With this episode, Hataraku Maou-sama! seems to have embraced a sort of schizophrenic storytelling style, making active strides in developing both the shounen-style epic struggle of good and evil as well as the light hearted character-centric romantic comedy. The first half of the episode is mostly character development, with Emi Yusa again taking a significant majority of the screen time. By now, we know her usual routine, so the scenes themselves don’t add any significant new understanding of Yusa or her relationship with Maou, but they do their duty of extending the status quo: Yusa continues being overly affected by whatever actions Maou takes and Maou continues showing very little affect in response. We do, however, get a scene with Chiho, who again shows her absolute normalcy (a rarity in anime, and something to be praised) through her text conversation with Maou and her interactions with her mother, as well as a nicely done comedic scene with Ashiya, whose parental instincts have so completely overtaken him that he is left shell-shocked at the accusation that he is unable to properly provide nourishment to those in his care.
We aren’t allowed to forget about the struggle between heaven and hell, however, and a verbal confrontation between an ominous voice and Yusa serves exactly that purpose. This ominous voice asserts that, for whatever reason, Yusa and Maou have to be killed for the benefit of Ente Isla; Yusa responds with lines to the effect of “I don’t negotiate with terrorists” and after a promise of further confrontation the conversation ends. The conversation doesn’t reveal anything new about the situation (the gunshots from the last episode made it fairly clear that our mysterious antagonist wants Maou and Yusa dead), and primarily serves to extend the previously running plotline. It does, however, serve as a reminder that while in the rom-com world Yusa is a hopeless tsundere, in shounen-land she is a strong and able leader, with the power to stand up to major antagonists, reviving momentarily the character we saw in episode 1 and the beginning of episode 2.
This episode’s title is “The Devil King Goes on a Date with his Junior in Shinjuku”, but we don’t see any mention of said date until ten minutes into the episode, when once again Ashiya’s parental instincts kick in as he takes Maou to a clothing store to get rid of his UNISLO (a bland-name version of the popular Japanese clothing brand, UNIQLO) clothing in favor of something more stylish and becoming of a date. Soon after, Chiho meets up with Maou, and this scene displays an actually engaging (and more realistic) romantic relationship, as it is obvious that this is Chiho’s first date and she goes to great lengths to make the event a memorable one.
Yusa is supposed to be the main love-interest, though, and she quickly makes her presence known. After happening upon an anxious Ashiya, she joins him in spying on Maou and Chiho, making a quick quip about how bigger is not always better (one that goes straight over the head of Ashiya). Details of Maou and Chiho’s conversation, however, reveal that this “date” works simultaneously to create an amorous rivalry (demanded by the rom-com) and to further develop the plotline concerning Ente Isla, with Maou providing an info-dump that connects the earthquakes to actions initiated by those still in Isla Ente. Mid-sentence through this info-dump, Maou spots Yusa and Ashiya entering the café, and the anime flicks the switch from “serious shounen” to “romantic comedy” (emphasizing the fact with a sudden change in music). Within seconds, we get what can easily be called the climax of the episode in a showdown between Yusa and Chiho over Maou combined with a massive earthquake that restores Maou’s true demon powers (again showing a clean pairing of the shounen plot with the rom-com plot).
In this climax, Chiho clearly shows her independent qualities by calling out Yusa as being unnecessarily bitter (and accusing her of being Maou’s ex), and easily wins the rom-com character-based battle. However, in the ensuing earthquake, Chiho finds herself powerless, and Yusa takes control of the situation, further cementing the idea that when magic is involved she quickly changes from a more or less useless whiner into a truly charismatic individual (this idea is emphasized by the cinematography, with carefully chosen angles that emphasize Yusa’s stature and depict Chiho as being helpless and incapable of getting up). The magic also restores Maou to his true demon form, but rather than behaving in an evil manner, he continues to behave the way he did as a human, and views his demon form as a burden. The powerful ending line completely blurs the lines between the shounen and romantic comedy, displaying Yusa’s internal conflict between killing the demon who tried to annihilate her entire race, and the human who seems to have left that previous world behind, and whose personality suggests a true sense of kindness.
Although this episode began in a rather bland fashion, simply perpetuating the status quo, the second half adds unique characterization and moves both the rom-com and shounen plots along smoothly. The climax shows true genius in its ability to blend the two together effectively, playing off of the differences between Maou, Yusa, and Chiho’s relationships to create a truly excellent show that removes the cheesy edge from the romantic comedy and adds emotional depth to the shounen. In the past two posts, I expressed concern with Hataraku Maou-sama!’s split plot development, feeling that if it continued down that path, it would do neither plot the justice it deserved (I also strongly preferred the comedy elements to the shounen elements). With this episode, Hataraku Maou-sama! shows us the true potential of a synergistic combining of two plots that, at first glance, seem entirely disparate. I truly cannot wait to see where the show goes next.