Review/discussion about: High School DxD BorN
Jugs, bazoongas, melons; no matter what they are called, breasts are a universal constant. Boobs bear the “nectar of life,” cause men and women alike to turn heads, and are something that everyone can get behind. High School DxD BorN, returning for a third season, believes the same, providing busts of the large, small, round, supple, and bodacious variety. Mammaries are a wonderful part of the world, and it is lovely to see them in anime or anywhere, but the question remains: for this one, is it enough? Can its smorgasbord of boobies keep itself afloat from start to finish? Sadly, no, the anime sinks where its brethren swam.
High School DxD is a series famous for its ability to balance both its plot-centric and “ecchi” material. Many moments even see a combination of the two halves – such as Issei’s “Boosto” ability – that demonstrate how well it capitalizes on the elements at its disposal. High School DxD BorN continues the tale, but chooses to deviate from its safe formula when it worries less about maintaining balance and more about dramatic events. Specifically, the lack of proper explanation, the exclusion of purposeful “ecchi” content, and the halfhearted exploration of sympathy prevent the show from having strength, resulting in a weak narrative that tarnishes the series’ reputation.
BorN’s (the shortening of choice) first fault comes from failing to detail a lot of the aspects that it introduces. Strangely, the anime hardly ever encountered such an issue before, simply because it prioritized world-building. One example is the idea of characters being chess pieces, which is logical once the show explained the underworld’s tendency to solve issues through games of a similar nature. BorN opts for a more confusing approach where the show actively seeks to avoid giving the necessary context to understand newly incorporated aspects. For instance, the “Chaos Brigade” is an opposing force throughout the season, but their goals, motivations, and identities are never made explicitly clear. Consequently, many of the plot points, like Loki’s betrayal and Red Dragon’s appearance, lose meaning since the details making them relevant are missing. The anime might have been trying to keep the focus on Rias and the other girls’ assets, which makes sense; at its core, BorN wants nothing more than to present uncensored boobs. But when the narrative includes occurrences like the swift appearance and exit of villains or the notion that willpower wins the day without also including reason, the plot goes from looking like eye-candy to looking like trash.
More garbage is found within BorN’s second fault: the “ecchi” moments rarely have a semblance of purpose beyond their superficial appeal. “Rarely” was chosen because there are select instances where the anime uses the risqué as a catalyst to drive the plot. One of the earliest examples of this is Issei’s first meeting with Kuroka where, to grant himself power, Issei plays with Rias’s nipple. Another happens much later in the series, in the form of telepathy through boobs, thereby earning Issei and his team the upper hand. Both are ridiculous, but rather than the “ecchi” existing just to exist it instead allows for the show to progress in a manner that is fun, arousing, and purposeful. In contrast, Rias in a devil outfit or Xenovia throwing herself at Issei are no doubt designed to be sexy but forget to mean much to the overall goals of the show. Asia’s kidnapping situation showcases the worst of this, where her mistreatment and nakedness are byproducts of the scenario rather than the scenario coming about because of the “ecchi” material. It is difficult to feel sympathy for the anime at this point because both halves – the plot and the “ecchi” elements – fail to be understandable and purposeful, respectively.
Coincidentally, sympathy is one of the anime’s only notable facets. Sympathy, not empathy, because Issei recognizes their hardships, as opposed to experiencing their emotions. It is a theme that is not immediately apparent, since it is hidden behind the shapely boobs and misshapen plot. Essentially, each arc in BorN focuses on a particular member of the harem, with Issei aiding each girl in overcoming her particular issue. He protects Koneko from her sister, he pushes Akeno from her past, he rescues Asia from her stalker, and he saves Rias from herself. His constant awareness of the people around him demonstrates to a degree the efficacy of sympathy when each girl, regardless of the predicament she is placed in, is helped through her troubles. Nothing grandiose – this is a common theme in many anime – but at the minimum Issei does not do it alone; in nearly all circumstances the remaining cast is present, fighting alongside the boy who has already done so much for them. Ironically, their feelings are cared for and not their bodies, which goes against the “ecchi” material. Therefore, the anime undermines its own ideals, serving somewhat as an explanation for the deterioration of the sexual and the narrative elements.
BorN might have many chests to stare at, but the problems with its plot, “ecchi” material, and themes are distracting enough to ruin whatever sequences it managed to piece together.
BorN’s art style is neither distinct nor captivating. The show’s locations are limited, with mostly Issei’s mansion, the school proper, and reddish, craggy parts of the underworld visited. Near the end, the characters even enter an interdimensional vortex where the background becomes vomit. The anime does pay extra attention to its breasts, with shadows, contours, and depressions accentuating them as highly as possible for maximum attractiveness.
Attractiveness continues when the character designs remain almost exactly the same (to be expected) for the third season. Rias’s flowing red hair, Akeno’s long, black ponytail, and Koneko’s shortness of both stature and locks return, each sporting their signature school attire. Rossweisse, a newcomer, is clad in grey and silver to match her older “Christmas Cake” status. Other people, like Loki and Lucifer, look the part with their regal clothes and armor despite having a small role in the festivities. Overall, the designs remain strong even years after their original conception.
However, strength cannot be found in the show’s actual animation. Simply put, it is poor. Scenes rife with action – such as when Issei powers up or when large-scale battles break out – see the bare minimum of fluidity, with choppy hammer swings and lame choreography. Casual scenarios likewise see stunted animation, with little movement of even the most common of actions. The exception, once again, are the breasts that litter the anime; the boobs bounce and boing in their boisterous bountifulness.
Although BorN has major issues in regards to its story and animation, a theme of transformation chains the cast members together, with a weak link threatening the tautness of the connection between them.
The formation of the chain begins early when Rias and her household decide to train themselves individually to improve their abilities. Issei works with a dragon master, Kiba develops his sword skills, and Koneko practices her punches, each vying to increase his or her capabilities. In other words, labor transforms the characters for the better. Transformation also occurs at the end when Rossweisse is invited to join the harem, but it is more a clever joke than an improvement of her person – she foregoes her Valhalla heritage to spite Odin’s forgetting of her, but at this point she is “just another demon,” meaning she will still be forgotten. Nevertheless, transformation establishes itself both at the beginning and the end of the season.
The start and the finish focus on transformation, and the same can be said of the middle. As was previously discussed, BorN contains roughly four arcs that each focus on a separate girl, namely: Koneko, Akeno, Asia, and Rias. For Koneko, besides learning more about her sibling, the audience discovers the origins of her power. Descending from a line of felines, she had always repressed her other half because she felt that accepting it would somehow cause her to become her twisted sister. But through Rias and Issei’s sympathy, she comes to understand that change does not automatically bring hardship since one’s friends and family will be there to support such a movement. Thus, Koneko transforms into the catlike person she had always been, and bringing with her a newfound sense of worth. Akeno also undergoes transformation, although it is mental rather than physical. Interestingly, the anime delves far into her past to show the death of her mother, the loneliness she experienced, and the hate she brewed for her father. Such hate was childish, though, since she did not fully comprehend the circumstances. Subsequently her present behavior towards her father was childish as well – ignoring him, pushing him away, and generally being rude to her only parent. But when she attempts to erase her past in an irrational manner, she looks deep inside herself to reach the rational conclusion that she was to blame for being alone, not her father. Therefore, while Akeno had always had the body of a woman, the reconciliation she went through allowed her mind to transform into a woman, too.
At this point, the talk of transformation brings up a pressing question: why is Asia included on the list? After all, she has received a lot of focus during the prequels, most notably in the first season where she was reborn. Stranger still, she is sound of mind and pure of thought, with her knowing who she is, what she wants, and how she needs to act. In essence, Asia acts as a foil for the other girls since she does not need to transform, pronouncing to a higher degree the transformations that do take place. Comparing her difficulty to those of the other girls makes this more obvious; unlike Koneko, Akeno, and Rias, an outer influence attacks Asia rather than an inner struggle. So, while Asia is already a good and whole person, the counterintuitive angle taken expounds on this theme that much further.
Unfortunately, Rias’s obtuse transformation nearly rusts the chain. Throughout most of the season, Rias was what could only be described as jealous. Issei worrying for and helping out each girl other than Rias was not sitting comfortably with the president, with each new event slowly expanding the evil resting in her bosom. As the season heads towards the finale, she explodes, literally transforming from a motherly and kind leader into a despondent and angered villain. Donning dragon armor like Issei, all seems lost as she refuses (willingly or not) to come back to her senses. Issei eventually calls out to her, saving Rias from spelling her own doom, but the anime chooses to imply that she still holds these same feelings, just not to the extent that they once were. A devil’s advocate would point out that this is another angle of transformation, that there are certain people who cannot transform as quickly and as easily as Koneko and Akeno did. Given that this is true, Rias’s development throughout the season holds up well, but since the show chooses to have Issei conveniently forget the climax of her arc, it leaves the impression that Rias’s feelings are not as important as they obviously should be.
The opening theme tries to be extravagant, both in voice and in instrument. But it is too much for the piece, with it collapsing upon itself due to the sporadic English words and all-over-the-place tone. The ending theme, in contrast, manages to be both fun and catchy, with the chorus, vocalist, and beat unifying to create a song that mirrors the happiness that can often be found in the series.
Happy times are also found when the soundtrack is heard. Many of the tracks adopt weird sound effects, such as in “Shikou no Yuuwaku,” that are designed to be silly so that they coincide with the slice-of-life moments. Other tracks, like “Omoi.Sorezore,” take into account the foreboding nature of the season, providing haunting arrangements that weigh on one’s conscious. Others still, such as “Shouri,” are quick and orchestral, pumping one’s adrenaline to new heights. Perhaps the “best” track of the bunch is “Oppai Dragon no Uta,” with Issei chanting his love of dragons and boobs, amusing all who listen. As a small aside, the squishing sounds of the breasts as they move is a detail not needed but much appreciated. Thus, the OST spans a wide range of genres that fit the anime nicely, making it an all-around positive offering.
A bit on the negative side, the voice acting for BorN is somewhere around average. While the show has everyone return to reprise their roles, there are neither exceptional nor appalling performances to speak of. However, a special shout-out is deserved for Yuuki Kaji as Issei for his screaming and pervert-esque voice.
I like Rias, and I like Akeno. I also like Asia, Xenovia, Koneko, Issei, and everyone else that the series has on the table. But this one was just not entertaining for me. The drama was lacking intensity, the comedy was not funny, and the amount of non-brooding Rias was disappointing. One of the worst offenses was the ED’s visuals; the third ending theme did away with the sexy dancing that the first two championed, a decision that is nothing short of blasphemy. If anything, the uncensored boobs made the ride tolerable, but were definitely not enough to erase the troubles I had with the anime.
High School DxD BorN brings the breasts, yet simultaneously goes against “three times the charm.” Its mangled narrative, less-than-stellar art, and low value – in terms of emotion and laughter – are a bit too much to bear. While the characters are executed nicely and the soundtrack hits many notes, those aspects alone cannot prop this one up. Born it may be but beautiful it be not.
Story: Bad, not enough details surrounding the world, the “ecchi” rarely has purpose, and the theme on sympathy is simultaneously consistent and undermining
Animation: Bad, boring art style, nice character designs, below average actual animation, with special care given to all of the breasts
Characters: Good, a theme of transformation forms a chain between Koneko, Akeno, Asia, and Rias, with the latter rusting it slightly
Sound: Fine, bad OP, good ED, good soundtrack, about average VA work
Enjoyment: Bad, pales in comparison to the first two seasons
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3