When writing this post, I was faced with a difficult choice: I could either go with an appropriate header image and a shitty reworking of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” for the title, or I could show the episode’s finest example of copyright-avoidant Engrish and repeat it in the title. I’d like to think I made the correct choice.
Anyway, I didn’t go into this feeling very encouraged, seeing as fish out of water comedies tend not to be a font of original ideas, especially in anime. While they serve the useful purpose of analyzing (and often skewering) modern society from a much-needed outside perspective, anybody who writes a fish out of water comedy will almost invariably use Bill and Ted as a template, huff enough paint to coat the Empire State Building, and recycle the same jokes thinking that nobody will notice before passing out in their own literal and word vomit.
Hataraki Maou-sama deftly sidesteps this all too common trap by being basically Ika Musume, but with demons in capes and vaguely Middle Eastern music instead of an adorably inept cephalopod.
The premise is predictable fare—demon defeated in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world and transported through a portal into the modern day must adapt to the stresses of modern life, all the while learning how to return home and slowly losing the desire to, since all-night fast food and speedball specials kick feudalism’s ass any day of the week. Our demonic (anti?)hero and his loyal underling do what they can to survive in the concrete jungle of Tokyo: Rent an apartment, apply for identification, and look for employment under assumed identities, all the while planning their return home.
The advantage that it has over its ilk is that it relies on timing and the inherent silliness present in its jokes, rather than trying to stuff itself full of lame gags and yelling for every minute of airtime like the least funny/loudest piñata in existence. They’re pithy and aren’t dwelt on for more than a few seconds before moving on to more ordinary city living. The first episode is rarely anything more than chuckle-worthy, but it doesn’t try to overwhelm the senses with cheap gags either.
The explicit gags are few and far between, but the way that it pads each joke with minutes of mundane Tokyo life serve as implicit gags that accentuate the explicit ones. It definitely finds its stride by the halfway point, though it certainly helps that there’s something undeniably charming about the very idea of fast food employee Satan getting emotionally invested in delivering the best he can for a promotional sale, to the extent that he’s willing to use his last ounce of magic to fix a broken fryer.
Unless the nature of its comedy abruptly changes toward the usual bog-standard anime fare of shitty sex jokes and yelling, rather than milking its odd gimmick for all its worth, this looks to be a keeper.