Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child
Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit
And work another’s gain
Take up the White Man’s burden—
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah slowly) to the light:
“Why brought ye us from bondage,
“Our loved Egyptian night?”
Take up the White Man’s burden-
Have done with childish days-
The lightly proffered laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!
— Rudyard Kipling
This is Maoyuu Yuusha in a nutshell. (Except better written, of course.)
Maoyuu is the white man. She needs to teach the primitive savages living in the human world about potatoes, crop rotation, compasses, and middle school economics. She needs to protect them from themselves and their own foolishness: their constant infighting, their belief in the church, their use of serfdom, and more. Then the wars will end, everyone will be fed, the people will become educated and abandon their foolish infatuation with the church, and everyone will hold hands with the demons and sing Kumbaya.
Maoyuu and Yuusha are not creatures of their time. Perhaps they’re supposed to be, but they don’t act like it. Yuusha doesn’t even know what serfs are. Neither of them believe in the teachings of the church, and treat it as superstition (as do the nuns in the convent). They are both shocked by the existence of racism. The premise of this show is that two people with our modern values are transported back in time, armed with the knowledge of a middle school economics textbook. One of them didn’t pay attention in class, but he still buys into the main values of our modern world.
Maoyuu and Yuusha are the white men who crossed the sea to spread the knowledge of modern economics to a primitive people, just as the Europeans did for the betterment of the Africans and Americans, as the Japanese did for the Ryukyu islanders, as the Chinese did for the Taiwanese natives, as the Americans did for the Phillipines (the subject of Kipling’s poem) and as countless other empires have done throughout history.
The people Maoyuu seeks to educate are backwards primitives, trapped in the backwards identities of their own time period. They cannot choose their own way of life. They were born at the wrong time for that. So, by the show’s own logic, they are not human, just as slaves and serfs are not human. They need Maoyuu and Yuusha to stop by, teach them modern systems of values, and make them fully human.
Only people with modern systems of values are human, after all. These people from the dark ages are not. They’re completely different from modern people. Their ideas are foolish and primitive. If someone came to spread the gospel of the modern world among these primitives, they would repent, turn from their foolish ways, and embrace a lifestyle and set of beliefs wholly superior to their own. Just like the Native Americans.
In fact, Maoyuu and Yuusha find it easy to convince anyone they meet to change core parts of their beliefs and identity. That’s because no one in this show has an identity. This is intentional. These characters (Demon King, Hero, Knight, Mage, Maid) don’t even have names. They aren’t supposed to be humans. They’re supposed to be props in a history lesson.
And this is why Maoyuu Yuusha fails, both as a history lesson and as a good story. It seeks to separate history from people, turning it into a sequence of economic events. But history is the story of people. They are inseparable. And as much as science has improved our lifestyle since the middle ages, people remain largely the same.