Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun
Suzuki Iruma is the child of some truly awful parents who would rather farm him out to do various dangerous jobs and live off of his profits. One day while working on a tuna boat, Iruma is suddenly dragged to the Netherworld, where demons live. It turns out that his parents have sold him to the demon Sullivan – but Sullivan just wants a grandson to spoil! He quickly begins pampering Iruma, giving him the love he's never had and even enrolls him in school…demon school. Can Iruma survive a school where the anthem is all about eating tasty humans? Is having a real family worth this kind of stress?
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun is more or less what you'd get if you crossed Hayate the Combat Butler with the Disgaea games. Fourteen-year-old Iruma Suzuki is a truly unfortunate person, constantly at the mercy of his terrible parents who sign him up for dangerous jobs so that they can live off his salaries. One day while working during a storm at sea on a tuna boat, Iruma finds himself brought to the Netherworld where a demon named Sullivan announces that he has purchased Iruma from said scummy parents…to be his adored grandson. This quick turnaround means that in some ways Iruma's troubles are over – Sullivan absolutely means it when he says he wants to love and pamper the boy. But he also wants to send him to school, and because this is the Netherworld, that means that Iruma will be attending a school for demons where he'll have to hide his humanity so that he doesn't get eaten.
As far as set ups go, this is a good one, and it definitely fulfills its comedic promise. Iruma, whose greatest skill is his “Overwhelming Crisis Evasion” ability (he's really good at dodging things thrown at him), manages to unknowingly translate that into something that impresses his new classmates, and before the first day is over he's already formed a fast friendship with Alice Asmodeus, the smartest kid in their grade, and soon befriends Valac Clara, who is…not. Not only does his friendship with Asmodeus and his status as the chair demon's grandson net him the respect of other students, his genuinely nice personality and surprise when anyone's kind to him win over the rest of his classmates pretty quickly, so the darkness of Iruma's past is largely left behind after episode one. This allows for the story to focus on the hijinks and weirdnesses of the Netherworld and Babylis (the school), which does a lot for the overall tone of the story. It doesn't forget that previous to Sullivan and his servant Opera Iruma didn't really have any parents in anything but the biological sense, and we do see him slowly opening up and accepting that he can be happy now, but this happens organically over the series' twenty-three episodes and becomes a piece of Iruma's overall character development rather than a serious plot point.
This ability to balance out the harsher elements of its plot with the overall silliness of Iruma's adventures is one of the most impressive and enjoyable things about the show. The Battler story arc, which takes up episodes thirteen through twenty, gets increasingly dark as it goes on, but it still never loses the lighter atmosphere, choosing instead to show us via the art how things are getting grim before they hit their lowest point around episode sixteen. This is largely done through the subtle changes to Kiriwo's character design. Kiriwo at first appears to be Iruma's mild-mannered upperclassman, the president of the battler (club) that Iruma and his friends join. As his motives begin to come into question, Kiriwo's character design starts to change little by little, with his eyes getting less wide, his hair starting to be styled differently, and other small physical changes. By the time the truth is revealed he looks like a completely different person, but it doesn't feel sudden, because we've been getting the idea that there's something going on for a while before the big moment. It's a triumph of showing rather than telling, and while this is the most obvious example, it's something that we see throughout the entire series as Iruma gets more comfortable and happier where he is and he, Asmodeus, and Clara become closer friends.
Overall the art for this show does a good job with that kind little detail. The variety of demons is truly impressive, and the fact that there are very few designs that are recognizable as familiar monsters or yokai makes it feel more creative than many other similarly set works. Things like teeth, ears, horns, and fingernails are all distinctly different from character to character as well, and the fact that everyone's on a different size scale keeps things interesting – Ameri and Sabnock are much larger all around than most of the other students, for example, while Kamui is much smaller and also an owl. Clara's and Karoli's families all look related but not like carbon copies of each other, which is also a nice thing to see. Another fun detail is the in-world shoujo manga that Iruma reads to Ameri; First Love Memories is an impressive compilation of every stagnant trope, the art is classic Hana to Yume style, and at one point we see volume number 324. It's also worth mentioning that the show seems to go out of its way to avoid fanservice; there are many shots where we could reasonably expect to see underwear but don't, and even the inclusion of a Succubus Battler doesn't up the bare skin content. (It does, however, facilitate the joke that the tentacle girl is incredibly sexy.)
For all of these strengths, there are two issues that bring this down a little, apart from a real problem with walk cycles in the animation. The first is the cliffhanger ending at episode twenty-three, although that is easily explained away by the planned second season, as of this writing due in early 2021. That, however, exacerbates the other issue, which is that the season would have been better off ending with the culmination of the Battler arc in episode twenty. Episodes twenty-one through twenty-three feel very much like filler (or at least padding) to get to the point where the show does stop, and although we can see that Kuromu is meant to be a foil to Iruma in some ways (and seeing Asmodeus as a female idol is fun), these episodes drag the series down and would have made for a better starting point for season two than a petering out of season one.
Despite this weak finish, however, Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun is a really fun show. It never loses its central heart and manages to blend humor and more serious plotlines smoothly. With varied character designs, a nice attention to detail in both art and story, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, this is a comedy that's worth your time.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : C+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Catchy music (including the Valac family songs), fun story that blends comedy and drama nicely. Good detail in the art.
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