Level 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero Anime Series

Degree 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero Anime Sequence Evaluation

Level 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero feels like two shows stapled together. One is a fanservice-laden sitcom featuring the odd couple of a porn-addicted slob and his supposed enemy trying to get him to clean up his act. The other is a character drama about the burnout and fragmentation between former comrades that comes with sudden fame against a backdrop of national territorial disputes. These two aspects only occasionally gel into something cohesive; more often, it feels like jumping back and forth between two completely different series that happen to have the same cast of characters. The question is, will both aspects work for you? And if they don’t, will one make the other worth slogging through?

Like many, many other series coming out for the past couple of years, Level 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero asks the question, “What happens after the hero defeats the Demon Lord and the world is at peace?” Despite their ubiquity, there’s a decent amount of variety among stories that use this idea as the jumping-off point, from the quiet melancholy of Frieren to goofy comedies. With the popularity of Dragon Quest in Japan, which is this story type’s origin point, this structure parallels take on fairy tales that examine what happens after the “Happily ever after.” What does a hero do when the world no longer needs a hero?

In Max’s case, the answer is to have a number of high-profile scandals and retreat from public view, spending all your time at home playing video games and masturbating to pictures of girls in bikinis. That’s what the freshly reincarnated Demon Lord finds when they decide to drop in on him ten years later. They attempt such tactics as fixing him up with a hot demon lady, offering him a career as a demon government official, and pushing him to find stardom as a video game streamer, all to the chagrin of the Demon Lord’s assistant, Zenia.

Depending on how you feel about fan service, you may find these episodes riotously funny or highly unpleasant; I fell into the latter camp. There are some funny jokes, like Max’s terribly unengaging narration while playing video games. More often, though, they’re centered around seeing the Demon Lord or Zenia’s tits and ass or about Max touching his wiener. Sometimes, it’s all of the above. Although there are hints about the roots of Max’s depression and the more melancholy themes from the very first episode, I was too busy being put off by how often the camera zoomed in on Zenia’s shiny lycra-clad butt to become invested. Incredibly, the fan service is seriously toned down from the manga, in which Zenia wears a thong swimsuit with the crotch cut in such a way that I can only assume her demon powers are keeping it from riding up so that her labia are all the way out.

But then the story made itself fully known, and it became clear that this wasn’t just another horny fan service comedy. Max didn’t withdraw just because of the scandals he was involved in, though that certainly didn’t help, but also because of the strife between his party members that has blown up on an international scale. Their cleric, Fred, works for the Kingdom’s government, while their fighter, Leo, is leading a secession movement, and the two are in direct and bitter opposition. The plot doesn’t delve into the exact reasons for their feud, and the politics are broadly sketched overall, but that’s fine because it’s beside the point. What matters is that the emotions behind everything come through as sincere and true.

This core of sincerity ultimately makes the relationship between Max and the Demon Lord work as well. The nature of the Demon Lord’s feelings about Max, both before and after reincarnation, are somewhat ambiguous. There’s an undoubtable whiff of romance between them, particularly when the Demon Lord is in the form of a busty young woman rather than a small child. However, the age-shifting adds an uncomfortable layer if you think about it for more than a few seconds. Their relationship, whatever its nature, can only grow when The Demon Lord stops trying to fix Max and stands beside him instead, supporting and bolstering him by understanding the root of his sadness and assisting him in addressing it. It offers a warmth to the story that would have been badly lacking if their dynamic were defined solely by sitcom shenanigans, so even with the odd parts, it’s a huge bonus.

That warmth also permeates through the secondary cast, giving them humanity even as they’re variations on well-established archetypes. You can see how they got to where they are – Fred’s calculating, mercenary nature has made it easy for him to succeed amongst the government snakes, while Leo’s charisma has earned him a devoted following. Sadly missing, however, is the party’s offensive mage, Yuria, who is off-screen the entire present day. In flashbacks, she’s the standoffish loner who ends up drawn into the camaraderie of the hero’s party against her will, a role rarely assigned to female characters. Now, she’s retired and living out her life as a wife and mother. Her only active involvement in the story comes through her daughter, and she spends the climax in labor. It’s disappointing, especially since it implies that once women get married and have children, they cease to have active involvement in the world outside their family.

Despite that traditionalist leaning, I have to grant character designer Yoshihiro Watanabe (and, presumably, original creator toufu, though I couldn’t find manga images to confirm) something: they do not stick to the typical female anime character design principal where different body types are defined solely by height and boob size, while stick-thin everywhere else. The male and female character designs are pleasantly varied, and physical fighters of all genders are visibly ripped. You can tell, because pretty much everyone has their abs and/or biceps out all the time. Fred is the main exception to this, but he’s a desk jockey caster anyway, so I doubt we’re missing out on much of a view there.

As the characters are playing on broad archetypes, the voice cast leans into it. All of them have experience with the types they’re playing up, and it’s fun to think of them as sadder but wiser versions of the various shonen heroes they’ve played before, such as Fred as an aged-up, cynical version of Mob Psycho 100‘s Teruki. The broadness also sets the moments of more subtle reflection into sharp relief without negating them, which speaks better for the voice actors than it does for the overall pacing.

Series like Level 1 Demon Lord and One Room Hero make me contemplate the nature of fan service: the assumption about just who the fans are, embedded in what they think constitutes service. What about the ones who don’t feel served by such sexual objectification? If your boat is floated by close-ups shots of Zenia’s butt, then this is a wholehearted recommendation. However, if you’re put off by such things like I am, you probably didn’t make it past the first episode. I know I’m glad I pushed through and made it to the end, but I also don’t expect it to feel worth it to everyone. The comi-tragic nature of Max the Hero is a fascinating concept, I just wish the comedy didn’t center quite so much on his boner.

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