High School DxD Complete Series Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 285 minutes approx.
When the first words out of the mouth of main protagonist Issei Hyodo are “I wanna squeeze some boobies” a sense of resignation and futility overcomes the viewer, alerting them to the fact that pretty much everything we need to know about this series has been exposed in this opening line.
The next few minutes, in which his Kouh Academy classmate Motohama is able to discern, with alarming if oddly impressive accuracy, the body measurements of every girl they encounter just from sight, followed by a cheeky homage the peep hole shower scene from classic raunchy 80’s sex comedy Porky’s, seek to reaffirm this show’s status as another shameless ecchi comedy where nudity, fan service and general prurience are the principle factors of its – for wanting a better term – appeal.
However this is what writer Takao Yoshioka, who adapted this anime from the light novels of Ichiei Ishibumi, wants us to believe – although this is still 95% boobs and bawdiness – as something akin to a story eventually surfaces. Issei is inexplicably approached by a shy girl from class, Yuma Amano, who asks him on a date, which he giddily accepts.
Everything seems to go well until they come to the awkward first kiss moment when Yuma suddenly asks Issei if he would die for her and stabs him through the stomach. It turns out Yuma was in fact a Fallen Angel called Raynare but fear not, Issei was saved and healed by the school’s untouchable red headed idol Rias Gremory.
You see, Rias is a demon and they don’t get along with Fallen Angels; in fact that are bitter enemies but Issei was of particular interest to both sides as he possesses a latent power within him called Sacred Gear which enables him to wield a weapon called a Dragon Arm. Rias therefore forced Issei to enter into a pact with her to become her slave and a member of her team of busty babes (natch) who must do battle against a rival demon sect the Phoenix Clan (also largely busty babes), in a conflict called the Rating Game.
Once the story of the warring demon clans and the supernatural aspect of fending off the Fallen Angles begins in earnest, the temptation to admonish oneself for dismissing this as another low brow soft-porn boobfest series rears its head on a few occasions but old habits die hard, and the bawdy material remains detrimentally obfuscating to what could have been.
It’s a common issue with ecchi anime that is unlikely to change as long as there is a demand for it, but for now some of us remain banging our heads against the wall as to why a potentially interesting story can’t be left to be told sex free.
A case in point comes early in the run when Issei meets a young nun named Asia Argento (yes, the same name as the Italian actress and daughter of renowned horror film maker Dario). Putting aside that she is a cute busty blonde (expecting something else?) Issei notices her loneliness and genuinely befriends her in an act of altruism and not out of lust.
After saving Asia from her abusive master, vile exorcist Freed Sellzen and from being sacrificed by a returning Raynare, Issei pleads for Rias to take Asia in as another members of the group – despite the eternal conflict between the church and demons – which Rias finally agrees to.
Alas this apparent change of attitude towards the fairer gender is not a permanent adjustment for Issei as he is back to dreaming of boobs, underwear and other salacious thoughts in the next episode, not helped by Asia moving in with him! Cue the usual harem misunderstandings about using the bathroom, skimpy clothing, tripping over each other, you know the drill.
And if that isn’t enough Rias spends most of her time in the shower so Issei has little choice of copping an eyeful; neither is he to be blamed when Rias appears in his room one night begging him to take her virginity.
Believe it or not, that last development is actually congruent to the plot that arises in the second half of the series when the Phoenix Clan, fronted by Riser Phoenix who is betrothed to Rias although she is less that thrilled about this development. Riser shows up with his bevy of beauties to wage war on the Gremory Clan which finally beings the show long chess theme into play.
All the players represent pieces on the board (Rias naturally being the queen) and while the tactics of the game itself aren’t exactly employed here the worth of the pieces and their abilities on the board is replicated by the powers of the players. Issei, if you hadn’t guessed, is a pawn.
Despite the presence of a passable story and exciting and well animated battle sequences, it really is hard to get past the sexual content which unfortunately isn’t all light hearted frivolity and often downright creepy and lascivious. As mentioned earlier, Asia is treated roughly by Freed, needlessly stripped and beaten, later to be sacrificed in an S&M type deal.
Riser also thinks nothing of his harem of girls, groping and slobbering over them with equal disdain and perverse glee. There is nudity in the opening credits and even the intertitles feature the girls in questionable poses. And the Japanese wonder why they have such a tawdry reputation?
This brings me to whether High School DxD is a title worthy of recommendation. The answer is yes and no for very obvious and different reasons. Ecchi fans for whom uncensored animated boobs, smutty comedy and innuendo are manna from heaven will be more than accommodated by the content on offer; anyone looking for a good story will have to contend to wallow through the smut to get their satisfaction.
It’s unquestionably a well made show but clearly not for everyone, but seemingly popular enough for a sequel to have been made.
Dolby True HD: English 5.1
Dolby True HD: Japanese 2.0
Episode 1 Commentary
Episode 7 Commentary
Fantasy Jiggle Unleashed Vols 1-6
Fantasy Full-Blast Gentleman’s Disc Club Promos 1-3
Textless Opening Song “Trip Innocent Of D”
Textless Closing Song “Study x Study”
Rating – ***
Man In Black