Ecchi. Harem. Fanservice. Highchool DxD falls into these categories of shows that Funimation loves to scoop up so they can sell replacement soft core pornography on Xbox Live for 13 year olds who have their parent’s credit. These T&A focused shows are the bane of most advocates of artistic anime out there since they tend to be the anime punching bag for most conservative straight arrows who like to ridicule anything different by using its most provocative qualities. While most shows of this type try their best to hide their sex filled fantasies with some simple action, convoluted plot devices, and dry humor; DxD comes out a step above the rest by being both undeniably drenched in sexiness and a fun and un-embarrassing watch.
Issei is an ordinary high school boy who has only one thing on his mind: sex. Actually it is more that he is really into boobs because he is so juvenile and innocent that I am not sure he would even know what to do with a girl if he got one. After suddenly being asked out on a date by one his classmates, he is one step closer to making his dreams of having a girlfriend come true. That is until she turns out to be a demon, puts a spear through his heart, and leaves him to die; you know the typical first date stuff. His life is soon saved by a beautiful red haired girl from his school who is another demon from a rival faction. An heir to the devil’s thrown actually, and he soon becomes a part of her court of chess pieces (or lesser devils) and now must use his life, as well as a great power only he possesses, to carry out the whims off his new master… and blah blah blah we get it… this a fantasy light novel adaptation, the formula hasn’t changed much since Shakugan no Shana.
Story wise DxD does falls into a great number of genre convictions that have been well treed territory by similar fare for the past decade. But what makes this show work is that it raises a step above the rest in both its shonen style action and slice of life humor while not being afraid to take itself less serious. The story is easy to follow while keeping with these genre trappings and even offers an interesting and vaguely original concept in the way it uses its devils vs angels motif. The devils being the good guys (or at least the faction we follow) is a weird divergent from how most of stories handle this rivalry. This is echoed by a chorus of new to the group characters (including a once devout nun of the church) who find out that god doesn’t really care for devils that much; a concept that is established through a running gag of praying to god leading to a horrible headache in return. The show recycles many running gags other shows of the genre have done, but always in innovative and funny ways, even Issei’s typical male mc “Baka! Ecchi!” moments of running into girls in provocative situations are less infuriating and mind numbing than other series. The humor stays consistent and genuinely funny as tasks to fulfil mortal wishes to gain a contract of the person’s soul (another play on the devils motif) turn into hilarious and bizarre misadventures, and a battle with a dreaded tentacle monster is less of a commentary and more a bizarre parody or homage to an old established trope.
The character archetypes run the gambit from sweet masochist, clumsy moe bait, and bishonen hottie, but also have a few refreshing takes. Mainly Rias Gremory who ventures out of tsundere territory, and her noble aristocrat manner of behaving makes her an actually compelling love interest as her character develops through the series. Some characters achieve more development while the side characters with less screen time back up events just enough to be notable additions and are set up well enough to have interesting arches in the second season. While the show goes great to lengths to treat its primarily strong female cast with respect, it does fall victim to the male power fantasy “got to save the princess” trope near the end of the first season. It at least does not dive into complete misogyny like other series that have done the same plotline such as Sword Art Online. It is funny that a show that gets off on female nudity handles female characters better than a popular show like SAO that tries to hide its hideous portrayal of gender roles.
As you may have noticed thus far, Highschool DxD’s nudity brings in a very deserving mature rating and not something I would suggest for viewers who would find this offensive. That being said, as someone who has unfortunately set through a good deal of this fodder, the art and animation of the show has some great um… angles… of … the ladies. Okay let’s not dance around this, if you like fanservice than the camera work and art direction is second to none, sure to leave no one wanting on this side.
When it comes to sound design, DxD comes through with an impressing opening and closing performance while the show’s score does its best to capitalize on both the tension and shenanigans found in the series. A worth-while English dub produced by Funimation features a diverse cast of old guard and new talent, that does not disappointed in terms of its script. Jamie Marchi as Rias Gremory lends an elegant performance, would be hard pressed to find a better fit. While Jad Saxton as the petite but strong Koneko Toujou delivers some great and punchy one liners. The English adaptation is not afraid to play around with explicit language, and for a show that already has mature themes in other departments, this is a welcome addition.
The ecchi genre is by far one of the more popular genres of anime today. The top anime of many streaming services like Netflix tend to have these shows in the top spot, while companies like Funimation and Sentai spend a good deal of marketing on them. While the genre can be over-run with weak and embarrassing shows, Highschool DxD finishes a step above the rest and is must watch for anyone interested.
Highschool DxD continued through two additional OVA episodes, aired a second season titled “Highschool DxD New” in 2013, and the home release in both Japan and North America feature a half dozen additional mini side episodes.
English Dub: 8
Overall: 7/10 (Good)