In all honesty, I did not even entertain the idea of watching Endro. I understood the premise of four young girls striking out to defeat the demon lord, but it did not strike me as anything particularly noteworthy. It wasn’t until @jlist posted about it on Twitter that I even bothered to look further into it. The initial part of the first episode played out almost exactly as any standard fantasy series. The hero and her party transverse the demon lord’s castle, defeat the four generals, finally confront and defeat the demon lord and then the credits roll; however, the credits suddenly stop and our adorable demon lord (Mao-chan) is transported back in time.
After being dropped into the past, our, now level one, demon lord realizes that the only way to prevent her own destruction is to prevent the hero’s awakening. Through a, at this moment, glossed upon method, she manages to secure herself a teaching position as the hero’s homeroom teacher. While under her guise as a professor, she organizes a rigged dungeon crawl, in the form of an assignment, that would result in the hero, and by extension, her party being expelled.
Despite Mao-chan’s best efforts, Endro! proved that tropes and conventions cannot be faltered and our heroes somehow managed to not only avoid failing, but also to find and draw the hero’s sword. The hero’s blind luck, free-spiritedness, and adherence to standard RPG tropes, somehow foiling Mao-chan’s plans proves a continual plot point throughout the first two episodes; however, at the end of episode two, Endro! subverted itself yet again by having Mao-chan realize that the heroes’ own ineptitude would trap her in an endless cycle of being sent back in time. Taking this into consideration, she does the smartest thing any final boss could do and immediately retires from being the demon lord in favor of living quietly as a teacher.
Endro!’s utilization of classic fantasy RPG tropes provided an interesting perspective on what I thought would be a standardized series; however, the series then promptly subverts said conventions by first having the final boss attempt to take revenge and then promptly cast aside the core of their character. In two episodes, this series was able to completely flip my perspective of its entire concept. The characters were unique and charming, albeit some were more memorable than others, and I was excited about how it would proceed; however, the following two episodes were mildly disappointing.
I will openly admit that Mao-chan is both my favorite character and, in my opinion, one of the best things about this anime. Despite this, it’s at this point that she, in favor of the hero party’s adventures, primarily took a backseat in the series. The primary focus of these episodes was to demonstrate, and strengthen, the bonds between our protagonists. These, hero focused, episodes were by no means lacking, but they failed to capture the sense of charm that made their predecessors so enjoyable. Essentially, these episodes served as world building, but their lack of progression relegated them more towards filler.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of yuri; therefore, the series utilizing low-key subtext, while enjoyable, felt more disheartening than anything. Despite this, the introduction of Rona, a hero obsessed princess, removed said subtext and dramatically increased both the series’ yuri-element as well as my enjoyment. As previously mentioned, princess Rona is madly in love with the concept of heroes; however, the hero’s actions throughout the subsequent episodes, especially episode eight, serve to shift her affection away from the generalized concept of heroes and onto Yuila herself.
Despite subverting many standardized RPG tropes, Endro!, until this point, had been rather sparse with some of its character’s motivations. Yulia Chardiet, or simply Yusha, remained steadfast in her desire to help people, but not a lot of information was given into Mao-chan’s motivations. Despite being relegated to a secondary character, Mao-chan returns, albeit stricken with a cold, to the forefront in episode six. It’s through this sickness that we’re treated to a very interesting glimpse into her previous life as the demon lord. Not only does it confirm Mao-chan’s petit form as being her real body, but it also demonstrates a deep loneliness and a desire for bonds.
After a bit of bonding between Princess Rona and Fai in episode seven, it’s time for the show’s climatic finale in episode eight! Mao-chan, in demon king mode, captures Princess Rona and escapes to her castle. The hero, and her party, are forced to venture forth into the Demon Lord’s domain in order to rescue her; however, as demonstrated rather early in the episode, it turns out that this whole entire ordeal was constructed by Princess Rona herself in order to fuel her hero obsession. Despite this, the episode provided a deep insight into both Yulia and Mao-chan’s perspective about their fated battle.
While I enjoy Endro!’s characters, the constant utilization of filler episodes centered around sparse character building is a major detriment to its pacing. I was expecting more interactions between Yulia and Mao-chan after the previous episode’s clash; however, episodes nine and ten provided, while lighthearted, only sparse interactions between the hero, her party, and Rona. Despite this, much like with the introduction of Rona, Endro! surprised me yet again by having a sick Chibi-chan vomit out the Demon Lord’s maid golem.
The series has, since episode two, made a point to emphasize Mao-chan’s to maintain a peaceful lifestyle as a teacher; therefore, the appearance of her former servant had her terrified. Thankfully for her though, her former subordinate, promptly named Meigo, claims to have no recollection of any events prior to being vomited out by Chibi-chan; however, Rona prompt reveal of a legendary cardtardo capable of restoring memories managed to break down all semblance of her peaceful life. This cartardo is clearly a plot device designed to out Mao-chan and instigate the final battle, but once again Endro! exceeded my expectations by having it seemingly fail to recover her memories. I was honestly not expecting this; therefore, the subsequent reveal that the hero’s party were the ones to recover their memories and out Meigo completely threw me!
As previously mentioned, Endro! made a consistent happing of reversing my preconceived notions regarding fantasy tropes, but just as often, after subverting my expectations, it would then revert completely back upon itself. After learning of Rona’s cardtardo, I expected Meigo to regain her memories and initiate the final battle, but despite, as far as we know, not regaining her memories she still manages to be outed as an aide to the demon lord.
Despite being outed as an aide to the demon lord, Meigo acquiesced to being imprisoned and interrogated all while assuring Mao-chan that she had no reason to worry. It’s this combination of Mao-chan’s sentimentality, the revival of the heroes’ memories, and contrived coincidences which forces her to transform into her demon lord form and abscond with Rona and Meigo thereby setting up the final battle in an awfully similar sequence to eight’s kidnapping scene.
As previously mentioned, my interest in Endro! waned greatly in episodes which were solely focused on the Yulia and her party; therefore, the inclusion of Mao-chan in the final episodes truly made them enjoyable. Despite this, it was the consistent subversions of standardized tropes, a theme throughout Endro!, and multiple reveals regarding the Yulia and Mao-chan’s roles which truly made the final episode stand out.
Mao-chan, in a desperate bid to protect Meigo, absconded with Rona and Meigo to her castle. It’s at this point, when they’re waiting for the heroes to arrive, that Meigo decides to reveal a long standing secret regarding the demon lord. While this was going on, the hero’s party was still trying to process what was happening; however, as more people flock to the scene of the explosion they’re are forced to head towards the demon lord’s castle.
Instead of heading straight to Mao-chan’s castle, they decide to camp out in the forest where they’re greeted by Meigo who, once again, reveals the secret between the hero and demon lord. It’s revealed that the demon lord’s overwhelming power forces them to continuously resurrect only to be subsequently killed and their power slightly weakened; however, Mao-chan has reached the point where that once she is killed by Yulia she will be forever eradicated from existence.
This revelation leaves the hero’s party reeling as they’re forced to decide between slaying Mao-chan and saving the world or abandoning their duty and possibly condemning the world to destruction. Unable to shed their overwhelming confusion, Yulia, and her party, decide to return to where their journey began; however, fully expecting their arrival, Mao-chan becomes enraged upon hearing this and storms off after them.
The final battle in Endro! is reminiscent of the one in episode eight; however, it ended relatively quickly when both sides declare their desire not to fight with Mao-chan shrinking and Yulia feeding Chibi-chan her sword. Despite their intentions, this did not rid Mao-chan of her destructive power, but Meigo almost immediately rectifies this by tossing Mao-chan straight into Chibi-chan. In the most contrived coincidence of the series, it seems that Chibi-chan, who is never expanded upon, is capable of devouring the concepts of individuals which thereby rids Yulia and Mao-chan as their roles as the hero and demon lord.
The series, as a whole, aptly played around with fantasy tropes and the pre-conceived notions of the genre which in turn made it thoroughly enjoyable. Despite this, the majority of the main characters, primarily the heroes, weren’t particularly entertaining; however, it seemed as if the series itself played upon it which made it hard to completely dislike that aspect. I remain steadfast that Mao-chan was the show’s greatest asset, but the amount of screen time she received was disappointing. Roughly half of the series, despite being enjoyable, was completely skippable and only served to demonstrate the focus character’s one-dimensionality. I sincerely hoped to see more interactions between the Yulia and Mao-chan, but that was sadly not to be. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the series, but there were multiple aspects, as mentioned above, which could be improved upon.