If you have ever played a Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior game you are going to want to pay extra attention. Yuusha Yoshihiko to Maou no Shiro is a low-budget TV drama/unabashed comedic parody of the classic game series, and even received the OK from Square Enix to use the game’s well-known monsters and make all kinds of direct references. However, this is not a show which can only be enjoyed by fans of these specific games. I myself have only played one or two of the games like 10 years ago, but that did not stop me from enjoying this to the fullest. If you have ever played any RPG at all you will certainly catch 95% of the jokes, so there’s no worries there.
The story takes place in a Japanese medieval-like fantasy setting where various scary (and not-so-scary) monsters roam the land, and bandits are aplenty. Lately the number of monsters has risen and a village boy named Yoshihiko is called upon to set forth on an epic quest to travel to the castle of Maou, the evil magician who seems to be responsible, and stop him. It doesn’t take long into the first episode to notice that the show follows cliché Japanese RPG traditions, but constantly plays around with, and makes fun of them. An example is having random villagers repeating the same line over and over, or walking into a person’s house and smashing a whole bunch of big jars, and walking away. Most gamers have at least once wondered “what if this happened in the real world, it would be truly ridiculous” and that’s exactly what is hilariously portrayed here.
Yuusha Yoshihiko would not be a proper J-RPG spoof if the main character didn’t have a party. In the first episode Yoshihiko quickly rounds up a threesome of companions to join him on his quest. First off, there’s Danjo, a rugged sword-carrying man who is often the most serious person in the team but has a weak spot for pretty women. Secondly, there’s the knife-wielding Murasaki, a girl who’s tough on the outside but still sweet and girly on the inside. She is of course secretly in love with Yoshihiko, but he is blind to it. Murasaki often squabbles with the third of Yoshihiko’s companions: Merebu, the magician. He walks around with a staff and frequently learns new spells completely at random but they are rarely useful in battle. He doesn’t learn fireballs or healing spells but instead spells like “Sweets”, making the enemy crave sugary food. In addition, at the end of every episode there’s a quick appearance of Yoshihiko’s sister Hisa, who tries to keep an eye on Yoshihiko but seems to be having her own adventures behind the scenes.
Without a doubt my favorite character of the show, and perhaps any comedy show ever made, Japanese or American, is Hotoke-sama. He is a Buddha who appears in the clouds to provide Yoshihiko with wise guidance. The problem is, all he does is give vague clues and spends most of the time trying to be funny by doing silly impersonations. In every single episode Hotoke’s appearances are my favorite moments but doesn’t mean he shoulders the entire show. Even without him in it Yuusha Yoshihiko to Maou no Shiro would still be worth watching. Being aware of the references made to the Dragon Quest games will only add to the fun, but as a mentioned before, it is not a prerequisite. The show uses its low budget and perfectly casted actors practically to stuff each episode full of gags and it really never gets boring. At the time of writing this the second season (Yuusha Yoshihiko to Akuryo no Kagi) is actually well-underway, and because of its low production costs and high DVD sales this show might have a bright future ahead of it as its cult-following keeps growing. If you like comedy you’ll like this, and if you’re a gamer you will love it.