Monday, 13 August 2012 20:09

Highschool DxD (TV, 2012)

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Yeah, this is about how it goes. Yeah, this is about how it goes.

Overview

Gather round, my loyal minions and let me tell thee of a tale. A tale of lechery and debauchery. A tale of demons and angels. A tale of a man named Issei Hyodo who wanted a harem, but barring that, a hot girlfriend who put out constantly would do. Woe be it to this man when he finally received his wish, and found that when things seem too good to be true, they almost always are. Suffering from a sucking chest wound inflicted by she whom he thought was to finally fulfill his wish, a vision of crimson loveliness and sublime perfection, a demon to some, but an angel to others, Rias Gremory, she who is sister to the devil himself, comes to his aid. The price for his salvation was his soul, his humanity, and and what could be centuries of service to this blood red vision of beauty. Still, all was not lost, for as he found, he was bound to a dragon of near infinite power, which may be his should he gain the strength to harness it, and his captivity was sweet indeed with his mistress loving him as one would their lover. And should he prove himself worthy, he might even attain a peerage within the ranks of the demons allowing him the chance to amass his harem dreams of youth, though he might find that he already has something far better. All is not sweetness and light, for there is the matter of what killed him. Strange things are moving behind the scenes in the world of gods, demons, and men; and it will be up to him and his fellows to protect each other and their mistress from those that would tear them apart and do them harm.

Review

Highschool DxD was originally a series of light novels by Ichiei Ishibumi and illustrated by Miyama-Zero. It followed the adventures of a rather horny teenage boy (but I repeat myself) by the name of Issei Hyodo as the resurrected servant of the red haired school idol, Rias Gremory, who just so happens to be both a Devil, and the sister to THE Devil himself, Lucifer. If you're thinking you may have seen this setup before, you're probably right. It's even older than Kaibutsu Oujo and even older than 3x3 Eyes, with stories of such things occurring into antiquity probably stemming from the old tale about selling one's soul to demons or The Devil. It's been adapted into a manga and a TV Anime which ran from January to March of 2012, all of which I'll be comparing to each other though mostly it will be the light novels and the anime. The anime itself runs for 12 episodes and covers the events of the first two light novels whereby we see Issei become what he does and battle fallen angels and Rias's first major foe, her rather unwanted fiancée, Riser Phenex.


The anime itself came to my attention by simply looking at Rias Gremory herself. She's...gorgeous. Absolutely splendid in appearance; a perfect ten body with curves in all the right places and a set of generous (though not overly so) breasts that fit her figure so well, it's almost a crime. All of this framed in that spectacularly long and wild crimson hair, and while this alone makes it worth a look, what made it worth watching was both Issei and Rias herself (though the other characters are fun in their way too). Issei is...not quite Ataru Moroboshi level of walking stiffy, but fits pretty well with the level of horniness that most males of that age typically operate at, which is not something that is seen in anime near often enough. He's a pretty decent guy though, and genuinely cares about his friends, his comrades, and Rias herself. What's more is how much they care about him, Rias herself loving him in many ways, and the other girls in her chess pieces loving him as well, and enjoying the quirks in his personality. It's hilarious how much they actually enjoy him being the horny bastard he is, from the young and pretty nun he saved, Asia Argento, to the perverted sadist Akeno Himejima (a girl who very much rivals Rias in the looks department), to the initially cold cat girl Koneko Toujou; there's not one of them that pulls the typical anime girl bullshit about screaming how much his sex drive disgusts them...well, except for Koneko at first, but she doesn't really make a big deal of it, and even notes in later novels she'd like him to...take care of certain matters when she goes into heat. And the other guys in Rias's chess pieces? The gentle swordsman Yuto Kiba could care less about Issei's proclivities, and even understands them. And the other one...well...you don't see him in the anime, but you'll see him and his issues in the light novels if you read them. Issei is also holder of the sacred gear called “Boosted Gear” which is able to double his power every 10 seconds due to it housing Ddraig, the Red Dragon Emperor; a creature capable of killing God. Other powers are discovered as the series progresses, and while this is all well and good, the problem is trying to push all that power through his body is just plain not possible without serious consequences, even with all that training from Hell he winds up going through. He also holds the position as Rias' pawn; in fact, her only pawn. When she brought him back to life after his first 'girlfriend' put a spear through him, she wound up using all eight of her pawn pieces since the potential power he had far exceeded the capabilities of one pawn alone. The man, while young and still kinda dealing with the whole being dead and reborn thing, has a decent strength of character, which is something you see in full at the end of the fight against the fallen angels. I've not seen anything like that short of anime like Fist of the North Star where you expect things like that to happen, and not something typical anime wuses, or Hell, for that matter typical anime characters, do. It's what should have happened, and I for one was rather proud of the boy. Thing is, the anime director is obviously too used to, or incapable of directing characters like he truly is in the light novel. In the anime, he's twitchy, excitable, and a little too indecisive which is what you've always seen from protagonists like this, though his original characterization shines through all these typical tropes. In the light novel, he's none of those things. One of the biggest comparisons there is the end of the anime where you see all the characters seeing Issei and Rias off on the Griffon parked outside, and he winds up asking for permission and needing to be told to take Rias on a ride home. In the light novel, he carries Rias out of the mansion, sees the griffon, puts her on it, and rides off into the moonlight without talking to anyone else or asking for permission, and THAT is how you fucking DO a scene like that. The man is a little unsure of himself, with being so young and all, but he is not an indecisive twitchy little pussy that asks permission or needs someone to tell him when to be badass, which is something I'm pretty sure that most anime directors have no understanding of, and would be total cowards about implementing it if they did; as terrible an observation as that is.


Now we get to Rias herself. Rias has that amused way about her that says she finds joy in her life and especially in her growing family of chess pieces she collects as the story progresses. Her standing in the society of Devils requires that she acquire the right balance of forces for her pieces due to how they jockey for position using a chess motif, called a 'Rating Game', with herself being the 'King'. Issei is her pawn, but if you know how chess works, you know what he can do when he gets to the other side of the board, or in this case, the enemy's home base. She also loves her growing little army more like how one loves a family, so in this, if one were to find one's self in a position like Issei, there's honestly little better a situation that could be found...usually an arrangement like this would be a whole lot worse for those like Issei. Given that everyone she's picked has a fairly bad history except for Issei (aside from that whole impaling thing), the care and love she shines on them is most needed and reciprocated in its way. Though in Issei's case, she is not only tolerant of his sex drive, but also finds herself wishing to take advantage of it. Hell, in later novels it moves well into the romantic love stage, with everyone commenting on how saccharine the two of them are with each other (though I don't think they've managed to do the deed...though in some cases not for lack of trying). She tends not to care about being naked when she winds up running around starkers, which tends to happen a lot more than one would think. Personally, I think she just gets a kick out of giving Issei and even Yuto a hard-on (though if Issei propositioned her, she'd almost certainly agree...Yuto is too much of a knight to do that, though I suspect her answer would be the same). Being the 'king' and sister to Lucifer, she's incredibly powerful, and at first is beyond any of her minions, though oddly later she's surpassed in power by the individuals in her army which rather irks her and forces her to go back into training. She instills a fanatical devotion from her followers, and from what I can see, it's well earned. The Blu Ray extras, while humorous, do her character an incredible disservice by turning her into a typical anime girl when she is so much MORE than that. Like Issei, you don't see characters like her very often in anime...her loving serenity puts me in mind of Belldandy at times. Though the biggest difference is that Belldandy is almost incapable of what I'd call hate; anger, sure, but hate? Not really something that Belldandy does. Rias, on the other hand? Oh, this girl can hate, and you better hope there's a god helping you if you've incurred her wrath, because that might...MIGHT...be the only thing that saves you.


Rias's other chess pieces, while they don't have quite the dynamic Rias and Issei have, are no less interesting. Asia Argento is a young and extremely blonde haired nun, who was befriended by Issei, only it turns out her incredible powers to heal were to be ripped out of her and used to empower a fallen angel. Later Asia becomes one of Rias's chess pieces, her bishop to be precise (I'm guessing the irony probably causes Rias a good chuckle from time to time), and provides a supporting role in their army as your basic white mage. She winds up boarding at Issei's home, much to her delight, as it's obvious she has developed feelings for him, and would enjoy nothing more than being his wife in all ways that implies. Her dynamic with Rias has a hilarious duality to it, in that in all matters except Issei, she is the devoted servant, but when Issei is involved, she is the devoted rival. Truthfully, if they could work together rather than against each other, they'd have a lot more fun where he was concerned. Speaking of that kind of fun, we get to Akeno Himejima, Rias' Queen and second in command. If Rias is serenely happy, Akeno is openly laughing. She has the look of the cat that ate the canary, and often plots innocent deviltry. Much like Rias, she has all the right curves in all the right places, and those breasts of hers fit those proportions so well as to bring a man to tears at their beauty. Like Rias, she doesn't really mind walking around without clothing, but whereas Rias really just doesn't mind it, one gets the impression that Akeno enjoys the cheap thrill of it. Also, like Rias and Asia, she's quite interested in Issei, but rather than being a wife, she wants that cheap thrill of being the mistress on the side (and probably getting caught in the act). Yes, she's a sadist, but tends to only allow those appetites loose on her enemies, whom she makes suffer...a lot...before annihilation. I'm guessing if one were to have sex with her after such an episode, one would probably be in the position to be used as she sates her hunger with you. Yeah, here's me complaining about that. Also, that's sarcasm. Koneko is the kuudere catgirl who holds the position of Rook. She has the look of a loli, but has the physical power to go toe to toe with most Queen's in the demonic Rating games, though a Queen's radiant power can and has overcome her. Finally, for the anime, we have Yuto Kiba the only other male member of Rias's chess pieces shown, though there is one other in the light novels. He holds the position of Knight, and his ability to use a sword is something greatly feared. He considers Issei his best friend, though often finds himself in positions where the girls at school wonder if the two are in a yaoi relationship...which tends to piss both of them the Hell off. Also unlike Issei, he's rather good looking by female standards, is natively intelligent and gifted, hides his libido quite a bit better, and tends to have most of the girls at school following him around, though he does have a certain level of jealousy towards Issei for being able to attract the likes of Rias, Asia, and Akeno. There is one more that is passingly mentioned, which is Rias's other Bishop, but you never see this character in the anime. Later in the novels, Rias adds to her forces with a second Knight. I'll leave the investigation of these characters to the reader if they so wish it.


The background music is fairly decent, but of particular note is the opening song 'Trip of Innocent D' by the band Larval Stage Planning. I note it only because it has the same opening Guitar riff that Lion's 'The Transformers' had, which for all twelve episodes made me jump up expectantly...almost made me feel like a trained dog there. Outside of that nothing really noteworthy about the music; it is good and fits the scenes. Opening and closing are suitably entertaining, what more can you ask for?


Then we get into the animation...Holy Shit! Look, we've all seen fanservice series before. Hell, go watch Queen's Blade, Seikon no Qwasar or Seikirei to get your fill of something like that. They're all pretty much low-key wank fuel since it's actually rare that anything truly ecchi happens (unless you're in Yosuga no Sora, heh); the girls just run around starkers for you, my dear fans...FOR YOU! This one though...this one...they emphasize everything about Rias in an almost Team Ninja fashion. I've not quite seen this attention to detail in some time. It's really not so much fine detail, as the animation meets exceptional TV quality anime standard, but in how they pay attention to the way she and her body moves and that red hair that frames it all. Honestly, if there's one thing they got right, it's how Rias seems quite proud of how she looks, and that bleeds over into the way she moves and the attention to it that the animators gave her both in and out of her clothing. She's not the only one that is afforded this level attention, but she is the one they pay the most attention to...and so will you. Of course, then there's the closing animated sequence which is all the girls dancing in extremely provocative ways using a playing card motif...when they're not pole dancing. Given the increased frame rate and near realistic way they all move, one can conclude they were rotoscoping that sequence, which I'm fine with, considering the results, heh.


I would say the only real problem was the limited abilities of the production team with a great portion of that being with the director and the script writer. It's more than apparent that these individuals are far too used to their tropes, and are so inured, so locked in to the current tropes dealing with typical anime spineless wuses and the girls that surround him, that they can neither fathom or effectively work with a story that has none of those, forcing them to incorporate those elements where they can. This greatly lessens the badassness of this story, though it was such a strong story on its own merits that they would have had to completely destroy it (which guys like this have done), before they could have turned it into more of the same mass produced 2chan nose candy that they've been churning out for the past decade. There are also all the really weird little things they changed as if to put their own...mark on it...which is fine when it's done right, but kinda like Psychic Academy, it wasn't done right. When you change all those little things, you change the very nature of some parts of the story, which changes the way one views the characters and situations. It's a complaint I and my compatriot, the Platinum Dragon, have made in several reviews, and will continue to be something very much worth noting for the foreseeable future. There was also the finale of the series, which completely...reworked the finale of the second light novel in a way that made what happened in the anime completely nonsensical. There was a lot of melodrama in the TV ending, coupled with things happening out of order, which totally fucked the ending because things happened in that order in the light novel for a DAMN good reason, and you don't fuck with that unless you want to fuck it up or just don't understand what you're doing. Given the rest of the series, the latter is what I'm fairly certain has actually occurred, but I don't discount the former given the nature of humanity. In other words, this anime is a good advertisement for the books, but the books are something far superior. I can't tell at this point whether or not the manga is about to go the path of the anime or the novels, so that will have to be seen in the future by everyone reading this review.

Overall

Overall, yeah, I found it greatly entertaining. For those looking for another cypher and more of the same, you won't find it here. For those looking for an innocent little show, this is not it. For anyone looking for everyone being above the influence and kicking the shit out of each other, go watch Bleach, Yu Yu Hakuso (but I repeat myself there...I seem to be doing that a lot), or Naruto; this is not for you. If you're looking for a fanservicey comedy with action, romance, and some genuinely likeable characters, this one is your anime. So come...stay awhile and listen. And head over to Baka Tsuki after you're done and continue the action in their ongoing translation of the light novels. You'll be glad you did.

Additional Info

  • Title: High School DxD, (ハイスクールD×D, Haisukūru Dī Dī
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy, Harem, Romantic comedy, Supernatural
  • Director: Tetsuya Yanagisawa
  • Studio: TNK
  • Licensed: Funimation Entertainment
  • Network: AT-X (uncensored)
  • Format: Television
  • Episodes: 12
  • Animation: Groovy (+5)
  • Writing: Very Good (+3)
  • Pacing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Voice Acting: Very Good (+3)
  • Soundtrack: Very Good (+3)
Last modified on Wednesday, 23 December 2015 01:09

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