The Testament of Sister New Devil
by Rebecca Silverman,
The Testament of Sister New Devil frequently challenges me to say something nice, so this week I'd like to start this review with something I enjoy every single episode – the slow, focused animation in the opening theme. It's far superior to anything we see during the actual episodes, and the individual panels of, for example, slowly flexing feet or even gradually lowering torsos has a more artistic air about it than you'd expect. It also lacks censoring of the nudity, probably because it's not detailed. In any event, it is something that almost every episode does well.
Sadly even when it's trying to up the stakes, as in this week's halfway point episode, Sister New Devil has some trouble with its pacing and quality. We have a definite return to the more-off-than-on animation in episode six, with even what appear to be key frames looking very off-model. There's also some oddly reused animation, such as when Basara and Mio are having a fondle on the couch and Basara unbuttons the exact same button on her nightshirt twice. Needless to say that particular scene is a paradise of censorship, and I do applaud the censors for at least mixing it up – we have the Celestial Light Bar, we have police tape, chibis of horrified Mio like last week, and, my personal favorite, an SD drooling Maria with a video camera. None of this really makes up for the fact that viewers hoping for the so-called Three Bs (boobs, butt, belly) are going to get to see any of that, but well, at least there was a little effort. Plus there's an uncensored male nipple, so, uh, that's something?
As far as plot goes, this episode is really building toward next week. Basara finds out about the fact that three of his childhood compatriots from the Hero Village have been sent to eliminate Mio and that it looks as if Yuki doesn't have the courage to stand against them. Clearly Yuki isn't sure that killing Mio is the right decision, and I'm hoping for her to realize at the last minute that what the so-called heroes are doing isn't actually the right thing...or even all that heroic, if you stop to think about it, since basically they're killing a girl for her heritage when she hasn't actually done anything wrong. But then this is the village that punished Basara for being a child who couldn't control his power, and thus deprived them of a mourning ritual, so perhaps “logic” isn't one of their strong suits. Finding out the exact reason behind Basara's banishment from the Hero Village is certainly a high point in terms of the story's world, as it really allows us to better grasp the mindset of the heroes as a group...and to wonder who gave them that designation in the first place, since really, none of their actions have seemed particularly good or heroic thus far. And in their defense, we may learn that there's more to their rejection of Basara than we know, especially since the story is fairly slow at doling out information about his past.
Apart from learning of the impending battle, which is about to commence as the ending credits roll, this episode also takes us on a shopping trip wherein Mio helps Yuki buy a new outfit and to the Toujou family couch where Maria puts the moves on Basara prior to his interlude with Mio. While each section has its merits – Yuki looks really cute in some of those outfits – on the whole it feels like the show is trying for a “calm before the storm” feeling, which it doesn't quite pull off. There has at least been an attempt at balancing fanservice, action, and everyday life, which I fully support – it just isn't particularly interesting in any of these sections. (Apart from when Basara momentarily wishes that he had a pact with Yuki like he does with Mio so that he could find her. Foreshadowing?) The emphasis on the family ties Basara shares with Mio continue to hint at a stronger story than we've been getting, pseudo-incest themes aside, and I keep hoping to see that develop further, particularly since both Mio and Basara have been abandoned by their own clans.
At the end of the day, this is another mediocre episode of a series that still feels like it could be more than that. There's a real waste of potential here, and at the halfway point, I'm starting to lose hope. This may be the point where people give up and wait for the uncensored discs, and I wouldn't blame them. The Testament of Sister New Devil may still pull itself together, but right now, all the chibi Marias in the world can't quite fix it.
The Testament of Sister New Devil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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