Review/discussion about: Dance with Devils
Dance with Devils describes itself pretty well. There are devils and there is dancing. Less dancing than devils but still.
I cannot speak much about devils. (I have already talked at length about the Divine Comedy.) As for dancing, I also cannot speak much. There is one detail about dancing, however, that will always stick with me: my father’s “signature move.”
He told me that, if you cannot dance, or if you want to but want to avoid embarrassment, you simply do the “cabbage patch.” It is rather simple, really. Make fists out of your hands. Put them together – still as fists – as if you are creating one giant fist. Finally, bob your shoulders and gyrate your fists. There. You are doing the cabbage patch.
The question becomes, which is better, Devils or the cabbage patch?
My money is on my father’s advice.
Devils is what the anime industry calls a reverse harem. In simple terms, one woman is chased after by multiple men – the harem-ers and the harem-ees reverse genders. The concept closely mirrors the usual harem type despite this simple role reversal.
For example, the first seven episodes are individually dedicated to a specific character. Rem demonstrates his strengths at Ritsuka’s grandfather’s home in his episode. Shiki gets an episode to display just how creepy he happens to be. And Roen gets an episode, too, to show off his acolyte status.
But the events therein do not happen normally; this anime is not called Dance with Devils for nothing. Rather than act, the characters act. They sing and they dance and they fight, providing the audience with theatrical performances. Do these performances serve a purpose? Well, yes and no. They do add a bit of uniqueness and emotion to the situations, making them feel more like plays that are being played out. But they do not technically serve the narrative; the events could have been played out normally without affecting the plot.
Not every performance involves just one of the members. Sometimes Ritsuka takes part in a duet with another. Sometimes members of the cast sing with each other. And the second-to-last episode has every love interest taking part in the song – a necessary development given the harem and the conflicts between the characters. It takes a while to actually get to this point, but, thankfully, Devils did.
Where the anime falls apart is in everything that surrounds the theatrics. Ritsuka laments that “all these things keep happening around me” because of the grimoire within her. Yet almost every direction the plot takes relies solely on Ritsuka’s inane decisions. She is constantly told to wait somewhere safe, to follow the orders of the people protecting her, and to generally not seek out trouble. In response, Ritsuka chooses to ignore all of these orders.
These blunders result in her repetitively requiring help. That is, the entirety of the narrative hinges on Ritsuka making the most asinine of decisions possible. One instance has her at a grocery store with Azuna. Azuna tells her to stay put, but Ritsuka opts to not listen which just-so-happens to get her caught up in more problems. Another instance is where she literally uses a crowbar on her window to escape her house after her brother reveals numerous truths about her situation.
She actively seeks out these scenarios, so they come off as forced rather than natural. To be fair, she wants to know why these events are happening. And, indeed, if she were to just sit around, the plot would be rather dull. But one would think that, after, say, the third incident, she would learn to be a little bit safer. As they say, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Devils also has the issue of not going into more detail about its world elements, namely the devils, the vampires, and the church. The anime establishes that the devils and vampires hate each other, and the church hates both of those groups. And they all have one, common goal: acquire the grimoire.
This information is about as much as the anime gives. Extra info about these sects is not vital, but, similar to the performances, it makes no difference what type of people are chasing after Ritsuka. They could have been clowns or scuba divers or those people that hold and twirl signs outside of establishments to get drivers’ attention. Regardless, nothing would have changed.
The anime also introduces an aggravating plot detail. Ritsuka is told that the grimoire within her will vanish if she just waits till after her birthday. Not only does the anime wait to reveal this highly important information to her, but also, once she does learn it, she still goes out and about, leading to the indirect death of her best friend.
All of this says nothing of the ending which has problems, too. Once the grimoire expires within Ritsuka, the smell it caused her to give off goes away as well. The loss of this aphrodisiac and the grimoire has all of the harem members but her brother leave. In essence, they were chasing after Ritsuka not for her but for the book, defeating the purpose of having the harem in the first place.
Azuna’s death lacking impact due to low presence. Rem’s father’s need to have the grimoire is forgotten about. Not delving into Ritsuka’s grandfather’s background. On top of having no real underlying theme, these problems and the others highlight the poor narrative that Devils constructed.
To reiterate, Dance with Devils is built on the idea of theatrics. So, naturally, the show takes some measures to follow this motif.
For example, curtains accompany the student council’s room, and the start of every episode has a curtain backdrop. The performances also exaggerate the realism that the anime normally steeps itself in. Glass apples, a giant birdcage, and moving stone statues are just a few of the zany ideas that the performances include.
Arguably the strongest part of the anime, though, are the character designs. Ritsuka in particular has a wonderful design. Her red, frilly school outfit is striking as is her beautiful, blue wedding dress. But it is her short hair, simplistic face, and amber eyes that lets her exude a natural cuteness that is oddly captivating. An important, relevant, and welcome trait for the harem lead.
The men of the harem are not without their own nice designs. Some are tall with striking eyes and defined chins. Some are shorter and cuter in depiction. And some even have color symbolism – Lindo is red for love, Shiki is purple for mystery, Roen is light blue for quietude.
On a more detailed level, they still hold up. Mage’s casual attire and ponytail reflect his cool-guy disposition. Rem’s dark-blue jacket with popped collar, extra, pompous accessories, and short hair paint him as the leader he is. And Urie’s all-white outfit with braided hair and gray belt turn him into the foreign lover he aims to be.
Actual animation within Devils depends largely on whether a performance is happening or not. While very little dancing actually occurs (despite “dance” being in the title), the performances themselves usually involve flickering flames, driving cars, and exploding exorcism symbols. Outside of the performances, Devils does not include nuanced movement besides running and the occasional hair ruffling.
Fight sequences – there are a few – are likewise lacking. Characters are often placed on top of fast-moving backgrounds and sandwiched between quick cuts that reduce the overall tension and urgency of the fights.
As for the art, it tends to be quite tame – standard details and cinematography. But it does pick up the slack in a strange way. Normally, everything is quite cheery – shots of the school, Ritsuka’s home, and so on. Lighting, while not extensive, continues the cheeriness. Then the antipodes come. Creepy carnivals, scary shadows, and dark dusks match the devilish motif. Having this dichotomy between cheeriness and darkness accentuates both, improving Devil’s overall appeal.
Devils’s cast has a lot of problems mostly due to the structure of the anime.
Each man in the harem represents a different type. The leader, the womanizer, the cool dude, the masochist, the innocent, and the white knight – Rem, Urie, Mage, Shiki, Roen, and Lindo respectively. And for everyone but Rem and Lindo, these traits are as much as the anime gives. Their personalized episodes more or less introduce them, and, afterwards, they receive little to no attention. They are around. They do make quips. But none of the them have any impact whatsoever.
To be fair to the anime, the cast is a large harem. Meaning, it may be unrealistic to expect them all to be adequately looked at. Still, they are barely involved in the proceedings. Combined with the lack of a common theme between them (besides sniffing Ritsuka) and the rest of the cast, they come off as unnecessary inclusions.
Ritsuka does not perform much better. Early on, Ritsuka (literally) sings about how she is just “a normal high-school girl.” But, due to being pigeonholed as a damsel in distress, Ritsuka almost never seeks to improve herself. Instead, everyone else – i.e., the harem members – tries to do that for her. She is frustratingly passive, using lots of “No!” and “Nii-san!” and “Let me go!” to talk her way out of most situations. A consistent yet silly trait.
Episode six showcases the first time Devils explores her character. When confronting Rem, she says, “I’m a person, with a heart.” Her statement opposes Rem’s words in episode five where Rem called her a “pawn.” This idea is important for her character: determining what type of person she is. Is she someone who is meant to be used for the sake of others? Is she a devil, the very people attempting to use her? Is she a human who can make her own choices?
The answer to the first question is yes. As a dolt, she hands herself over to the enemy to be used for their ritualistic purposes. Her decision, but she is nonetheless being used. The answer to the second question is yes. Ritsuka learns, during a rather convenient information dump, that she is the daughter of Maksis, the devil king.
The most important answer is the last one which is once more yes. She declares, “I’m going to choose my own destiny,” defeating the vampire king (again, rather conveniently) with the power of the grimoire within her. And the final performance has her choosing the path of the human with herself over the path of the devil with Rem, ending her romantic relationship with Rem before it even really began.
This last development comes way too late – within the last eleven minutes of the season. And it even contradicts somewhat her first performance: “Yes, that there’s someone smiling and waiting for me,” implying that she wants to be with a “prince.” Altogether, her character had some potential, but she is ultimately mishandled.
Moving to Rem, his biggest issue is the transition between not falling for Ritsuka and falling for Ritsuka. In the beginning, it was difficult to tell how he felt about her, but, according to Ritsuka and his actions, he seemed to feel something for the human girl. In the middle, he pushes her away. That is, until the duet with her at the ball held at the school. And in the end, following the motivational performance from the other devils and the rescuing of Ritsuka, he confesses his love for her.
This process appears quite natural. He is conflicted, he tries to stifle his feelings, and he ultimately embraces them. Rem even goes so far as to protect Ritsuka on occasion, such as when Lindo goes berserk or when he lies to the other devils to send them away. But these actions rarely involve direct interaction with Ritsuka. Besides the trip together in the beginning, the duet in the middle, and the confession at the end, he has a distinct lack of personal time with the girl he supposedly loves. The result is a change in character and a formed relationship that similarly lack depth, leaving Rem to fiddle with his shogi pieces.
This leaves Lindo. Lindo is arguably the most interesting. He was gone in the beginning of the season, training as an exorcist elsewhere. When he comes back, he profusely dedicates himself to Ritsuka. Protecting his sister is all he cares about. He does a poor job of it – not telling her vital information, failing to be there earlier – but he sticks to his word.
Later on, Lindo’s backstory gets explained. He is actually not Ritsuka’s biological brother; he is her cousin. As the son of Ritsuka’s aunt and the vampire king, he is a half-human, half-vampire creature: a so-called “dhampir.” This detail explains his extra, anger-driven powers.
Lindo, like most of the other characters, has no development to speak of. A predicament with his father occurs, but, since a conflict or even a relationship between them never existed before (and that the solution to breaking the hypnosis of the strongest vampire ever is to just break out of it without explanation), the predicament fails to be relevant.
In the end, Lindo appears to back off from his love for her, conceding due to her confession towards Rem. Since he is not a devil, he remains by her side (with Ritsuka’s mother) to continue protecting her. So while he is technically the most interesting of the bunch, his inclusion as a harem member makes little sense since he stops pursuing her romantically.
And since Lindo was the last hope for the cast, and even though he stays behind, no hope for them is left.
Arguably the highlight of the music are the insert songs sung by each character. These songs are tailored to the cast, varying in composition and type. For example, Urie is all about love, or “amor,” so his track is more Spanish-sounding. Mage’s, since he is just oh-so-cool, has more of a rap style.
To reiterate, each character has their own song, and the anime even includes songs sung by multiple members of the cast. The final song, sung by Ritsuka, Rem, and (partly) Lindo, comes out on top if only because the emotion and the build-up – what Devils had been missing the whole time – is finally present.
Many of the other songs in the original soundtrack are not as unique as the character songs, but this detail is to be expected. At the minimum, somber woodwind instruments, violins, and pianos work together to create tracks that keep the mood low. Everyday tracks, spooky tracks, and commanding tracks fill out the other moments. The OST is nothing special, but it gets the job done.
The opening – not the opening track – to every episode deserves a small shout-out. A loud, buzzing horn can be heard, signifying the start of whatever “play” is about to unfold. The horn was not required, but having it around added another layer to the theatre motif.
The opening track – not the opening – opens nicely with the foreboding choir. The guitar, the quick beat, and the fervent feeling that follow are not as powerful. And they do not even really match the gloomier mood of Devils. But the OP still manages to be a nice lead-in to the show. The only weird part is that Lindo is the most prominent singer rather than sharing the track with everyone.
The ending track – not the opening or the opening track – fixes this dilemma. Each harem member arrives, singing individually and with others to make the track a joint effort. While the beat is a bit too generic, the creepy yet fun vibe it creates and the catchy “Soon (soon)” and “Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!” make the track more fun to listen to than one may believe.
And the voice acting performances – not the opening, not the opening track, and not the ending track – are generally above average. Everyone does well during their normal speaking parts, and they do even better for their song sections. The men provide voices for each of the characters that complement their personalities, but it is Himika Akaneya, in one of her first major roles, as Ritsuka that stands on top. Ms. Akaneya’s cute and feminine voice for Ritsuka was more than a nice fit.
Admittedly, this anime is not targeted at me whatsoever.
I am not a woman, so I cannot put myself in Ritsuka’s role. And I am not attracted to men, so I cannot admire the harem members from afar. What I can do is cheer for the romance because, wherever romance calls, I am sure to be there.
That being said, the romance in this one is disappointing to say the least. I would have liked it if Rem was the sole love interest. Ditch the harem stuff. Focus on Rem. Then we would get twelve episodes of Ritsuka and Rem slowly getting to know each other better.
Not to say that they did not have their moments. The duet at the dance was quite nice, and Ritsuka falling into Rem’s arms when he made it out of her grandfather’s burning house was touching. I just wish there were more of those moments.
My favorite scene, though, does not even involve romance. During Mage’s episode – at the very beginning – he storms into the classroom, literally forces Ritsuka over his shoulder, and then jumps out the window. The disc-jockey is doing his thing in the background, but it is Mage’s nonchalant “Shaddup” that seals the deal. (If it is not obvious, this scene was hysterical and not cool. Still my favorite scene because I can only hope to ever be as suave as him.)
Also, the ED dancers. Those shadow puppets did more dancing than everyone in the cast. And their synchronization was on point.
What I was not a big fan of were the fights and Shiki. The fights were boring to watch. And Shiki was way too much of a creeper for my liking. Ritsuka’s cuteness made up for some of these more personal problems I had with the anime – especially her as a toddler. But her cuteness could only go so far.
Dance with Devils did what it could, and, even then, it fell short. The music and the visuals have their positives, but the negatives of the story and especially the negatives of the characters outweigh those positives handily enough. Now, it is time to dance the cabbage patch in this one’s honor.
Story: Bad, the performances spice up the narrative, but the inane plot, the ending that retroactively hurts the harem, and the other major problems prevent any encores
Animation: Fine, varied performance visuals, nice character designs, below average actual animation, and okay art with a dichotomous style
Characters: Terrible, most of the harem members serve no purpose, and Ritsuka, Rem, and Lindo are not without their own set of problems
Sound: Fine, nice character songs, okay OST, okay OP, okay ED, and above average VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, not enough romance, but at least it had a “Shaddup,” synchronized shadow dudes, and Ritsuka being cute thrown in
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3