If I could turn back time!
What’s the Story?
On the island of Naral there was once a terrifying Demon Lord that sought to destroy the land, but a Hero appeared and defeated them. Yet that is not the end of the story, the Demon Lord revived, as did the Hero, their cycle of rebirth and defeat continuing 998 times. Now the Demon Lord has risen again and the latest incarnation of the Hero is a cheery girl called Yusha. Together with her friends she stormed the Demon Lord’s castle and they began their climatic battle, but something went wrong. Whisked into the past, the Demon Lord finds herself acting as teacher to the very Hero who is destined to one day defeat her, not that Mao appears overly concerned by this as she soon sinks into the laid-back adventures of Yusha and the gang.
Endro is a show that surprised me, in more ways than one. I wasn’t expecting much going into it, yeah it looked cute and the set up sounded interesting, but I was really just expecting something a bit cheap and light, a breezy way to spend twenty minutes a week. What I got instead was this beautiful, sweet little gem of a show, full of warmth and laughter. Will it change the anime industry? No, not in the slightest, but it is far better than it has any right to be. On paper I should hate this show, I mean that interesting set up that caught my attention in the first place? Completely ignored after the first couple of episodes, that should bug me to the nth degree, but instead I found myself carried away by the silly little adventures and the poking funny at fantasy hero tropes. Then the last couple of episodes brings that plot back to the forefront and things actually get kind of emotional, fluffy as this show is, I was not expecting to be tearing up as Mao talked about how much fun she’d been having with the girls. Like I said, this series surprised me, constantly.
When I look back over this series I find it kind of amazing that we ended up where we did. When the series starts it’s very clearly a gag parody, it focuses on the daily lives of Yusha the Hero and her party, dealing with Mao’s classes and having the girls just sit around and chat, building up to a punch line. Then the series gets bored with that and starts taking the girls out into the wider world so we can get to see the more ludicrous elements of this world (a village where magic cards grow on trees, that’s all I’m saying). It’s all very light and fun, but then there are moments, beautiful moments, where the series starts to dig into its characters and tug at your heartstrings. A show that has a gag about the Hero’s party only ever getting requested to find lost cats, shouldn’t have me tearing up over a Demon Lord is all I’m saying.
What holds this series together is the laidback attitude of both the series as a whole and the characters. It has its moments were it’ll think deeply about how strange something is, only to shrug its shoulders and go ‘ah, whatever’ and move on. That should frustrate me, but instead I find it endlessly endearing. As cutesy and fluffy as this series is, I’m invested in all of its characters. It’s helped along by some really bright and colourful animation that is always nice to look at and the pastel colours perfectly suit this cheery world.
Let’s talk about my favourite characters though, Mao and the Princess. Mao is actually really interesting, being the big bad Demon Lord you’d expect her to be totally evil or at least be good with a villainous scheme, but if the beginning of the series is anything to go by then her planning skills are all kinds of lacking. She’s actually pretty quick to give up her evil ways and just sink into her role as a teacher and once we get more glimpses of her past, we can clearly see why. The role of Demon Lord was something that was preordained for Mao and it was a very lonely role to play. Mao got wrapped up in the role more than anything else and it was only once she started interacting with other people that she got what she’d actually been wanting all along, a little bit of companionship and camaraderie. It takes her a little while to figure that out, but it’s so worth it when she does.
The Princess also has some issues with regards to preordained roles. She loves the tales of the heroes of the past and is completely obsessed with not only chronicling the adventures of the Hero, but also falling in love with said Hero (you know, because that’s what all the story books say should happen, not that that’s an excuse). Even after finally meeting Yusha though, all she sees is the Hero and how things are supposed to be, but, gradually, she starts to see Yusha as Yusha and falls in love with her rather than the ideal she’s been chasing. It’s a sweet arc and plays into the series determination to take the majority of tropes regarding the typical hero fantasy and twisting them ever so slightly, often to hilarious results.
Honestly the ending to the series is the most surprising to me. As much as I’d enjoyed the series up to that point, it was incredibly fun and light-hearted and while I liked all the characters and their various adventures, I still considered it a bit of fluff with a couple of interesting concepts. Then came along the last two episodes, the penultimate episode starting with a typically laidback and cheery scenario, before things suddenly get serious and then things are getting emotional as Yusha and Mao are pushed into their fated confrontation. Yet, the series constantly keeps you on your toes. Endro will always do whatever it feels likes, not what the plot demands, and, in my opinion, that is it’s greatest strength.
Endro is a sweet, funny and charming gem of a show. It always finds a way to slightly skew the direction you were expecting it to go in, often to very funny and heart-warming results. Am I overselling this one a bit too much? Probably, but I just enjoyed this series that much. The characters are all very endearing and there’s a surprising amount of emotional depth for something that looks like light fluff at first glance, especially with the series finale. This series wasn’t what I was expecting and that’s honestly why I love anime so much, it never stops surprising me. Check this out.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.