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"Disgaea: The Complete Series": Grinding Away with No Leveling Up

Rudely awakened by an angelic assassin, Laharl finds that his overlord of a father has passed on. With his defender demoness Etna at his side (and with an unexpected ally in the holy-warrior-in-training that is Flonne), they’re off on an adventure to defend his role as the successor to the throne of the demon world. With the threats of the human world and angel world bearing down on the three, can they get a Good End, or will they fail to make it to a Save Point?

Disgaea: The Complete Series comes to this release after a long and strange journey. After the first game was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003, Japan produced this animated series in 2006. Geneon released it soon after and then folded up shop. FUNimation has picked up the license and rereleased it as one of their “we got the rights and it’s already done, might as well make some money off of it” projects. That’s not a complaint, that’s just the background for what we’ve got: We’re looking at what Geneon would have released four years ago, not what FUNimation would release today.

Disgaea focuses on the adventures of two demons and an angel, who are traversing the underworld to make the lead, Laharl, the undisputed king. Along their journey, they’ll repeatedly run into some heroic humans, an annoying mid-boss, and get involved with an inter-dimensional war. The episodes seem to be primarily built on “issue of the week” plots, until the last few episodes, which focus on a war between the three dimensions of demons, angels, and humans.

To be frank, the series focuses on jokes and a little action, with only one or two scenes of true emotion. Much as in a standard video game, there are battles and movement, but only one or two bits remain memorable by adding emotion to characters traditionally designed as “loudmouthed anti-hero, scheming demon girl, and sweet and naive angel”, and they deal exclusively with Laharl and his relationships.

The animation is easily one of the weakest points of the series, not being smooth or stylish in the least. Characters range from the somewhat unique (Etna being a redheaded demon girl) to the bland (Captain Gordon’s team are the stock designs of space adventurer, bimbo, and the robot from Lost in Space). The voice acting is acceptable, but nothing worth writing home about.

There’s a surprising number of extras for a modern anime release: Roughly 20 minutes of interviews with the voice actress for Laharl feature the thoughts of Disgaea‘s creator. It’s a decent feature in concept, but it’s obviously fluff (the interviewer/actress even admits to just reading the questions on the list), and since it was conducted before Disgaea 2 came out, it’s very dated. There is, oddly enough, a trailer for Disgaea 3 (with Disgaea 4 just released in Japan and on its way to America). A Japanese promo is tacked on alongside the standards of American releases: trailers and creditless opening and ending songs.

Disgaea, much like many other game-to-animation productions, only has something on offer for fans of the predecessor game, and its quality won’t draw many new fans. It’s not offensively bad, but unlike so much uninspiring works that don’t make the jump to America, this one had a name it could ride on. If you skipped it four years ago on its original release, there’s no reason to start your game with this volume.

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