Kyoh Kara Maoh!
Kyoh Kara Maoh! (or, alternatively, Kyou Kara Maou!) is the name of a 78-episode anime series that aired on Japanese television from April 2004 to February 2006, as well as a sequel 5-episode OAV series released in 2007. In addition, a third season of the anime aired on Japanese television from April 2008 to March 2009, encompassing an additional 39 episodes. The anime series, however, is only one part of a large franchise that includes a series of fifteen young adult novels, drama CDs, a computer and two PS2 games, and a manga. The franchise as a whole is often simply referred to as Maruma, a pun which refers to the way that the character "Ma" ( or , which means "demon") is always written inside a circle (called a maru in Japanese) in the titles of all of the novels, and of the TV anime. Thus, maru plus ma equals Maruma. Got it? Good.
The plot of each incarnation of Maruma, whether novels or anime or manga, is pretty much the same. The story starts with Shibuya Yuuri, a normal Japanese schoolboy who one day gets on the wrong side of some bullies. The bullies attempt to give Yuuri a swirly in a public restroom, but something goes terribly wrong - Yuuri is sucked through the toilet and into another world! Yuuri finds himself in the Demon Kingdom, a fantasy world where humans and demons live in an uneasy, not-quite-peace with each other. Said demons, who really look indistinguishable from humans, tell Yuuri that he is their new Demon King. Yuuri is not happy to hear this - that he is a demon, or that he is a king. Besides, Yuuri knows that he doesn't have any special powers... Does he?
In the Demon Kingdom, Yuuri meets three demon princes who are brothers - the kindly and protective Conrad, who seems to have some familiarity with Earth and with Yuuri; standoffish Gwendel, whose gruff exterior hides something much more soft inside; and bratty, spoiled Prince Wolfram, the scene-stealer of the series. Unfortunately for Yuuri and Wolfram both, Yuuri's first dinner with his new demon family ends in disaster. Through a misunderstanding of local customs, Yuuri accidentally ends up betrothed to Wolfram! Wolfram is too proud to refuse the engagement, even though the thought of it clearly turns his stomach; Yuuri, for his part, continues to doggedly attempt to get Wolfram to see him as something more than a "wimp," but that will not happen easily.
Of course, Yuuri wouldn't have been flushed down a toilet and into a magical kingdom if said kingdom didn't need saving. Quite frequently, in fact. So Yuuri has to fulfill his duties as the Demon King, which includes more than the usual handful of epic quests and world-saving. Throughout all of his adventures, however, Yuuri has the three brothers to support him, as well as his demon tutor, Gunter. Over the course of many escapades, Yuuri and Wolfram begin to grow closer and closer together. But will their relationship stay on a buddy-movie level, or will it develop into something deeper?
Kyoh Kara Maoh! premiered during a time when Japan was inundated with a glut of shameless boys-love anime for the ladies, including Meine Liebe, Sukisho, and Loveless. So what makes Kyoh Kara Maoh! different from any of the dozen other titles crowding its genre right now? For one thing, it's good. If you won't mind listening to a personal confession for a moment, here it is: I'm a fangirl, sure, but I've never really liked yaoi (boys-love in anime and manga). Which isn't to say that I avoid it altogether, but it is to say that a series has to has something other than just hot yaoi to get me to like it - an anime or manga has to have a great story, a great cast of characters, and artwork that's more than just fluttering eyelashes and pouty lips on the male characters. Kyoh Kara Maoh! has all of those things, and that's why I like it. It doesn't hurt that something about Yuuri and Wolfram still manages to get me hot and bothered, though. ;)
Kyoh Kara Maoh! is one of the rare series that manages to strike a perfect balance between humor and drama. It begins with an unbelievably silly premise, but slowly evolves into something much more serious and gripping. It is also a series in which, as time progresses, change occurs - the characters grow and change, the world around them changes, and at the end of each episode, nobody is stuck in the same position from which they started. The anime also features crisp, lovely artwork, with none of the pouty lips or droopy eyes that plague male characters in other yaoi-riffic anime series. The anime also includes several strong female characters (who are usually notably lacking in yaoi anime), and is finished off with a lovely orchestral soundtrack.
Am I gushing? Probably. But the point is that Kyoh Kara Maoh is a damn good anime series, one of the best that I've seen in years. I was utterly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and I suspect that more than a few other people reading this page might have been surprised by how much they enjoyed it, too. I would encourage anyone who hasn't already to check it out. Or maybe you want to browse through some lovely artwork scans before you check out the anime. In that case, you're in the right place!