Reviewby Theron Martin,
Demon King Daimao
BLURAY - Complete Collection
In a world where magic and technology walk hand-in-hand, idealistic high school student Akuto Sai aspires to become a High Priest to better society, so he transfers to the Constant Magick Academy, an elite school which trains the land's future leaders. Things seem to be going well for Akuto when he clears up an initial misunderstanding and befriends a pretty fellow student, the justice-minded fledgling ninja Junko Hattori, but that all comes to an end when a magical device at the school proclaims that Akuto's future occupation is “Demon King.” The more Akuto tries to assure his fellow students that he is not a Demon King, the more that they interpret his behavior in terms of being a Demon King, and that includes the now-hostile Junko. Not everyone is against Akuto, however, as he finds a willing minion in Hiroshi Miwa, the flying invisible girl Kena Soga takes a quick liking to him, sexy girl's dorm leader Fujiko Eto seeks to be either Akuto's master or his servant, android girl Korone hangs around to observe but not interfere (much) with him, and he comes to a quick understanding with Student Council President Lily Shiraishi. Even Junko gradually and reluctantly gets won over to Akuto's side even as it becomes increasingly clear that he really is a Demon King. Demon Kings tend to attract powerful enemies, however, and when they pop up to threaten Akuto and Kena, the magic really starts to fly.
The concept here is a great one on three fronts. Instead of having yet another milquetoast, nice-guy harem master, original lite novel author Shotaro Mizuki posited a case where the harem master is still basically a nice guy but also turns out to be his story's buffest and biggest bad-ass. Here's a young man who can use magic to break legs when ticked off, go toe-to-toe with dragons, demon beasts, and super-powered agents, and even turn the tables on girls who attempt to physically punish him for perceived indiscretions (usually with clothes-shredding repercussions, of course). It is not hard at all to see how a bevy of sexy girls could be attracted to him, even though – or in one case specifically because – he's supposedly evil. The one disappointment on this front is that Akuto is so unfailingly proper in his attitude towards women that he does not take any advantage of the situation and more commonly finds the attention a distraction than a bonus.
Casting the lead hero as the enemy in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy is also an inspired variation. A similar idea has been done before in anime (most notably Death Note and Scrapped Princess), but it is typically taken far more seriously than the campy, fun-loving approach seen here. The notion that everything that Akuto says or does to prove that he is not a Demon King is instead misinterpreted in a way that only bolsters his image as a Demon King, including the way that he collects his harem, is a vastly amusing one which gets a lot of play throughout the series. Giving him a setting to operate in which freely mixes magical and technological elements also creates a setting unbounded by the need to focus on one or the other and creates many interesting admixtures, such as a cell phone system which works through telepathy instead of talking or a news crew which floats around on a magic circle instead of flying in a helicopter.
The comedy in the series also usually works. Much of the humor lies in the way Akuto's words and actions get twisted around, but Korone gets a lot of mileage out of her straight-faced teasing, bluntness, and lack of fine understanding of romantic interpersonal relationships; her woeful efforts in one episode to play up various anime stereotypes in an effort to seduce Akuto produce some of the series' funniest moments. The way Fujiko's early attempt to magically win Akuto's slavish loyalty backfires is also a treat, as are poor Junko's efforts to reconcile her growing personal feelings for Akuto against her righteous, headstrong opposition to his perceived evil.
Fans of prurient fan service will find a lot to like here, too, as the series makes no bones about its emphasis on such content; even the menu screen for the second disk features defined nudity. Frontal nudity that was censored out of the original broadcasts and streams has reappeared, overt sexual references pop up in a few places, tentacles get frisky, and one character masturbates in an early episode – and those are only the highlights. Tamer fare like panty shots, groping, and near-nudity abound. Yuri and lolicon fans will be disappointed, but otherwise this is one of the more risqué harem titles.
At some point, though, DKD had to manifest an actual plot, and that hurdle trips up the whole production. The writing spends so much time setting up the harem, comedy, and fan service that it fails to establish a firm sense of internal logic and mechanics in which to progress the rise of a Demon King, which results in Akuto suddenly rocketing up to bad-ass level with no sense of smooth development. The motives of the Student Council President are inscrutable, magic regulatory group CIMO8's objectives seem to vary from minute to minute, and primary villain Boichiro Yamato's character and complexity border on nonsensical. Viewers are also left to wonder if Eiko Teruya has any real objective beyond bagging Akuto as a lover and screwing with Junko, either. The story most falls apart when it inserts the whole business about the Principle of Identity and defeating God into the story; either a lot of details got cut in the transition to anime form or someone at the writing level did not think things through. The less one tries to sort things out and the more one just goes with the flow of the action, the more enjoyable the viewing experience will be.
The grades for artistry and animation given at the end of the review reflect averages instead of consistent evaluations, as the quality of both vary by the equivalent of one full letter grade over the course of the series. Not surprisingly, the best effort comes in episode one, while quality sags the worst in certain mid-series episodes. This being a harem series, the girls naturally get the greatest character design attention and do, indeed, provide a satisfying array of different looks, while Akuto looks more typical except for his facial scars and ability to transition into Bodybuilder Mode. The demon beasts and the dragon Peter Hausen (what a name!) look almost like design throwbacks to the days of Record of Lodoss War, but the CG-enhanced special effects are clearly modern ones, as are design aesthetics which mix magic and modern technology, such as the monorail system. Animation is generally at its best in action scenes but sometimes takes big shortcuts elsewhere; the telepathy gimmick previously mentioned about phone use is actually also a clever way to minimize required animation of characters talking.
The musical score is more consistent – perhaps too much so, as it depends heavily on a limited number of themes centered on acoustic versions of the opener. Granted, opener "REALOVE:REALIFE" by Sphere is a strong song with appealing graphics, and its use does give a suitably campy feel to the fight and action scenes, but a little more variety in the orchestrations would have been appreciated. Closer "Everyday sunshine line!" by Natsuko Aso is pleasant but forgettable.
A Sentai Filmworks rep said in a recent convention industry panel that Sentai is being very selective about which of its titles gets dubs and Blu-Ray releases because of the extra costs involved. DKD's mix of action, magic, and fan service was apparently judged to be firmly enough within the range of casual American fan interest to be worthy of both. The 1080 AVC images used for the Blu-Ray version show sharp colors and detail (especially in the first episode), while the DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 used for both language tracks provides a good sound in either dub; neither is a top-of-the-line technical effort but both should be good enough for all but the pickiest of audiophiles and videophiles. Extras on the second of two disks include clean opener and closer and a lengthy set of character line sketches set to music – and yes, these include nudity, too. The included trailers also merit mention, as they show that Sentai is finally starting to put some effort into crafting proper trailers rather than just using clean versions of a series' opener, as they had been doing for quite some time. (The trailer for Angel Beats! is particularly suiting.)
This also marks the second straight recent Sentai dub which has had some bizarre problems with its English dub. The mistakes that the company used to make with its subtitles seemed to have been transferred instead to the dub, which features several instances where voice actors flat-out say the wrong word; “darling” instead of “daring” or “do” instead of “did,” for instance. In some cases these gaffes throw off the meaning of the dialogue. While this one does not have anywhere near the problems seen in Guin Saga's dub with ill-advised filler dialogue, it does have a scene where two voice actors stretch out their lines painfully long to make them fit – and we're not talking about newbies here, but Luci Christian (as Junko) and Chris Patton (as Akuto), two of the most seasoned of all American anime voice actors. These are basic quality control mistakes which should have been rectified at the time of recording but for whatever reason were not. Casting and performances are mostly fine, with Luci, Chris, and Greg Ayres (Hiroshi) being ideal fits for their roles and Maggie Flecknoe doing an excellent job as Korone. The one questionable performance is that of Melissa Davis, who gives Kena Soga an odd and unnatural-sounding vocal quality. The English script generally stays very tight, maybe a little too much so in places.
Ultimately DKD has enough fan service to keep the attention of the fan service crowd and enough action and magic components to keep the attention of those who want such things. It also can get quite graphic at times, such as the scene where multiple students get their legs broken, but that is not a consistent presence. The plot has some big issues, but those who condition themselves to ignore it can still be entertained.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Great concepts, lots of nice fan service, some very funny content and good action scenes.
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