Pandora's Box led a cursed existence. Through the curiosity of a woman, evil was unleashed and very nearly covered the world in darkness. Miraculously, humanity managed to seal Maou Kestra back into the box, but only with immense sacrifices. Even without their lord, the demons are still a formidable force that has only grown stronger with time, locked in the abandoned capital of the North, Hameln. Fifteen years have passed since that fateful battle...
Meet Hamel, a travelling minstrel who is so self-centered that he'd sooner cook his guardian crow (and family friend), Oboe, than go hungry for even a minute. Welcome to the world of music and hilarious insanity that is the Violinist of Hameln. Watch as Hamel takes cheap shots at his opponents and bashes pigeons with his giant violin and turns them into dinner.
How WILL the world be saved from Maou Kestra with a hero such as this?
An aspiring hero ventures north to do battle with an army of demons. Along the way meeting comrades who share his aspirations. Except the aspirations of him forcing said friends into cosplay and making them dance on the street for money. That's mostly just him.
The simplest summation I can give of this manga is that it's a fantasy/RPG-style adventure which can't be entirely fit into serious or parody categories, as it does both so amazingly well.
Admittedly, this series takes a little while to establish it's characters in a way necessary to be really good at either serious scenes or parody scenes.
The first 20 chapters take time to establish the main party. Over that period, the manga may feel a bit slow with it's plot and hit-or-miss with it's humor, along with a few too many nods to classic composers.
However, the party, once established, provides a collection of characters with both quirks that make for good comedy and coolness that makes for great action. The chemistry within the main party is reminiscent of something you would see in Hajime no Ippo or Dragon Voice - a group of people who work together and are there for each other when it counts, but aren't afraid to mess with each other at any other time. The series' impeccable style of humor is mainly a product of that setup plus a world none too kind to our heroes, which will casually toss man-eating sharks or gay old men their way.
Once the plot takes a serious turn, the humor is not at all tossed aside, but rather surprisingly enhanced by the contrast. The series has a way of putting straight out comedy in as a plot element; though the overall story is a serious one, numerous critical plot elements are factually explained in a wholly comedic context. It comes as a very welcome change from series that like to keep their comedy and drama in separate rooms, and feels very fresh and surprisingly genuine.
The actual drama is not significantly cheapened by this tendency, either, thanks primarily to the compelling core cast. After picking up at Sfortzando, the story progresses at a fairly linear, but well-paced rate, helped by the appearance of increasingly interesting and savvy villains. The later villains play on the trope of the party of destined teenage adventurers by constantly and consistently driving a wedge between their fragile comradeship. Granted, this theme gets recycled a bit, but the creator employs several narrative tricks to keep it fresh, some so smoothly executed they had to have been planned well in advance.
Though all who would be considered main characters have been introduced by chapter 30, and most subsequent plot revolves around them, the manga manages to produce a few excellent gag side characters. Without spoiling too much, one side character in particular stands out for a 100-chapter-long running gag plot (which caps in the most amazing way imaginable).
It's truly hard to pick out outstanding flaws in this manga once it gets going. It's an old-school rpg-style adventure that's genuinely funny while actually advancing a great plot at a reasonable pace, a combination previously unthinkable to me. I took a friend's advice to read it, and if I may quote him here; "READ READ READDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD READ IT ! " I can promise you'll be glad you did.