DxD is finally back after a three year absence, the longest gap between seasons in the franchise. The first order of business: cleaning up the mess the previous season left behind.
Hero opens with a brisk retelling on Issei’s origin story, probably wise given that the first season aired six years ago now.
The story then shifts awkwardly to the Diodora Astaroth / Shalba Beelzebub story arc from season three. From here on out the rest of this episode is essentially an alternate retelling of episode 9 from BorN.
While this is redundant and seemingly an odd place to start, you have to remember just how confusing, contrived, and tonally inconsistent the storytelling was the first time this arc was attempted, which was likely the very reason why TNK was let go from the series.
The events mostly remain the same, which is to say, highly imperfect, but there were a few major changes, which I’ll eventually get to.
One more note before starting. The art quality varies substantially in this first episode. While the male characters are drawn with amazing quality, the female art quality is all over the place. That said, there were some moments when the ladies of DxD were drawn pretty well. The pictures above provide some examples of that.
There was some bouncey running at times in this episode, but it was pretty stiff an uninteresting. Almost not worth including.
Above is a reaction shot from Rias, the only person, excuse me- her nipples being the only objects- that can save the day. This becomes a point of teasing and embarrassment for Rias, but she remains steadfast to her duty.
And here is the first major story change from BorN.
Whereas originally episode 9 of BorN was a storytelling clusterfuck that was tonally way too serious for an anime about oppai, the reboot version of this arc takes a smarter approach to saving Issei: by reminding him how much he loves boobs.
Irina sets up a massive projector, which plays an apparent children’s special Issei filmed at some point where he sings his silly little oppai song with the little ones.
Rias is reminded by Akeno that
only she only her nipples can save the world. Sensing that Issei has calmed enough to approach, Rias springs into action.
Remember how Issei’s dragonform appeared when he pressed Rias’ nipples in season three? Well, apparently they have to be pressed yet again for the dragon form to shut down. Her nipples literally act as something akin to a power switch. This leads to Rias getting the nickname “Switch-hime,” much to her embarrassment.
After Issei does the deed, everyone is saved. Hooray!
Ophis shows up as an observer towards the end, just as she had in episode 9 of the previous season. While I generally prefer the older character designs for the female characters, I think they did a great job with Ophis here.
And now, with Asia saved and the falling action commencing, we get that stupid 3-legged race that Asia and Issei had been talking about for so long.
Did Issei get a haircut or something? Anyway, nice ass Asia.
And then the episode ends with Asia ambushing Issei with a kiss and confessing to him, shortly after being encouraged to do so by Rias.
I felt this was actually pretty important as it retconned a lot of the damaging and tonally inconsistent character traits Rias displayed in the previous season (where she was bitter, petty, overly emotional, and miserable). The previously established personality traits she had in seasons one and two (coolheaded, warmhearted) have returned. The kickass version of Rias is back.
At first I was slightly underwhelmed by this episode. It is the least fun of all first episodes in the series, and probably also had the least fanservice. Typically that first episode is when you really want to hook viewers by showing how fun a show can be. But instead we get a retelling of (in my opinion) the lowest point of the worst season in the series. It’s a tough way to start.
But then I rewatched those episodes of BorN again, and it was clear just how much better of a job Passione did handling that story arc than TNK did. It did a less imperfect job of maintaining proper tone, and the story telling was a little less confusing. And they even found an excuse to work the oppai song in there, so bonus points for that.
The overall production quality was a little rocky. Character designs ranged in quality from shot to shot, and most animations were pretty stiff. The ending after Asia’s kiss was just kind of hanging there awkwardly. There was some stuff to like for sure but it definitely felt like a pilot episode. There’s good reason to hope there will be more polish as the series progresses and the production crew gets more of a feel for the material.
Of and of course, the important part. The nipples are pretty great- a clear improvement over BorN, and are in earnest competition for the best in the series with seasons one and two. Rias’ boobs look a bit more generic than they did at their best in season two, but it’s still early. Hopefully the animators will have the sense to make each pair of breasts look visually distinct, so you can easily tell which breasts belong to which girls without any other clues. Not that I’m asking for Qwaser levels of thought and detail, but a little bit more distinction would be nice.
My fear going into this show was that it wouldn’t really feel like DxD, that it would feel like an imposter. I’m happy to say that despite a lot of visual changes, the production still has a distinct DxD feel to it, as the same voice actors and musical pieces really help tie the new series to the old one. Rias’s nude scene also felt very much at home with how previous nude scenes in the series had gone as well. It wasn’t perfect, but considering the massive changes on the production side of this anime, I thought they got things pretty close.