The Testament of Sister New Devil
by Rebecca Silverman,
As of this week, I can say with authority that watching The Testament of Sister New Devil is more fun than shoveling out after a blizzard. Unfortunately it also makes a little less sense, as episode four tries to cram a lot of story into an insufficient amount of time, skimping on interesting (and possibly important) details in its rush to get to the end revelation. And that is a good one – not entirely unexpected, but it certainly adds intrigue to the story and complications to Basara's life with both the truth about Takigawa (his school buddy) and the ominous mutterings of his dad. If next week's episode can slow down the plot points and give us a really interesting story, hindsight may be able to forgive this episode's mad dash to get there.
Although Mio and Basara are still the nominal hero and heroine of the show, Yuuki takes the spotlight this week. After Basara is injured protecting Mio from the pointy-earred masked demon who attacks her, Mio's guilt drives her back into the field to confront him. He gave her an ultimatum: keep fighting and watch Basara and Maria get injured or be a good girl and surrender to him. To no one's surprise, Mio takes option two...only to be stopped by Yuuki. In one of the best scenes of the show so far, Basara's childhood friend bursts in on the scene and unleashes her Hero powers, complete with transformation sequence. (It's more like Saber's in Fate/Stay Night than a magical girl's, but still interesting to watch.) In part Yuuki is helping Mio because it is important to Basara, who she owes her life as we learn in a flashback to their childhood. But she's also doing it because Mio herself has impressed her. Rather than behaving like the monster Yuuki has been led to believe she is, Mio demonstrated selflessness and kindness in her willingness to turn herself in rather than allow Basara to be hurt. Yuuki respects that as a heroic act and is willing to help out. Of course, she only gets a little time to strut her stuff before Basara comes charging back in, but it is enough to make the character more than “jealous childhood friend” and worthy in her own right.
We do see more of Mio's powers than we have since the first episode, but her grip on them is less than impressive. That does make sense, but it also puts her in a position to be protected and coddled by Basara rather than able to stand on her own. She in no way needs to be some sort of Powerful Female Icon – that's not the point of the story nor is it a requirement for a good character – but it does take her back a few steps from the girl determined to protect her step-brother/love interest. She does ask that he destroy her when her power goes out of control, and while I read that as a passive act from someone who had showed determination before, you could also see it as an attempt to take herself out of Basara's life in order to save him. I'm torn on the issue, and probably reading too much into it.
The fanservice is distinctly absent in this episode. Yuuki's battle gear is as close as we come – it has a short skirt (one panty shot) and is made of that peculiar anime fabric that shows the belly button through the shirt. Maria does show up in her succubus outfit briefly, but this is really about cramming in as much plot as possible and not about titillation. On the bright side, this also means that there is no censorship.
While the artistry has significantly improved from the show's debut with everyone looking on-model and a young Yuuki actually wearing her hair differently from how she does as a teen, this episode really does suffer from its need to rush the plot. Basara's childhood is clearly very important to who he is today, but a six minute flashback isn't sufficient to ground us in it for the events of the show. Likewise Mio's powers needed more time and explanation, as do Yuuki's. As I said, however, there's a promise of better pacing and plot given by the episode's end, so maybe this will turn out to be worth it. And hey, it still beats shoveling.
The Testament of Sister New Devil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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