The Summer 2019 Anime Preview Guide
If It's For My Daughter, I'd Even Defeat A Demon Lord
How would you rate episode 1 of
If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord ?
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How was the first episode?
We've had a pretty varied crop of excellent father-daughter dramas these past few years, from the heartwarming Sweetness and Lightning to the hilarious Hinamatsuri. If It's For My Daughter seems to take the interesting route of merging that drama's appeal with an engaging fantasy universe, as local adventurer Dale ends up adopting the homeless “devil” Latina. Over the course of this episode, we follow Dale and Latina from their first meeting through Dale's decision to adopt her, encountering a variety of extremely gentle hurdles along the way.
Basically every element of this premiere felt kinda “soft and gentle,” from its saturated art design to its extremely reasonable characters. Not only are Dale and Latina both charming, considerate people, but pretty much every character they come across, from Dale's landlords to a variety of strangers at the local bar, is cheery and supportive. Those looking for serious conflict or character drama will likely feel unsatisfied, but as an almost slice of life story with an understated familial hook, I found this episode pretty darn charming.
In terms of production values, If It's For My Daughter feels slightly above-average. The show's character designs are generic, but the character art is at least consistent, and though there isn't much fluid animation, Dale and Latina's world feels attractive and inviting. The direction is similarly so-so, with the show's few visually driven gags feeling a little clumsily executed, and the shot staging fairly mundane.
On the whole, If It's For My Daughter lacks the strong characterization, comedy, or visual appeal that elevates the better entries in its subgenre, but still offers a perfectly pleasant introduction to its main cast. I've heard some dire things about the ultimate direction of the source material, but have also heard that this production will likely run out of episodes before it gets there, and thus will probably stick to lighthearted father-daughter bonding from start to finish. If you're up for that, If It's For My Daughter is an unexceptional but altogether pleasant example of the form.
I've heard that this series goes in an “interesting” narrative direction at some point, but as far as this premiere goes, that's neither here nor there. From what I've seen in the past half hour, this is a fairly standard “hapless single dude tries to be a dad” story, with its only distinguishing feature being its fantasy setting. This same basic premise has been molded into everything from a cooking show to an absurdist comedy over the years, and it's a setup that depends heavily on good writing. That looks like it may be an issue for this latest entry in the genre, as this episode didn't really do much for me.
Part of the issue is that the opening emotional punch of the impromptu funeral for Latina's father isn't particularly strong. A scene like this needs a big outpouring of emotion on the kid's part, or perhaps a heartfelt effort to hold it all in and “be strong,” or at least a quietly poignant moment of loss. Unfortunately, we don't get any of those things, and what should be a defining point in the story feels more like an obligatory tidbit of exposition. That lack of an emotional sting continues throughout the episode as Dale takes Latina back to town and goes through the gradual process of deciding to adopt her. There's just no conflict here, not even a sense of challenge of difficulty. Based on what we've seen so far, this show should be called If It's for My Daughter, I'd Even Go Shopping.
Good characters can usually make up for a slow-moving plot, but this cast is looking pretty shallow at the moment. Dale is the epitome of a bland fantasy hero, and that's more of a problem here than it might be in a more action-oriented series. The “unlikely dad” scenario relies on both characters harboring some sort of emotional wound for their newfound family to fill, so the fact that Dale's just an empty stand-in for the viewer takes away a big chunk of the story's dramatic potential. Latina's certainly cute, but that's about there is to her. Her potentially mysterious backstory is reduced to a convenient excuse for Dale to adopt her, and she doesn't really show any of the initiative or personal weaknesses necessary for a protagonist to have real depth.
The visuals in this show are at least consistent with the plot and characters, by which I mean they're underwhelming. I can forgive weak production values during the mid-season crunch, but animation this flat in the first episode is not a great sign. In truth, though, how this show looks may not matter too much. It goes through enough of the motions to be a plausible option if you're desperate for an unconventional family story, and it's forgettable enough that most viewers will probably wander off long before the visuals fall off a cliff.
I've been seeing some talk of the questionable paths that the If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord light novels take in regards to the central relationship between our hero Dale and Latina, his young demonic ward. I know there are folks out there who would argue that since this anime isn't likely to adapt whatever happens in the more problematic latter volumes, it's all well and good. That is a perfectly fine position to take, but I'm personally not able to get over that particular speedbump, so If It's For My Daughter was probably never going to be a series I was interested in.
I'm not here to judge the light novels, though; I'm here to tell you if I found the very first episode of the anime adaptation to be any good, and the unfortunate truth is I wouldn't have liked it even if I thought the dynamic between the two characters was going to be 100% on the level forever. The show isn't a garbage fire or anything; the art is fine, the script does some work to establish the culture and conflict between the humans and devils of this world, and there's plenty of scenes of Latina being cute and getting all worked up over delicious meals, if that's the sort of thing you're looking for this season.
The problem is that the show is so hell bent on being easily digestible comfort food that it lacks even the faintest hint of a personality. Even if the show wanted to be a tension free slice-of-life type story, it would need some amount of charm or unique voice to stand out from the crowd, and I'm not seeing any of that here. A few years ago, I might have been impressed with how Dale and Latina have to work around the language barrier that separate devils and humans, but I feel like every other light novel fantasy is tossing around invented languages these days. Outside of that, this is like every other generic fantasy setting we've seen in the past few years, and none of the supporting cast have much to bring to the table. Plus, since Latina seems to exist exclusively to be a cuteness generation machine for the audience to project on to, even the central relationship that is literally the whole point of the show feels like little more than a cynical gimmick.
Like a lot of other shows that have debuted this summer, If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord looks to be a low-rent, watered down version of anime we've seen done better before – Remember Grimoire of Zero? That show wasn't a masterpiece, but even though it's been two whole years since I watched it, and I can remember specifics of its world and characters better than what happened in this episode that I just finished an hour ago. Forget controversy – the biggest offense this series commits in its first episode is failing to make any kind of an impression at all.
Though I have heard rumors about what direction this title might eventually go, absolutely nothing is the slightest bit unseemly about the first episode. It merely presents itself as a simple, sweet tale about a young adult man who unexpectedly finds himself taking on the burden of parenthood when he decides to look after an apparently-orphaned girl he finds. That this is all set in a fantasy setting, rather than the real world, is only a slight variation in the standard format for such tales, whether in anime or out. The one minor (for now) twist on the basic concept is that the girl in question is a devil.
Some of the aspects of the set-up here hold potential interest. While this setting otherwise seems like a very typical Western medieval-styled fantasy realm, devils here are apparently not complete anathema; the lack of shock or outrage from the people that Dale meets while carrying Latina around suggests that devils are just another race in this world. In fact, both Dale and the tavern keeper's wife are less concerned about her being a devil and more concerned about the broken horn, what that might mean, and how people might react to that. That a language barrier exists which has to be overcome is also interesting, as this is a detail all-too-commonly-overlooked in fantasy settings, though I suspect that it will not remain a big issue for long. Besides, struggling with languages just offers more opportunities to be cute, right?
The major problem with the first episode is that it devotes so much effort to being cute and establishing a warm relationship between Dale and Latina that it doesn't accomplish anything else or offer any other angle for potential interest. Sure, there's a mystery to be had about the broken horn and how Latina ended up in this situation, but there is absolutely no other sense of a bigger story or compelling characterization here. That might still be fine if other factors were stronger, but nothing stands out about Dale or Latina, either; she has nothing more to her personality so far than “moe appeal” and he's just a generic nice guy whose demonstrated skill set (using both sword and minor magic) is the most generic representation of early fantasy RPGs that can possibly be imagined. He even looks generic, and so does everything else about the physical presentation of the series. Relatively new studio Maho Film is not going to make a name for itself with this title.
The other problem is that this series is coming out in a season which looks to be packed with fantasy titles. While it does have a cute factor and an audacious name working for it, I will be a little surprised if this series is not quickly forgotten about.
There is one thing that this episode wants you to take away: Latina is cute. Adorable, even. In fact, the episode wants so very, very badly for you to understand how cute Latina is that it has inserted random close-ups of her round little face reacting to things as well as filling the opening and ending themes with her walking around cutely. Honestly, I think we have more close views of her face than she has lines. Because it is, apparently, incredibly important that we all realize just how cute she is.
I'm almost willing to believe that this was orchestrated so that people who haven't read the light novels will forget that it takes a decidedly Bunny Drop-like turn in later volumes, but that would be very cynical of me. Rather, I believe it is meant to show us why a successful eighteen-year-old adventurer who is good enough to solo quests would decide to adopt a child who is at most thirteen years younger than him. (If memory serves, she's actually more like ten years younger; she looks younger than she is.) That feels relatively valid, but the whole angle is still overdone to the point where distracts from any storytelling that might be going on. The series would have been better served by covering a little more plot ground and cutting back on Latina as the sole draw.
In terms of storytelling, this episode feels like slice-of-life in a sword and sorcery fantasy world. (Dale is native to it, as are the other characters, so those who don't enjoy isekai have no fears on that account.) Although Dale is on a hunting quest when we meet him and Latina's male guardian – probably her father, but that could just be Dale's assumption – has been killed by a monster in the forest, there's really no action to speak of, and very little magic used. Instead the focus is on Dale bringing Latina home from the woods, feeding her, bathing her, and buying her shoes and clothes. It's not quite enough plot to pull of “charming,” and again the excessive cute shots keep it from being all that endearing because we're not allowed to form that opinion for ourselves. The closest we come to that is when Dale is jealous that Latina tried out her new language skills on Kenneth, the owner of the tavern where he lives, rather than on him.
There are some interesting world building details in here, such as the fact that the Devils (of which Latina is one) speak the language that humans only use for spellcasting or that Latina's cut-off horn could indicate that she's a criminal among her people, which definitely needs some explanation. If this gets over its own Latina fetish, there is plenty of room for things to develop. From the opening theme, it doesn't look like this will go beyond Latina's young childhood, so if the premise is appealing to you without the later romance issues, I think this should be safe. Whether it'll be interesting is a totally different question.
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