The Summer 2018 Anime Preview Guide Drop Kick on my Devil!
How would you rate episode 1 of
Drop Kick on my Devil! ?
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How was the first episode?
Dropkick on My Devil! offers our second “idiots being terrible to each other” comedy of the season, following up on the very strong Asobi Asobase. Unfortunately, while Asobi Asobase succeeds through its novel jokes, energy, and visual creativity, Drop Kick mostly just flounders. This isn't the worst premiere I've watched this season, but it certainly didn't give me any reason to want more.
The most noteworthy thing about Drop Kick is likely its extremely retro character designs. Jashin, Yurine, and their other friends all have eyes and facial shapes that harken back to the heady days of ultra-sharp '90s and early '00s designs, making this show feel like an odd blast from the past. The comedy also supports this impression - Drop Kick pretty much entirely relies on slapstick ultraviolence as its central joke, a style that most anime comedies have frankly evolved past. And once you get past the slapstick ultraviolence, there is very little here - basically just a bunch of fourth wall breaking jokes, which wear out their welcome before the episode is a quarter done.
The problem with Drop Kick may be that it is tonally splitting the difference between slice of life and slapstick comedy, but lacks any of the warmth or character appeal to succeed as a slice of life at all. While Drop Kick's premise echoes successful comedies like Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid and Gabriel DropOut, those shows understood that most comedies are improved by the audience actually caring about their characters. If you take the opposite route, like Asobi Asobase does, your show's appeal hangs entirely on the success of your jokes in the abstract - and Drop Kick only has a couple jokes that it continuously repeats very loudly. If you watched any four minutes of this episode, you could probably summarize the rest of it purely through context - “Drop Kick does its one joke in the context of a birthday party, Drop Kick does its one joke in the context of a hot pot,” etcetera.
If you're pining for the abrasive tone and pointy designs of anime's comedic Dark History, or find ultraviolence and fourth wall gags extremely funny, maybe give Drop Kick a shot. Otherwise, this one's an easy skip.
If nothing else, I admire Dropkick on My Devil!'s unrepentant commitment to torturing its serpentine protagonist, Jishan. Over the course of just twenty-two minutes, the deceptively stoic Yurine sees to it that Jishan is paralyzed via crowbar beating, sliced into mincemeat by a chainsaw, bound and electrocuted, and sliced apart to be grilled in a hotpot not once, but twice. The show plays up the ultraviolence with an appropriately demented glee, too. Jishan may be our devilish heroine, but Drop Kick makes it very clear that we're supposed to be deriving as much schadenfreude from Jishan's suffering as Yurine does, and call me depraved, but it is pretty funny seeing all of the horrible ways Jishan can be dismembered and mutilated in the span of a half-hour.
Outside of that appeasement to the viewer's inner gore-hound, there isn't much left for Dropkick on My Devil!. After the first hotpot hangout segment, which runs a bit too long in my humble opinion, the dynamics of the main cast are already well laid out. Jishan is an evil terror, Yurine makes sure Jishan receives her karmic punishment, Medusa is too sweet to resist Jishan's bullying, and the fallen angel Pekola is essentially just there to be a pathetic punching bag. I'm honestly not sure what function Minos serves in the ensemble just yet, but she seems pleasant enough. Really, though, the show's sitcom dynamics are so set in classic sitcom tropes that the humor of the cast's back-and-forth is merely okay; Drop Kick only truly springs to life when Jishan is being mauled, maimed, or otherwise eviscerated. There are a couple of fun meta gags as well, with my favorite being the way Jishan messes with her own pixilation to try and get the drop on Yurine.
Still, there can only be so many variations of the same joke before it gets a little tired, whether it be after one episode or halfway through the season. The true test of Dropkick on My Devil!'s staying power will be whether it can summon the creative energy to keep its gags coming bloody and fresh for an entire summer. The show is well animated, and the character designs are fun, so it isn't a chore to look at, but I can't help but suspect that the series fundamental lack of depth could be its undoing. I'm all for reveling in gory nonsense as a palette cleanser, but Dropkick on My Devil! is going to need to flex its creative muscles a little more if it wants to continue to stand out.
Imagine a version of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid where Kobayashi is evil and Tohru hates her so much that she wants to splatter Tohru's guts all over the apartment, and you have at least some idea of what this series is like. The first episode firmly establishes it as a madcap gag strip-style series where the incompetent protagonist is always getting thwarted in her lame-brained efforts and violently punished for it.
Of course, that means this first episode is so graphic that the censoring used to cover the worst of it is a joke unto itself. When Janshin hogs all the meat at a hot pot event, Yurine chops up her tail for a replacement. (It regenerates.) When Janshin tries to kill Yurine with a crowbar, Yurine delivers a spine-cracking whack with it instead and then reduces Janshin to mincemeat with a chainsaw. Janshin then only pretends to be censored to mask how much she's recovered to set up the next scheme, and so forth. It's the kind of bloody fun that needs to continually escalate in creativity to keep it from getting old. This first episode isn't uproariously funny on the level of Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, but at least it gets the spirit right.
The humor isn't all about the two of them, either. The angel Pekola is also promising, though more for her visual design than how she acts. She's drawn in Puritan-style clothing and usually depicted with a gloomy look suggestive of being perpetually starved, and of course there's got to be some funny backstory behind how she ended up without a halo in the company of devils. By comparison, the horn-sporting, cow-clad Minos is just there (she gets in one good joke about cannibalism at least), and the timid Medusa probably has some running joke behind why she's dressed like an ancient Egyptian princess. The bag she wears over her head when outside the apartment presumably has something to do with her deadly stare.
The artistry for the episode isn't great, but gag-comic material doesn't need to look top-caliber to be funny; in fact, it's probably best that it doesn't. Its opener and closer also do amusing jobs of promoting the basic story. The one frustrating aspect is that there's no explanation for how this motley crew got assembled; this episode feels more like it should be a third or fourth episode instead of a first. Still, the concept holds enough potential to be darkly funny if you don't mind the graphic aspect.
Violent comedy has never been my favorite style of humor, and unfortunately for me, Drop Kick my Devil seems to combine that with my other least favorite, mean humor. The humor relies on a strange mix of fourth-wall breaking, physical cruelty, and character interactions, some of which works better than others. The closest thing I can come up with is that this show is like Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid crossed with Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, and I'm not entirely sure that it works.
The base story isn't really covered in this introductory episode, which turns out not to matter as much as you might think. Clearly Yurine summoned Jashin, a snaky demon, at some point in the past. Jashin's pissed about it, Yurine doesn't appear to care, and then somehow an angel who lost her halo and a couple of ladies from Greek mythology also showed up. Now they all cohabitate, or at least share meals, Jashin tries to kill Yurine, and when she fails Yurine does her serious bodily harm, which may or may not involve eating her tail. Rinse and repeat. There's also a weird demon dog and a goat-headed lady who float around, but they may just be visual gags; at this point it isn't clear.
In all fairness, this is not a show that necessarily needs to make sense, and it tries to make the most of what it has. The fourth-wall jokes are genuinely funny, especially when Jashin's plot fails because she was narrating aloud the whole time, and I love halo-less angel Pekola's character design – she looks perpetually on the verge of a major breakdown or like she's concerned that maybe she went insane when she wasn't paying attention. While other elements aren't working quite as well – I really do want to know why Medusa and Minos are there – if violent humor is something you enjoy, this does a decent job of it, especially the eating Jashin's tail gag. Where the problem lies is that it just isn't all coming together to form a cohesive episode, something that even gag comedy ought to do at least a little. If this is your taste in humor, it may be worth giving a second episode to see if it starts pulling that off.
Well, this is a curious little hodgepodge. Dropkick on My Devil! features the goofy angels and devils of Gabriel DropOut, the no-nonsense female protagonist of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, and the violent comedy of dark magical girl parodies like Magical Witch Punie-chan. The result is a somewhat chaotic mess of different tropes, but at least it's an entertaining mess. Where some of this season's other comedies specialize in rapid-fire gags or straight-faced absurdity, this is more of a high-energy sugar rush with a side of gratuitous bloodshed. It's an acquired taste, to be sure, but I think it might be growing on me.
Unfortunately, this episode front-loads its chaos and confusion before getting around to the comedy. We start off with human heroine Yurine and her snake-demon roommate Jashin hosting a dinner party for two other devils and a very dejected angel, and the audience is left to pick up on the story from context clues and expository dialogue. The core premise is easy enough to piece together, but I'm not sure why the series foists that work onto the viewer in the first place. Even if the audience is expected to be familiar with the basic formula of this kind of show, it would've been nice to have at least a minute or two with just Yurine and Jashin before the supporting cast arrives. Once the comedy does start to filter in, it becomes clear that this isn't going to be a series for everyone. Dropkick on My Devil! mixes its cutesy character designs with gleefully excessive violence, and while that stark contrast can be entertaining if you're in the right frame of mind, I can definitely see it being too much for some folks.
With that qualifier out of the way, I'll admit that I enjoyed this episode once I acclimated to its style of humor. Jashin's failed attempts at killing Yurine (and Yurine's inevitably bloody revenge) are fun in their own twisted way, and I'll give the show credit for going all-in. It's not shy about kicking down the fourth wall or having Yurine carve Jashin up like a hunk of meat, nor should it be. If a series is going to be over the top, then it definitely needs to commit to that approach. The characters also feature an entertaining range of personalities, and just about all of them have some kind of dark side hidden beneath their peppy dialogue; Jashin's devil friends are amusingly shameless about leaving her to her fate whenever Yurine breaks out the sharp objects.
Dropkick on My Devil!'s manic energy will be a make-or-break element, at least judging by this premiere; if you're more interested in how or why Yurine summoned Jashin in the first place or you're hoping for a heartwarming tale of unlikely friendship, I don't think this will be the series for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy dark humor delivered with an adorable anime smile, it's worth checking out. I can see this series being a murderously good time as long as it develops its premise in the right direction.
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