Hataraku Maou-sama! is a show that thrives on unpredictability. This episode, we are treated to a classic shounen-style battle, magic and all, that is full of witty dialogue and whimsical one-liners. With this episode, director Naoto Hosoda assures us that the well-timed comedy that brought us into the series from the premiere isn’t going anywhere; given the direction of the last two episodes, it’s a gesture well taken.
With dramatic music accentuating the intensity, Lucifer, Maou, and Emilia surrounded by carnage, we cut to Emilia’s comrades travelling through the gate—only for one of them to get the magical equivalent of airsickness, and we all watch him vomit violently into a paper bag as the other asks him to just get on with it; this is the first of many gags integrated seamlessly into the tense nature of the battle. I didn’t laugh at this, but I immediately relaxed; I was actually nervous about the direction this episode was going to go in, to the point that I was physically tense.
After Emilia is stunned at seeing Lucifer (in a flash-back, we see that she had already killed him in Ente Isla), further drama is created as Orba Meier, who was supposed to be Emilia’s support character, has instead teamed up with Lucifer. Emilia goes into further shock, unable to understand how Orba and Lucifer would team up. Orba begins getting ready to give his Big Bad-esque monologue when Maou shows his genre-savvy side when he not only correctly calls Orba and Lucifer’s motivations, but also chastises Orba for using lines that “you don’t even hear … in B-movies anymore”, and ends by calling him out for having a Bald of Evil. Orba nearly breaks down when he realizes that, much to his chagrin, he does not live in a world of ham (and if he wants to, season 2 of Jojo’s is still in the works, I hear).
Ashiya slides this moment into sheer ridiculousness by questioning how Maou even knows about B-movies, and when Maou tells him he’s been spending his pocket money on watching movies, the two get into a fight of such low stakes that Lucifer feels compelled to break it up by firing a bolt of magic at Ashiya. This acts as a trigger back to the suspenseful action sequence, as Lucifer begins to hunt down our protagonists. Maou gives a noble speech about how he wants to take over this world without causing it excessive despair and agony, to which Lucifer responds by revealing the source of his power: Chiho’s fear and despair. Maou then has a large ham moment of his own when he is shot twice, teleports to a high-density area, is shot again by Lucifer right in the heart, and still comes out alive, claiming the entire thing was a Batman Gambit designed to allow him to gain his full power. The entire time, Emilia constantly questions his actions and generally believes him to be insane. The gambit comes to fruition when, after Lucifer believes himself to have completely won, he destroys a bridge with hundreds of people on it, and Maou uses their despair to transform back into his true form, and preserve the bridge from collapsing. This presents an interesting study in Maou’s general leadership and problem-solving approach. The standard hero would want to isolate problems from innocent bystanders, and tackle the villain using purely his own strength. Maou, on the other hand, seems to firmly believe that the ends justify the means, and he intentionally puts bystanders in a state where they will be physically and emotionally harmed so that he can personally gain the power required to defeat his enemy.
Maou’s magic isn’t enough to totally overcome the situation, and a well-done comedic scene is created when Maou implores Emilia to use the time he has bought to defeat Lucifer and Orba, but Emilia takes a good chunk of time to ridicule Maou and generally grandstand before heading into battle (Maou even calls her out on grandstanding after she undergoes her transformation sequence). Emilia and Lucifer then begin to battle in earnest, but Emilia has no way of regenerating her holy power. Just when Emilia is about to be defeated by Lucifer, Alsiel shows up to save Emilia and deliver the final blow. In another brilliant poke at the shounen genre, Emilia questions why it took so long for Alsiel to show up, and he tells her that he had to go home to get his general’s cloak (presuming that as a powerful character in a shounen, he has to look the part to be truly effective). We then get more generalized battling between Orba and Lucifer vs. Alsiel and Emilia, combined with more digs at the cliché nature of the events transpiring, with Maou discussing his delegation to a side-character and Chiho commenting that the scene looks as if it is from a movie. The battle scene wraps up with Maou romantically promising Chiho that he shall win this battle so he can teach her how to use the soft-serve machine, and musters up the power to defeat Lucifer from his desire to win employee of the month, revealing his utter banality and willingness to subvert all the heroic tropes in service of MgRonald’s. After the battle wraps up, the cavalry (in the form of Emilia’s friends Emerelda and Albert) arrive late, and we are treated to more favorable comparisons between ruling all of Ente Isla and working at MgRonald’s, and the episode ends with a bit of romantic comedy between Chiho and Maou.
This episode looked at all the potential and developing problems I had highlighted in my previous reviews and dealt with every single one of them, and has elevated this series from good to best show of the season, by far. All the problems I had with the shounen direction of the plot were solved by effectively integrating comedy into the shounen, in such a way that neither felt unnatural unless it was trying to be. It also acted as great commentary on the general tropes of the shounen battle, and constantly subverted them. When people ask me why I dislike shounen that takes itself too seriously, I will forever point them to this episode. I have no idea where this show is going next, but I’m certain that will be masterfully crafted nonetheless. With this episode, I can truly assert that I love Hataraku Maou-sama!