「約束、守りに来ました！」 (Yakusoku, Mamori ni Kimashita!)
“I’m Here to Keep My Promise!”
Completely discarding the OP in favor of more run-time, this episode started off on the right foot with Issei finally getting a formal introduction to Ddraig, the dragon that resides in his sacred gear. I must say that the foreshadowing surrounding Ddraig was done quite well. We’ve known since early on that Issei’s sacred gear was special, and it was mentioned many episodes ago that Issei wasn’t able to talk to the being in his gauntlet yet because he wasn’t strong enough, so when Issei called on him to make him a deal, it wasn’t surprising. It was still satisfying though, because it showed Issei’s growth, and made what he would do later in the episode more believable.
Aside from that, the rest of the Ddraig-Grayfia-Asia build-up scene did its job of revving up to the action, and quickly too. In fact, the whole beginning of the episode seemed to go by really fast. Not in a bad way, mind you – in fact, it was really well paced. Rather, there was just so many interesting things happening back-to-back that by the time Issei punched down the door and claimed Rias’ virginity for himself (oh Issei, you rascal you!), I was surprised that we were already at the confrontation.
Okay, not quite. First Rias’ onii-sama, Sirzechs Lucifer, had to finally show himself. I very much enjoyed his and Grayfia‘s roles in this episode. I had assumed that Issei and Raizer were going to get into a dirty punch-up in the middle of the party, and while I still think that would have been awesome, Sirzechs’ meddling kept the whole conflict “cleaner.” That is, most of DxD‘s conflicts have been between heroic protagonists and evil antagonists, and once they were over most of the dangling plot threads were neatly cleaned up. Had Issei made off with Rias, things would have gotten really messy, as Grayfia correctly pointed out near the end. I can imagine Raizer retaliating to something like that, likely in an Akeno-like fashion. Fortunately, Sirzechs made sure everything was nice and official, which gave Issei the chance at complete victory.
But what can I say about the confrontation itself? How about, awesome? Issei’s Balance Breaker: Boosted Gear Scalemail was an impressive if slightly ridiculous new power-up, and the ensuing fight was really fun to watch. My favorite part was definitely the fact that Issei has finally learned how to do plan ahead. I criticized him for not doing that in episodes past, when Rias was doing all the thinking while he just blindly charged in like an idiot, but this time he assembled all the lessons he learned over these 12 episodes into a winning strategy. Perhaps even more than beating an “immortal” Phoenix, that was the most impressive thing he did.
Over all, Issei’s fight – and this whole episode, really – was done quite well. Please, allow me one quibble though: he talks too much. Who else facepalmed when Issei’s armor dropped off there? I know certain things needed to be said, but the fact that he just stood there while his time ticked away was really stupid. If he had been climbing out of some rubble or fighting Raizer while he talked, that would have been fine, but him just standing there made him look like a complete idiot. Spend the money to animate that, TNK! Ugh.
But that was a minor gripe. Issei still beat an immortal Phoenix in an impressive – and cringe-worthy – manner, and earned a maiden-like blush from his adversary’s imouto in the process. I sense a new harem member in the making! And there was also Rias’ reaction, of course. Oh Issei, you dog you…I’m so jealous!!
One final thought, on the theme of sacrifice. Sacrifice – and I mean true sacrifice, one that the character actually makes – is a fantastic theme which I wish more storytellers would use. Issei sacrificing his left arm to Ddraig in order to win made his victory all the more impressive, as was his determination to keep giving up body parts (or his life, certainly) for Rias should other suitors come calling. And while Akeno and Asia might be able to change his arm back (albeit temporarily), that sacrifice was still made, and that arm will never truly be his again. It’s things like that which make Issei the Pervert actually deserve the first kiss of a girl like Rias. Did I mention I was jealous? Damn you, Issei!!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Epic showdown of Issei vs Raizer! Issei finally gets smart. Also, a new housemate? Hur hur hur :3 #HighSchoolDxD
- I’m not entirely sure what that whole “Welsh Dragon” part is all about. Is Ddraig from Wales, or does the author not really understand what “Welsh” means? I’m assume it’s the latter.
- Did anyone else facepalm when Issei told Asia to stay behind? I really don’t understand why they keep trying to leave the healer behind. Teach her some shield spells and drag her along! Haven’t any of these people played an RPG before? Sheesh…
- I have to admit, that hairstyle upped Yuuto’s bishie quotient by quite a lot. I don’t blame the school girls for going all doki doki over him. The guy has style.
- A pouting Asia is fine too. HNNNG!!
At the cost of being labeled the “ecchi guy,” High School DxD was one of the shows I most wanted to cover this season. It just hits so many notes with me. Harem comedy? Check. Shamelessly perverted main character? Check. Some fights to burn time in between all the nudity? Check. Okay, joking aside, it was the harem comedy + shameless perverted main character that had me imagining some unholy combination of Ichiban Ushiro no Daimou and Sora no Otoshimono. And in the end, I feel like this was a fairly good way to describe the series.
From a pure fanservice standpoint, DxD delivered. I can only remember one scene back in episode 1 where anything was censored, so us television viewers got to enjoy nearly the full level of pervertedness without having to wait for the DVD/BDs (though I’m sure that will hurt sales, making a season 2 less likely). The nudity did have a tendency to get in the way at times, especially back in episodes 4 and 5, but once Issei developed Dress Break there was (almost) no limit to where fanservice was appropriate, which made it far more fun!
But in truth, this series was more than just a fanservice show with Sakurai Tomoki‘s long-lost little brother at the helm. The plot is actually really good, with Asia’s arc tugging on some serious heart-strings, and this last Raizer arc featuring some of the best team vs team magical battles I’ve seen in a while. and there’s still Issei, who, while certainly a shameless pervert, actually deserves some of the attention he gets from his haremettes, and deserves it more and more as time goes on. He’s one of the few harem leads who I actually like, because he’s not a bitch and he really enjoys it.
The thing about this adaptation is that most of what was good is in the setup and the story, and most of what wasn’t so good was in the execution. I mentioned back in episode 5 that I felt like TNK has settled for “good” rather than shooting for great, and I stand by that. The source material has risen in my esteem since then, but director Yanagisawa Tetsuya and TNK never really stepped it up, and instead just leaned on the fanservice and depended on that to move units rather than really polishing the show. And perhaps that was the right decision to make from a business standpoint, because animation is expensive and details are hard, but that’s not going to stop me criticizing them!
Still, I enjoyed High School DxD, and if a second season were to be announced I would be really happy. The further into this show we got, the more amazing Issei got, and after hearing some of the things that happen in later light novels from all of you, I have no doubt that a second season would be better than the first. I would just prefer a better director and/or studio take over and give this show the treatment it deserves.