To be perfectly honest, I'm kinda surprised it took this long for something like Hagure Yuusha to show up. I mean, it was only a matter of time before the uncorrupted litany of pure fail that was the harem anime protagonist was looked upon by eyes of one having finally shaken himself free of the 2chan nose candy and seen for the shit it really was. Anger would be his response, hatred his inspiration, and thus we go the complete opposite direction, which in most circumstances would be everything you don't do when telling a story, but in this one...a welcome and refreshing change. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.
"Hagure Yuusha no Estetica" or "Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero" is a Japanese light novel series by Tetsuto Uesu. A 12-episode anime adaptation by Arms aired between July and September, 2012, and this, with a smattering of the manga, will be the focus of this review. As an aside, it has been licensed by Funimation Entertainment, so expect the usual suspects for what has become pretty decent dubbing. The story is about a guy called Ousawa Akatsuki who returns to his analog of our world after being RPG hero summoned into another world to help fight their war against their big bad and his armies. This has happened to many many others; to the point that there is no possibility of cover up, and so, the Babel organization was formed to locate these individuals as they return home and train them in a fashion similar to what one would undergo in a military school as these teenagers (since they follow the standard RPG tropes here) return with their powers and experience levels intact. Don't worry, those bells ringing in your head are noted a few times in story, but the anime doesn't really get into it at this point. I suspect that later novels do, but unless someone is translating them, I wouldn't know. What the anime does delve into is that Akatsuki was the hero they needed, but probably wasn't the hero they wanted, given his complete disregard and outright contempt of the nobles and lords of that world. Hell, he has a complete and total disregard and contempt for pretty much every single social convention of the JRPG genre, and pretty much conducts himself as I would in such a setting. See, he was the one who finally managed to assassinate the Dark Lord, but shortly after finds himself on the run from the Queen of the country at war with the Dark Lord and her Warrior Maid Corps...with a precious cargo in tow. Here is where you find out just exactly what that means; shown in great detail in the manga. The maids conduct themselves with the air of those duty bound to follow orders, but with full knowledge they are going to loose, and yet...more in this case, as it is all but stated he was fucking the lot of them, and they were basically going to say goodbye. On his way out, he molests the lot of them, only to be confronted at the gate back home by the Queen herself. And though a damn tsundere, it's, again, all but stated that he was rogouring her too. With a kiss and a slap and a tearful tsundere goodbye, he tells her to call upon him if needed again, and walks through the gate with his sack of precious cargo over his shoulder. Arriving at the place where he was summoned from, that being his bedroom, he shucks off the duffle bag from its contents to reveal a sleeping, pink haired, and very buxom (not to mention totally naked), young woman. It is with this that you meet Miu, who turns out to be the Dark Lord's daughter form whom he promised the dying Dark Lord that he'd look after. It's a very Old West thing to do, I'll admit, and I'm not sure of an analog in Japanese culture. Though once you see her, the only analog one needs to understand is 'fucking hot girl' to be honest. The story continues with the Babel organization, what they have to do there, how fucking powerful Akatsuki really is, and the fact that the people on the other side of the gate are looking for the Dark Lord's daughter and track her to that world. Make no mistake, they're not going to let that go unanswered.
While the story is, in many ways, pretty typical of its genre, the way its presented in Hagure Yuusha, again, makes it all the more refreshing. Honestly, Akatsuki is such a Gary Stu, that if you rolled up practically every single Gary Stu trope, and shoved them into a man shaped mold, Akatsuki would be what pops out...well, except for the beard and fucked up eye color (yes, yes, I know, I know...we all go through that phase, but at least the observant among us grow out of it). But honestly, what would you do in that situation? Same thing he did, grind until I was level umpteenth million so I could one shot the final boss, do all the hot women, and generally piss of the nobility since I would be so powerful there wouldn't be a weapon or army they could level against me that could force me to do anything I didn't want to do. Y'know...like Conan the Barbarian because that fucker had the right idea. I mean, how many times have most of us gone though a JRPG and just wanted to go, "No." when presented with what most of us would consider a false choice? That's what he does? If people try to make him do what he doesn't want, he'll either subvert it or tell them to fuck off. If they try to force him, he reminds them of why he's the guy who fucked up the Dark Lord. Isn't that what we would all do in such a situation?
I hear that the masses over on 2chan absolutely despised Hagure Yuusha for the most part. While I'm not sure it's true, it would not surprise me if they did. This guy doesn't abide the tsuns (or mercilessly fucks with them...oh he fucks with them), doesn't abide the NPC's trying to take his shit, doesn't gasp at every little fucking thing when the plot characters/villains show their true power, and happily collects a nice little harem on this side of the gate. One might actually be tempted to ask, "Why include the lesbian?" I'll answer that one: Variety. That and one likes to just watch before joining in occasionally. However, back to the 2chan hatred, of course they did. He's the antithesis of everything they get their emotional fix on, and this sort of character shows them just how far they've fallen with their talks of 'my waifu!' You can't paste your features on this guy, he's got a personality of his own. You can't imagine his waifus as yours, because you can't be him and he'd never abide another guy moving in on 'his waifus'...worse there'd be nothing you could do about that. Worse still, why would a girl want you when they had something like him? You can only aspire to be something self assured and over powered like him, and it's at that point one would realize just the level of fail they were being by pasting their features on those soulless shells. I suspect a complete rejection of it as blasphemy would be the only response one could offer since most would not acknowledge their own failings here. I can only imagine the disconnect one in such a mindset would feel watching this. I suppose confused anger and unreasoning hate would be all they could experience in such a level of category error.
All the characters really are their archetypes, but they're all trying to act like that when what is obviously an out of context problem appears, and the resulting confusion and likely further responses is something the author is obviously having a lot of fun with. Honestly, this would never work had not the ground work of over 20 years worth formula harem stories had come before. The Superman that every guy wants to be and every girl wants to fuck has been done to death over here in both regular fiction and most fanfiction. We know the foibles of that sort of writing inside and out. Several treatise have been written, both official paper and public blog source. Coming from here most would likely roll their eyes and next it. Coming from anime? Shit, I'm actually wondering how far down that rabbit hole the author is willing to go. Last time I saw this was in the anime Bastard...and he was more Villain Stu honestly.
The animation is solid; I have no real complaints on that one. Nothing really stood out, short of watching him cunt punch Sigui of Queen's Blade Rebellion (I always get a giggle out of that one). They should do more crossovers like that. The music is much like the animation in this regard. It does the job, but there isn't anything I'd say is particularly noteworthy.
If you're just getting into anime, you may like this. If you've been in it awhile, you probably won't. If you've been in it for a considerable length of time, you'll likely like it, and find it quite cathartic. I'd say save this one for when you're feeling really pissed off at the genre as a whole. Watch this one and Kaze no Stigma back to back...it'll remind you that not everyone writes the formula, and that there's still some spark of creativity over there.