Management: While my overall opinion of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, is fairly positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review. It is rather an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. It touches on the actions and ideas of some key modern and postmodern political revolutionaries, but their beliefs, by no means, are meant to be completely representative of mine.
Here are several ideas that Maoyuu Maou Yuusha brought up that interested me enough to jot them down in a somewhat organized essay form.
“I… as one who has a soul like your own, I have something I must tell you. I was… I was born as a serf. I was the third of seven siblings.”
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha began its airing by utilizing a not too uncommon fantasy trope: a human hero and a demon king facing each other in a pitched battle that would decide the fate of the world. The Human Hero would win, and the Demon King’s forces would crawl back into their hole, disappear into thin air, surrender unconditionally, or all drop dead. The Demon King’s war would be over, peace and prosperity would return, and happily ever after.
Shortly after its introduction, the trope was then subverted though inquires challenging its premise. Why demons weren’t simply evil, why war wouldn’t simply end, and soon enough, the show became an overarching study on the whys of conflict. Truth be told, beneath its fantastical exterior, the show is a narrative chronicle of history. History? Why, the history of revolution. A revolution of liberation from what was effectively feudal, a feudalism of landed noble lords and landless serf peasants, to what’s effectively more egalitarian. More… liberal.
In feudalism, the serf peasants were permitted to till the lands of their lords for their sustenance, and in return, those peasants would have to offer the better part of their total agricultural produce from those lands back to them as tithes. It’s a socioeconomic, systematic way of doing things that’s historically existed for centuries. It’s a study of those centuries, illustrated narratively through Maoyuu, where the abuses endemic to this way of doing things come to light. Noble lords, for instance, set the terms for the amount of tithes their serf peasants had to hand over. A drought, hail, or pestilence might occur that decimates the crop yield for a certain proportion of a particular lord’s peasantry, and the amount of tithes as set by that particular lord that his peasants must offer might remain unchanged and, because of circumstance, unreasonable to honor. Those peasants affected face the proverbial choice of a rock and a hard place: either they refuse to relinquish their produce and risk pain of death or exile (which is effectively death for many) or relinquish their produce and starve.
“I still doubt myself. ‘The blood in your veins is that of a filthy serf. You’re just an insect, less than human.'”
Of course, not all noble lords are cruel enough to be inflexible, and even those without much of a conscience may adjust the amount of tithes serf peasants must contribute or make a tithe rate that collects tithes proportional to the yield of what the serf peasants can manage to grow out of pragmatism (a landed noble lord with no people to work their lands is similar in financial respects to a landless one). However, a lord might not have much of a choice if they have obligations of tithe and tribute of their own to an unyielding king. And besides that point, there’s a clear disparity of wealth, power, and influence within this type of formal arrangement that favors lords over peasants, a disparity that left the lords with most-to-all and the peasants with little-to-none, unless particular lords willed otherwise. This material and power concentration in the hands of the few have naturally fostered a sense of superiority and entitlement of themselves and inferiority and discrimination to those who are not.
“One night, the land owner summoned my sister and she never returned.”
Peasants are also traditionally offered their lords’ protection from the swords of invading armies and plundering brigands. That, however, doesn’t protect them from the swords of their own lords. This perceived inherent superiority and entitlement on their part has convinced many a lord to give themselves a carte blanche, to be as arbitrary to them as they see fit; most peasants live with that. Elder Sister Maid once lived with that fact when she lost a sister to one. The feudalist system is one defined by castes, one with clear disparities between social classes and extremely limited social mobility. By all formal and informal channels of institution, it is their lot, however ill, to bear. The weak suffers as they must.
Generally speaking, revolutions are the result of movements overturning both existing political and social orders, and by the end of the show, revolution seems to be in full swing as peasants in the Southern United Kingdoms were emancipated from their serfdom by the edict of the Kings of Iron Fist, Blizzard, and Winter. Formerly serf peasants were now even allowed to own land.
Freedom From Ignorance
“It always seemed like fate, but something troubled me. For so long, fate was warm and kind to me, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.'”
Utilizing terminology from Karl Marx, all this explanation about “revolution” may conjure reductive images of proletarian peasants rising up against bourgeoisie nobles, and that’s true to an extent. Peasants have tended to historically rebelled against nobles whenever they faced starvation. However, there’s a difference between rebellion and revolution. It’s no accident that when Demon King began her work on the human continent under the guise of the Crimson Scholar, she made sure part of the Crimson Scholar’s cover story was that of a noble.
The very idea of revolution, let alone the ideas that particular revolutions are supposed to embody and the majority of figureheads that lead them, are concepts that are intellectual in nature and can only reliably come from intellectual elites. Intellectuals mainly hail from the classes bourgeoisie and noble rather than the proletariat peasantry, because unlike the proletariat peasantry, the bourgeoisie nobles have the luxury of entitlement and/or wealth, but, most of all, leisure.
They can afford to think about the higher, grander, and more complex things of life, to have the opportunity to educate themselves or be educated in the methodologies and abstracts necessary for them to develop revolutionary ideals. The proletariat peasantry, on the other hand, are too busy trying survive. The French Revolution was crystallized together by the thoughts of well-to-do men of Paris’ salons. Karl Marx of The Communist Manifesto was born in a well-to-do family, and Vladimir Lenin argued that the transition to communism could only happen successfully through the watchful guidance and steadfast vigilance of an elite, intellectual vanguard.
Freedom From Want
“And then, while we were on the run, we were given a chance.”
But even when revolutionary intellectuals determined to flip current social order bottom up are present, their ideals wouldn’t carry far unless the bottom peasants are willing to listen, let alone accept and follow them, and that wouldn’t reliably happen unless peasants aren’t focused on spending all their time and energy trying to provide at least the minimum in food, health, and shelter and raiment for themselves and their families. The Maid Sisters, after fleeing from their assigned lord, were fed, housed, and clothed by Demon King, and as a result, Elder Sister Maid herself began to listen to what the Demon King had to say. In other words, the Demon King, disguised as the Crimson Scholar, needed to help them raise their standard of living to a comfortable enough level to have them become receptive to revolution in the first place.
She tackled issues regarding food, health, and shelter and raiment. The following’s broken down into three categories.
“My brother broke his arm on the fields, weakened, and was left to die.”
“On a clear winter morning, my youngest brother went cold, and failed to wake from his slumber.
Another sibling caught smallpox.
I was powerless. Only my sister and I survived.”
1. Food stability.
Mirroring the Agricultural Revolution, Demon King introduced farming techniques such as four-crop rotation cycles and nutritious, hardy, and productive food staples such as the potato, a crop that can grow even in the hard and poor soils of the southern portion of the continent. These techniques became widely accepted, and these crops popular enough to be widely grown and eaten. The combined effect of both overtime lead solved the constant problem of hunger in the region and even generated a crop surplus.
Elder Sister Maid lost another sister to smallpox, or rather, to villagers that burned her sister along with her house for fear of an outbreak. The mass implementation of the practice of inoculation mitigated the damage that smallpox could due to the peasant population, thereby affording them relief from the specter of disease.
3. Financial Stability.
With crop surpluses, peasants could sell what food they didn’t need at local marketplaces and trading posts for what construction materials and clothes that they did need, let alone other things that they might want once those needs were taken care of and they had money left over to spend. The influx of crop surpluses into the market would make the price of food cheaper, which meant those common folk like farmers who didn’t grow enough in other regions of the continent or tradespeople could afford spending less money on necessary provisions and consider investments in personal luxuries or more capital.
And speaking of capital, the in ever growing presence of spare, spendable currency in the hands of more common folk fosters the kind of thought that even Karl Marx admitted to admiring about capitalism. Framing the evolution of economics from a feudalistic system to a communist one, Marx stressed that capitalism was necessary for communism to develop properly. It’s not simply because communism was a reaction to capitalism. Capitalism did away with the caste system, the idea of inherent superiority and entitlement, of the supposedly inherent disparity in dignity between the few nobles and the many peasants. It replaced it with the idea that people are able to achieve kind of respectable position if they are able to earn enough wealth. It’s with this new idea that encouraged social mobility, open, in principle, to all, that laid the concrete for the formulation of liberal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom of Speech
“But everyone: Nobles! Soldiers! Pioneers! And serfs! I must reject it, even after all it’s done for me. I must reject it because of all it’s done for me. Because I am human.”
“That is why I must declare that I am a human; because I believe the first step to being human is to say you are.”
Such liberal rights can only be guaranteed not only through the relatively free flow of goods, services, and capital that make people prosperous. Authoritarianism and capitalism, after all, aren’t necessarily exclusive if authorities and capitalists are colluding with each each. The unadulterated words and feelings pronounced from private residences to the public square where Elder Sister Maid, disguised as the Crimson Scholar, sparked a revolution, the capacity to communicate to people on principles of egalitarianism, liberalism, and beyond… Free speech must also be fought for.
But in addition to the will and sacrifice of liberal devotees for unabated speech, speech must also be allowed to be ubiquitous so it can reach more audiences and gain more support. Word of mouth is important, but has but limited effect if over-relied on. As present in both the lead up to Elder Sister Maid’s speech and the American Revolution (one of the most famous being Common Sense by Thomas Paine), a combination of both word of mouth and mass print is necessary, and what better way (or only way) in those those days to produce mass print than through durable fliers and pamphlets produced by a printing press? I emphasize that combination is key because most peasants are illiterate. While they are illiterate, ideas from the southern portion of the continent may circulate freely going up north to the illiterate peasants there as the result of a literate herald.
Freedom of Religion
“Have you ever felt a warmth in your heart? Like the summer sun on your cheeks, and when you close your eyes, you can still feel its blessings? Do you even find happiness in simply acts of kindness. That is proof that you are human, the Light Spirit’s beloved children.”
However, an obstacle to such speech, and indeed, an obstacle to the spread of egalitarianism and liberalism in general is the abusive entrenchment of organized religion in politics. I say abusive to distinguish the spirituality of religion itself from its institutional practices, both because the Elder Sister Maid confesses herself to be religious, and because, as is the case with the Church and its once affiliated Lakeside Convent Order, most people that claim title to the same faith believe in and/or worship the same divine source and follow in divine tenets. The difference between these people lie in how the doctrines of those tenets are practiced are based upon each religious faction’s interpretation of them. Those practices, and not the divine source and the core dogmas themselves, can be colored by politics.
The Church in the show, dedicated to the worship of the Light Spirit and complete with a Pope-like figure, benefits from collaboration and coordination with lords and kings in their ultimate quest to unite the continent under the influence and power of one faith. One religiously legitimates the other, and the other politically legitimates the one. The lords and kings are able to better control their pious subjects and preserve the inequitable status through the favor of the universal, or catholic, Church, and in return, the Church gains influential and powerful promulgators, inquisitors, and generals of the faith to support its decrees. In the event of one or a few influential and powerful individuals running errant, the Church can declare them heretics and excommunicate them for heresy, thereby almost effortlessly depriving them of influence and power due to the direct effects of the pious masses abandoning them and the indirect effects of the non-pious refusing to deal with them for fear of aggravating the pious masses. And in the event of a crisis of faith due to a general laxness, troubled times, or the succession of many influential and powerful individuals with the majority of their subjects in tow from the Church, the Church can issue a call for a holy war to re-energize its faithful, distract the masses, and eliminate political enemies.
As much as we might bash religion in general for enabling the existence of such abuses, the core Judeo-Christian dogma of men being made “in the image of God” was a historically necessary precursor to the maturity of the core of egalitarian and liberal principles elegantly espoused by Thomas Jefferson, that “all men are created equal.” It’s in this kind of belief and others that caused a fracture in a catholic church out of protest of warping the spirituality of the faith. In real life, the split eventually resulted in numerous Protestant denominations that each claim themselves to be the one true church of Christianity. In the show, the Lakeside Convent Order broke off from the Church and rechristened itself as, literally, the True Church of the Light Spirit.
“It doesn’t matter whether I’m a heretic. As a human…As one to whom Winter’s Passage Village has given so much…I speak to my brethren.”
“Everyone, you must never stop wishing, hoping, thinking, and working! With her miracles, the Light Sprit brought life to humanity. And with the earth’s blessings, she brought us wealth. And with her soul’s fragments, she brought us freedom! The freedom to do better than you do now. To be better than you are now.”
Not only does the Lakeside Convent Order turned True Church of the Light Spirit reaffirm the same core dogma of equality, a dogma belief that’s extremely parallel and compatible with egalitarianism and liberalism, but the existence of two or more different authorities on the same divine source weakens the Church’s prestige and thus influence and power from believers, some lords and kings, many others peasants, who have defected from or are questioning the rightfulness of loyalties to the Church.
Freedom From Fear
As appealing as these ideals of egalitarianism and liberalism may be to peasants, to every supporter and potential supporters, however, what’s killed opportunities time and time again in history for the embers liberty to blaze or get stomped out is fear. It’s the fear of being enough weakened to invite invasion by opportunistic. It’s the fear of inciting an armed retaliation by conservatives of the status quo. It’s the British Empire attempting to quash American colonial grievances, the greater part of Europe trying to snuff French national aspirations. It’s a Blue Demon mobilization into the Southern United Kingdoms from the rear, the Central Continent’s march into the Southern United Kingdoms from the front.
“The Spirit did not create us as perfectly good. She gave us the freedom to keep trying to be better, every day. Because that brings us joy. So don’t relinquish that, just to make things easier. The Spirit’s gifts are holy treasures! Not even the King, or the church, can take them from you.”
“I am human. I will never surrender those treasures again. I won’t return to being an insect. No matter how much pain they bring, I won’t return to that haze of darkness. Because there is light. Because they were kind to me.”
Perhaps it’s best then, the onlookers in the crowd watching Elder Sister Maid get scourged by the conservatives of the status quo, the self-proclaim superior and entitled, the lords and kings and clergy of a corrupt church, to let freedom die and the people who are calling for it, people like Elder Sister Maid, die as well. And if those very same lords, kings, and clergy demand they stone her for it, let them.
“Throw them if you wish! Perhaps you must, to protect yourself and your family in this cold world. I will not blame you for that. The freedom to choose also belongs to you, as a human. I will shed blood in equal measure to that which is flowing in your heart.
But if you would stone me because someone else has ordered it, then you are an insect. You are an insect, without a will of your own, who has given the Spirit’s precious gifts to another, and has ceased to think. No matter how much peace that brings you, anyone who abandons those treasures is an insect. I despise insects. I refuse to become one.”
The Factors of Liberalism
“I… I am human!”
Commenters here and there have regarded to Elder Sister Maid’s speech as stupid, her little stunt naive, and that both only worked in this show because it’s luck and because it’s anime.
An dispassionate response would go like the following… A study of history, however, leading to the revolutions that thrust forward the ages of modern egalitarianism and liberalism that we all know and take for granted today, plus a study of the growth of the seeds Demon King and others following her lead planted throughout the course of the show, illustrate that enough of the major factors for liberalism were met for a revolution to successfully occur, and all it needed to start was a catalyst, a spark. And Elder Sister Maid knew exactly what trouble she was potentially getting into when she spoke out. The camera emphasizes her neck quite strongly after she collapsed from the strain of being whipped with barbs and beaten with a cane.
But my passionate, personal, response would be like this… Without these stupid, naive people always fighting, often suffering, and sometimes dying for these ideals, you and I wouldn’t be living in the positions we’re living in today arguing about these ideals to begin with.