The Summer 2019 Anime Preview Guide
The Demon Girl Next Door
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Demon Girl Next Door ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Of the comedy-inclined series to debut so far this season, this one is the outright silliest and, because of that, easily the funniest. In fact, I got probably as many laughs out of this first episode as I have out of any other first episode that I have seen so far this year.
The premise is a reversal of the basic magical girl scenario: the protagonist is actually the demon girl, and she must defeat the magical girl in order to restore her lineage and raise her family from the grips of poverty (because the magical girl's clan sealed away her clan's luck). However, the obstacles are monumental: Yuko didn't gain any demonic powers back, she's already short and pathetically unathletic, and the magical girl in question – who happens to even attend a different class of her same school – is a physical powerhouse in addition to her magical powers. Sounds like the set-up for a classic underdog scenario, right?
The series clearly is not headed in that direction, however. It is far more interested in playing Yuko's shortcomings, and Momo's comparative overwhelming strength, for laughs, and it actually works without seeming too mean-spirited. There are strong implications already that Momo might be alone (no one is talking to her in class, her home indicates wealth but also sterility), and that the two things Yuko has going for her that Momo doesn't are friends and family, which could give the series some room for character development, but the emphasis is decidedly more on how Momo is taking pity on Yuko and how much Yuko deserves it. Momo even offers Yuko fighting tips in a Big Sister-like fashion. I can easily see the two winding up as friends despite the animosity that their heritages say they should have.
The series has other angles going for it, too. The utterly unfazed attitudes that Yuko's friends take towards her growing horns and a tail is also amusing to watch; they see it all as primed for their own entertainment. While I'm not normally a fan of prolonged magical girl transformation scenes, this episode makes a great joke of it by using a timer in the bottom right corner of the screen to imply that it all happens in a hundredth of a second. In another place, Yuko even breaks the fourth wall by crashing into the edge of the screen when letting her imagination run wild. I also found the school name curious and wonder if something is implied by that: Sakuragaoka High School was also the setting for K-ON!
I don't know how much more of this I will actually watch, but I definitely had a good time with the first episode.
The Demon Girl Next Door stands as the latest in a very long line of comedies where the central joke is that the presumptive villain is pretty much harmless. As crowded as this category may be, it's one that I tend to like, because robbing the antagonist of his or her powers often opens the door for some clever genre parody. In terms of tone and pacing, this series seems to be a little snarkier than Endro~!, and about as energetic as Gabriel DropOut without being as raunchy. This episode settles into a comfortable middle ground where it can make jokes at the main character's expense without coming across as mean-spirited, and that's right about where you want to be with a show like this.
As the titular Demon Girl, Yuko resembles the kind of sinister rival every magical girl eventually ends up fighting, albeit without any of the confidence or supernatural firepower. This episode's early scenes do a nice job of turning her family's demonic history into a running joke, whether it's the mundane inconvenience of the curse placed upon them (they're perpetually broke) or the wonderfully undignified fate of their dark idol statue (it's being used as a doorstop). Yuko's nonplussed reaction to all this new information is right on the money, and there's something endearing about the way she treats her ominous destiny like an unwanted but necessary chore. Momo, her magical girl rival, looks like she'll make a good comedic foil for Yuko, reacting to her earnest but ineffective attacks with a mix of straight-faced disinterest and pity.
For the most part, the humor in this episode works pretty well. Most of the jokes are standard genre fare, with a few unique punchlines tied to Yuko's particular circumstances. I really enjoy how unfazed her family and friends are by the whole thing, since their casual acceptance balances out Yuko's frequent overreactions. There are a couple of fun little details here as well, like the fact that Yuko's little sister checks out a library book on weapons in an understated attempt at supporting her in her quest to defeat a magical girl. Not every joke here is a winner, though, and this episode's biggest weakness is its overuse of on-screen text and other visual gimmicks. Those sorts of sight gags work fine in moderation, but at some point they become more of a distraction than a source of humor.
At the moment, The Demon Girl Next Door has a decent chance to establish itself as a worthwhile genre spoof. Its focus on the villain over the magical girl helps distinguish it from similar titles, and its relatively good-natured sense of humor should appeal to a broad audience. While there doesn't seem to be anything truly groundbreaking here, I had enough fun watching this premiere that I'll probably stick with the series for a few weeks to see how it develops.
I don't know about you, but I never gave much thought to what the opposite of a magical girl was. If pressed, I may have come up with Evil Sailor Mercury from the live-action Sailor Moon TV series. Fortunately, The Demon Girl Next Door is here with an answer to this unasked question: she's a Demon Girl, descendant of the people of darkness and sworn enemy of the people of light, whose priestesses now take the form of everyone's favorite beribboned crime fighters. It's a fun concept, and one that this episode does its level best to play up to the hilt.
It succeeds moderately well at that. Yuko, the poor hapless teen who wakes up one morning to learn the weirdly awful truth about her family and is now saddled with horns and a (very expressive) tail, is sadly lacking in both evil ambitions and any and all physical stamina, which makes her a particularly poor choice to change the family fortunes. Her foe, a girl named Momo who six years ago saved the world, is the least enthusiastic magical girl I've ever seen. She'll do her job and she's genuinely worried about Yuko, but she does everything with as little effort as possible while speaking in a near-monotone. The result is that while Yuko flails around trying to challenge her, Momo's just sort of standing there staring at her disinterestedly. Add in Yuko's constant complaints about how heavy her horns are and the less than impressive quality of the sacred demon statue and there's a fair amount about this that works.
What works less well is that this episode is exhausting. As a half-length show, it would have been a lot of fun, making its points and jokes and then letting us move along. At twenty-five minutes, it covers two storylines (both in service of the same major plot), both of which involve a lot of shrieking, verbalized sound effects, and on-screen text, and it begins to get pretty overwhelming. Still funny, yes, but perhaps more work to get through than it strictly needs to be.
Despite that, this looks like a solid magical girl spoof. The episode isn't mean-spirited, the fact that no one gives a crap about secret identities (“Oh, there's a magical girl in class A!”) is fun, and there are some genuinely funny moments thrown in. It could shape up to be a lot of fun as it gets going.
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