Reviewby Christopher Farris,
Dropkick on My Devil!
Episodes 1-12 Streaming
Yurine summoned the devil Jashin to Earth to do her bidding, but there were just a couple problems: First of all, Yurine neglected to learn the spell for actually returning Jashin to Hell. And second of all, Jashin is absolutely horrible, even by devil standards! If the viper-demon can manage to kill Yurine, she can negate the summoning spell and return to her own realm, but Jashin is too incompetent and ineffectual to pull that off. So along with her other visiting devil friends (plus a wayward angel), Jashin and Yurine must while away their days together however they can, with hot-pots, shopping trips, and regular dismemberment.
With the third season crowdfunded and poised to premiere this summer, it's well past time to formally take a look back at the original Dropkick on My Devil!, to evaluate what brought us here. It's a unique proposition to be sure, since what we have is a series (followed by a sequel season) which didn't merit enough votes for streaming write-ups, nor enough interest at the time for a seasonal review here on ANN, yet clearly has enough of a dedicated following behind it to push it to continuous success in the broader viewership sphere. And in that past-tense context, particularly through the viewpoint of a reviewer who, let's just say, hypothetically, wasn't terribly impressed by the show, it must inspire a reflection on the nature and purpose of criticism itself. What value, if any, is there to be found in what otherwise seems to be the purely archival exercise of evaluating a series four years later which has already proven itself to its primary audience?
I know, I expected ruminations like this to come from a more ambitious anime too, but sorry, you're getting it out of the devil-girl shitpost show.
But perhaps we should start at the beginning, or as much of a beginning as Dropkick on My Devil! deigns to drop(kick) on us. There's an argument that the downright abrupt arrival into the story's screwy status quo, all cast members accounted for with their situations established if not fully informed to the audience right away, is indicative of its singular, simple ambitions. Dropkick is a complete comedy through-and-through, where every plot instigated is the setup for some (usually hyper-violent) punchline, where any stretch of sincerity is inevitably designed to be undercut by a subversive swerve at the last second. It's downright overwhelming in those opening minutes, as we are thrown into a hot-pot party populated by what could pass for a disparate collection of VTubers, at least two of which are trying to murder each other for potentially unclear reasons. There is an opening narration in the first few seconds that explains the devil-summoning rules at the heart of the show's premise, along with much of the plot being laid out in rambling verses in the anime's opening theme song, but the meaning of all that can take a few passes to crystalize.
The proceedings throughout thus mark Dropkick as something one could, theoretically, throw on any episode in any order at any point and have a fun time with. It's the syndicated cartoon slapstick formula of yesteryear in outlandish anime form. You never questioned how the kids of the Scooby-Doo gang met up with their talking dog and started solving mysteries, and you're likewise not meant to worry about the exact details of why this horrible naked snake-woman is constantly trying to murder her weapon-collecting goth-loli boss. If watching said snake-woman get dismembered with a serrated blade over and over isn't your idea of a good time, well, they clearly didn't need your money for the crowdfund.
However, it is in that context that I think there is some value in me watching Dropkick on My Devil! almost half a decade later and being prompted to promote my thoughts on it. Obviously with all the news around the continuation, I won't be the only one compelled to go back and see what all the hubbub was about, and I think this is the sort of series where it's worth knowing what you're getting into. Particularly, this is a significantly meaner anime than some might expect. There's definitely an earlier-era edge to the conceit of the interactions between the characters. Jashin herself comes off not unlike some anime-girl version of Garfield: a slovenly, self-interested snake who would be a threat to all those around her were she not equally dangerous to herself. The issue then is that even if nearly 100% of the sketches within the series are predicated on Jashin's ultimate comeuppance in some way, her so-called 'friends' still suffer through most of it to get there. As such, you'd have to endure several segments of Jashin's financially-abusive relationship with Medusa, reinforced with her efforts at controlling outbursts of jealousy. Eternally down-on-her luck fallen angel Pekola is ripe for sympathy-based amusement, but too often this series settles on plainly depicting her ongoing impoverished struggles as comedy unto themselves. Of particular note is an astounding downer of an episode ending, where Pekola arrives to discover Jashin has demolished her cardboard house and vomited all over the remains. Roll the bouncy, upbeat ending theme!
But again, I should stress: To argue that this comedy didn't work for me particularly is moot, as in the battle of Dropkick on My Devil! versus Criticism, the Devil won before the first-round bell even rang. And to be sure, it's not like I found nothing funny in the series – far from it. Regardless of how we get there, the violent retributions visited on Jashin by Yurine are often very entertaining. The series is rife with clever meta-comedy plus the occasional absurd implementation of its supernatural elements (only Jashin could coincidentally cast a spell to teleport herself through space and time while cooking dinner). But for every joke about self-inflicted pixelated gore or Yurine having to Austin Powers in front of Jashin's naked body complaining about how hard the animators' jobs are, you get a stretch of the story trying to play Jashin and Medusa's horrifically unhealthy relationship for subversive comedy, or showing off that Jashin's 'punishment' for a given sketch is being molested by a predatory police officer.
One argument I'll come around to is that, despite the mascot-ready looks of this gaggle of girls, this style of story and comedy calls back to an approach to anime when elements weren't concocted for comfortable marketability. Even the most conventionally "cute" characters like the naive Medusa or generally-decent Minos have some edge afforded to them simply by virtue of being party to everything that goes down in this series. It's a brand of presentation that, while not exactly anti-moe, definitely recalls an earlier approach to its kind of humor. That makes sense, as while this anime premiered in 2018, the manga it's adapting has been running since 2012! It means that, while so much of the humor may not be for me, I can afford Dropkick the compliment that it's sincere in its comedic and artistic ambitions. I don't doubt there are people out there who would buy a body pillow of a horrible gremlin like Jashin, but her anime doesn't feel like the sort of thing that would prioritize selling one.
I definitely wish the anime looked a little better, with less washed-out colors and more fluid animation to sell so much of the outlandish action-based comedy. The final OVA episode included in this season definitely benefits from a little extra TLC in that regard, but the rest has a decidedly cheap, chunky feel to it. It does adapt well to the pointed messiness present in the base designs of this collection of devilish dysfunctional weirdos. Pekola in particular is rendered in a way such that, even with the rougher lines of the anime, and just as often because of them, her specific brand of being a constantly near-breakdown blob of a baby is consistently communicated. It all serves its purposes for this particular level of irreverent comedy, even providing some semblance of functional utility; Jashin's near-constant toplessness, for instance, never really registers as a distraction through the shitposty squiggles presenting her and her awful, awful antics.
No critic can really provide an objective opinion on any piece of media, least of all a lowbrow comedy anime from 2018 still locked to Amazon Prime Video (I know, right?!). But I can relate my experiences in a way that can hopefully provide readers context and a framework to inform their own decisions about such a series. And we all know Dropkick on My Devil! worked for some people, at least 2,880 of them by last count. So if any of the weirdness described above sounds like a good time to you, by all means, go ahead and get caught up in time for the Summer of Jashin. But do also consider the tonal qualifiers I've taken you through, and take that into account in how you might want to spend your time if you've still been on the fence for the past four years. I like to think this exercise can help out somehow, since I'll have to come back regardless. Someone here is going to need to watch and review the second season as well, after all!
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : C-
+ Committed to its comedic ambitions, Uses its characteristic art-style well, Occasionally very funny
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