High School DxD Hero
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
High School DxD Hero ?
The importance of staging is often underestimated in the presentation of fanservice scenes, and this season of High School DxD is practically a posterboy for this problem. Earlier in the season, the story was forcing scenes in just for the sake of having them, as if a quota had to be met, and as a result the fanservice was disappointing. More recently, the series has returned to the more daily-life-driven frivolity that was a staple of earlier installments in the franchise, though last episode showed that the series is also capable of using even its raciest content more meaningfully. That continues in this episode, where the feature fanservice scene actually packs in an impressive amount of sincerity before ultimately collapsing into full-blown harem hijinks.
The whole scenario, which takes up the bulk of the episode's first half, starts with Issei finally taking time to reflect seriously on his relationship with Rias. This makes it clearer that he's not entirely being dense; he genuinely has had a hard time accepting that Rias's affection for him isn't just that of a master and servant, though Rias trying to proposition him last episode seems to have finally forced him to accept that she may be in love with him. The arrival of Akeno, Koneko, and Asia as a team effort to drain off his excess draconic energy helps him to realize something that's been suggested to viewers for quite a while now; he's still hung up on Yuma/Reynare and the way that savage betrayal played out, which has left him skittish about trusting any other romantic relationship. The reassurances of the trio seem to have finally brought him past the breaking point, and their skinship can be seen as an effort to convey their sincerity in a way that Issei can appreciate. The unusually somber musical selection also plays a big part in keeping this part of the scene from getting too tawdry. Xenovia's arrival and typical gross misinterpretation of what's going on marks the point where the scene degenerates into normal harem antics, but for a while, there was actually a bit of elegance to the way the series handled its nudity.
The rest of the episode involves getting the ball rolling on the Rating Game. The skeletal Hades making his first ominous appearance is an obvious indicator that trouble is bound to go down during the match, but the much more interesting appearance is the return of Riser Phoenix, who makes it clear that any grudge he carries will be settled one day in the pro leagues. He also asks Issei to look out for Ravel, so he's taking his loss better than I would have expected. The details about how the match is being examined for political reasons by adults is also somewhat interesting, as is the not-too-suspicious introduction of the pro league champion.
Then there's the Rating Game itself, which in this version involves assigning points to each member based on affiliated piece (pawn = 1, knight = 3, rook, = 5, queen = 9, and kings are 12 for Sairaorg and 8 for Rias) and randomly determining the point values for each duel based on rolls of two dice. Cool idea, but since Issei is representing all of the pawns on his side, making him worth 8, it creates an impossible match-up if 2 is rolled and other potential cases where the full point value can't be used, although that is implied to not be a problem. It also seems to grossly favor Sairaorg, as he can only appear on a double-six roll and thus isn't in any danger of getting defeated – and thus losing automatically – unless that rare roll happens. Somehow I doubt this will ever become a problem; either it will be dodged by fortuitous die rolls or the proceedings will be disrupted before it becomes an issue. And did I miss something about Rossweisse formally becoming Rias's second Rook, or am I just forgetting something?
Regardless, Kiba is up first against a figure who actually looks like a knight, so the action will commence in earnest with the start of next episode. Also, I would have liked to see Issei have some words with Rias before the match began, but I'm presuming that will be part of the seasonal wrap-up. Even so, this is still one of the better non-action episodes in the franchise so far.
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