The Demon Girl Next Door (Cert 12)

2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 302 minutes approx.

Release Date: February 8th

Puberty! We’ve all been there – going to bed one night as a smooth skinned, worry free callow teenager, then wake up the next morning with horns growing out of our heads and long tail protruding from the base of our spines. Wait, what?

15 year-old Yuko Yoshida, a personable but physically feeble schoolgirl living with sister Ryoko and mother Seiko, dreams that an ancestor appears to her declaring she must free the family from its curse by defeating a magical girl. When Yuko awakes, she discovers newly grown horns and a tail. Seiko reveals the family are descendants of the Dark Clan, put under a curse by the Light Clan which has left them in poverty.

Now Yuko is of age, she must defeat a magical girl from the Light Clan to lift the curse and restore the dark clan to its former glory. But where will she find a magical girl? As it happens there is one at her school, Momo Chiyoda, revealing herself when she saves Yuko from being run over. Despite her gratitude, the newly monikered Shadow Mistress Yuko challenge Momo but is clearly outclassed, so Momo offers to train Yuko and unlock her dormant powers, and an unusual friendship blooms.

You can tell The Demon Girl Next Door is based on a four-panel manga strip by the way the central premise of Yuko’s face-saving, victory-chasing quest is covered inside the first five minutes of the opening episode. Seiko’s info dump is dropped matter-of-factly with a haste rarely seen in anime, allowing the story to take off immediately rather than drag out the agony of Yuko’s dramatic transformation from ordinary girl to demon.

Creator Izumo Ito has a cheeky sense of humour, playing fast and loose with the tropes and genre conventions to get great mileage out of spoofing them without actually being a parody. By the end of the first episode, you wonder if this level of incisive satire and manic silliness can sustain a twelve episode run, but not only does it achieve this but it ends on an open note that demands the upcoming second season.

Because of how Seiko trots out her devastating family secrets with amusing nonchalance before resuming making breakfast, the tone is set for the fast paced zaniness that is to follow, but there are actually many hidden depths to the characterisations as the show progresses. Yuko was a sickly child and despite being upbeat is hopeless with physical activities, making the idea of her being the saviour of the dark clan a joke in itself.

Momo is a quiet, introverted girl, with pink hair and talks in a whisper, claiming to be one of the weaker magical girls despite her fame for saving the world. Resembling Madoka once she has transformed, there is a cute gag in which a timer appears to record how long it take Momo to transform, measuring in hundredths of a second, a great riff on time standing still when they change in the midst of a crisis.

Even with her superior strength, Momo doesn’t want to fight, seemingly disinterested in being a magical girl, which may explain her willingness to train Yuko. On the other hand, with her clan’s honour and future at stake, Yuko has to take this more seriously, but is hampered by her physical limitations and lack of aggression. She is spurred on by her ancestor Lilith, who transfers herself into a statue to communicate with Yuko, but she too falls foul of the vagaries of life to experience her own comic adventures.

Through the unorthodox training sessions, which results in Yuko being financially debt to Momo, the pair bond over “normal” activities, their clashing personalities allowing each other to grow and mature as people. Younger sister Ryoko becomes a catalyst for this friendship giving Momo further outlets to open up to people, whilst another magical girl, Mikan arrives late in the run to help out when Momo is taken ill.

As much as this sounds like a panoply of clichés hidden beneath a kawaii aesthetic and astute comedy, it is the self-awareness of being just that which makes this how work better than it should. Yuko is cute through her sheer energy and naivety, but mostly for the exuberant reactions to everything. Always ready with a quip, Yuko is the narrator of her own journey, saying with the audience is thinking, which helps with the lampooning jokes, like her complaint against the skimpy demon costume Lilith creates for her.

Whilst the magical girl premise receives this welcome pastiche treatment, the story is advanced across these twelve episodes, albeit subtly at times given the vignette feel of the narrative and occasional extraneous distractions. However, the comedy comes thick and fast with the entertainment success rate much higher than you might expect. This is where pushing clichés to their apex proves a canny tactic as they serve to enhance the goofiness with a straight face that hints at the knowingness of how silly it all is.

J.C Staff handles the production, rendering everything in vivid colours and boasting detailed backgrounds, and revelling in the freedom the humour affords them, filling the screen with all manners of effects and affectations to make the jokes work. There is a very energetic performance from seiyuu Konomi Kohara as Yuko, carrying the show like a vocal dynamo and making Yuko such an endearing zero to hero character to follow.

How much you enjoy The Demon Girl Next Door depends on how accepting you towards the final episode, which ends as just the story is about to peak. With the second season yet to surface, it is less an enticing cliffhanger and more a frustrating abrupt halt that leaves one feeling slightly cheated to finish without a proper conclusion. So, we have to hope Yuko and friends’ anarchic moe charm is infectious enough for this release to be the start of something people will want to see more of.

 

Extras:

English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA

Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA

English Subtitles

Disc 2 Only:

Clean Opening Animation

Clean Closing Animation

The Demon Girl Next Door Minis

Disc Credits

Trailers

 

Rating – *** 

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