What’s it about ?
Heroic fantasy mixed with economics.
The Hero, champion of the human realms in their war against the demons. He’s in such a hurry to defeat the Dark Lord that he runs towards the Evil Castle, leaving his usual party members behind. He’s very gung-ho about the whole thing until he actually meets…
The Dark Lord, who’s really a gentle young woman, and has no desire to fight whatsoever. She’s sick of the war and would rather they find a way to end it together (well, that, and she’s smitten by the legendary dashing young man). Her death/capture/whatever would solve nothing, as there are way too many vested interests on both sides to keep the war going (cue a comprehensive lecture to a bemused Hero about the subject). They’re going to need to be more clever than that…
(In case you’re wondering, nobody in this show has any name beyond their role ; for example the Hero’s party comprises, beyond him, of the Female Knight, the Magician and the Old Archer.)
One could have expected the worst from studio Arms, who have barely contributed to anything of worth since Elfen Lied nearly a decade ago, but did produce the likes of Queen’s Blade, Ikki Tousen and various porn OVAs. Well, while the camera is very interested in the Dark Lord’s huge tracts of land indeed, the fanservice level remains quite tame ; there’s nothing too egregious on that level.
Actually, this does look quite good. The backgrounds are quite good-looking (although the CG scenes look a bit awkward, especially that spinning battlefield one with the Hero’s party left behind), and the animation of the Dark Lord’s body language is very good indeed.
They had me at “Jun Fukuyama & Ami Koshimizu flirting while talking about economics”, a formula with some pedigree indeed.
Now, this is a rough first episode. The (deliberately generic) backstory is rushed through in a terse narration infodump so that we can get to the one scene that matters, with our two leads meeting. This makes the Dark Lord’s infatuation come a bit out of nowhere, although the episode does manage to eventually sell it by its end. Similarly, the Hero’s final decision feels a bit too quick.
But that’s nitpicking. The two main voice actors make a very convincing job of quickly fleshing out their characters beyond the stated archetypes, while exuding tons of charisma throughout. (I had no clue you could display any charisma while spending the whole episode entirely baffled. Jun Fukuyuma somehow pulls it off.)
Also promising : the economics described here paint a very detailed picture of the human realms (the Dark Lord is more vague about the demon side of the equation) that makes perfect sense and feels impressively real. I’m eager to see what other aspects further episodes are going to explore. It certainly makes the stakes quite high from the get-go, and I wonder what the Dark Lord is planning to do. (The title for the second episode is… most intriguing.)
So. There are bits that don’t quite work. (By the way, why exactly is the Magician spouting the same catch-phrase as her voice-actress’s character in Smile Precure, of all things ?) But there are a lot that do work, including the show’s main selling points (the economics and the relationship between the two leads). So on balance I’m quite happy with continuing to watch this.