Reviewby Theron Martin,
Demon Lord, Retry!
Episodes 1-12 streaming
Akira Oono has been the chief programmer behind the MMORPG Infinity Game for 15 years, but now it's time to shut the servers down. However, after seeing a flash of light and hearing a strange voice, he wakes up in a forest looking exactly like Hakuto Kunai, the yakuza boss-style Demon Lord of Infinity Game, only this seems to be a different world with somewhat similar mechanics. Akira quickly discovers that he still has some Administrator privileges and the full power of Hakuto when he easily defeats a rampaging demon, which results in him finding a guide and companion in the form of the crippled girl Aku. With mystic forces suggesting that he was summoned to this world for some great purpose, Akira sets off with Aku on a quest to figure out how to make the best of his situation. Along the way, he meets a number of colorful characters, from a trio of Holy Maidens to various adventurers and even evil cultists.
The anime known in English as Demon Lord, Retry! is based on a light novel series (which itself is adapted from a web-published novel) that has only recently released its fourth volume in Japan. It debuted during the Summer 2019 season but did not attract enough attention on our site to warrant weekly episode reviews. Now that its first cour is over, it's time to see whether or not the series warranted any greater attention.
From the start, the series is the epitome of an isekai power fantasy. The protagonist possesses god-level powers, and no opponent is more than a minor challenge for him. He's so masculine and powerful that he attracts all manner of female attention, including all three of the Holy Maidens (although one is actually attracted to an alternate form he uses). He eventually summons a couple of utterly loyal servants to help him carry out his grand plan. All along, the person inside Hakuto is far less confident, fully aware that he's just playing a role. The only minor difference from isekai genre norms is that his avatar is older than usual.
While this may sound similar to Overlord on its surface, the similarities are only peripheral. Overlord takes itself mostly seriously, but Demon Lord, Retry! does not. Episode one is the most serious that the series ever gets, and it rarely hits that level again; even its occasional forays into intense action can take on flourishes of absurdity. This results in a weird mix of humorous jabs, with cartoonish violence and Mad Max parodies freely mixing with much more anime-specific influences like magical girl elements, a girl who equates being spanked by Hakuto with him having a fetish for her butt, or rabbit people who end their sentences with “bunny” or “hop” because that's how they had been instructed to talk by a previous lord. Some of the humor can get quite perverse, such as one sequence of jokes involving a would-be master assassin and how things go poorly for him when he chooses the wrong target. At other times, the humor can be more edgy, such as the recurring jokes about the promiscuous cross-dresser who convincingly passes for an underage girl, and his penchant for raunchy dialog and wanting to knock boots with Hakuto. The series' naming conventions – an older knight named Marshall Arts, for instance – also cannot be taken seriously.
The series isn't entirely a joke, though it has little sense of a greater plot. Evil cultists, who seem to have little motive beyond just being evil, pop up from time to time and set up a couple of bigger battles in the middle episodes, but otherwise the plot is mostly about whether or not people actually believe that Hakuto is the Demon Lord and how they react to him. The fatherly relationship that Hakuto quickly forms with Aku is also played seriously, as are some issues of prejudice involving her, one other adventurer character who has some demon blood, and the background of one of the Holy Maidens.
However, things take a turn for the weirdest with the hot springs arc, which constitutes the last third or so of the series. Essentially, Akira gets the idea in his head that a great way to generate a steady income flow is to build a combination hospital/deluxe onsen – and then the series spends multiple episodes on the process of him building the facility and marketing it. It's a decidedly different approach both for isekai and fantasy anime in general; hot springs are places that characters usually visit for downtime shenanigans, not build and run themselves, and series usually don't dwell on them for more than one episode at a time. While there is a fair amount of humor along the way – including bunny girl attendants wearing Playboy bunny outfits – the business side of this storyline is handled seriously. To say that the whole affair kills any dramatic story potential the series may have had is a gross understatement.
The series doesn't have quality production values to fall back on either. The hot springs get loving and meticulous design attention, but otherwise background art is flat and ordinary. Character designs are a mix of fantasy RPG and crime thriller standards, but none of them stand out; the heterochromatic Aku definitely has some cute factor working for her design, but not to an exceptional degree. Animation quality in general is also bland, with even the biggest fights taking substantial shortcuts and occasional lapses with staying on-model. On the plus side, the CGI for magical effects isn't bad. The musical score uses rock-themed numbers in action scenes and more dramatic moments, then relies on lighter piano-based numbers in more humorous moments. Nothing stands out about this effort or the opening or closing themes.
The series is being simuldubbed by Funimation, with the dubs running just a couple of episodes behind as the season ends. Josh Grelle puts in a good effort in the lead role, but he can't replicate the impact of the wonderfully gruff delivery of the original performance by longtime veteran Kenjiro Tsuda (who concurrently voices Kei in Cop Craft) as Hakuto. Kristin McGuire also sounds a little too old as Luna. Other casting choices are generally sound. The script converts the more colorful euphemisms of the original script into appropriate English equivalents and also maintains the signature sentence endings of the bunny people, for better or worse.
Overall, the series serves sufficiently as a more lighthearted take on isekai tropes. Though it goes astray with the hot springs arc, even those episodes are at least watchable. While it may not have merited weekly analysis, it offers just enough humor and entertainment to merit a minor recommendation for isekai fans. A “To Be Continued” message at the end of the last episode also keeps the door open for more, and the plot is certainly left open-ended, but I won't be holding my breath for a second season either.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Occasionally funny, great lead Japanese vocal performance
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