The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun
How would you rate episode 1 of
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun ?
What is this?
14-year-old Iruma Suzuki is a very unfortunate lad. Because of his no-good parents, he has had to struggle all his life and work a variety of odd jobs. While trying not to get crushed by frozen tuna on a storm-tossed tuna boat, he suddenly finds himself summoned to the demon world, where he learns that his parents sold his soul to the elderly demon Sullivan – but instead of being eaten, Sullivan wants to make Iruma his grandson! Pushover Iruma can't say no to Sullivan's begging, so he winds up taking on that role and going to attend Demon School the next day. His best efforts to remain inconspicuous miserably fail thanks to his Grandfather, resulting in him quickly getting into a duel with a top student. However, he's not so helpless as he might think. Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun is based on a manga series and streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.
How was the first episode?
This season started with the full expectation that one series would feature a character using a German suplex wrestling move in the opening episode. I'm not sure that anyone reasonably expected that it would actually pop up a second time in just a matter of days, and being used by a non-wrestler to boot.
But that's just how this series rolls. Take Rosario to Vampire, cross it with Hayate the Combat Butler, and drastically tone down the fan service and you have this new shonen manga adaptation. The foundational elements come about evenly from both titles; the former provides the “human sent to a school all for non-humans, where he might get eaten if his human nature is discovered” angle, while the latter provides the background of scummy parents, a boy toughened up by having to work his whole young life, and the boy being effectively adopted into wealth. Not too surprisingly, the combination works. The result is a first episode which kept a grin on my face throughout nearly as much so as Kemono Michi: Rise Up did.
Probably the most remarkable thing about the episode is that it manages to be entertaining despite most of its humor being retread jokes. Director Makoto Moriwaki has mostly made his career directing cutesy fare like the PriPara, Onegai My Melody, and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes franchises, but here he shows a keen sense for timing and delivery on more ludicrous fare. Like any good comedy, the jokes here freshen up in part by going the extra mile; a classic example is how Iruma unwittingly chants a dangerous-to-use Forbidden Spell provided by Sullivan for his entrance ceremony speech, and then it turns out that the spells does something as innocuous as preventing him from tripping or falling over for the rest of the day – and then it follows up by actually making that innocuous protection the key to his later victory against Alice Asmodeus. The school song is also a real treat.
There's at least a bit of plot here as well. While Sullivan claimed he just wanted a grandson because he was getting tired of the bragging by “Levy” (presumably Leviathan) and Belial about their grandkids, a few hints are dropped that Sullivan, for all his comical doting, has much bigger plans for Iruma than just that; the throne of the Demon King is vacant, after all. Also, Iruma has his first servant by the end of the episode, and Sullivan's aide Opera definitely suspects something. That's all down the road for now, however. The cheesy, demonically-themed decorations of the setting, the over-enthusiastic Halloween-themed music, and the bizarre mix of humanlike and not-at-all-humanlike character designs all promote the silliness of the production.
In other words, we're not looking at having any shortage of entertaining comedies this season, and we're not even halfway through the Preview Guide yet.
First off, it seems pretty clear that Welcome to Demon School is aimed at a slightly younger audience than most seasonal anime. Its bright colors, consistent narration, and sing along-ready opening song all point to a show aimed at kids who likely haven't entered high school yet, and thus can relate to the feeling of high school being a frightening and perhaps even demonic adventure. That said, most anime we do get seasonally is only aimed at slightly older young adults anyway, and frankly, much of the best anime out there is actually the stuff designed for children. Kids deserve stories made with care just as much as any other viewers, and Welcome to Demon School stands as a fine show for any audience.
Welcome to Demon School centers on Iruma Suzuki, a profoundly unfortunate boy who finds himself sold to a demon by his horrible parents. However, it turns out his new owner Sullivan is actually just looking for a grandson, and so he swiftly ends up living in Sullivan's mansion and enrolled in the demon school Babyls. This episode speeds quickly through Iruma's integration into this world, as he finds himself attracting far more attention than he'd hope throughout his first day of school.
The most noteworthy thing about this episode is its efficiency - we run very rapidly through a great deal of setup, but none of it ever feels rushed. Sullivan's parade of new announcements instead becomes a consistently reliable source of humor, and each new conflict is debuted with great energy, and concluded with more absurd gags. Director Makoto Moriwaki, who also helmed the delightfully absurd Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, knows how to sell even the most basic of gags, and the comic escalation of Iruma's integration into this world feels natural and funny throughout. Welcome to Demon School feels like an ideal combination of material and staff; every punchline is given just as much time as it needs, and though Iruma runs into a variety of absurd situations, the jokes always feel grounded in classic setup-payoff constructions, not just “wackiness and loud noises are inherently funny.”
In terms of art design, I enjoyed Welcome to Demon School's wide variety of distinctive characters, as well as the super-deformed silliness of Iruma's new grandpa. There's not much fluid animation, but as a series of mostly conversation-based gags, Demon School doesn't really need much animation to work. All in all, I found myself surprised by just how much I enjoyed this one, and would recommend it to anyone seeking a new comedy this season.
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun does basically nothing new and that's perfectly okay, because what it does with the old is an awful lot of fun. The poor eponymous hero is something of a Hayate the Combat Butler, but in a worse situation: his parents aren't just deadbeats, they actually sold his soul to the Demon King. In all fairness, this did save him from being crushed under frozen tuna on the fishing vessel they sent him off on, and it results in him getting a loving, luxurious home and getting to go to school. The downside? If the demons at his new school realize that he's human, he becomes lunch. Good thing his shiny new grandpa doused him in a bucket of demon-scented perfume!
The school song about eating humans is my favorite part of this episode (and the one scene that got me to laugh out loud instead of just chuckling quietly), but the whole thing really is just good fun. Iruma's litany of woes is basically endless, but it also seems like none of them are going to actually get him in any trouble, especially since he's accidentally become the new boss of the school by defeating Asmodeus Alice, the top student in the incoming class. Sure he did it accidentally in this season's second use of the German suplex, but the more respect he's got, the less likely he is to be eaten, right? Not that any of this is likely to stop Iruma from worrying, of course; his perpetually harried state and fearful expression function to offset his good fortune in a way that works with the episode's humor. Likewise the old school character designs (despite the source manga dating to 2017, it looks like it was drawn in the early 1990s) work with the familiar set of supernatural tropes the story is using. The whole thing feels like a return to earlier days, and there's something almost reassuring about that.
Even with the retro look, the character designs are still interesting, with my personal favorite being the girl who basically looks like an eye-stalk in a dress. There's basically no fanservice despite ample opportunities, which again gives this a sense of bygone innocence, and if there are younger anime viewers in your household, or you're looking for something to watch with them, this looks like it might fit the bill. Basically this episode takes what it has, works with it well, and is just an all-around enjoyably fun time. It isn't always laugh-out-loud funny, but there's still enough here to make the half hour entertaining.
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