Review: High School DxD

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A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.

High School DxD, an ecchi harem comedy adapated from the light novel series by Ichiei Ishibumi, revolves around Issei Hyodo, a perverted high school student who is killed by his first date only to be revived by the devil Rias Gremory to serve her and her devil family. The show was animated by studio TNK and aired for 12 episodes from January 6, 2012 to March 21, 2012. Despite following the exact same path that all ecchi harem anime do, the show did give me a bit of hope in the middle of the first episode for something different and possibly great. But did it live up to that potential?

First, I would like to note that while I did watch the aired version of this anime, I do not recall anything except for basic plotlines and such. Blu-ray vs. t.v. tends to be radically different in quality (generally better, sometimes worse) from experience, so this review is for the Blu-ray version.

Now why did the first episode give me hope? Quite simply, the main character Issei dies, which immediately brought two anime that I rate highly to mind. Those two anime are Higurashi, with its mind-rape tendencies that people (me included) enjoy for some reason, and Shigofumi, with how it disposed of what appeared to be main characters at the drop of a hat. Sadly, that hope and feeling was quickly put to a swift execution by the end of the episode. Why you may ask? Two points: conflict which everyone can tell involves no actual danger and fanservice for the sake of fanservice.

Death has no meaning. Just use this "Phoenix Down".

Death has no meaning. Just use this “Phoenix Down”.

Now despite knowing better, I once again saw hope where there should be none due to a somewhat decent back story. Basically, demons and fallen angels and angels had a big war, which ended with a truce after colossal losses. That’s a potentially good back story with plenty of wiggling room for the writers. This reminded me of Tears to Tiara in a way, since “devils” turn out to be alright guys and such.

Slow plot movement and more fluff than substance aside, episodes 2-5 still had me fairly excited. There was an actual plot, and you could feel greater conflicts were brewing as fallen angels did evil stuff, innocent follower of god being completely abandoned since angels did nothing, and devils being the good guys. Conflict was brewing, and you could feel that greater villains were looming.

And then all my wonderful ideas were gone by episode 5. Instead of epic conflict, we instead receive the exciting story of training to beat playboy fiance since devils are old-fashioned and still believe in the idea of arranged marriages. And training episodes. And filler episdoes (such as where Asia gets a dragon pet that doesn’t do anything for the rest of the series). This was incredibly disappointing since I had some actual expectations. All in all, it was a standard harem ecchi anime that somehow managed to have some story for the first half of the series and quickly reverted to run of the mill copy-paste that we all know and enjoy on occasion.

It didn’t help that most of the characters all stereotypical archetypes that you’ll see in every ecchi harem comedy. Nothing really worth elaborating. What about the art and animation? Unfortunately, they were fairly average. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible. I will say though that the character designs were sub par, especially the hair of each character.

As far as the music is concerned, the only thing worth mentioning is the ED (“STUDYxSTUDY” by StylipS). Surprising amount of work went into it, rather than the OP (“Trip -Innocent of D-” by Larval Stage Planning). Smooth and fluid animations (granted only a few, but those few were of much higher quality) compared to anywhere else in the series, fairly catchy, and having the characters names written in the shadow during that stripper pole bit.

In the dub, this was changed to "What a bitch".

In the dub, this was changed to “What a bitch”.

What about the voice acting? Like every ecchi harem, the cast is full of talent. From Yoko Hikasa (Rias) to to Shizuka Itou (Akeno), the Japanese cast doesn’t disappoint. The same can’t be said for the dub however. I will say that I generally dislike dubs in general. I especially hate dubs that take liberties to “contextualize” phrases. This is one of those dubs. For example, in episode one, the dialogue was changed from “Is this for real?” to “What a bitch”. Anyone with any appreciation for anime, this is considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Pros:

-Fairly amusing as far as ecchi harem comedies go

-First half of the series seem to have actual plot and character development

-Surprisingly decent ED theme

Cons:

-Lost all plot and development in second half

-Run of the mill characters

-“Meh” animation

-Sub par dub

Rating: 2.5/5

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Shinkiro0

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2 Comments:

  1. Although I can’t comment on any Blu-Ray features or changes from the original show, I agree with many of the points you make here. While the background story and featured plot have the potential to be incredibly entertaining (and do manage to achieve that in some episodes), the ecchi/comedy focus of the series manages to get in the way often enough that you wouldn’t watch it for the story alone. However, once I realized that and sat back to enjoy the show for what it was I found it to be an overall pleasant experience. The comedy had me laughing more often than not and there was enough plot to keep me interested in what was going on even if there was more fan service than I would have liked.

    You’ve given a 2.5 for the Blu-Ray release, so I would be interested in knowing what score you would give the series itself (subbed version), or if that’s the score you would stick to. Also, was the first season enough to make you want to watch the second (it promises more plot!)?

  2. Probably a 3.5 for the subbed version. I hate dubs that take liberties in order to contextualize. If there was actually a continuation of the plot from where episode 5 left off, then I would definitely watch it. This anime had a lot of potential, and squandering it all really irked me for some reason.

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