The Testament of Sister New Devil
by Rebecca Silverman,
First, the biggest positive of this episode: it looks better than the previous two. Not that we've suddenly got top-quality animation, but the characters are much more consistent looking up close, with only distance shots showing us the shoddy model work of episodes one and two. It's amazing how much of a difference this makes simply in your perception of the show, at least until the other issues rear their heads.
The most major of those issues is the execution of the plot. Last week we left off with Basara's meeting with Yuki, his childhood friend from the hero village, and to no one's surprise, she tells him to stay away from Mio. Yuki is the watcher appointed by the village to keep an eye on her, and Basara's insistence upon guarding Mio just makes Yuki's job, if not harder, then at least more annoying. Of course Basara isn't just going to back down, but Mio and Maria, spying on the two from another table, can't hear that part and Mio starts to fret about Basara's relationship with Yuki, nearly re-triggering the curse. Maria being who (and what) she is, she comes up with a bath time plan to get the two to feel...closer. Naturally it involves sexual advances, and she convinces Mio to wash Basara's back by soaping her breasts and rubbing them against him like a fleshy washcloth. (It's almost funny, really.) The censoring kicks in again big time, utilizing the old sparkling mist standby, taking up more of the picture than it strictly needs to and generating mixed feelings as a reviewer. On the one hand, I applaud the fact that the animators realized that there would be visible nipple in such an instance. On the other, censoring is never good, and even if it is removed in the blu ray, that's not what we're watching right now. We do, once again, see Mio's face and hear her moans, so it isn't totally sterile, which may redeem it for some viewers.
The rest of the episode brings us Basara's past in implication if not in full-out fact and a fight between Yuki and Mio – not because Yuki wants to kill the other girl, but because she's worried about the effect Mio will have on Basara given what he's been through. Some of the best animation is present during the fight, and the glowing outlines against the night sky work quite well here. Less well done are some tidbits about how Basara and Maria have been spending their nights (our only hint to this previously was the fact that Mio saw Basara sleeping in class). This would have been much more effective had we been shown what was going on rather than just told, and in combination with the uneven pace of this episode, it feels like too much novel is being put into too few minutes. With a little more time taken, Basara could be a pretty likable hero; as it stands, he's blander than he needs to be with our only real understanding of his motives being “Dad said to.” There could be a nice subplot about family in here, but it just isn't coming through, and Mio calling Basara “oniichan” when she's turned on doesn't count as developing it.
I think that's what's frustrating about The Testament of Sister New Devil right now – it feels like there's a decent, if not good, story lurking underneath the rushed presentation of the plot with characters who aren't as one-dimensional as they appear to be. Maria seems to be the only one escaping from it at the moment, although Basara and Yuki also have potential. (Mio seems to be the most lacking in the personality department.) This episode goes from boring to interesting and back again, which indicates flawed pacing or adaptation. (Or a bad source, but I'm giving this the benefit of the doubt since I haven't read the original novels.) If this could get straightened out in the same way the animation is showing some improvement, this could be a better show than it currently is. I still feel like this story has potential – and the end of this episode may provide the kick the show needs to start using it.
The Testament of Sister New Devil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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