|High School DxD: My Unwarranted, Guilty Pleasure||3 out of 4 users found this review helpful.|
Disclaimers: I have good knowledge over the light novels, as I have read most of them.
This review covers season one (episodes 1-12).
The story follows resident pervert Hyoudou Issei, a second year student at Kuoh Academy. He attends this particular high school because of the wildly uneven ratio of girls to boys. Despite such generous conditions, he and his two friends, (Motohama and Matsuda) who have followed him to this particular high school, are despised and ignored by most of student body. Degraded to watching pornography at his friend’s house and practicing a rampant voyeurism at school, Issei wonders if he will ever achieve his life-long goal of groping a woman’s breasts. It is one day walking back home that he meets Amano Yuma, another high school girl, who suddenly asks Issei to be her boyfriend. After a few dates, Issei has fallen in love with his cute new girlfriend. Soon after he decides to confess his determined love, Yuma reveals herself as a fallen angel and attempts to kill Issei, piercing his heart with a “spear of light.” On the ground dying, yet unaware of the situation and what fallen angels even are, he makes a dying wish: To die in the arms of a beautiful woman. Before he fades from consciousness, Issei notices the flowing, crimson hair of Kuoh Academy idol, Rias Gremory.
Based on the original light novel series of similar name, this anime series tries to capitalize mostly on the growing popularity and sales of the books. Slated as a harem set in a supernatural world where devils and angels live amongst humans, Highschool DxD deviates little from the established harem formula. That is to say, well known archetypes are expressed as their bible-themed counterparts. Rias Gremory, a top-ranking devil, fulfills the role of the loving, big sister type. Tojo Koneko, the petite mascot of Kuoh Academy, is expectedly, the token lolita of the group. Other familiar roles include: the eternally devoted crush, the potential boy-lover, and the unwavering childhood friend (among plenty others).
The relevant story beats and characterization are not the only things left to be desired. The art direction/quality is middling at best. Rather, with every episode, I felt as if I were watching an anime envisioned in the early 2000’s. The art strangely reminded of me of things like Rosario+Vampire (2008) and Karin (2005-2006). And this is not because of the similarities in the supernatural theme, but because the quality looks just from a time already past.
If Highschool DxD is as generic as I make it out to be, what could possibly explain its popularity among its audience? The anime series’ real claim to fame has always been through its bravery in depicting the breasts and naked bodies of under aged high school girls (regardless of how “developed” they may be). While heavily censored on most of the channels that the series was originally aired on, network AT-X matched the art studio’s (TNK) boldness and aired an uncensored edition.
Highschool DxD’s risqué ending credits scene was almost viral in its popularity. Depicting many of the characters performing lewd and suggestive dance moves could explain this unwarranted attention. An unexpected takeaway from the credits was a surprisingly catchy original track by artist group Stylips (who also lend their voice talents to the series). The single, STUDYxSTUDY, was written specifically for the ending credits and was their breakout single.
This is a real shame, however, is not that this 12 episode series will be known for its ecchi content (soft core pornography). The most egregious offense to the popular source material is the economy of episodes—or rather, the lack of actual screen time. With 11 light novels published before the final episode had aired, there is a wealth of content to be accessed. However, director Tetsuya Yanagisawa has done unexpected things given the situation. While one might expect most of the content to be stripped as a concession to time and length demands, viewers will be surprised to see that the backstory in the anime is more robust. Events that do not occur in the light novels are artfully inserted—an enhancement to the characterization viewers should be thankful for. In the 12 episodes allotted, High School DxD’s story arc covers the first two light novels. Sadly, the opportunity to extend to future seasons does not seem likely at the time I am writing this review. Certainly, with so much of the story still left unfolded, the option exists.
Although credit for the pacing is due, not much happens in this one season. Much of the insight towards Hyoudou Issei’s character is missing because of the lossy nature of the print-to-television adaptation. It would not be surprising to guess that viewers unfamiliar with the progression of the light novels will feel a sort of emptiness and dissatisfaction by the end of the series.
Quite frankly, I am even surprised I took the time to write this review. I am not one to reward generic effort. But despite its flaws, Highschool DxD does well to fill a stereotypical anime niche, this generally misguided idea that all viewers of anime are this sort of introverted, 2-dimensional girl loving, god-less heathen. Though I cannot speak for everyone, I will admit that I had fun watching.
Bottom-line: Highschool DxD continues the traditional set by the harem genre. The flirtatious nature between the protagonist and the cast of girls is fun, flighty, and not too serious.