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High School DxD New
If anyone reading this has read any of my past harem reviews, then you'd know I'm not typically a fan of the genre. Though for some reason, I find myself drawn in by the allure of the High School DxD franchise. It has a certain charm about it with it's fun characters, over the top humor, beautiful animation and exciting storylines. If you're not a fan of animated nudity and feel it ruins shows, then turn away now! If you were a fan of the first season, then let's see how DXD: New stacks up, shall we?
Spoilers for High School DxD: Season 1
In case you don't know the background of the DxD franhise, I'll fill you in... the series revolves around Kuoh Academy, a former all girls school that has recently turned co-ed. Unknown to normal humans, angels, fallen angels and devils comprise part of the student population. One of the students, Issei Hyodo (voiced by Scott Freeman), is a lecherous second year student who lives a peaceful life, dreaming to one day become the harem king. After a typical day of doing nothing but ogling women, Issei is suddenly asked out on a date by a fellow classmate named Yuma Amano. After their seemingly enjoyable date, Yuma brings Issei to a local park and sadly/unfortunately reveals herself as a fallen angel and asks him to die for her, attempting to kill him. Thankfully Rias Gremory (voiced by Jamie Marchi), a busty third year student that every guy wants and every girl wants to be, steps in and revives Issei, only for another fallen angel to enter the fray and knock him out cold. Issei wakes up the next morning, believing that the events that occurred the night prior were all just a dream, though he is taken aback when he notices a naked Rias in his room. Rias reveals to Issei her true identity as a devil, their war against the fallen angels and tells him that as a result of his death at the hands of Yuma, she has reincarnated him as a devil, becoming his new master in the process. Over the course of the first season, we watched as Issei and Rias's relationship grew (while Issei collected more women for his harem that is) and battled fallen angels together.
Picking up directly where season 1 left off, the Occult research club are treating themselves to a much deserved rest after putting an end to the first season's big bad, Riser. Everything seems to be looking up for our lecherous hero, Issei, as his harem is growing larger and larger, and the women in it are growing more affectionate for his odd charm by the day, most notably Rias.
The second season instead of focusing on one overarching storyline while balancing the characters and their relationships, decides to forego that and have two half season storylines that doesn't give you much of a break. The first six episodes of New focus on the group attempting to collect the pieces of Excalibur, a holy sword that can rid the devils of existence. The occult club hears of Excalibur's existence and realize they must seek them out before anyone else can get their hands on it. Little do they realize is that two fallen angels have already been dispatched to retrieve the pieces at any cost. While it initially appears the two renegade angels are acting on their own to collect the pieces, it become apparent that the pieces of the sword are for a much larger game.
This arc is significant because it gives us our only real character development for the season. Kiba (voiced by Sean O'Connor), a bland side character in Season 1, steps into the spotlight here which shines some light on his backstory. As a child, it's implied that Kiba was actually apart of a gruesome experiment to produce holy sword users. It was an evil experiment where young kids are tested and mutilated on like lab rats, and if you weren't useful, you'd be disposed of like common trash. When the person in charge of the experiment realized that it was a failure, he decided to kill the remaining kids, and as fate would have it, Kiba was the only one that survived the mass slaughter. After hearing of some fallen angels wielding a holy sword called Excalibur, the only conclusion Kiba can come to is that the man in charge of the experiments is involved with the revival of Excalibur. Kiba realizes this is his time to claim revenge for his fallen companions, however, Issei and Rias must step in before Kiba becomes too far gone on his quest for bloodlust and before they lose their friend once and for all.
The back half of High School DxD New is a very simple plot. After their encounter with the Excalibur and the fallen angels, Issei's encounters Vali (voiced by Austin Tindle), also known as the white emperor dragon (while Issei is the red) and because of this, the two are destined to fight each other to the death. This story arc is much more straight forward an to the point here, it's simply a story about the underdog who has bit off more than he can chew. I'd really rather not go further into detail past the introduction of Vali as pretty much everything is a spoiler, all I will say is that it's someone's end game to dethrone god, causing all three factions to go to war with one another, which all leads up to an explosive finale.
While the season does take the approach of focusing on cohesive storylines which get very dark at times, don't fear, despite scaling back the comedy a bit, there's still plenty here to love as High School DxD never forgets its roots. There is fan service galore, where for some reason or another, there is never one five minute intermission without someone's boob flopping out of their top or Issei trying to grope Rias. Probably my favorite instance of fan service/comedy in the season is when Issei, clearly outmatched, digs down to find the will to fight when the opponent announces they will reduce the size of Rias's breasts, news that sends Issei into a homicidal rage.
+ A breath of fresh air in the fan service genre.
+ Fun characters.
+ For fans of the harem genre, it doesn't get better than this series.
+ Kiba steps into the spotlight in the first half of the season.
+ Tighter focus on the story aspect.
+ Slick action sequences.
+ For fans of animated nudity, this is fan service nirvana.
- The strong relationship between Rias and Issei is put on the backburner throughout the season, something that I thought was a huge mistake.
- Not as much development as I would have liked.
- Those who dislike animated nudity should steer clear.
Video and Audio:
- High School DxD New is presented in a 1080p high definition 16x9 format and is a gorgeous production. The animation was sharp and fluid with focus given to character designs, the constant boob and panty shots, and the slick action sequences. Due to these beautifully detailed scenes something had to be sacrificed during production, and that was the background shots, which suffer from bland detailing. The color palette used is strong and bold, and the image is crisp and clean. The series had no noticeable distractions in the way of grain.
Per usual with FUNimation releases High School DxD New comes with two audio options. The first is a the original Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Japanese track and the second is the new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English track. The dialogue is clean and clear with no audible signs of any kind of dropout or distortions. The soundtrack is a suitable mix that pops during it's action sequences. As for preferences on dub or sub, both language tracks are solid from top to bottom and should deliver regardless.
Oddly missing in these extras are a pair of English dub commentary tracks, and while most may not care, it's the first dubbed series that FUNimation has released in a while without one.
- There are six ten minute segments with the Japanese voice actress of Rias "teaching" some fellow voice actresses from the HighSchool DxD series about the franchise.
- Yoko Hikasa's voice acting high school: Part one (9:45) - Hisaka introduces her "students", the voice actresses Risa Taneda, Maaya Uchida, and Ayane Sakura, all of whom play roles in the High School DxD franchise. In this short, Yoko discusses the focal characters in the series.
- Yoko Hikasa's voice acting high school: Part Two (7:56) - In this segment, Taneda, Uchida, and Sakura discuss their character's roles in the season and what to look forward to with the season's storylines (vaguely to avoid spoilers.) The four also talk about their time spent recording for the series.
- Yoko Hikasa's voice acting high school: Part Three (10:31) - In this segment the three actresses explore their artistic side as they draw a mascot for the DxD series.
- Yoko Hikasa's voice acting high school: Part Four (8:28} - In this segment the actors have to use their "expressive" side acting out various words Yoko says. It's essentially a game of charades.
- Yoko Hikasa's voice acting high school: Part Five (14:47) - In this segment, Yoko has the three do the "Hypersensitivity challenge", it's a memory based challenge where the actors have to memorize the objects in a room, and have to guess what's been switched around.
- Yoko Hikasa's voice acting high school: Part Six (7:44) - Yoko tallies up the results of the challenges thus far to declare the winter and dish out the punishment for the loser. They then promote High School DxD to end these special segments.
- Memories of Season One (4:09) - A four minute promo where the Japanese actor for Issei does a voice over promo in character recapping previous events in Season One.
- Excalibur of the moonlit schoolyard: Part One (5:17) - A five minute promo where the Japanese actor for Issei does a voice over promo for High School DxD New discussing the various girls of the franchise.
- Excalibur of the moonlit schoolyard: Part Two (4:47) - A four minute promo where the Japanese actor for Issei does a voice over promo in character hyping up the new characters to be introduced in High School DxD New.
- Not seen on TV! Deleted scenes on Blu-ray and DVD! (4:06) - A four minute promo of used footage from the show with new voice over where the characters discuss cut scenes from the original broadcast being restored into the DVD/Blu-ray release.
- Vampire of the empty classroom: Part One (6:08) - A promo of the various actors in character breaking down the two focal points of the second season.
- Vampire of the empty classroom: Part two (5:57) - A promo in the same vain as the first, but this one focuses on the nudity aspect of the series.
- Four Japanese commercials advertising this season. (1:38)
- Two Japanese promotional videos hyping the show with footage of a couple of the prominent storylines and the nudity, while the theme songs plays over them. (5:06)
- All four textless opening and closing themes.
- U.S. trailer for the dub.
- Trailers for other FUNimation properties including Cowboy Bebop, Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!, Haganai Next, Hellsing Ultimate, Yamada's First Time, Heaven's Lost Property, and A Certain Magical Index.
- The limited edition box set comes housed in a beautiful chipboard art box.
Expect more of the same from High School DXD: New. The only difference between these twelve episodes and the first season is that its storyline is a bit more focused and the writing is tighter. DxD's strengths are it's characters, and sadly in Season 2 they take a back seat here in favor of an excess of new characters and more action, when it should have focused on the relationships already established. Don't get me wrong though, the High School DXD franchise continues to be probably my favorite fan service series... the episodes are always fun and exciting, great lead cast of characters, solid humor, excellent dub, but I wanted to see more development for the cast on par with the first season, and there wasn't much of it here, outside of Kiba in the first half and a couple new characters. I'm looking forward to season three! Recommended.