Fri Aug 23 2013 at 10:00 AM
"A war between heaven and hell is raging on Earth - and a hot mess of hormonal fury is raging in Issei's pants. The guy is dying to get some action. Which is funny, since his first date ever turns into a winged monster and tries to kill him. Fortunately, ridiculously curvy redhead Rias comes to his rescue. She's the president of The Occult Research Club, a club that doesn't actually research the occult. They are the occult - and Rias is a Devil. She takes Issei as a more-than-willing slave and begins training him to use magic in a battle against the Fallen Angels, the longtime enemies of Devils everywhere. If Issei can improve his mystical skills, he'll be able to help his hotter-than-hell master and her scorching supernatural schoolgirl friends defeat their foes. Even better, he might end up with a few sexy slaves of his own.
* Warning: This review contains spoilers *
High School DxD is an adaptation of a Japanese light novel series created by Ichiei Ishibumi that is still ongoing with 15 volumes so far. The protagonist Issei Hyodo is an extremely horny teenager who attends a former all-girls private school that recently became co-ed. Issei and his friends (Motohama and Matsuda) are known around the school as The Perverted Trio and all have no luck getting any girlfriends.
After being killed by a fallen angel in disguise on his first date ever Issei is revived by Rias Gremory; the most beautiful girl in school who is also secretly a top-class devil. Issei quickly embraces his new status as a devil when he learns he will constantly spend time with the most beautiful girls in school in The Occult Research Club (where all its members are devils) and if he works hard to increase his rank he could someday have his own peerage which he plans to turn into a harem. High-ranking devils that are given the rank of King are able to have a peerage of up to 15 members by reincarnating other beings into devils. The 15 members represent pieces of Chess so you have 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights and 8 Pawns. Each devil plays a specific role in a master's peerage and has their own unique power or ability.
The true purpose of The Occult Research Club is to serve the town's citizens who require a devil's services and also to protect the town from rogue fallen angels; who have no problems causing destruction in order to exterminate the devils who are their sworn enemies. Long ago there was a war between angels, fallen angels and devils with great casualties on all sides. Eventually there was a peace treaty but each faction is still very hostile towards each other.
Most ecchi anime rely solely on fanservice to keep a viewer's interest but High School DxD is one of the better shows of the genre that also has a well developed story and has a clear goal for the main character.
My favorite moments of High School DxD's story were the rating game between Rias Gremory's peerage vs. Riser Phoenix's peerage, Issei's and Riser's rematch fight, the quest for new familiars, and The Perverted Trio just hanging out and being themselves.
Issei Hyodo isn't like your average harem protagonist. In most harem shows the main character is usually a weak and boring guy who is nothing special and either has zero interest in girls or is being extremely indecisive about whom he wants to be with, yet all the attractive female characters are still madly in love with him. Issei on the other hand knows exactly want he wants. He wants his own harem of girls who'll worship and pleasure him. He loves boobs more than anything in the world and feels no shame when expressing his lust. Issei also has a backbone. He'll try to protect his comrades from harm, defend their honor and if someone is being a douchebag he'll let his opinion be known. His rank in Rias Gremory's peerage is a Pawn but he's fortunate to have the legendary sacred gear known as Boosted Gear; a gauntlet which holds the soul of the Welsh dragon Ddraig that grants the ability to double Issei's power every 10 seconds. It's been stated that this power is fully capable of even destroying a God so although Issei is still a new in-training devil he definitely has the potential to become a future powerhouse.
Rias Gremory isn't just eye candy. Yes she does sometimes use her beauty to her advantage but she can also be a strict master and is very protective of all her servants. She also has a playful nature and is caring, intelligent and rarely loses her composure so she's actually an interesting character. Rias is also one of the most powerful characters in the series who has the ability to annihilate her enemies with destructive demonic energy. Rias is President of The Occult Research Club, the King of her peerage, one of the last pure-blooded devils of a noble family and also has royalty status in the underworld being the younger sister of Lucifer.
Akeno Himejima is the Queen in Rias Gremory's peerage and is also her best friend. Like Rias she is also a very beautiful girl and popular at school. Akeno seems elegant and sweet but she's actually a huge sadist. Akeno is the second most powerful devil in The Occult Research Club after Rias. Her speciality is lightning attacks.
Koneko Tojo is a Rook in Rias Gremory's peerage and is the school's mascot. Koneko is a girl of few words and rarely shows any emotion. Despite her small body she has monstrous physical strength.
Yuto Kiba is one of the few male students at school and unlike The Perverted Trio he is very popular among girls. He is usually very upbeat and has a very caring personality. He is a Knight in Rias Gremory's peerage and is a very skilled swordsman who also has the ability to create numerous swords at his disposal.
Asia Argento is a former nun and has to be one of the kindest characters in this story's universe. She's very innocent and inexperienced about many things and she is a Bishop in Rias Gremory's peerage. Asia's ability is healing any injuries her friends and comrades receive.
Motohama and Matsuda are arguably even bigger perverts than Issei since he at least can show some occasional restraint. They are unaware that Issei and The Occult Research Club's members are all devils. They're extremely jealous of Issei's sudden good fortunate with girls and suspect he's actually blackmailing them.
There are lots of likable characters in the series but my top 5 are Rias, Issei, Akeno and Motohama & Matsuda.
The anime covers volumes 1 and 2 of the light novel series. I liked that the show had a satisfying conclusion but left the door open for a continuation. It is worth noting that not all anime adaptations are faithful to the original source material and the primary reason another season of episodes will be made at all depends on how many Blu-rays and DVDs are sold; obviously a show that doesn't make profit won't have more episodes made. However even if a show is profitable making another season can be challenging if the writers wrote an original ending that was never supposed to happen or created too many plot-holes and ruined the story's continuity. Fortunately High School DxD's crew made the wise decision to cover completed story arcs.
When rewatching anything (movie, TV show, cartoon or anime) I always pick up on hints, references and details I didn't notice the first time watching it. I was a bit surprised that the Japanese writing staff decided to name-drop and foreshadow certain characters like Azazel and Albion who don't actually appear until season 2. There was no guarantee of a season 2 during production of season 1 but the crew were obviously thinking long-term which I definitely approve of.
High School DxD has a lot of perverted humor that I thought was actually funny compared to other anime that try to be funny but aren't that successful. The universe of High School DxD is also very detailed. Devils, angels, fallen angels, dragons and Gods; all interesting subjects and the first season only scratched the surface.
High School DxD is one of Funimation's stronger English dubs for 2013. I had some pretty high expectations before rewatching the series in English and I'm glad I wasn't disappointed. You can usually expect Funimation to produce a quality English dub for most of their titles but their track record with ecchi/action type shows is especially strong like with Sekirei and Freezing. Any VAs who have worked on these types of shows before know what they're getting into and will expect.
English dub voices are never going to perfectly match the Japanese cast and in my opinion they shouldn't. The VAs should be focusing on giving their best acting performances and not imitations. Also important for me is whether or not the voice is a good fit for the character's appearance and personality even if it is well acted.
Jamie Marchi as Rias Gremory was my favorite performance in the dub.
Scott Freeman as Issei Hyodo was one of the highlights of the dub. Scott sounds great for scenes with comedy, fights and emotional drama. All around great performance and Issei is a good example of his vocal range for a teenager.
Teri Rogers sounds a bit youthful as Akeno Himejima but her acting and energy were good; overall a nice debut for a rookie VA.
Jad Saxton's voice for Koneko Tojo might be a bit more mature sounding than some fans might have expected but it fits the character's personality.
Sean O'Connor also had a solid debut as a rookie VA for Yuto Kiba and was likable.
Chloe Daniels was adorable as Asia Argento. She perfectly captured the character's personality.
High School DxD's dub is well acted, entertaining and is a fresh viewing experience that breaks out of the mold Funimation had created in recent years where the same core group of people were often used for almost every dub and the VAs were still being typecast.
The English dub for High School DxD was recorded at Funimation in Flower Mound, Texas and the ADR Director was Colleen Clinkenbeard.
Colleen Clinkenbeard has been directing a lot more dubs in recent years and while she still voice acts often (but mostly for ongoing series and reprisals) it seems at this point she's definitely a full-time ADR Director. High School DxD is Colleen's first real ecchi anime and I'm glad that she put together another quality English dub like most of her past projects. Any ADR Director will say they always give 110% but sometimes it's still very noticeable in some dubs that there was a lack of enthusiasm or interest.
Colleen's English cast was comprised of only a few veterans and experienced VAs for significant characters. Majority of the cast were either brand new VAs or VAs who have only been around for a few years so they may not be that well known among fans that are only familiar with the usual regulars in Funimation talent pool.
While some fans might feel uneasy about a lot of new or lesser known VAs being used I have no major issue with the decision as long as they give a good performance and their voice fits the character. Not every dub can be packed with big names and there need to be some opportunities to nurture new talent once in a while.
Would I have preferred some bigger names to be cast for the supporting roles? Sure, but there's always season 2 which introduces a new crop of characters.
Am I satisfied with the performances from the newer VAs? Yes. I thought they were pretty good and have a promising future in anime dubbing.
Scott Freeman voicing Issei and Jamie Marchi voicing Rias were both fantastic casting choices and my personal favorites. They completely embraced their characters and Colleen brought out superb performances from them.
Christopher Smith who works primarily in L.A. has been appearing in a lot of Funimation dubs recently and Riser is one of his bigger roles. Good to see he's moving up in the dub industry and getting more opportunities.
I'm also very happy that there almost no pseudonyms used in this dub compared to other ecchi dubs that share similar mature content and have lots of VAs overreacting about how potential clients or people they know will suddenly view their reputation in a negative way. I suppose a possible explanation was Colleen made most her cast very comfortable and didn't make the show's nudity a huge concern to worry about.
Jamie Marchi is no stranger to dubs with lots of ecchi and is often cast in this genre. Some franchises she's worked on are Sekirei, Freezing, Heaven's Lost Property, Rosario+Vampire and Strike Witches. Her voice is an excellent fit for this genre and perhaps it's safe to say that if she isn't cast then the dub will feel incomplete. Jamie has always voiced a notable supporting character in several fanservice franchises so it was about time she finally voiced the lead female character in a brand new franchise. Jamie Marchi has often been typecast as sassy characters so a different character type like Rias Gremory is a welcome change of pace. Voicing Rias gave Jamie the opportunity to flex her vocal range. Most of the time Rias is very subdued but there are also bursts of anger, seductive moments and an important crying scene. Jamie was great in all these scenes and her performance was always a highlight whenever she spoke. Even though each VA records separately for anime dubs, her chemistry with Scott Freeman's Issei also felt very believable. Jamie Marchi's voice is a perfect fit for Rias Gremory and I think this role is one of her best performances in her very prolific dubbing career.
"My name is Rias Gremory and I'm a devil. Not only that but I'm your master too, you're mine now. Nice to meet you Issei Hyodo." - Rias Gremory
You will notice a good chunk of the budget was used for the fanservice scenes which are very detailed. Animation studio TNK did a fantastic job with the animation. The colors are very appealing and the female character designs are very attractive especially for Rias and Akeno. The show was animated in high definition so the Blu-rays are 1080p and Funimation's Blu-rays are HD native.
Music / Sound
High School DxD has a solid soundtrack. Some of the more memorable pieces of music for me were:
- "Shinsou no, Ojousama desu" also known as "Is a Princess"
- "Watashi no tame ni, Ikinasai" also known as "for me"
- "Utsukushiku, Akai" also known as "Beautiful, Red"
The opening theme song "Trip -innocent of D-" by Larval Stage Planning is pretty catchy and fitting for the slightly more serious tone of the show. I like it enough that if I was in no rush to watch an episode I wouldn't skip it.
The ending theme song "STUDYxSTUDY" by StyilpS is even catchier and is fitting for the fun, carefree feel of the series. I also wouldn't skip it if I was in no rush to finish an episode but another reason to not skip it is for the creative pole dancing animation sequence which complements the song very nicely.
The Japanese broadcast (excluding the premium Japanese channel AT-X) and Funimation's simulcast streams of the series censored any nudity but these DVDs and Blu-rays are uncensored. The Japanese audio track and English subtitles are as usual also included.
(For those who prefer to stream anime instead Funimation also has the episodes uncensored for Elite Video Subscribers on their website)
There are 2 DVDs and 2 Blu-rays each with their own separate case with the limited edition set. All 12 episodes and special features are includes for both formats. The limited edition set also includes an artbox to hold your cases.
The artwork on the front of the artbox is an image of Issei, Rias, Akeno, Asia and Koneko. On the back is an image of Rias and Issei. On half of the artbox's spine is an image of Rias in a seductive pose. Artwork for the cases is even racier. The cover for the DVD case is an image of Rias on the front and Asia on the back; both only partially clothed. Also on the back cover are a list of the episodes and a list of the extras. The reverse side of the DVD case cover is an image of a naked Rias but covered up in certain areas. The cover for the Blu-ray case has an image of Asia and Koneko on the front and just Koneko on the back. The back of the Blu-ray case also includes a list of the episodes and a list of the extras. The reverse side of the Blu-ray case cover is an image of Akeno and Asia both in their underwear. The artwork for all 4 discs has the same image of Rias from the artbox's spine.
Funimation has included some great bonus material for High School DxD.
There are commentaries for Episode 1 and Episode 7. Episode 1 has commentary provided by Jamie Marchi (voice of Rias Gremory and writer of the English adaptation), Teri Rogers (voice of Akeno Himejima) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Raynare). Episode 7 has commentary provided by Jad Saxton (voice of Koneko Tojo), Scott Freeman (voice of Issei Hyodo) and Tyson Rinehart (voice of Matsuda).
In Japan High School DxD was sold across 6 DVD/Blu-rays volumes and each of those volumes included a 3 minute animated short. Funimation has included all 6 shorts but unfortunately these shorts aren't dubbed which is a shame because Funimation had been very consistent with dubbing shorts like for Freezing and Princess Jellyfish last year; the former which had content just as raunchy as High School DxD.
Funimation also didn't include the 2 bonus episodes which were released separately from the TV series in Japan, but there's a good chance based on past history with other shows that these episodes will be included when Funimation eventually releases season 2 on home video in the future.
Japanese promos and trailers for the series that were part of its marketing campaign for the broadcast are also included. Funimation also included English trailers for other anime titles are that coming out soon or are already available for purchase on home video. There are also clean versions (without text credits) of the opening and closing theme songs.
Funimation's DVDs are playable for region code 1, 2 and 4 and Funimation's Blu-rays are playable for region code A and B.
High School DxD is an excellent title for fans who crave fanservice and those looking for a new guilty pleasure. Those on the fence shouldn't be discouraged by the nudity because this show has much more than just that. Great action, lots of humor, likable characters and a strong English dub.
High School DxD is a series I will definitely rewatch multiple times and I look forward to Funimation's future release of High School DxD New.