Demon Lord, Retry! (Maou-sama, Retry!) is a recently-aired anime series based on the light novel of the same name by Kurone Kansaki.
An isekai story with a difference, the protagonist possesses the common sense and worldly experience not often seen in anime of this genre. A fantasy story with some comedy along the way, Demon Lord, Retry! follows an over-powered demon lord and his adventures.
Hakuto Kunai is the long-haired, suit-clad demon lord in a certain MMORPG. The game’s creator, Akira Ono, is about to shut down the game when he finds himself summoned into another world that resembles the game in all but a few ways. Shortly after arriving in this new world, Ono (now in the body of Kunai) meets a girl called Aku. The young girl had been presented as a sacrifice to the demon lord. Kunai saves Aku with his demon powers, and decides to take her along with him as not only can she not walk properly, but she also seems to lack any family of her own. Unfortunately for Kunai, his strong powers seem to be as much a curse as they are a blessing, as trouble follows him wherever he goes. One misunderstanding follows the next and although Kunai always tries to reach peaceful solutions, the world is shaken by the rise of a rebellion.
MANGA.TOKYO had the pleasure of interviewing the series’ director Hiroshi Kimura. He told us about what he thought of the light novel, what the anime adaptation was careful to do and of course the charms of the titular demon lord.
What was your first impression of the light novel?
I’ve already mentioned it somewhere before, but my very first impression was of it being yet another isekai series. However when I actually read it, I learned that the main character Akira Ono is in his 30s instead of the usual teenager you see in other works of this genre. Additionally, he is reincarnated into somebody with an appearance that seems to be around 40. I thought this was really interesting. How would a character fare when transported to another world when they already had financial freedom in their original world? I thought it was quite a unique idea. I got to talk to Kansaki many times. He’s a brotherly type of person and always full of enthusiasm. Its thanks to this enthusiasm that we get not just an interesting story but also fun easter eggs like the Gugule Inn (N.B. this comes from the Japanese phrase for ‘Google it’). Of course, we have to be thankful that the production committee approved these names. [laugh]
Were there any scenes you thought were hard to turn into an anime?
Nowadays it isn’t good practice to have cigarettes on-screen constantly. There has been a steep decrease in the depiction on tobacco on-screen since the 1980s or so. It definitely makes it difficult to distribute shows overseas if there is too much smoking, yet everyone is puffing away in this series. I personally don’t smoke but I wanted the characters to be able to smoke if they wanted to. It would usually be like ‘Cigarettes are not allowed in the anime? Got it’, but I thought that it would be bad to forcefully change this part of a character. As somebody that has first-hand experience as a scenario writer, I can genuinely understand that there may be reasons for this part of the characterization that we do not yet understand. I might not understand it personally, but it might be important to the author or other fans.
The light novel is quite long, so naturally we have to cut things out somewhere. However, I don’t just want to cut things for the sake of it, with the tobacco being an example. For all we know, a lit cigarette could be the reason for a big explosion or something at some point. I don’t know every detail of the world from the story. This is perhaps the most common reason for adaptations differing from original works. Although I try to consult with the original creator at stages throughout the production, I set my mind on changing as little as possible. Some of these details from the novel may be what made it one of the top web novels of the genre. As director I have the power to make changes, but I choose not to do it too much.
The light novel is popular and has garnered a lot of respect. What are your principles when it come to approaching a series like this?
The important thing is getting approval from the production committee for what we want to do. There is a lot I don’t know when it comes to distribution and copyright, so I leave that up to the specialists such as the committee members, TV stations and sponsors. There was actually something which approved that really surprised me. It doesn’t have anything to do with the main story, but there is a scene which talks positively about a game called Shenmue that somehow got approved. However there were also many, many things that didn’t manage to get in. [laugh]
The series is a great mix of genres so it seems that it could be difficult for viewers to understand everything.
Kansaki and I are of a similar age, so it was easier for me to understand. That doesn’t mean I understood every single detail though. If I were trying to write this from scratch by myself then I don’t think it would come so easily. At least I was able to ask Kansaki or the scenario writers and voice actors for their opinions.
Was there anything you put particular care into?
If the budget had allowed it, I would have wanted make every part of the production a bit extravagant. I knew from the beginning that this wouldn’t be possible. Still, I wanted to make something very special. When I took a look at the staff members, I thought we could go with a character’s POV hook. Usually when I draw the storyboard I imagine the facial expressions of the voice actors. In recent anime it has become popular to make the anime look like a movie, where four or five characters in a regular size are shown in a shot and they beautifully move around. I think that’s how a high quality product is made, but choosing it brings many difficulties. So I think it is right to also draw beautiful close-ups. That’s why there are a few more close-ups than usual. Naturally I wanted to have a higher picture quality so everybody worked hard to achieve this. I am really thankful to the staff members for their hard work.
Do you have a favorite character?
It has to be Aku. I want a kid like her. For young girls, the first person of the opposite sex that they really become aware of is usually their father. In the series it seems as though Aku may fall in love with Kunai, but I feel that she loves him as a father. He is strong, can do anything, listens to her problems and sometimes gets angry with her. He is that kind of guy. When I see their interactions, I’m reminded of how great kids can be.
I don’t really want to call her my number two, but I also think Luna is a great character. As a director I think she is an easy-to-understand ‘tsundere’ character. From the beginning I planned on explaining why she has these character traits in episode ten and have her be a tsundere everybody could understand. For me personally, the main theme of Demon Lord, Retry! is creating a family. Within this family, it gets really interesting when you see everything from Luna’s point of view – Luna likes Kunai so much that it’s almost too much. That’s exactly where it gets funny. Luna and Aku are both great, but where Aku is serious and earnest, Luna is relatable since she is funny and tsundere. One might say she is more human or maybe more natural? That part of her is very cute and she makes you feel good. So while I thought it would be good to explain her history in episode 10, I decided to give her those character traits way before the reasons would be explain. Thanks to that, I think she has become a very human character. It was also achieved thanks to her voice actress, Kaori Ishihara, and the sound director Nobuyuki Abe.
Were there other things that went better than you expected?
That would have to be Killer Queen. This is partly thanks to how well Haruka Tomatsu voiced her. There is the duo of Queen and her follower, Mount Fuji. He’s an old-fashioned delinquent who has run out of energy. Queen’s love interest is also an old-fashioned delinquent wearing white clothes. As usually is the case in the best manga of the 80s, the delinquents are somehow good guys. Queen is very energetic and uses bad language, but as soon as she falls for Zero Kirisame she starts to change and becomes good. Tomatsu pulls some amazing facial expressions when portraying Queen, but they can of course only be seen in the recording studio. I was really impressed by the power of Tomatsu and Tetsu Inada. The characters turned out better than I could ever have imagined.
For some reason many overseas fans like to compare the anime to the manga adaptation.
We never had any intentions of making the anime into something different. When something wasn’t clear from the original illustrations in the light novel, we referred to other information or compositions. Kunai turned out a bit different. The original character design for the anime was done by Makoto Iino and Chiyo Nakayama drew the complete character designs based on that. It’s normal for them to be a bit different.
What should the audience pay special attention to?
I mentioned it before, but episode ten is important. Why is Luna the way she is? What is her goal in life? I want everybody to see that she is not just an ordinary tsundere character.
Usually before the final episode there is a big battle — something where the hero has to somehow protect someone or where he gives his all to return to his own world. I want the audience of this series to not expect something like that. [laugh]
As the theme of this series is ‘creating a family’, the most important thing is, of course, the people. The next most important thing is place, followed by money. If those three things aren’t working out, nothing else can follow. To prepare for all those things, Kunai has a lot of wisdom and manages to use the people and his power as Demon Lord in a good way to bring people together who can invest in him. In that way, his family slowly grows. It varies from person to person what it means to ‘create a family’. For example, if two people with little money meet, they may join forces to save money. There are people who may not marry until they have a certain amount saved up, as weddings also take a lot of money. Of course there are also shotgun weddings and many other situations. In Kunai’s case he already has the people gathered around him and has a manly side to him where he can convince people to rely on him. However, he has fun doing it, thinking ‘it would be fun to do it this way’ or ‘I might make money doing it that way’. On the other hand he doesn’t forget that learning is also important. He does research about the country he’s landed in. That’s why he’s amazing. Instead of just listening to what other people say, he tries to experience it for himself to form his own opinion, and that’s something even most adults can’t do. There are after all many things that can’t be understood just with online research —you have to experience it personally. I want everybody to follow Kunai’s way of living. Don’t be mistaken, though. There are of course many elements of a regular isekai-harem-comedy anime in this series. [laugh]
Do you have a message for the fans?
Thankfully the verdict from the people around me seems to be in favor of this series. It surprised me and I can’t quite believe it, but I am often told that the show has done quite well among all the Summer 2019 anime. I am very thankful to everyone who says that. I don’t think it can compete with high-budget anime, and even though I tried to fight it I wonder if that was the wrong thing to do. After all, what makes me happiest is when the fans are pleased with the anime. If everybody would enjoy the series until the end I would be even happier. Even a middle-aged man wants to be popular when he gets the chance to go to another world. In that sense, please watch over Demon Lord, Retry! until the very end. It would mean a lot to me!
Thank you very much!
Freelance animator and director
Born in 1976, from Gunma prefecture
Instead of taking the usual jump from key animation to directing, Kimura went from producer to director. He established Brio Animation in April 2017. Since 2017 he has been offering workshops to novice or aspiring voice actors. His first project as a director was Recorder and Randsell. Other series he has worked on include Haitai Nanafa, Hamatora, Miritari!, Danchigai, Hitori no Shita: The Outcasts, Musekinin Galaxy Taylor and Ladyspo.