The Testament of Sister New Devil
by Rebecca Silverman,
Basara is having a tough few days. First his father announces out of the blue that he's remarrying and giving Basara the two little sisters he's always wanted (both of these things are news to Basara, who wasn't aware he ever wanted any such thing), and then his dad takes off, leaving Basara, Mio, and Maria alone in the house. Naturally there are several sexy close calls, which leave our hero feeling fairly confused and vaguely annoyed by everything – his life is turning into the cheesy harem story he never aspired to. But then something changes: Mio, it turns out, is not really his new stepsister. She's the daughter of the Demon Lord, recently orphaned and under attack. She and Maria – a succubus and not actually her younger sister – brainwashed Basara's dad into thinking he married their fictitious mom so that they'd have a place to stay. And if this isn't enough of a hook for you, Basara and his dad are heroes, a special race of people with the powers of good in their veins, and Dad knew all along what was up.
As far as supernatural harem setups go, this one does a good job of fooling you at the outset. The first half of episode one is pretty bad – basically every cliché of the genre wanders by to say hello, from Basara walking in on Mio in the bathroom to Maria looking like she's only wearing an apron – and shoddy animation and off-model characters seem to compound its sins. What really saves The Testament of Sister New Devil from being sub-par is the twist in the middle, and even more than the simple reveal of the characters' heritage, the fact that Mio is in danger and scared and at heart a very normal girl helps to win viewers over. She's essentially the Nice Girl in the harem, disguised as the devil, and Basara recognizes this. In a way, we'd expect him to; after all, he's a hero, and his job is to look out for the little guy. That both Mio and Maria are able to feel grateful for that and to accept it wholeheartedly without any quibbling about races gives the show a nice emotional core to build from.
Of course, it is still a raunchy harem story, and in this respect, episode two is really a mixed bag. The censoring is very much evident in Mio's bath scene, with thick “steam” obscuring almost her entire body, which really feels like overkill. While we do see a fair amount of her breasts in the bath, the water level feels unrealistically high in order to cover her nipples. Later in the episode Maria tricks Mio and Basara into forming a master/servant contract using succubus magic, resulting in Mio being cursed with an aphrodisiac. Basara must now touch her hyper-sensitive body to bring her to orgasm, which is supposed to make her agree to be his servant. In fact it takes nine orgasms to do the trick. We see a little bit of the preliminary action before censoring takes over, and then the camera shifts to outside the house, where we get to see the sexy, sexy windows of the family home. Given that this is essentially the same way the scene is handled in the manga, itself an adaptation of the original light novel, it seems possible that the author did not go into any great detail, but for those watching for the fanservice, it may prove a little disappointing.
At this point succubus Maria is easily the most entertaining character. She's clearly older than she looks, making cracks about her own sexual preferences, and she manipulates Basara and Mio with ease. While there can be an uncomfortable aspect to this – I might have felt a little better if she had hinted to Mio what might happen during the spell – she's mostly like the weird raunchy aunt who comes to a family dinner and makes inappropriate jokes. Episode two does introduce Yuuki, another harem member (Childhood Friend) and a male friend for Basara who is definitely suspicious, so maybe Maria can work her wiles on some more people to keep things fresh.
The most disappointing aspect of this show is the animation and general artistry. Mio is the only character who is consistently on-model, with Basara looking different in nearly every shot. The art is so simple as to appear thoughtless in some places – particularly inside the family home – and the quality shifts noticeably between scenes, as if the animators didn't even try to mimic the key frame artist. Vocal work is fine, and actually the slow motion scenes in the opening theme are really well done, as is the slow waning of the moon during the ending theme. If only the rest of the episodes measured up...
The Testament of Sister New Devil's first two episodes really are a mixed bag. It feels as if underneath the shoddy visuals and censorship there's the possibility of a good story, with Mio finding her happiness and sense of family and safety again and Basara becoming more comfortable with his heroic heritage. It's too soon to really know what Yuuki's deal is, or how many other girls will enter the picture, but this is definitely the most promising of this season's ecchi harem offerings. Hopefully it will be able to balance its elements better in upcoming episodes.
The Testament of Sister New Devil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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