I’ll admit it: The girls in High School dxd are cute and hot. But don’t be lured into watching the show because of that. As they say, the devil is pleasing to the eye, and boy is this a devil of a show to sit through.
Watching High School dxd is like a checklist of cliches. We’ve got an unpopular guy who can’t get a date but obsesses over seeing the opposite sex naked, check. We’ve got said guy unwittingly landing himself a harem, with a different character archetype for every member of the audience, check. We’ve got the overused scene where the guy wakes up the next morning to find one of said girls sleeping naked in his bed, check. We’ve got the guy realizing he has to fight alongside these girls in some supernatural battle, check. We’ve got the obligatory training sequences to prepare him for this, check. There’s even an arranged marriage that the protagonist has to stop! Check and mate. About the only aspect to this show that feels somewhat fresh is that the guy’s parents are still in the picture; typically in harem shows, the guy has a bunch of girls his age, all to himself, in a big house. Yeah, that’s realistic.
So now it’s all a matter of filling in the blanks. The aforementioned guy is Issei, who one day, out of the blue, is asked on a date by a girl he’s never met. Suspicious, but still, he’s hard-pressed to say no, considering his loser status. However, the girl turns out to be a disguised fallen angel who, after the date is over, wants to kill Issei. But wait! Issei’s saved by a dark red-haired, busty girl named Rias; when Issei wakes up later, she spills the beans: she’s a devil and saved him for the purpose of making him her “pawn”. Oh let’s just call it what it is: Issei’s a slave now. Yay.
Soon, we meet other devils, such as Hiemjina, a black-haired, similarly busty gal who gets turned on when she fights (a trope executed better in other shows); Toujou, the token flat-chested, silver-haired, taciturn girl who, unlike the other two girls, gets annoyed at Issei’s perverted tendencies; and the only other male in the group, Kiba, who has something of a rivalry with Issei that’s never really fleshed out much. Then we come to the other main character, Asia (no, not pronounced like the continent), a kind-hearted nun-in-training. How does someone on the side of good come to join the devils? You might regret asking…
In episode 5, Asia is taken captive by a fallen angel named Raynare and nearly killed. But Issei is able to revive her using his new powers, and as a result he transferred her to the devil side, without asking her first. Uhh…. maybe it’s the Christian in me talking, but I have a huge problem with this. First of all, the show never treats the soul’s final destination as an issue at all; it’s just about switching sides. It’s not given the drama that’s needed. Second, if I were in Asia’s position, I’d be pretty pissed (understatement) if some guy I didn’t know just decided for me to reject God and submit to Satan and his minions. But strangely, Asia doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal! She’s kind of frustrated that she’s unable to read the Bible or pray anymore without getting a headache, but as long as she can be with her new love, Issei, she doesn’t care where her soul goes. Wow, I bet you’ll be whistling a different tune REAL quick once you spend five minutes in Hell. And way to stay true to your convictions.
Anyway, the main plot of High School dxd is weird. It involves a three-way supernatural battle between angels, devils/demons, and fallen angels. Except this isn’t the final battle of Armageddon, this is just something called The Rating Game, where one’s ability allocates how much status they’ll have in the Underworld. For some reason, the way the battles are played is similar to a game of chess (hence Issei’s title of “pawn” I mentioned earlier). In fairness, this is a somewhat unique concept, but again, I felt uneasy because the very premise was at odds with my theology. I really don’t think it matters if you’re a high ranking leader in Hell, because no matter how great your powers, you’re still suffering eternal damnation. But putting aside my personal beliefs, the battles themselves are nothing you wouldn’t see in Bleach, so they didn’t offer anything new from a visual or combat standpoint. And do you think any of the main characters die in this supposedly serious battle, or that anything’s truly resolved in all this, especially since there’s a second season? No points for guessing the right answers.
Credit where credit is due, though: I didn’t have a problem with the show’s presentation; the character designs are attractive and well-drawn, and the music is decent. And, if you’re looking for fanservice, you’ve come to the right place. However, for some reason, this show has a lot of dutch angles and 90-degree pans. You feel like you have to crane your neck half the time. I’m not really sure how these angles add to the show, and is more distracting than anything.
The dub is yet another FUNi title where the script was obviously peppered with re-written lines; this is most evident with its derogatory, borderline misogynistic slang terms for women and their parts. For some titles (such as Yamada’s First Time), these loose dubs worked, but this is one of those examples where it feels more forced than anything. That said, the dub is generally good; Jamie Marchi is well-cast as Rias, and newcomer Chloe Daniels is adorable as the sweet, nasal-voiced Asia. I also must admit to chuckling whenever Issei’s metal arm said “BOOST!” in an over-the-top manner when he charged up.
The limited edition version of the set is pure eye candy, with some beautiful illustrations on both sides of the hard artbox. The disc art for both Blu-ray cases is similarly pleasing, with reversible covers. As for special features, we get audio commentaries on episodes 1 and 7. Of the two, I liked the first one better, as it was more informative when it came to how newbies to the anime dubbing business adjusted to the unique job. The set also includes all six omakes (totalling 22 minutes), which is basically just more fanservice, not to mention comic abuse inflicted to Issei. There are also eight minutes of character profiles, narrated by the main male characters (which means plenty of pervy comments). Rounding things out are a promo video, some commercials, textless songs, the U.S. High School dxd trailer, and other FUNi trailers.
Overall, High School dxd left a bad taste in my mouth, due to its pro-evil themes (that is, we’re supposed to root for the main characters, who are devils) and its unique but preposterous and unengaging story. And at the end, I felt empty, as the series did nothing to stimulate my creative or intellectual capacities, and had quite a few cliches. The show delivers plentiful fanservice, but if all you want out of the show is skin, you’re better off perusing the Internet for still frames and animated gifs of the nudity and bouncy moments. It’ll save you lots of time and money.