Review

by Theron Martin,

You're Being Summoned, Azazel

Sub.DVD - Complete Collection

Synopsis:
You're Being Summoned, Azazel Sub.DVD
College student Rinko Sakuma has a part-time job as an assistant to detective Akutabe. Not so unusual, until one considers that Akutabe is also a devil summoner/contractor who uses chibified devils to help him solve his cases at the cost of some kind of offering (usually a meaty food item) and usually some kind of backlash on the person receiving the help. Rinko gets drawn into this, too, when Akutabe transfers the contract of one of his regular summons, the lascivious but also only sporadically-competent Azazel, over to her, much to her dismay. She quickly learns to manage Azazel with a harsh hand and (for better or worse, usually worse) makes the acquaintance of several other devils, including the supposedly-princely Beelzebub; the jealous, fickle Undine, who falls for Akutabe; the (literally) bull-headed Moloch; and the gung-ho Salamander. With their help she works on cases which can involve cheating husbands, a hot springs murder-mystery, a stalker, or even a notorious flasher/thief. Meanwhile, Angels from Heaven walk the Earth, totally ignoring human suffering as they search for the mystical Grimoires which are, essentially, the embodiments of their life forces; not only can the owner of a Grimoire summon and control that particular devil, but the devil is also immortal as long as the Grimoire is intact and on Earth.
Review:

“Nothing good ever comes from calling on demons to solve your problems.”

This line is never explicitly said anywhere in this franchise, which consists of two series of 13 13-minute-long episodes (the original from 2011 and the sequel from 2013). However, it could easily serve as the franchise's underlying theme. Although some of the repercussions come from the basic incompetence of the demons involved, victories achieved through the support of demons typically come with nasty side effects. That results in the series running distinctly counter to a trend in anime over the past few years of making demonic characters sympathetic, even heroic. There is nothing heroic and very little that is sympathetic about these little bastards. But that's also a big part of what makes the series so much fun: that they are all bastards.

And really, the demons are the ones who make the series, as female lead Rinko largely exists to be the reluctant straight woman and Akutabe largely exists to be a disciplinary enforcer and occasional scary bad-ass when he is not being a total bastard himself. Each demon has distinct powers, a personality typically related to those powers, and assorted quirks and running jokes when can range from amusing to irritating to outright disgusting, and most represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Azazel is Lust, so naturally he is a complete pervert, as well as an idiot. His abilities all have to do with sex. Beelzebub, who embodies Gluttony, is a more uppity and seemingly cultured demon, though he also likes to snack on poop. (Beelzebub is also known as “Lord of Flies,” you see, and often depicted as a giant fly, though here he looks more like a duck.) His abilities include forcing out the true character of an individual and/or forcing a target to defecate. The mermaid-like Undine, who embodies Envy, is a jealous, possessive woman desperate for love who has the ability to physically transform any woman she is jealous of; she is easily the most annoying character. Salamander, who embodies Greed, has a sexist, samurai-like bent and the ability to make a person believe anything he or she has said. (In other words, you do not want to use sarcasm around him.) Moloch, who embodies Wrath, is allegedly the most violent of demons, but he gets killed before anyone finds out what he can do, a fact that becomes a running joke. There's also a monkey-like demon who can eat memories and represents Sloth, a boar-like demon who can cause depression (Pride, maybe?), a rabbit in a turtle shell who always wears a ball gag and can make people and things unperceivable, and a few others.

One thing that should be absolutely clear here, though, is that, despite cutesy aspects to some of the chibified demon character designs, this is not a cutesy series or one even slightly appropriate for younger viewers. Not at all! In fact, its sensibility is much more akin to the trashiest original fare which airs on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, and some of it even goes past that. Gouts of blood, crushed bodies, severed limbs, and decapitations are played for laughs, and that's on the mild side. Pixelated-out feces are a recurring element, including cases where it's implied to be smeared on walls and one early episode where Beelzebub has to be stopped from microwaving some to heat it up for a snack. One episode entirely focuses on victims suffering from explosive hemorrhoids; a couple of others involved a naked-but-for-a-mask villain who uses his male member, which becomes immensely oversized, as a weapon. (This is kept legal by Japanese standards by replacing his member with a flat censoring bar which becomes part of the joke.) Those same episodes also feature an alternate dimension with various penis-and-testicles-shaped items in the background. S&M elements also pop up on several occasions, as do non-explicit scenes of characters having sex. One of the funniest scenes even involves Azazel discovering exactly who all certain characters have recently had sex with, and the results are pretty twisted. In light of this and the aforementioned theme, that Rinko comes out largely unmolested (she is threatened with it a couple of times, but that is about as far as it goes) is a bit surprising.

This is also not a franchise for those who do not take well to unflattering portrayals of the Christian God. Somewhat like with Maria the Virgin Witch, angels here are non-interventionist in human affairs, a point driven home with a sledgehammer as angels are shown patently ignoring victimized people, such as a girl being molested on a train. They only intervene when devil contractors and Grimoires are involved, and overall really are not any better people than the devils. (Home lifes shown in both cases are about the same.) Of course, given that God is a perverse, faceless entity who likes lame dick jokes, is directly served by higher angels who are complete toadies, and ranks his angels based on sexual privileges (the lowest level of angels are effectively equivalent to virgin otaku and are not allowed any degree of sexuality), that probably should not be surprising.

The story, such as it is, mostly consists of vignettes that last one or two episodes, which is ideal because the situations they are based on would often wear out their welcome if played out any longer than that. The only thing that goes on longer is the close-out arc involving Azazel getting functionally replaced by Incubus. While some of the individual stories are more serious (or at least more dramatic) than others, none of them can be taken too seriously. How funny they actually are will depend on your appreciation (or at least tolerance) for juvenile humor done in adult form, but those who are not entirely offended by the content should be able to find at least a few laughs in it.

On the artistic front, the series stands out for how deliberately ugly it can be. Rinko is shown to be mildly attractive in a “girl next door” kind of way, and Akutabe is at least mildly handsome, but other human characters are commonly unattractive in the extreme; so are most of the angels who appear. Devils are mostly cute in their chibified form and can be strikingly handsome when they assume their true forms (usually in the Underworld, although Beelzebub walks around in the human world in a dashing human form in one episode), although they can turn quite ugly, too (especially Undine when in a rage). Background art is usually kept relatively simple, although it can require a pause button on the occasions when it does go ultra-detailed because of all of the odd gimmickry in the background. Color use is generally sharp and rich and the animation, courtesy of Production I.G, is not bad. Visual references to other anime and Japanese pop culture elements occasionally show up, such as one background character who looks like Conan Edogawa from Detective Conan, but this is not a heavily-used feature. For as nasty as the content can get, fan service is actually minimal.

The musical score for both series is zesty and active, with sounds that can be creepy, dramatic, madcap, or even lightly supportive as need demands. The first series' opener, “Pandemic!!” is a fun, energetic number brimming with enthusiasm, while its second series takes on more of a rock sound but is nearly as fun. All of the closers (the first series uses an alternate for one episode and the series one, “Sticky, Lucky, Stupid,” comes in three different iterations) are also fun and energetic. Both the openers and closers are shorter than normal, clocking in at only a minute each. Japanese voice acting is excellent, especially Masay Onosaka (the voice of Vash the Stampede from Trigun and Takeshi from Prince of Tennis, among many, many others) as Azazel, though all of the seiyuu ham it up quite nicely.

The release comes courtesy of the The Right Stuf International under their Lucky Penny label. It is DVD-only, although it looks pretty sharp for only being that, and has no available English dub. The 26 half-length episodes are spread across three disks, with the first and third having clean opener and closers for each series, the third having various promo videos, and all three including on-disk Liner Notes. While these mostly explain terminology that veteran anime fans would already likely be familiar with (such as tsundere), they also explain a few cultural references and homages that might not be so obvious, such as references to a popular comedic duo or a common way that Japanese sign off on blogs.

The biggest flaws to You're Being Summoned, Azazel are that its humor misses as often as it hits and that it sometimes goes way overboard on its jokes. Still, it is funny often enough if you can appreciate really perverse humor and at only $39.99 for what is effectively equivalent to a full one-cour series, it is reasonably-priced, too.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B

+ Can be quite funny, stories move along at a good clip, release is reasonably-priced.
Humor misses as often as it hits, goes way overboard on its jokes at times, can be quite disgusting and even potentially offensive.

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Script:
Midori Gotou
Susumu Mitsunaka
Daishiro Tanimura
Storyboard:
Tarou Iwasaki
Yoshitaka Koyama
Susumu Mitsunaka
Tsutomu Mizushima
Episode Director:
Tarou Iwasaki
Yoshitaka Koyama
Susumu Mitsunaka
Tsutomu Mizushima
Music: Ryuji Takagi
Original creator: Yasuhisa Kubo
Character Design: Junichiro Taniguchi
Art Director: Akane Iwakuma
Chief Animation Director: Junichiro Taniguchi
Animation Director:
Maki Kawano
Seiji Kishimoto
Chiaki Nakajima
Junichiro Taniguchi
Minoru Ueda
3D Director: Yuu Sudou
Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi
Director of Photography: Eiji Arai
Executive producer:
Eriko Aoki
Tohru Hattori
Gou Nakanishi
Tomoki Numata
Producer:
Genki Hayashi
Ikuno Iida
Kenji Tsunoya

Full encyclopedia details about
Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san (TV)
Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san. Z (TV)

Release information about
You're Being Summoned, Azazel - Complete Collection (Sub.DVD)

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