The Hero Yoshihiko and the Demon King’s Castle Series Review
The Hero Yoshihiko and the Demon King’s Castle is a Japanese comedy series released in 2011 that parodies the role playing game genre. It’s a blend of Japanese role playing game trope (heavily sourced from Dragon Quest series) and Japanese humor with some references from Monty Python.
When I first saw a random clip of the show on YouTube, it immediately gave me the Monty Python experience but in Japanese. Perhaps that’s the most comprehensive description I could give about the viewing experience.
Note: Images without mentioned sourced links are my screen shots. First image used .
You can just skip through some spoilers on this wiki page
The Demon Lord has risen and plagued the land. The Coboy/Kobold/Koboy (depending on what translation you’ve been watching with) Village sent their hero (Yoshihiko’s father) to seek out the medicinal herb for the cure but has never been heard from again for the past 6 months. Thus, a selection of the next hero to be sent out was made. The conditions include pulling the Beckoning Sword from the stone which was believed to be a gift from the God of Peace. The sword only puts humans to sleep but is lethal to monsters.
Our protagonist Yoshihiko volunteers for the selection and does managed to be selected as a hero. The circumstances of how he succeeded will not be mentioned here because that’s part of the comedic experience I’ll be depriving you if you do want to watch the series. Yoshihiko sets out to find his father and the medicinal herb to save his village. Along the way he meets Danjo, the veteran warrior, Murasaki, the novice, and Melub, the mage to tag along his quest in search for his father and the medicinal herb with each companion joining under absurd circumstances on his journey.
Along the road they happen to pass by serendipity Yoshihiko’s father with the medicinal herbs in tow. His father started a new family and has said his farewell to Yoshihiko. The four eventually decided to go their separate ways. This concludes the hero’s quest in one episode. Until The Buddha, Hotoke appears before the four and tasks them to fight the Demon Lord, thus begins a new quest.
Yoshihiko, a naive noble hero, bears strong semblance to Dragon Quest V’s main protagonist. I don’t know anything about the game this character was based on but I know it’s a popular game from Japan and not too many players talk about it overseas.
Yoshihiko’s archetype is about always pursuing what is noble that eventually makes him commit to heroic deeds headstrong. The flaw is his lack of insight among how these intentions are perceived by the people around him as the pursuit of doing what is right all the time isn’t exactly what normal people would be doing daily. He is fixated on upholding what a hero must do even when he lacks the skills to be effective at his role.
Yoshihiko meets Danjo, a veteran warrior, that initially tried to kill him but not until he finishes his speech to which Yoshihiko completely ignores. Danjo not yielding to the rejection decides to join Yoshihiko’s journey until the hero hears his speech fully before killing him. Reading about how this went down may raise some eyebrows but the live action execution of this scene has comedic value.
Danjo is a supporting character that acts as a straight man to the gags if Melub doesn’t take the role. Yoshihiko looks up to him as a senior warrior and this reinforces Danjo’s image of being the mature one among the group. Danjo’s serious side often works with synergy with Yoshihiko’s heroic tendencies going as far as to praise Yoshihiko’s attempts at being a hero along the journey. If anything, he acts as a father figure balancing the comedic atmosphere of the group.
Murasaki, second person Yoshihiko meets along the journey. She initially tried to assassinate Yoshihiko after accusing the hero for murdering her father. After failing her initial assassination attempt, she joined the party to find more opportunities to kill Yoshihiko. She would occasionally stab Yoshihiko’s back without warning but fails to kill the hero as Yoshihiko replaced her knife with a prop toy. Murasaki is best known for her sarcastic and frank manner of speech. This staples her role as a backup straight man for the comedic gag if Melub fails to follow.
The actress that plays her skilled at bringing out the right attitude for the comedic timing. Her fierce demeanor is balanced out by occasional show of her feminine traits.
The last to join the party is Melub/Merub, an incompetent mage with no practical spells in combat. He joined the group with a desire to see the world as the village he grew tired of scamming the village by being the guru. Like the classic RPG games, Melub often gains new spells whenever the party relaxes after an entire day’s worth of hunting monsters.
Melub is a powerhouse when it comes to setting up the stage for a comedic scene and can often interchangeably be the straight man and funny man. None of his spells have any practical combat use but somehow the script just makes it work like it played a crucial role in their victory.
Hotoke, the Buddha with the attitude, had the least screen time during the show. But these didn’t made his character less valuable when setting up the comedic atmosphere. You can think of the mental image of Buddha being a useful guide and throw it all away for a clumsy, moody, and poor tempered Buddha.
Each character stands out on their own when it comes to the quality of entertainment. Even their simple banters can be a source of comedic gold during during uneventful times of the show. But given that no such thing as a universal joke, some skits just happens to be dull to watch and I just want to see what happens next.
How to Watch:
Now I like to highlight Japanese humor being a different kind of comedy. You know those memes where things get out of hand in bizarre Japan? One way to appreciate this is just taking a seat back and watching the show’s comedy unfold. I’ve stressed it before and I’ll stress it again, Japanese humor is best watch with suspended disbelief and taking the scenario as is. The straight man and funny duo is one of the core fundamentals in creating a comedic scenario.
While it is the straight man’s job to relate with the audience’s perspective by grounding things into reality, it is the funny man’s task to take the scenario into the absurd and lead the straight man into the comedic skit. The roles can be reversed depending on the atmosphere as there are no hard rules and only the punchline matters.
Of course, we as the audience know it’s just a comedic show their form of comedy also relies on occasional 4th wall breaking dialogue or skit reinforcement. It really depends on the comedic timing and skill to make this work. I find their 4th wall breaking jokes add to the immersion but some moments can just be bland as no such joke is universal.
There will be episodes where the joke just strikes as bland and that’s fine. I attribute those dull moments as having a high ceiling cap . The pacing is just right with each episode leading up to the final boss battle. Because each episode is around less than a half hour long, you can find a lot of skits are packed into one episode alone.
While the recurring mentions of fighting the Demon Lord happens, you would find the adventure is focused on the mishaps the four often have to deal with in gathering the equipment necessary to slay the Demon Lord. The show isn’t even about the Demon Lord but the journey to get there. This is what I like about the show being a meta on itself, it doesn’t take itself seriously in a way that it ends up being good.
Would I recommend people to watch it?
Definitely. If you’re into the Monty Python experience and already gotten a liking to Japanese comedy, this series is worth the watch with it’s 4th wall breaking jokes and references to pop culture. The Hero Yoshihiko is one of the best breaks I had watching the comedy genre given how some comedy films may take themselves seriously for the punchline that may or may not be that funny.
The Yoshihiko experience may take a while to get used to especially if you’re used to Western comedy. It’s charm lies on how you know you’re watching comedy but there is a conscious attempt to role play the absurd.
I mean just look at the monsters they had to fight off their journey. I think the series would appeal most to people who get the role playing game genre given the bulk of the jokes rely on gaming references and reinterpreting them to their real life counterparts.