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Offline MahluaandMilk

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High School DxD
« on: June 13, 2019, 06:46:39 PM »
Heyo, guys. Long time no see! And I’m sorry about that. I’ll save all the mushy stuff for another post, because right now I have something more fun to share.

So I finally managed to watch the anime of High School DxD through the release of Hero. Because there’s just so much ground to cover, this review will not be following my normal format. I will be dividing this up into spoiler segments so you can pick and choose what parts of the review matter most (or which portion you want to hear me ramble about my opinions on the most).

Just a couple of disclaimers before I get into the meat of things. First: I did watch the English Dub of the series, so if you’ve watched the sub, be aware that some localization is likely. But boy was it one of the greatest dubs I’ve ever seen. More on that in just a moment. Secondly: since I’m looking at the series as the series as a whole, be aware that there will be spoilers. Because, duh. Now, with that out of the way, here’s what you all came here for.


HIGH SCHOOL DxD (NEW BORN HERO)

PLOT SUMMARY:
Horny, perverted Issei Hyoudo lands the first date of his subpar life, only for his date to reveal that she is a fallen angel sent to kill him. She succeeds, but luckily for our boob-loving friend, Issei happened to catch the eye of not a guardian angel—but a guardian devil. Rias Gremory, a high-class devil, decides to save Issei’s life, but, in return, he must serve as her Pawn.

As Issei begins working as a devil, he discovers a mysterious power he was born with. It is the power of the Red Dragon Emperor, a mighty force capable of multiplying his ability. With it, he decides that his dream is to become a harem king, and under the Gremory name, he battles stray devils, exorcists, priests, devils, holy swordsmen, fallen angels, heroic figures, and even gods to make that dream a reality. But, it will be a long, difficult path to follow.


WHY I STRONGLY RECOMMEND WATCHING THE DUB:
Yes, I know. I’m a dub junkie. It’s really easy to sweep my opinion on the matter under the rug since I have such a heavy bias, but please, I’d almost beg anyone to watch the dub of this anime at some point. I cannot say how it compares to the sub because I’m not going to rewatch the series just for that sake. But there were some amazing things that I noticed as I watched this one.

First, it’s hard to give too much credit to Jamie Marchi’s skill. There is a reason she’s such a big name American voice actress. All the other lead characters were also fantastic, do not get me wrong. The reason I call to Jamie Marchi is because her effective star power really seems to garner attention. I’ve seen a comment on BTVA that says she did more justice to Rias Gremory than the original Japanese voice actress. I dunno about a statement like that, but I definitely agree that this was a character/actress matchup made in heaven (or the underworld, teehee). Her line delivery rarely disappoints, and the range and depth she gives both vocally and emotionally helps Rias shine.

But, of course, it’s not just Rias who shines. I have no complaints about any of the lead cast, even into Hero as the Gremory house continues to expand. Having watched subs before, I can see what character type the English dub team was going for with Koneko. It’s usually difficult to pull off that flat, monotone character because English utilizes a lot more pitch change than Japanese (especially considering that Japanese shares a lot in common with tonal languages and even has tones, from what I’m told by my friends studying the language.) Even with that bit of a barrier in place, Jad Saxton still manages to successfully pull it off.

The supporting cast also hits it out of the park, even with Issei’s two pervy friends who try way too hard to sound like a hip playa, yo. It’s such a high school thing to do—to puff yourself out like they do. It’s awkward and cringey, but in an intentional way. It really helps that there isn’t any attention drawn to it. They just kind of exist, and even the characters put them in their own stupid little bubble. It works.

Those are just a couple of named examples of bits of acting and directing that worked well, but there’s one other huge reason why the dub works as well as it does. The actors worked to their best, and what helps push them over the edge is simple. It’s the script. The translation team delivered some of the most natural flowing conversation I’ve heard like, ever. I’d argue that the script developed for this show works better than many scripts for shows originally written in English. I’m sure the original Japanese gave a lot to work with, so by no means am I implying that the sub is boring or anything like that. It’s just that some parts of the dub were so memorable because of the direction they took with writing the lines. There was even a reference to the Tide Pod challenge in Hero (the fourth season). At points, it felt like a well done abridged series joke—except that it was completely legit and canon.

I think what really makes the script pop to me is when I hear the characters talking casually with each other, it actually sounds like how my friends and I talk. Yeah, we’re a rather vulgar lot. It was kind of a breath of fresh air to hear so much casual swearing and all the hilarious and out-there nicknames for boobs they come up with. Normally if there’s swearing in an anime dub, at least in the ones I’ve seen, it’s relatively sanitized and kept to a minimum except in crucial, high-emotion moments. With DxD, though, a swear will slip into conversation and it’s made out to be normal. And I, for one, appreciate the hell out of it. I didn’t really think much of how little swearing I hear in most dubs until I heard how much was in DxD (which is still a far cry from how frequently I swear, but I understand that there’s limited time to get a lot done). I suppose it could be a turn-off for some people, but, I mean, if someone can’t handle referring to breasts as knockers and milkjugs and all the words usually hidden under asterisks, then I don’t think they could handle the amount of boobage and perversity in the show anyway. I think that’s why they were able to get away with it, really. The language matched the content. And it was honestly incredible.

And after a quick look back on BTVA, I learned that the voice directors for all four seasons are pretty well established voice actors and voice directors, so that explains a heck of a lot. Clearly this was just a blessed project from the beginning.


CONCEPT: THE RATING GAME/THE HOUSE OF GREMORY
The Rating Game is a game played by devils and their households as a show of strength and is used to determine ranks of devils based on power and ability. It is how the current devil kings achieved their status, as opposed to inheriting power through a bloodline.

What interests me most about the Rating Game is that it introduces a fundamental power dynamic among devil households. One who begins collecting pieces in their household is assigned the rank of king within that group, and may collect up to the number and type of pieces as in the board game of chess: eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and one queen. These are not an exact measure of each piece’s ability, but rather a way to typify one’s battle position. Where the power dynamic comes into play is that, as far as the anime has demonstrated, the other pieces all serve the king. That is, the king piece is usually a higher class devil and the other pieces are that devil’s subordinates or servants.

Through the series, it is pointed out that Rias’s team has a great strength because she treats her household like family. She in some fashion saved each of her pieces’ lives when she made them into a devil and gave them a new purpose. Because of that, they all love, respect, and serve her with all their hearts.

What makes me so eager to point this out is due in large part to my BDSM background. “Household” is not exclusively a BDSM term, but in the case of the Gremory household serving Rias, I’d say the shoe fits. There are some times that it doesn’t appear to be a perfect fit, but generally speaking Rias makes an okay domme. Every single time she has a one on one with her any of her servants and she says something about how she’s proud of them, or even when she’s scolding them, I felt that. The example that comes to mind first is when Issei convinces Saji and Koneko to join him in helping out Kiba, who has run off, even though it goes against a direct order from Rias. When Rias discovers this, unlike Sona, the first thing she does is make it clear how glad she is that everyone turned out okay. It then turns into a comedic moment when she turns the situation into a proper punishment of the same vein as Sona, but as Issei prepares for punishment, Koneko steps in and demands to take half the punishment since she did not stop him. Rias agrees to give her one spank, and it is a light one. She then explains that she believes it was a fair punishment because of how Koneko stepped up and recognized her fault. She then proceeded to give Isseei the other 999 spankings. Exaggeration of the number of spankings aside, it was a really tender moment for me. I looked at that and went, “Wow, that was extraordinarily well done from the perspective of a dom.” Not to say that Sona’s methods were less valid by any means. Her relationship with her household is different. Rias, being more “family” oriented, gives off a pretty big “Mama” vibe to me. And, to quote her own mother, “It’s only kinky if you say Mommy.”

That joke reminds me of another thing. Part of what makes the whole dynamic beautiful to me is that it’s not one of the things that’s played up for kink and fanservice. It isn’t really suggested that the other boys are secretly in love with Rias, nor is it implied that she romantically loves them either. The girls, in fact, all seem to have romantic interest in Issei as opposed to their Master, so much so that Rias begins to have difficulty getting control of them and making them realize that he is her property. Furthermore, Issei doesn’t really know what to do with his feelings because of the M/S dynamic, and in later seasons struggles with recognizing that Rias is in love with him because he wonders if that could even happen, let alone if it would be appropriate.

So, while that might just be a me thing, I don’t see why I shouldn’t bring it up. I’m ecstatic that it’s just something that’s there, and I’m glad that it’s not a forced conversation. If someone doesn’t want to think about dom/sub stuff too much, they don’t have to. It can be seen as a convenient “people listen to people with power” plot device and nothing deeper. But for those who do look at it that way, it’s not an awful depiction. It’s leagues above other instances of power dynamics I’ve encountered. So much so that it’s…kinda wholesome, really. It warms my heart, and I did not expect that from an ecchi show where a guy develops powers to blow the clothes off a girl if he touches them and the ability to talk to boobs. It was a pleasant little surprise, so I had to bring it up.


CONCEPT: THE SHOUNEN “GET STRONGER” FORMULA
Let me start this off by saying that I do not personally feel that a formula, on its own, makes a show good or bad. Formulas, archetypes, tropes, or whatever you call them, are just tools for a creative team to work with. Inevitably, everything has them. Now, I wanted to address this formula as it is used in the second half of the fourth season in particular, because that is when it really struck me as an outstanding use of it.

After the mid-season finale in Hero, the Gremory household prepares for the rating game against the underworld’s number one young devil with whom they already have an established rivalry. It’s a typical formula. Good guy finds rival. Rival beats his ass. Good guy trains a lot, maybe learns a new skill. Big fight happens. Good guy defeats rival, usually by unlocking some new ability. Yup, that’s the second half of the fourth season in a nutshell. But, I wanted to draw out the values pumped into this equation that really made the outcome so favorable.

First, the rival was a well-developed character with realistic stakes. I’d hesitate to even call him a bad guy or an antagonist. Sairaorg is fighting because his physical strength is all he has. He was cast out of his high class family for not having enough demonic power. If he comes out as number one, he can show the whole underworld that his family was wrong and that he’s valid. That makes you really wanna root for him, despite the main characters being in the Gremory household, not the Bael one. Even so, Sairaorg himself tells Issei in their first unofficial battle that he wants Issei to get stronger. He wants the best fight possible to ensure that he will be accepted as a devil. This is a huge contrast to other fights the Gremory household has been in. The stakes are totally different. Sure, there are recurring characters like Vali who want Issei to get stronger and all that, but it’s Sairaorg’s motivation that puts him a prime cut above the rest. Like I said, his motivation is realistic and sympathetic.

If the first point is stakes, the second point is power scale. When Issei and Sairaorg first fight, Issei can barely keep up. Later, when Sairaorg faces off against three members of the Gremory house in a three on one, he takes huge hits and still wins with relative ease. When he does face off against Issei in the final match of the Rating Game, the announcer says something along the lines of that it was like a schoolyard fistfight, except there’s no teacher to break it up and each punch could explode a normal person’s skull. I’m not one for exaggerated physical violence and explosions and people being launched into huge craters and all that, but it had me hype. And it’s not just Sairaorg. Issei struggles with his power and, after being knocked unconscious, has to surpass the negative emotions of all (most?) of the previous holders of the Red Dragon Emperor’s power to get back up and fight harder. That’s multiple lifetimes worth of pain, rage, and determination to overcome. But, anything for tig ol’ biddies, am I right?

There were probably multiple other factors that contributed to how rewarding the final battle was to watch. Either way, for a grand finale, it was virtually flawless in execution. I say virtually because anything can have room for improvement. Not that I’d know what that could be here. I was on the edge of my seat, engaged, and even screaming at the screen (although I admit, I may have been ingesting my drug bread juice, aka beer, and that might have something to do with the screaming). Even after binging the whole series in less than a week, I will still hype. When everything started wrapping up, it was a nice closure to the huge crescendo that comes from that shounen formula. That doesn’t normally happen to me with long series. I get bored of fights easily. That’s why I’m not big on most shounen to begin with. All in all, that’s just more proof that DxD succeeded in making good use of the formula.


THE CHARACTERS:
This review is gonna be over 3k words so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

My favorite main characters are Rias, Issei, Akeno, Xenovia, Gasper, and Rossweisse. My favorite side characters are Sona and Kuroka. That’s probably all y’all really wanted to know, let’s be real.

Rias is not quite but sorta dom goals. Loving, yet firm.

Issei is a pretty okay guy, and he recognizes when he’s being a dickweed, which is an astoundingly rare skill. I realize looking back on Reset that there are a lot of similarities between how I write as the character Mahlua and how Issei presents himself. It was totally unintentional; I only just now watched High School DxD.

Akeno has an attractive attitude. I could go for her being less uppity towards her master, but perfection is hard to obtain. She also vaguely reminds me of Saeko from HOTD, but in a good way. I need more delightful sadists.

Xenovia is…admittedly pretty stupid. But, not in an annoying bimbo kind of way. Once she starts going more for what she wants, she becomes a lot more enjoyable.

GASPER MY PRECIOUS CHILD COME HERE SWEETIE I PROMISE I’LL KEEP THE SCARY MEAN PEOPLE AWAY YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD BOY AND I LOVE YOU. (Ahem.) He’s adorable, and I can kinda relate to some aspects of the social anxiety. It makes me wanna be there for him and celebrate his victories.

Rossweisse. *Takes deep breath and makes the meme “boi” gesture.* Rossweisse.

Sona has that stern student council president trope going for her. Well put together. I can appreciate that.

Kuroka is an interesting character on top of being a hot cat girl. Wanting her sister back isn’t all that awful, although the things she does otherwise are. Also the holder of one of the greatest lines in the dub. “Yes, you still taste like a virgin.”


OVERALL:
High School DxD was a fun trip for me, and a great way for me to relax and get some stress out of my system. It also has great meme quality for me to quote it at my friends and watch them suffer. “Suck on them titties~” has become a phrase among my roommates and myself. The characters are excellent, the dub is one of the best I’ve heard, and somehow it inspired me to be a better dom to my subs.

RATING:
9.5 out of 10
Because unfortunately nothing is perfect and there are some minor flaws I didn’t discuss.
"It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure."--Marquis de Sade
But yes hello I am the freakier freak than you.