Devils And Realist Collection (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 300 minutes approx.
Release Date: September 23rd
Heaven and Hell – the ultimate in yin and yang, black and white, Leave and Remain! By dint of how theologians have posited these stark opposite concepts as totemic of the battle between good and evil, there is no ambiguity as to which is the preferred destiny for those of a pious nature. But what if the stakes were reversed?
In an alternate Victorian England, 17 year-old William Twining is the top student at his school, befitting of his status as the progeny of a wealthy aristocrat, until his family goes bankrupt and William can no longer afford his tuition fees. In trying to find something that could be sold off, William and his loyal servant Kevin break down the basement door of the family home.
William cuts his hand in the process, unaware that a magic circle has been drawn on the floor, which a drop of William’s blood activates, summoning a demon, Dantalion, Grand Duke of Hell. Dantalion informs William Lucifer is trapped in a slumber and an interim ruler of hell is needed, and as an Elector, William can appoint Dantalion in the role. But William is a “realist” and doesn’t believe in theology and refuses to accept anything Dantalion says.
Given the title and the basic premise of the opening episode, one might be inclined to suspect Devils And Realist will centre on another age old conflict of science vs. religion, since book smart William is of the opinion anything can be proved by science, the basic concepts of demonology and divinity holds no truck with him, though he is not outright labelled an atheist for this.
But, this is anime, and like so many shows before and no doubt still to come, much of these core ideas are quietly shuffled into the background as we go, denying us a rare and intelligent discussion on this subject from a country where Christianity is largely a non-factor. At this point, regular readers (both of you) might expect me to bemoan the presence of lazy tropes, fan service and other typical distractions that blight many a promising show.
This is where Devils And Realist differs in its guilt in abrogating its duty towards the juicy premise for mainstream consumption. Whilst William maintains his dismissal of all things fantastic, there are no heated discussions on the subject nor does Dantalion try in vain to persuade William otherwise – at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, the show is built around other demons wanting William’s nominated for the role of interim ruler of Hell, leading to an almighty (pardon the pun) clash with the angels of Heaven.
Based on the manga by Madoka Takadono and Utako Yukihiro, the main conceit is the role reversal of the protagonist/antagonist with the demons ending up the “good guys” as corrupt angels seek to destroy William, thus Dantalion and friends assume the roles of his protectors. The school setting means Dantalion gets to hide in plain sight, posing as – what else? – a transfer student, though he is just the first.
William’s best friend Isaac Morton is an occult specialist and in trying to summon an angel to deal with Dantalion, he accidentally summons another demon, the androgynous Sytry, who fits the effete pretty boy trope in this saga. Then there is a demon general Camio, arriving under the pseudonym Nathan Caxton, a genius intent on defeating William in the academic stakes.
I should point out that this takes place an all boy’s boarding school, though the bishonen character designs are a giveaway. Whilst this doesn’t veer into shonen ai territory, the occasional frisson is teased but never acted upon, and to keep male viewers invested, a couple of female demons are suitably busty and scantily clad to ensure their testosterone isn’t compromised.
Some of you might have noticed the odd Biblical name crop up for the cast members which is no accident in lieu of the subject matter but typical of Japan’s need to compensate for their own lack of knowledge by being too eager to appear clued in. Taking this a step further, the backbone of the plot once things pick up revolves around a ring William regards as a family heirloom but others know as a source of dangerous power.
As it is never initially explained why William is an Elector, the importance and relevance of this ring adds to the mystery, whist the truth behind Kevin’s hidden identity as an ordained priest invites further speculation, especially as there is still more to him than meets the eye. If this show can claim anything, it is that there is no shortage of ideas on display, though not all are successful.
The source manga came to an end in 2018, five years after this anime adaptation aired on TV, meaning we not only get a bespoke ending but much of the content has been either omitted, re-jiggled or compromised to fit into a single cour run. The result is one of inconsistent tones, rushed narratives, and poor planning – for example, a filler episode appears just two before the end, just as tensions are reaching their peak.
Most of the main characters are fleshed out enough to be as interesting as the script will allow them to be, but as the peripheral cast grows and more factions are revealed, losing track of them is inevitable. Before long, we are inundated by mystical creatures and half-human deities with special powers on both sides of the underdeveloped Heaven vs. Hell conflict, making it hard to care who wins or loses.
I have to say, as an atheist, I was hoping for more from Devils And Realist but as an anime fan, I am not surprised we got the show that we did. By all accounts, the damage was done choosing an ongoing manga and cherry picking what to adapt, but unlike many similar shows working under this scenario, it could have been worse – heaven forbid!
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black