Pacing is a little hard to define and screenshot to post on your anime blog as evidence of why “Haraku Maou-sama” is objectively good, but it’s perhaps the most crucial element that determines the quality of a show like this. A show can be thought of as a collection of interesting bits, things which advance the plot, develop a character, introduce an idea, make you laugh make you cry, and so on. (This may not apply to slice-of-life shows, whose selling point is how uninteresting they are.) After each interesting bit happens, it takes you time to process what’s going on with the plot, or dry your tears, or whatever. If the next interesting bit happens before you finish, you won’t be able to keep up, and you’ll find the show bewildering. If the next interesting bit hasn’t started yet by the time you’re done, your mind will wander, and you’ll find the show boring. There’s a narrow window that the show has to hit for maximum enjoyment. In practice most shows err on the side of slow pacing, because interesting bits are hard to come up with. (Consider shows like Dragonball Z, which when they run out of content from the manga resort to shots of people yelling to charge up their spirit for minutes on end.) Because of this, as a general rule, the faster a show is paced, the better it is. And Hataraku Maou-sama goes pretty fast. In three episodes we’ve seen the demonic forces win, the demonic forces lose, the demons flee to Japan, the demons adjust to life in Japan, several face-offs between the demons and the hero, a mysterious new threat has appeared a few times to upset the gameboard, workplace comedy, romantic comedy, wacky roommate comedy, a pun that was a thinly-veiled excuse for fanservice, and more. It’s hard to be bored watching this show.
Yusa Emi, The Hero
Definitely *chaotic* good.
Red hair is a pretty low-tier haircolor, in my opinion. But that’s just subjective opinion; objectively, Emi is amazing. It is tempting to write “tsundere is the objectively best moe archetype” and carry the argument from there, but that would be doing a disservice to Emi and all characters like her. Tsundere isn’t the best moe archetype. It’s not even a single archetype. Tsundere characters like Emi are nothing like tsunderes like Louise from Zero no Tsukaima. The only thing they have in common is that sometimes they are mean to the male lead (tsun) and other times they are nice (dere). But Louise’s tsun comes from her weakness – she is embarrassed when her lack of magical ability is pointed out, or when she fails to control her servant and he does something inappropriate, or whatever. To hide her weakness and protect herself, she lashes out. And then her dere becomes a surrender, she has given up on defending herself and will rely on the male lead to protect her instead. On the other hand, tsunderes like Emi (or, say, Hinagiku from Hayate no Gotoku) are tsun because of their strength. Emi holds herself to a high standard, and she demands that of others, too. She is tsun towards the male lead because he’s failing in his role as the demon king that is supposed to oppose her role as the hero. She looks down on Maou’s part-time job flipping burgers, holding her call-center job in higher esteem. And then her dere comes from when she fails to live up to her own role, by e.g. losing her wallet and needing to crash on the demon lord’s couch, and has to admit that sometimes people make mistakes and That’s Okay. In both cases, the dere comes from weakening the character, but in Emi’s case she was too strong to begin with, and her weakening only brings her down to the level of a functioning human being. Strong tsunderes are unique among moe archetypes in being functioning human beings, and so they are objectively the best.
Sasaki Chiho, The Coworker
I like her character design better after her haircut, but that’s just subjective.
Chi-chan fits the role of the “head-over-heels kouhai girl”, which is less a moe archetype and more of a stock love triangle character. But the trick is, this isn’t a stock love triangle! She’s gotten mixed in with something over her head (as though dating an older man from work and hiding it from her parents weren’t over her head enough already, but). She thinks she’s in a love triangle with Emi, when really Emi is just here to foil Maou’s schemes as befits a hero, except really really she is in fact in a love triangle with the hero Emi but she doesn’t understand any of the important subtleties at play. This leads to some gloriously complex interplay between the two of them. The important thing for the ensuing farcical comedy of misunderstandings is that Emi has a good reason for wanting to conceal the actual truth of her relationship to Maou. Everyone would think she was crazy, and/or take her into custody for making threats against Maou’s life. And so Emi isn’t able to successfully warn Chi-chan away from this sketchy gentleman she really shouldn’t be romantically involved with for any number of reasons, and she just gets further wrapped up in the plot. It seems like the mysterious third-party might have something to do with her as well, since at the very least she’s been getting his mail. That plotline has yet to develop, though.
The Two Demon Buddies, Ashiya Shirou and Maou Sadao
His satisfaction must be conquered.
That is an objectively high-quality smirk, we could get out a protractor and measure the angles.
These two have sort of a weird domestic situation, where Ashiya takes on the housewife role and cooks/cleans/manages finances, while Maou earns a paycheck and then blows it all chasing after pretty women while Ashiya cries. I guess Ashiya was supposed to be doing research into getting Maou his powers back while Maou was at work, but now he’s got his powers back via a bolt from the blue, so I guess all of Ashiya’s work was for nothing. At least he made tasty food so Maou didn’t have to subsist on burgers and fries. The two of them do some decent domestic comedy bits together, but I don’t know that they’re objectively all that good as characters. But they’re not objectively boring, like many male leads are, so let’s count our blessings.
A common trope in terrible fantasy stories that I hate and that, worse, are objectively bad, is that of a protagonist from our world that travels to a fantasy realm and must adapt and eventually become powerful and respected for their heroism. This show turns that trope on its head, by having the fantasy world brought to us, and by having the protagonist end up in a very low-status role. This allows storylines and jokes that play off things that we are familiar with, like burgers, and the crushing burden of paying rent as a part-time minimum wage worker, but also fantastic elements like a voice that speaks between worlds and grandiose schemes about the conquest of Ente Isla. This setup gives the writers a wide range of freedom. And while freedom includes the freedom to make a terrible show, and there certainly have been plenty of terrible shows that tried to mix the mythic with the mundane, it also includes the freedom to make an objectively pretty good show. It seems like the writers here are doing that. Here’s hoping they finish out the rest of the season this strong.