High School DxD Hero
Fresh off Issei's friends bringing him out of his berserker rage after Asia's somewhat premature death (and non-death) -- and how? -- Issei now have to deal with the Hero Faction during his visit to Kyoto, and after that, there's another rating game to contend with. And if that wasn't enough, Rias is growing increasingly unsatisfied with Issei's dilly-dallying when it comes to his feelings for Rias, so some of the other girls take it up on themselves to find out why.
I was a little thrown off by "episode zero" when I started watching this show, as it was more or less a narrative-driven synopsis of Issei's introduction to the world of devils and then a recollection of events that went down in High School DxD BorN -- the third season -- and the reason why it threw me off was that, despite the time having passed since I watched said season, said episode both felt deeply familiar and... not at all. As it turns out, episode zero was meant as more of a repair episode, seeing as the third season took some liberties with its story that was a poor fit for the ongoing novel. So when I came to the "Grabbing Dragon" song that clearly wasn't a part of the anime third season, some research was clearly required, which clued me in on the aforementioned episode's role in the whole thing.
While entertaining in its own right, that also meant that the third season was also the show's weak spot beyond its initial hurdle of being more than just some lazy hack leaning solely on its fanservice to carry its appeal. It wasn't terrible by any definition of the word, but it felt kind of sidelined in some ways, and it embraced both the best and worst parts of the first two seasons with gusto as well.
Thankfully, the two story arcs in High School DxD Hero are quite appealing by themselves -- awful fight trash talking aside -- particularly the first one where Issei and his classmates go to Kyoto and meet up with a group of nine-tailed fox yokai, mainly represented by young Kunou. Initial misunderstanding aside, it turns out Kunou's mother has been kidnapped, and our heroes eventually get involved with the Hero faction, who also seeks.... something. I guess it goes to show that High School DxD Hero is probably back on track, since I'm pretty sure the original novel plays up the same level of secrecy. Which is both annoying and intriguing. Kuno is surprisingly young for a High School DxD mainstay, but thankfully she isn't used much for fanservice beyond that one halftime break image.
Another potential hurdle for High School DxD Hero might present itself with the new animation house responsible for this production. Passione has given everyone a much softer, fluffier design -- which is especially noticeable with the girls, and may or may not sit well with everyone -- and I'm pretty sure Asia has gone up at least three cup sizes in this season as well, though Koneko is at least allowed to remain her lithe self. Thankfully, the animation quality is definitely up to scratch, which is the most blatantly obvious during battle scenes.... and the saucier ones.
And the show is saucy, although if you've endured three seasons so far, I'm pretty sure I'm merely preaching to the choir at this point. "Wow, a true PG-13 moment right here. How much longer until you two kick things up to rating R, huh? Or is it M for mature?" Xenovia says as they find Issei and Asia sharing a kiss in the closet, which is rich coming from a show already rated TV-MA. It's weird on its own that, for all the titties on display, a show of this kind allows its characters to actually kiss. But this intimacy is still nice to see, and is actually the instigator of one of the best moments High School DxD Hero has to offer, although I'm a bit confused as to why he's referred to as the "grabbing dragon", seeing as Issei seems more into poking the peaks rather than grabbing the whole mountain.
Which is good, because while the fight scenes in this show are actually very nicely animated, the dialogue during said fights are still the worst aspect of the entire show, mostly because it just can't refrain from horking out mainstays like "Is that all you've got?" or "I'm only using so and so many percentages of my total strength right now!", which usually leads into another trope that serves as a bit of a weak spot for many a go-getter show: our heroes being outclassed like the dickens right before the main character has a revelation that somehow increases their power a thousandfold, a trope I'm getting a bit tired of, and this season does this twice.
It's actually a bit amusing, because the fanservice thus becomes High School DxD Hero's strongest asset, as the dialogue -- at least in the English dub -- is downright hilarious. The extra material on the Bluray/DVD set informed me that the dub crew sat down and had a brainstorming session to come up with as many ridiculous slang words for boobs, butts and whatever else this show has to offer that they could think of, and it shows. Issei in particular has a rich vocabulary for describing boobs that defies all reason, and you can tell Josh Grelle had a field day dubbing him. But a lot of the dialogue also came from a lot of the girls' voice actors as well, including voice director and actor for Koneko, Jade Saxton.
I've already described how High School DxD's completely unapologetic approach to nudity is almost its best asset, mostly due to it being respectful and fun about it rather than creepy, but the highlight of the show when it comes to its erotic content is clearly when Rias eventually tries to initiate sex with him. And this time it's not to escape an unpleasant situation, but rather because she wants to. It was also partially done because she wanted to know how Issei really felt about her, seeing as he kept referring to her as "President" all the time, even when the two of them had a private moment together. As horny as the show is, however, it's not porn, so don't expect any sex actually taking place; the moment served more as that final push for both Issei and Rias, and like I mentioned earlier, it's easily the best moment in the entire show. Irritated as both me and Issei's angel/devil companions were about his indiscretion when dealing with Rias's feelings, the other girls nevertheless made the best choice when they approached Issei a bit later and basically confirmed that they had taken his feelings just as much for granted as he had taken theirs -- although in fairness, only Rias... and maybe Asia... could fully understand why, but Akeno and Koneko still figured out that something had to be wrong. I read about it in ANN's episode reviews, and the scene still took me off guard.
Sadly, as with the earlier seasons, a returning downside to this show is the rather typical shounen fights. Or rather, the pre-fight chats. Aside from the tediousness of having everyone spouting similarly-sounding lines to throw their opponents off, the first half is going to additionally annoy you if you are the kind of person who reacts badly to anyone sounding smug. The second half, when the rating game returns, does ease up on the trash talk a bit, at least, as Saiaorg makes for an honorable and straightforward opponent, but there are times where I wished the game would just shut up and fight already. And as villainous as the first faction Issei and the girls fought are, they never actually killed anyone, even when it would be tactically sound to do so. Yeah, some of the things they do are.... iffy, to say the least, but when the show does this -- even if I expect nobody ever wants to see any of the girls actually lose their lives -- it's got "future redemption" written all over it. Although I guess that's fine in a way too.
Another potential downside to the show -- and I've mentioned before how it was actually the words of a woman who made me give this show a chance in the first place -- is how it sidelines its most prominent female member, Rias. This is enforced by the aforementioned bonus material having the two female voice actors talk about how other women were convinced to giving this show a chance by their boyfriends, and end up finding the female characters appealing on their own right because of how they are just as important to what's going on as Issei and his sacred gear. But, simply put, Rias barely get to do anything here. This was a bit of a problem earlier too, but is especially prominent here, and not just because she didn't join Issei and team in Kyoto. Yes, she is still basically the team's mother hen, more or less, but the last show High School DxD needs to take after is Testament of Sister New Devil in how it treats its female characters on the battlefield. She does get to be more direct towards Issei, though, and the show does at least treat her feelings towards him with just as much importance as his feelings towards her, so I guess that's something.
And just to get one last complaint out of the way: they still do the "Rossweisse is a grown woman and still single" jokes that weren't welcome in the last season.
All complaints aside, it's nice to see this show back in form. The last season kind of felt like an aside, but for all the annoying posturing the show does before its fights, this show's two story arcs feel both solid and important to the overall story, introducing more facets to all these factions our devils encounter for both good and bad. Yes, the show plays its mythology cards fast and loose, but Ah! My Goddess has already proven that there's nothing really wrong with that.
High School DxD BorN also introduced us to a much nicer and sweeter Ravel Phoenix (Phenex?) -- well, actually, BorN did -- which was an oddly pleasant surprise given her role in the first season, but Riser also made an appearance acting like a supportive older brother, and that just confused the hell out of me, given how he behaved in that selfsame first season. It's easy to assume that, after his humiliating defeat, he took a long and hard look at himself and decided to change in quite a few ways. This would actually make for some good side viewing in this show, so I guess I can only hope that any potential future seasons might set aside an episode or two for this.
In the end, High School DxD Hero is a delightful return to form. It's actually rather amazing that this show has managed to last for an entire four seasons, but maybe it's not all that surprising when you really think about it. It is heads and tails -- all nine in this season -- above the lesser shows it's clearly inspired, and it remains one of the better examples of why you should look beyond the boobage and towards the heart -- the trash-talking, openly salacious heart that beats without a whit of shame.
One of the major players in the tiddy games is back, and I, for one, is happy about that. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The violence in this show is fairly standard shounen violence, slathered in some amount of red paint since a good deal of the character in this show are wielding sharp melee weaponry, but it's not particularly gory, and even a detatched arm can easily be put back in place through the magic of... well, magical potions.
Version(s) Viewed: Region A Bluray, bilingual.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
High School DxD Hero © 2019 Passione.
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