English Dub Season Review: High School DxD HERO

A porn with a plot… a surprisingly good plot.

Overview

Issei Hyoudou belongs to his school’s occult club. Unlike most schools, this one’s club has more than just goths, wiccans, and otaku that think they’re otherkins. It has real demons, angels, vampires, youkai, and magic. After dying at the hands of a fallen angel, Issei lacks humanity himself. Now a low-class devil, Issei devotes himself to the goals of the devil that brought him back, the occult club president, Rias Gremory. Since then, he discovered his hidden power: the Boosted Gear. This gauntlet on his arm grants him incredible magical power, enough to help him fight in the Ratings Game. Devils play the Ratings Game to determine who is more powerful, and not just by themselves. Rias puts the entire occult club into play when she enters a Ratings Game with another devil.

Dress Break
Courtesy: Funimation

Oh, one thing I may have neglected to mention: Issei’s mind has a single track and that track is boobs. His perversion knows no bounds, and his sole ambition in life is to have his own harem. He’s created two spells in his life. One allows him to know what women are thinking by letting him talk to their boobs. The second, illustrated above, shreds clothing right off of young ladies. Yes, technically, this has tactical uses. It destroys armor and removes spells, but you know why he really uses it. Despite his rampaging Libido, All the girls in the club love him and want to sneak him into the sack.

Speaking of rampaging libidos, the team faces a bit of an issue with Issei’s during the yearly school trip to Kyoto. After unlocking his hidden potential within his mindspace, it runs away. Possessing one person after the next, it forces each victim to grab the nearest breasts they can find. They don’t even have time to look for the source of these “zomboobies” as another situation arises.

Call the Hokage.
Courtesy: Funimation

Someone kidnapped the queen of the local yokai, but left no ransom demands. The perpetrator is a guy named Cao Cao, who possesses the true Lance of Longinus, and intends to use her powers for his own ends. With the whole team backing him, Issei manages to reclaim his potential and a new skill: Illegal Move Triaina. He can now morph his armor to take advantage of different power sets that he would normally need to choose between at the start of the battle. Between that and some high-level reinforcements, Cao Cao runs with his tail between his legs.

Afterwards, the team has preparations to do. First, the school festival is soon, and the occult club chooses to turn their clubhouse into a haunted mansion and cafe. As the construction continues, they also prepare for a major Ratings Game. Their opponent is Sairaorg Bael. Though he lacks any of the magical power his house is known for, he made up for it by training his body into a face-wrecking machine. Nearly invulnerable, rib-shattering blows, and his gang ain’t slouches either.

What am I to you?

Courtesy: Funimation

That isn’t enough to think about, things between Rias and Issei take a turn for the tense, as Rias pushes her pawn to talk out how he feels about her. Of course, he hasn’t had real romantic contact with a girl since the day he died, so he’s got an understandable phobia of emotional intimacy. He can’t even call Rias by her name! Since it seems she is key to the unlocking of his power, they need to sort out his feelings, and quickly! After all, the fight against Sairaorg promises to be a promenade of pain…

Our Take

I was not pleased when I was assigned this show. Normally, I go back and watch the previous entries in a franchise before I start up the anime in question. Call me a prude, but I found the blatant softcore porn-level of fanservice to be more than a hint offensive. I couldn’t watch even a full episode of each season. Was I doomed to a season of lechery, hoping to high heaven that nobody walked in while I worked? Would my water bills skyrocket from all the cold showers I’d have to take? Moreover, would I have to slog through terrible writing meant as little more as a thin string between porn shots?

This season proved me wrong. Yeah, each episode had a bunch of fanservice and stuff that needed censoring out. Yeah, women get objectified in ways that make any feminist cry out in anger. However, when you strip away this veneer of sleeze, you find that… there’s actually still something there. The first half of the season feels like your everyday action anime plot, but the second half kicks the character depth into gear. Issei, a stubborn lummox with a sex drive running on 800 horsepower, grows and changes in meaningful ways throughout the season, and the second half shatters everything that held him back.

New Forms for Everyone!
Courtesy: Funimation

On top of that, the primary antagonist, Sairaorg, is a guy that pretty much defines good sportsmanship. It’s like Issei goes to Dragon Ball Z and fights Goku. This makes him pretty likable, and his battle sequences nail-biters. The animators drive this through the roof. This is a new company running the show. Passione recently took over and did an excellent job making those fights worth watching. In fact, as the season continued, the animation got better! Early on, there were some lazy spots, where it was obvious that they used vector traced photographs and poorly cycled talking animations. Most of these were in the talky-talky portions of the show because Passione wanted to save their budget for where it counts.

Now, the translation crew did an amazing job. They didn’t just pop it into Google Translate and read off what it spat at them. Nah, they crafted the scripts to have a wit and humor that had me chuckling all the time. Well-timed jabs with off-color comebacks almost make me think that the editing crew left in bloopers or otherwise a bit of parody improv made it through. Add that together with stellar voice-acting, especially from Josh Grelle as Issei, and you have a first-rate localization. In fact, the only episode where I didn’t rave about this was the final episode. It faltered a bit on its dialogue, and it felt like the ADR crew just got tired from running at full steam for so long.

I normally wouldn’t advise a show like this. Still won’t. But if you like fanservice, this is the show for you. Just… what is that weird sound they play when boobs swing in front of Issei’s face? Breasts don’t make that noise…

How To Watch

First off, forget most of season three, if you watched it at all. Episode Zero here takes the place of episodes eight and on, and tosses in a summary of the series before that just in case. This brings the series back into the original continuity. So, watch season one and two, then binge watch this season in two chunks. Episodes 0-6 feel like they weren’t the strongest of the season, so choose some strong liquor and go along for the ride. The second half focuses more on the character development and caps with three episodes of great action. Soda for episodes 7-9, then have some popcorn and whatever drink says “party time” for the last few.

Score

Summary

The average score of this series was seven points. Honestly, other than a lackadaisical translation in the final episode, the series as a whole got better and better as it went on. I'm going to give it some props for that and give it seven and a half points out of ten.

7.5/10

Marshall Daley

One part best-friend/philosopher, one part creepy mad scientist. Shaken, and sprinkled with geeky factoids, quirky humor, and a major case of skepticism towards the world and you might just find a cocktail that changes the way you see... Everything!

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