes feel nostalgic for the years when every season offered up at least two or three Magic High School light novel adaptations instead. Kudos to Misfit of Demon King Academy for taking my rose colored glasses and stomping them into dust. Turns out generic magic high school stories are just as likely to be boring and built out of spare narrative parts as their isekai younger siblings. The show isn't terrible or offensive, but as somebody who sat through the premieres of Asterisk War, Sky Wizards Academy, and dozens other interchangeable series with the same basic premise, let me just say this is no Chivalry of a Failed Knight.
The biggest knock is that, while its premise of students competing to become the reborn lord of all evil is at least a little flavor, it also predisposes most of our cast to be loud jerks who huff their own evil farts. Anos' derriere-adjacent name is quite fitting because, in spite of the episode's nominal attempts at softening him, he's just kind of an asshole. All of the people he fights are also assholes, so the main narrative becomes a competition to see who's the most powerful jerk so they can become King Jagoff of Dickhead Mountain. Except Anos is also extremely overpowered because he's the reincarnation of the OG Demon King and his title of “misfit” basically translates to “too good and cool at everything” rather than an underdog. It's not helped that he spends most of his screentime with either cartoonishly evil nobles or a doe-eyed blank slate of a female lead, giving him nothing to bounce off of as a personality.
There is some charm here, though it's mostly on the fringes. Anos' oblivious, doting parents are a neat decoration, and I could see a family comedy with their dynamic being pretty funny, if only it wasn't stapled onto the corner of a far more familiar magic battle story. There's also something to be said for Anos feeling like an outsider among his own distant descendants, and how his philosophy for Demon Monarchy has evolved in the time since his rule. But getting to see how that plays out would require caring about Anos or any of the other characters, and nobody here is likable enough for that. That's really this premiere's biggest weakness – any promise it shows still requires me to follow characters I don't like or enjoy, and that's just not enough of a hook.
The Misfit of Demon King Academy understands a fundamental storytelling principle that I wish some of these low-effort light novel isekai anime would figure out eventually: If you're going to make your hero an all-powerful god king of incomparable badassery from minute one, at least let the guy be a bit of a bastard about it. At this point, how many times have we had to suffer alongside featureless Mashed Potato Main Characters who find themselves reincarnated into some generic Elder Scrolls rip-off video- game land with all the powers of an entire pantheon at their fingertips, only to “Aw shucks” their way through whatever problems they stumble through with barely a second thought, while an inexplicably devoted harem of girls coo over how cool and brave he is? The answer to that question is “More than once”, which is too damned many times, and The Misfit of Demon King Academy is here with a cure for what ails us: The original Founder of the Demon King's empire himself: Anos Voldigod.
Is his name ridiculous and the exact opposite of intimidating or impressive? Why sure, but he isn't about to let something like a goofy name slow him down. While many of his descendants have claimed the title of the Demon King over the years, ol' Anos is the Big Kahuna, the OG, the Real Number One, and he's recently reincarnated his way back onto the main stage of the mortal plane, presumably to show the petulant weaklings of his era what being a tyrannical wielder of ultimate power is really all about.
For instance, when Anos is challenged to a duel by Zepes Indu, the snotty younger brother of the current Demon Lord, he makes quick work of him by exploding the boy's insides over and over, simply with the power of his goddamned heartbeat. Then, when Zepes claims he'd rather die than surrender, Anos grants him his wish, killing and then magically reviving Zepes a dozen times until he gets his victory. And just in case you thought Anos literally being a god-slaying demon with an unquenchable thirst for power makes him a bad guy, he makes fast friends with the quiet but powerful mage, Misha, and he's also very sweet to his incredibly young parents, who are just so proud that their one-month old Lord of Darkness can already bring home a date. Then, when Demon Lord Leorg kills his own brother and tries to snuff out Anos as well, our Demon King is gracious enough to show mercy on his enemies. Well, okay, he does brutally murder Leorg with the zombified corpse of his own dead brother, but then he revives them afterward, and he performs a bit of family counseling for them on top of all that! What a guy.
Look, this isn't an original concept, either. There have been just as many stories about all powerful devils turning into charming antiheroes as there are lame isekai anime. The Misfit of Demon King Academy isn't trying to reinvent the wheel; it's just trying to be fun, and I'm okay with that. I doubt it will blow anyone's mind, and while the animation is decent, the fights are filled with a few too many Adobe After Effects for my taste. Still, this premiere made me smile, and it even got me to laugh a couple of times; I wouldn't mind checking back in with it for a couple more episodes to see if its worth sticking with. You could certainly do better than this kind of shlocky power-trip nonsense, but you could do a hell of a lot worse too.
Anime subgenres tend to come and go in waves, with our current era still languishing in the ebb of the isekai wave. But before isekai, the hit light novel subgenre was “magical harem high school,” generally centered on magically gifted young men who'd swiftly prove they were the best at everything. Among the worst of these series was The Irregular at Magical High School, or “Mahouka”, a dull, repetitive power fantasy about a boy who has all the power, and is loved by all the ladies, but who society doesn't respect, because society never respects the protagonist in fantasies like this. Mahouka's day in the sun is thankfully behind us, but unfortunately its combination of magical high school tropes and “I'm the best, but no one appreciates me” philosophy are still an easy sell, as demonstrated by this season's The Misfit of Demon King Academy.
In Misfit's defense, it is at least a fairly well-executed production visually. The character designs are distinct and attractive, the backgrounds are quite nice, and the active direction is able to add a decent amount of energy to the production. It's clear a fair amount of work went into this show, and the final fight is livened up by some genuinely impressive effects animation.
Unfortunately, none of that visual appeal can do much to elevate such a transparent, uninspired protagonist love fest. Misfit's pitch seems to imply that the reincarnated demon king's identity will be a secret to uncover, but this episode makes it clear from the start that our protagonist is definitely him. In one particularly clumsy scene, Misfit introduces the concept of a power level-evaluating crystal, solely so our protagonist can blow it up with his powers and get dutifully praised by his female follower. Bullies appear just for MC-kun to mercilessly destroy them, with one scene even featuring him revealing he's the only person who knows resurrection magic, then using it just to reanimate and re-murder his hapless enemy.
Actions like those feel like they'd contradict things like his kuudere love interest later saying that she fell for him “because of his kindness,” but that's just sort of how it goes in stories like this. The protagonist is simultaneously ruthlessly cruel to his enemies yet beloved as just and kind by his supporters, and incredibly powerful, yet constantly ridiculed for his theoretical weakness and outsider status. Stories like this aren't creating rich and complex characters, they are creating contradictory fantasies of simultaneous victimhood and excellence: “I'm the best at everything and should be loved, but because of the unfairness of the world, I'm perpetually unappreciated.” There's nothing for me to grab onto in a story like that - no human chemistry to enjoy, no diversity of perspectives to consider. By centering itself so fully on appealing to that myopic itch, Misfit ultimately feels like watching someone else get an ego massage.
Back in 2010 we saw the redundantly-named Demon King Daimao, which provided a good-hearted protagonist who goes to a magic school aspiring to be a priest but winds up discovering that he's destined to be the Demon King instead and has the power to back it up. This first episode shows almost exactly the flip side of that coin: the protagonist believes from the beginning that he is the reincarnated Demon King, and he has the magic power and knowledge to back the assertion up. (The revelation that he was born only a month ago also supports this.) He is attending magical school not with a noble goal, but to reassert his dominion in a new era, presumably by being officially recognized as such. If he really is who he claims to be, then the salient question here is “why.” His attitude suggests that he's here by choice, so why did he give up his previous dominion and seemingly seek to start over? That's beyond the scope of the first episode, but offers an intriguing plot thread for future development.
Other than that, this is a pretty standard case of an OP protagonist lording his might over others, just without the isekai angle. However, I am giving this one a bit higher grade than normal because I like how Anos is handled here. He is an arrogant, ruthless ass when dealing with those who challenge him, but he also seems to be acting under certain principles; he is especially harsh against a royal who shows no regard for his own brother, for instance, even if the brother was a punk who also tried to belittle Anos. He is a perfect gentlemen towards Misha, a girl whom he actively tries to befriend despite (or perhaps because of?) her seemingly being the type that wouldn't easily make friends. He also seems to cherish his parents even if they are a little. . . extreme. He also has a sense of humor which easily comes off as him making threats. I could see him being a fun character.
That Misha is not a pushover is also a big plus. She doesn't get flustered by him or his parents' assumption that she's Anos's future wife, has off-the-scale magical power on her own (over 100k when most other students were testing south of 250) and at least for now seems to be looking at him as just a friend. One other girl, who appears briefly near the end of the episode, is prominently shown with Misha in advertising art and the rather sharp opener, so I guess there will be a lead trio? However that plays out, Misha and Anos have a very likable relationship so far.
The technical merits from SILVER LINK are respectable, and director Shin Oonuma, while not having a flawless record (Death March to The Parallel World Rhapsody), nonetheless has numerous previous successes (Dusk maiden of Amnesia, WATAMOTE, No-Rin), so I have no concerns on the direction front. Time will tell on whether or not the series can keep things interesting when Anos so immensely outclasses the opposition so far, but this one has the potential to be better than average for its type.
There's just something about the sheer chutzpah a show needs to have to make its protagonist so overpowered that he can kill someone with his heartbeat. That it then follows that up with a terrible “three second rule” joke that apparently got lots of laughs two thousand years before the story takes place is still a ten on the chutzpah scale, and I admire The Misfit of Demon King Academy for just leaning into its more ridiculous aspects. Seriously, if you like your main characters to make all of his opponents look like blades of grass to his mighty oak, this may be the show for you.
Apart from the fact that it truly embraces its own ridiculousness, this isn't a terribly surprising or original premise. The idea of the greatest Demon Lord from two thousand years ago being reborn as prophesied isn't groundbreaking, nor is the idea that everyone who wants to compete to be him (or just has a lot of magic potential) must compete to attend a special school. There is a definite sense that the author of the original light novels was taking a stab at, or at least poking fun at, the Harry Potter books – potential students are notified of their candidacy via owl and the demon lord's name is Anos Voldigord, which sounds suspiciously familiar if you remember your Potter. I feel like the first bad guy's name, Zepes, might also be drawing from another source; like Voldigord, it sounds awfully like Tepes, as in Vlad Ţepeş, Vlad the Impaler.
The story unfolds in an uneasy mix of horror and everyday life. Anos' fight against Zepes is truly awful as Anos slaughters and resurrects his opponent over and over and over again before the eyes of an appalled audience of students, chatting blandly all the while about what he's doing. That Zepes is a jerk doesn't entirely make up for the torture Anos subjects him to during this fight; that his own brother Leorg later kills him and Anos brings him back as a zombie only makes it worse. (He does revive both Zepes and Leorg afterwards, but he still tormented them in a way far beyond what they did to him.) If the point was to make it clear that Anos has zero compunctions about being cruel, well, mission accomplished. That Anos protected Misha throughout the whole thing and seems to genuinely like her, and that he's got a warm and loving family, sits uncomfortably alongside his darker actions in a juxtaposition that only barely works. It might have functioned better if Anos' mom wasn't so irritating, but probably not.
It feels a bit like The Misfit of Demon King Academy is fighting itself on what kind of show it wants to be. Brutal dark fantasy? Cheery high school romance? Strict magic high school drama? With a hefty dose of “what the hell,” instead of settling it just throws all three into the mix like three kids all playing their own games together. It's not terrible, and it doesn't look horrible (although it has its moments), but all chutzpah doesn't function as glue all that well, and this is going to need to decide where to place its emphasis going forward.
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