Watching High School DxD: Season 4
Ach ja, after rewatching the first three seasons for the first time after six years, it is finally time to get to the latest anime installment of the franchise: High School DxD Hero (Title design not that strong anymore).
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first. Between season three and four, the whole project changed studio and a good amount of its staff. The new season is helmed at Passione, with the most obvious changes being in the character design and art style of the series. In general, most characters have more rounded features, their eyes look kinda drowsy and basically all colors are lighter with less hard shading and contrast. Some people say, that the new character designs match the novel illustrations more, though I don’t really see that. It definitely looks a lot more modern, but kind of loses its edge.
Do the characters look better or worse?.. well, yes and no. By all accounts, the characters look fine and I doubt there would have been many complaints, if DxD looked like that from the start. It didn’t though, so comparisons are inevitable.
We certainly have some winners.
Some characters definitely benefit from the lighter colors, shading and line work. Rossweisse looks even better now, I can’t even imagine Kunou in the old designs and Issei of all people really rocks the shounen protagonist aesthetic. A good amount of characters are also mostly unaffected, like Rias, Akeno or Gasper and some look basically identical like Saji and Azazel.
Unfortunately, there are also some heavy misses.
Gonna be honest, Xenovia still looks amazing, just in a different way that makes her almost look like another character. Also the green hair is now on her left side. On the other hand, they absolutely massacred my boys Kiba and Vali — Just went through them with the rustiest knife they could find. Kiba looks too soft and Vali went from the good kind of edge to… just bad everything.
In general, one could say, that all the designs are less sexy, which is understandable disappointing for some, as one of DxD’s appeal is, well… sex appeal. But trust me, they very much did not make this anime anymore safe for work. The opposite, in fact.
Concerning the actual animation however, the new season is clearly the winner: The compositing makes everything look a bit nicer, from the lighting in different locations, to the extra flair of the effects. Not sure if the better animation is due to the new character designs, since they don’t seem that much simpler to draw, but the series is much more animated, both in the mundane, as well as the fights. This season also had some really great expression from the characters. What really surprised me were the action sequences. They looked genuinely impressive at times, especially considering how complicated Issei’s armor and a lot of the villains clothing is. I doubt anything from the first three seasons could produce that much hype from its animation alone.
With the technical side out of the way, how was the story? We were both pretty confused by the “first” episode. It completely re-animated the last four episodes of the last season, but… changes things. The climax does not revolve around the confrontation between a mind-controlled Rias and Issei, but around the scenes involving Asia’s capture and the time Issei went berserk. We both kept wondering, whether these things happened in the third season, but it eventually ends the same way: By a beautiful display of love and friendship… no it did not. The Oppai Dragon song started playing and we bore witness to what is essentially the most surreal shitpost in the DxD universe… but then you realise, that they are also dead serious. Side note: As it turn out, this was not in fact the first episode, but a special episode… still surreal and the point stands.
This is something that takes way more presence, than one might hope. I love the concept of the Oppai Dragon and I have to respect just how serious DxD treats this plot point, but there comes a point, where it just feels unreal. One episode featured a stage play of the Oppai Dragon by the characters, but the audience are all children. In a formal conference, Issei was asked, if he would power up by sucking on Rias' breasts and one of the emotional turning points in the second half was initiated by what is the Oppai Dragon fan club. It was unreal and I am genuinely unsure what to think of it.
Anyway, last season finally took a deep-dive into the full extend of the world, its politics and different factions butting their heads against each other and this season continues this trend. The first half of the season, after a quick introduction of what will expect us in the latter half, is framed around a school trip to Kyoto, where (half) the gang gets involved in the disappearance of the head of the Kitsune-Youkai clan and their eventual confrontation with the self-proclaimed Hero Faction.
I liked the more slice-of-life scenes, especially the one, where Xenovia just randomly continued to say this long complicated name in the middle of a conversation (I love her so much), but when it came to the actual meat of the plot, it felt really messy and by the fact that I have trouble remembering what even happened, kinda forgettable. The fights lacked both impact and meaning. Cao Cao is not like Vali, who always lingered in the background and interacted with Issei on several occasions and there are also so many other new characters introduced, who barely get any screen time (One of whom still got to be on the eyecatches). The conflict is eventually resolved by what is essentially just an ex machina and the whole ordeal seemed to be pretty pointless in the overall scheme of things, though I would have to see how the story continues to judge that.
It was also really confusing as we often just wondered, whether a lot of characters powers were ever shown or even hinted towards. I mean, Azazel can apparently transform like Issei and Vali and since when does Saji have a dragon in his Balance Breaker? I could feel myself slowly phasing out, as neither me, or the person to my left fully kept up with what is happening in the story. Convoluted feels like the wrong word to describe it, but it also fits so well. Issei’s Balance Breaker can also now transform into a defense, speed and attack form, completing the Deoxys quartet.
The second half went into a much better direction, as long as we ignore one central plot point. As already spoken of in the beginning of season four, Rias family is going to participate in a rating game against Sairaorg. It is not a tournament arc (yet), but does it go through all its tropes anyway. Beyond that, Sairaorg is just a really solid and fleshed out character. He stands on the same ground as Issei and both respect each other, which makes him less an antagonist and more of a rival. He is also the characters through which we see more of the elitism in the underworlds rank and I am just too much of a sucker for guy being looked down upon for a lack of magical ability and compensating for going plus ultra on his body and physical training. Sairaorg’s a punchy boy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The actual rating game was really rushed and, from a thematic standpoint, mostly filler. Fun filler I might add, but filler nonetheless. Everyone, except Asia, who is apparently now solely the healer of the group, was able to show of their fighting ability, which gave us some interesting fights, but beyond the one involving Gasper and ending on a arguably well intended but still weird “Boys have to protect girls”-message, there is nothing to it. They are also mostly rather short, especially Akeno’s one-hit self-destruct “battle”. They did her so dirty. It only really picked up, when Sairaorg finally joined the fray.
The basic premise of the fight is, that Sairaorg, beyond his superficial enjoyment of battle, has to prove himself and there is no better opponent than Issei, as both of their core motivation stems from the same source. I genuinely appreciate just how brutal the fight is. No magical laser show, just two guys punching the life out of each other, with enough blood spilled to keep a hospital running. The power escalation is surprisingly well executed and always tied to a certain moment, that drives the point of this fight even farther home. Sairaorg with his mothers wish and Issei’s love for Rias. It hits all the same beats as your average shounen and pulls them off so well, it is ridiculous to think, that it is actually all about boobs.
Here we go full circle with what I meant at the beginning. Hinted in this kind of dream world and shown at the end of season three, all the former hosts of Ddraig tend towards domination and destruction and Issei almost falls pray to it at the climax of the battle with Sairaorg. But suddenly, chants of “Oppai Dragon” fill the stadium and issei remembers just how much he loves breasts and breaks free, declaring that he will become Harem King, not as Red Dragon Emperor, but Oppai Dragon. I pretend that every mention of “Boobs” and “Breasts” is simply replaced with “Love” and “Friendship”. It absolutely fits thematically and it makes me less depressed. Even Ddraig himself required counseling after the fight, because he couldn’t bear the embarrassment. It is a fantastic scene, just… it was too much, even for me. I can laugh about it, but considering how unironically great this could habe been, I am a little bumped… it just kept going and the joke never stopped…
Anyway, Issei wins, finally confesses to Rias and gets another bro moment with Sairaorg. The anime ends with a little teaser of what is to come. I heavily doubt, that DxD will ever receive another season, considering the novels ended when this season aired, but if there is one thing I learned from watching this anime, it is that a man can dream. I am glad, that DxD most likely ended for me not just on a high note, but the highest note in fact. If only this wasn’t partially framed around one of the worst plot points in the entire series.
While Issei’s relationship with Rias was always kind of stagnant, it was at least really well defined. They both love each other and there is not a single doubt about it in the entire four seasons. Issei risked his life, just so Rias won’t get married to the antagonist from the end of season one and the climax of season three literally revolved around how much Issei cares for Rias and vice versa. So why in the dimension splitting fuck is there even a shred of doubt in both of them, when they were already on their way onto third base in the sauna. Is it weird, that Issei still calls her “President”, instead of just her name? Sure, but Rias being unsure, if he considers her close is… just no. It’s the same with Issei’s doubt. Issei, my man… she sleeps completely naked in your bed, tries her best to keep other woman away and sacrificed all eight pawns for you and since she is not canadian… bro… yeah, she might be into you.
Issei’s doubts are partially justified, when all the other girls get naked and comfort him about his experience with Raynare, the girl that tricked him in the beginning of season one by going out on a date with him. When I first heard it, I thought this was supposed to be a joke, but no, they mean it absolutely serious. It is just so dumb and worst of all, it entirely destroys any progress they made over three and a half seasons. I don’t consider DxD to be a serious romance by any means, but you can’t just go against everything established to create some short-term drama.
And with that little rant over, it is finally done. Four seasons of High School DxD don’t even feel that much in hindsight, but considering it was the only thing we watched the last three months, we are glad it’s finally over. I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this series, even after supposedly “growing out” of this kind of anime. Turns out, I never was so horny, as to watch an anime simply due to the chance of seeing breasts… or I still am, but who knows. Do I recommend High School DxD? Actually, yes. It is probably one of the best ecchi anime out there and just really fun to watch, though you definitely have to go into it with a certain mindset.
Until next time, hopefully with a series that is a bit more rich in thematic depth and justifies it’s over six thousand word count.
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