Yuusha Yoshikiko to Maou no Shirou was last year’s cult hit, a gleefully low-budget spoof of the Dragon Quest RPG series that apparently became Amazon Japan’s best selling drama DVD of 2011.
While this is an impressive nugget of information, what really sold me on the series was what Yamada Takayuki said at the press conference for its sequel, Yuusha Yoshikiko to Akuryu no Kagi: “Just like last time, I’d like to give it my 70% and hope that it will be just as fun and stupid.”
Well, when you put it like that, how can you expect me not to tune in? *Mild spoilers ahead*
Just so everyone’s clear, this is no glossy, overly air-brushed Getsu 9 drama.
Yuusha 2 takes place a hundred years after the first series and the monsters that were sealed away previously have been set loose…
So, when there’s something strange in the neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?
Ghostbusters! Thing is, our heroes are long dead and buried. Fortunately, the villagers haven’t all become jaded atheists and can still count on divine assistance. There’s just one tiny little problem: Hotoke (aka Buddha) is a bit of a spazz.
He brings Yoshihiko and his friends back to life but as you can see, they’re not exactly in fighting form.
Yes, he brought them back right before they kicked the bucket. What? As if you’ve never screwed up before?
After one hilarious near-death experience and a bout with arthritis, our heroes finally re-assume their rightful appearance. Huzzah!
Only thing is he forgot to ‘save’ all their skills and achievements from the past so they’ve got to work their way up from Level 0 again. Hahaha!
You can always count on Murasaki to tell it like it is.
If you haven’t quite grasped it yet, this series parodies, subverts and takes the piss out of RPG conventions, starting with its characters.
Yoshihiko is the eponymous hero of the drama, a pure-hearted innocent without a single shred of guile or deceit in his bones. This also means that his thoughts are often very transparent…
Yes, he likes big boobs and he cannot lie. [Images via mastaaaah]
His sense of honesty also means that his brain-mouth filter is often absent.
Every four-man band needs a chick to soften its edges and play peacekeeper but Murasaki can’t be bothered with soothing bruised egos (mainly because she’s often the one doing the bruising, especially when it involves Merebu, the group’s resident wizard.)
Murasaki is sarcastic, unapologetically blunt and often the sole voice of intelligence in a group that’s ruled by their lesser heads.
Murasaki is also the reluctant guinea pig for many of Merebu’s spells, 99 percent of which are completely useless (the rest can be described as mostly useless.) That doesn’t stop him from looking pleased with himself whenever he announces that he’s just learned a new one though.
Murasaki: How is this spell useful anyway?
Merubu: By making the enemy’s eyebrows thicker, they will prevent the sweat from going into his eyes.
Murasaki: Isn’t that helping the enemy?
Murasaki: You really piss me off…
Now you know why it takes only five gold pieces to bring him back to life XD
And finally we have Danjo, the group’s resident fighter (not to be confused with Yoshihiko, who is a Hero). Don’t be fooled by his gruff burly exterior. He’s just a big ol’ softy like the rest of ’em underneath all that armour…
Danjo is also quite the charmer. Here he is showing Yoshihiko and the rest (Merebu is predictably crap with women) how to sweet talk a celestial maiden into giving up her robes (it’s one of the items they need to collect for their quest.) First, set the mood by offering her a drink and then appeal to her more tender emotions…
This time, our heroes have been tasked with retrieving a key to seal away the forces of darkness. Because their source of divine guidance is Hotoke, it’s going to take them a while before they find it…not that I mind. If I had my way, they’d never find the damn thing.
Some of you may be wondering if you need to be a gamer to understand the jokes in this drama. Let me put it this way: I haven’t played a video game in ages and the only RPGs I’m remotely familiar with are Final Fantasy and Might and Magic. This isn’t like Ace Attorney, which requires you to be a fan of the game to understand its in-jokes and case references. I’d say that as long as you have a basic understanding of RPG conventions, you should be able to understand what’s going on in Yuusha Yoshihiko just fine.
The humour in this series has been described by some as being Monty Python-esque in nature, which isn’t that hard to believe considering that Fukuda Yuichi, the director and writer of the show, is a huge fan of the British comedy group. In fact, he’s actually the man responsible for bringing Monty Python’s Spamalot to Japan earlier this year. I’m not much of a Monty Python expert so I can’t comment on the similarities authoritatively. However what I can say is that even though Fukuda and his actors are content to regard Yuusha Yoshihiko as nothing more than a silly farce, it is smarter than it lets on, and you’ll find it taking sly digs at socio-cultural conventions and pop culture trends throughout the series.
Much has been made about how this drama has managed to charm its audience despite having a meagre budget, as if not having millions to spend on props and CGI effects should have doomed the show to failure. I think not having a lot of money to play with actually turned out to be a blessing for Yuusha Yoshihiko because it meant the production crew had to work around their financial constraints to come up with solutions that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought of otherwise. Isn’t this what creativity is all about — working under constraints? A lot of the drama’s absurdity comes from the incongruous effects created by its props, which include coffins that appear when a character’s life force is down to zero, magic Crocs, and cuddly little critters with a lot more bite than bark. As you can see from the pictures below, in the world of Yuusha Yoshihiko, the most kawaii creatures are often the deadliest XD
If you haven’t watched Yuusha Yoshihiko yet, please consider giving it a go. You will feel awesome for doing so :D