It’s been a while since I’ve spoken of some form of media I’ve enjoyed. During last week, I was listening to music at work and I started going through opening themes for Anime I had seen in the past few years and one of them in particular stuck in my head: Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou (lit. “The Great Demon King in the Back Row”).
Akuto Sai is just another young man heading to the Constant Magic Academy. His dream is to become high-level clergy in the government and work for the benefit of society. But things don’t go according to plan. New students must take an aptitude test and his came back as “Future Occupation: Demon King.” So of course, the moment the school finds out about this, not only does the overall student body ostracise him but he also becomes a target for everyone out there trying to kill the new Demon King before he powers up.
What makes it interesting though is that Akuto is a really nice guy and he just wants to help. The only reason he taps into and later uses his demonic powers is for survival. The more they try to end his threat, the more he becomes what they fear. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy only held back by the main character’s good nature.
What I also like about Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou is that it turns the “Chosen One” trope on its head, because Akuto isn’t the great hero destined to vanquish evil, much like Link is in The Legend of Zelda, but he’s the destroyer, the great threat to all mankind. And even if you consider his “Demon King” future to be another version of the “Chosen One” narrative, he subverts it yet again by actively fighting it. Something fascinating about the series is how at every junction, Akuto only uses his “evil” powers for good. And by contrast he makes the “good guys” looks bad and corrupt, because while he’s incapable of sacrificing an ally for his goals, they have no qualms about sending others to die. The good guys have coups, patricide and other heinous crimes yet it’s always Akuto who gets the bad rap. And when characters realise he’s a good guy and join him, they’re branded as traitors or misguided fools corrupted by his dark powers.
There’s also a subverted Harem plot, because Akuto gets many women following him, but he’s sincere in caring for them, instead of the usual lust-driven protagonists that follow this Anime trope.
In fact one of the recurring themes of the Anime—evidenced by two of my earlier points—is that everything Akuto does will be misinterpreted. Even the Harem bit, no matter how many times he explains it isn’t the case. The world just isn’t interested in hearing his explanations. Even the members of his “harem” and other allies mistake his intentions for evil.
But there are some annoyances, like fan-service and references to ‘perverted’ acts. They’re not as frequent as other series, but they’re still there and with how smart this Anime is, they feel forced and out of place.
Oh have I mentioned Akuto has a Dragon? He has one, belonging to the previous Demon King.
If you haven’t seen this series, I suggest you try it. It’s phenomenal in its subversion of typical fantasy and Anime tropes. The characters all have depth to them and you grow to care for them, even the ones you know are up to no good.