When consuming fantasy media, there’s a lot of things you just have to take on faith. Okay, magic exists. Okay, demons are real. But sometimes something is just off enough to suddenly make you think, “Wait, how does that work?” and for me, that was potatoes.
I watched Maoyuu Maou Yuusha a while ago, and I really enjoyed it a lot. It reminds me a bit of Spice and Wolf, in that it’s not just a fantasy story, but it’s also educational, so you can learn about crop rotation or economic theory by watching. It also has a good sense of humor and great characters.
Now, obviously, fantasy is unrealistic. Just the fact that you have humans on another world is already improbable, but you have to roll with it. It’s one of the new axioms you have to accept when reading fantasy. Most other typical fantasy species get a pass, too: horses, sheep, chickens, wheat, whatever, I can buy that. But then potatoes show up, and suddenly I’m wondering where they came from.
Does this world have a South America analogue*? Are there chili peppers and chocolate there, too? Why is wheat a normal thing to have on another planet, but potatoes are just too exotic for me? Chickens come from India, why don’t I object to them without seeing fantasy-India on screen? What about nutmeg? Do they have nutmeg?
Until a few centuries ago, nutmeg grew on a few islands and nowhere else. Had a meteorite struck the Bandas before then, we’d never eat nutmeg again. So does nutmeg exist in a fantasy setting that doesn’t take place on earth? It seems they have every other earth species, why not nutmeg? But if they have nutmeg, where does it grow? Where does it come from? Considering how unlikely nutmeg’s survival was until the modern era, it seems odd to have it be a universal constant like the usual crops. There’s not really a satisfactory answer to the question, and I think all I can really do is drop it and forget about it, but part of me is now just constantly wondering, where did these people get their crops? Why do they have these potatoes?
Why do certain species seem so natural? Is it just bias, since I consider Old World European crops “natural” for the medieval type of setting that fantasy usually has? Why don’t dwarfs plant potatoes? It seems like a natural crop for them. I suppose it’s just the setting. I can handle anything that sticks to the setting, but potatoes shouldn’t arrive for centuries, assuming they’re living in the Middle Ages, as their technology and culture imply, and then that makes me think about the whole evolutionary process of their food. It’d be like if a fantasy story had mer-apes. Mermaids are fine, I can deal with them. But if there were mer-apes and implied mermaid evolution, it would definitely break my suspension of disbelief, because I truly can’t imagine any sort of evolution that would lead to mermaids. But removed from that context, I can at least accept their present existence.
Has there ever been a time when someone small suddenly broke your suspension of disbelief? What was it?
*Apparently potatoes come from the demon world in the series, which doesn’t really make any more or less sense.