「悪魔学校の入間くん」 (Akuma gakkō no iruma kun)
“Iruma-kun from Demon School”
It’s always a little scary to have two sleepers premiere on the same day, but on balance I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen today. Mairimashita! Iruma-kun is rather the opposite of Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy in that I know exactly why I had the feeling this series might surprise – the manga is well-regarded and I like what little I’ve read, and the cast here is very experienced and solid. But they’re very much alike in that I expect the both of them to be almost totally ignored by the Western audience.
Mairimashita! Iruma-kun is the story of 14 year-old Suzuki Iruma (Murase Ayumu), whose parents are pretty awful even by animanga standards. Not only have they been exploiting him his entire life and forcing him to work, they pop the cherry on top by selling his soul to a demon. Given that the demon seems a rather affable old coot, Sullivan (Kuroda Takaya), who wants to adopt Iruma and send him to school – which his parents never did – it’s tempting to see this as the first favor they ever did him. But I’d say the jury is still out on that one.
I think it should be understood early on that Iruma-kun is intended to be a kid-friendly series – it airs at 5:30 on Saturdays. Admittedly that doesn’t always mean much when you consider what gets broadcast at that time and on Sunday mornings in Japan, but the mindset of the series is a little less mean-spirited and puerile than one might otherwise expect. Iruma-kun is an unlucky boy to be sure and the cast is full of (youkai) teenaged girls, but comedy is really at the forefront here. All that is another nail in its coffin as far as the international audience goes, but the rewards of good all-ages anime are not to be dismissed so easily.
Mind you, the jury is still out on whether Mairimashita is a good one, but I liked the first episode. Iruma comes off as likeable rather than pathetic, which is a necessary bar to clear. And he has some interesting quirks to him – like his total inability to say no (which actually saves him from being eaten when he agrees to Sullivan’s request that he become his grandson) or his superhuman ability to dodge attacks as a result of dodging the shit his parents have cast upon him since he was a baby.
Just why Sullivan decided to have a human boy be his grandson isn’t made clear yet, but he tells Iruma he’s going to send him to the local demon school. He also happens to be the director of that school, and pretty much checks every box as far as ruining Iruma’s school life on the first day. Yet Iruma (who’ll be eaten if it’s discovered he’s human, as the hilarious school song reminds us) miraculously comes out of it as folk hero and the de facto school boss – especially after besting the reigning one, Asmodeus Alice (the always-stellar Kimura Ryouhei) in a “fight”.
We’ll see if Mairimashita! Iruma-kun has enough tonal variety to succeed as more than a kids’ show. It has two cours to show off the charms of the manga, which while a great thing also raises the bar a little on that score. So far so good – I like the cast, I like the premise, and the humor generally clicks in a broad sort of way. I wouldn’t say I’m confident yet, but I certainly don’t see any reason to be less hopeful than I was going in.