by Theron Martin,
First, a disclaimer: The grade for the initial three episodes will take a one step hit to express my displeasure at it featuring my single biggest anime pet peeve: the underaged teacher. (And this is one of the worst examples of it, as nothing in these episodes gives Lilith any hint of a teacher-like manner. At least Negi Springfield and Yukio Okumura had appropriate demeanors despite their ages.) Future episode reviews will not take this penalty.
Arata Kasuga lives a fairly ordinary life where he's close to his cute cousin and childhood friend Hijiri. The black sun in the sky that Hijiri finds ordinary is certainly strange, though, as is a sexy red-haired girl who passes him in the street and threatens to kill him if he doesn't “awaken.” Or is that really his Hijiri? The truth, as he learns, is that his home city is actually a ruin as a result of being Ground Zero for a gravitational event called a “breakdown phenomenon,” and that the only reason he still exists in it, and things seem normal to him, is that he made a wish on a special grimoire Hijiri passed to him right before disappearing, and the grimoire manifested his wish. Given the option by the sexy girl – who turns out to be a big-gun-toting mage – to either die or renounce the grimoire and forget everything concerning the incident including Hijiri, he chooses option 3: to become a mage himself and find a way to get Hijiri back. That involves him going to the Royal Biblia Academy, this world's version of Hogwart's, where the sexy girl, one Lilith Asami, is both one of the instructors and one of the Trinity Seven, the school's top mages, who are all girls (because magic is inherently connected to the mind and emotions, and girls are naturally stronger at that, you see). There he eventually learns a few important things: that his grimoire, the Astil Codex, is a legendary item; that his power level makes him a demon lord candidate; that one way to shortcut the process of becoming a mage is to get to know the Trinity Seven well (the Headmaster says “make them your pawns”) and presumably learn from their examples, and that all magic works based on personally-chosen Thema, which are sub-categories of the Latin names for the Seven Deadly Sins. As he learns to harness his own power, he discovers that its magic-shattering property also has an interesting side effect: it tends to denude people around him, including occasionally himself. When there are commonly attractive girls hanging around, that's not necessarily a bad thing to him, although he is convinced that he needs to bring it more into focus.
Despite some fairly serious dramatic airs it puts on early, make no mistake about it: Seven Deadly Sins is a fan service-oriented harem (or at the very least harem-like) set-up through and through. In a premise that seems like it is at least partly borrowed from Demon King Daimao, it sets up a male lead as unexpectedly discovering that he has magical ability that could put him on the path to become a demon lord, which for various reasons results in all manner of female mages starting to circulate around him. By the end of episode 3, one of the Trinity Seven has already declared that she's destined to be the wife of the demon lord and has thus taken to calling him her husband, “I'm really a teacher even though I'm student-aged” Lilith is constantly blushing around him even though she's supposedly an ice princess normally (although we see almost no evidence of that), a third T7 member, a ninja mage, hangs around and flirts with him, and a reporter-type mage seems very interested, too. Although the series has yet to stoop to cheap panty shots, it certainly finds plenty of opportunities to put its female cast in swimsuits, make comments about their figures, engage in some groping, and in some cases (thanks to the way Arata's magic works) strip them down; expect the uncensored Blu-Ray/DVD versions to have full nudity based on what is concealed here. All of this is pretty typical, light-hearted stuff, the kind of thing that any recent harem series might have, save for one unusually tasteless scene about girls trapped in a magical barrier while needing to pee.
Beyond that the series has been amazingly inconsistent. It wants to be funny and sexy but also have serious undertones, but as of the end of episode 3 it has yet to find a good balance. As a result, some of its attempts at jokes (such as one about tossing the irksome Headmaster in the incinerator) die gruesomely, the sense of urgency about rescuing Hijiri only pops up when convenient, and the story in general is executed awkwardly as it struggles for ways to avoid info-dumping. Episode 2 in particular is a mess, although the way episode 3 jumps into an everyday scene from the previous episode's cliffhanger and then flashes back is hardly handled with grace, either. The flow of the storytelling starts to smooth out some in episode 3, and coupled with the way the crisis at the end of episode 2 is resolved, that allows the series to recover some from what was starting to look like a death spiral.
Also helping a bit is the character of the male lead. The girls are, so far, mostly a typical harem series mix, but Arata is a departure. While it hasn't been a strong trend, newer harem franchises in the past couple of years have been showing at least some push towards empowering male harem leads beyond just being complete milquetoasts, and Arata is certainly part of that. He is bold, definitely does not let girls run over him, plays along with teasing by female characters just like any normal socially-well-adjusted guy his age probably would, even instigate some of such teasing, and doesn't freak out around nudity; in one rather funny scene, he freaks out not because a girl is naked right before his eyes but because he is thrown by her not expressing any alarm about it. (At the same time, he expresses gratitude for the eyeful he just got.) In short, he's more fun to watch than most male harem leads are.
The artistry comes courtesy of Seven Arcs Pictures, whose prior lead efforts have been Dog Days'' and Mushibugyō. Their background art is fantastic, to the point that it sometimes sharply contrasts with the lesser character art, and CG effects on the magic displays are used well. Lilith and the alternate-dimension mage are the stand-outs amongst the girls so far, although another sexpot character who has yet to appear is advertised in the opener, while Arata is ordinary-looking himself.
Right now the series is still in recovery mode from what was hopefully its low point in episode 2. It does have a decent male lead and a goodly amount of fan service going for it and a couple of at least mildly intriguing plot points, such as why Hijiri looks so much like one of the Trinity Seven, why she had the Astil Codex to give to Arata in the first place, and what, exactly, it means for him to be a prospective demon lord. That's all the show has going for it right now.
Trinity Seven is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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