High School DxD is the hypersexualized offspring of Porky’s, Leisure Suit Larry, and American Pie. The racy comedy stars Issei, a hormonally charged young adult who wants to take advantage of the high girl-to-guy ratio at his school. The problem is all the girls know that he and his two friends are perverts so constantly maintain a wide, reproachful berth. Just when Issei believes he is doomed to a life of porno videos and magazines, his luck with the ladies appears to change. He is approached by Yumi, a classmate who wants to be his girlfriend—but as the old saying goes, if something appears too good to be true, it usually is. Yumi turns out to be a powerful Fallen Angel who wants to kill Issei for reasons unknown. Horrifically impaled by Yumi’s attacks, our horny hero is rescued by Rias, a fellow classmate and head of the school’s Occult Research Club. She’s also a demon. After saving Issei from the evil angel, Rias takes him under her wing, turning Issei into a servant of Hell with all the rights and powers that come with it.
Although the battle between demons and angels serves as the undercurrent of the series, the real draw of High School DxD is the rampant and unapologetic amount of nudity and sexual situations. If the subtitles are any indication, FUNimation’s English reversion throws subtlety out the window, turning Issei into a perverted, sex-hungry fiend with an extensive catalog of euphemisms for women’s breasts. What prevents the show from becoming outright porn is the fact that—for all his desires and opportunities—Issei always comes up short against his potential sexual conquests. He misses a chance to feel up Rias due to his indecisiveness. Asia, a former exorcist turned demon, recognizes Issei’s passion for the female form and offers herself to him, only to be denied by his need to protect her innocence. Though surrounded by numerous naked women of varying breast size, Issei can only “look but don’t touch.”
It could go without saying that High School DxD is loaded with fanservice. Panty shots, clothes that rip and tear during attacks, an outrageous scene involving a slime monster that burns women’s clothes, bathing scenes, shower scenes, bed scenes, near-sex scenes, saucy dialogue, a touch of S&M, and nudity, nudity, nudity. This anime is absolutely, positively shameless. When girls’ clothes are ripped away during a tennis match and dodgeball game, the only thing left to ask is, “Well, why not?” Fun as it all may be, the fanservice discredits the fiction the show is building and renders it void of any significant conflict. It is an interesting idea that demons must defend themselves against God’s angels as well as fallen angels who are looking to make a kingdom in Hell, though it doesn’t really go anywhere. The promise of a grand evil versus good battle is ultimately pushed aside in favor of a battle royale to determine who will end up with Rias: Issei, or Riser, the man to whom she was arranged to be married.
If one were to judge High School DxD purely on its fanservice—its treatment, sexualization, and objectification of women—it would earn a few eye rolls before being cast aside for something more substantial. What saves the show is its sense of humor. For all its juvenile humor, FUNimation’s English dub is quite funny, largely because of Scott Freeman’s delivery of Issei’s quips, frustrated exclamations, and snide comments. I enjoyed the wacky situations that unfold when Issei must fulfill pacts by humans who call upon devils to address their “unique” wants and desires. He also happens to have the world’s most hilarious alarm clock, and I want one just like it. The diminutive Koneko, one of Rias’ confidants, is the type of woman who speaks softly and carries a big stick; the reversion of her dialogue results in some really great moments, many of them at Issei’s expense.
High School DxD is a perfect definition of fanservice: a razor-thin plot dominated by a glorified exaggeration of female body measurements, proportions, and personality types. However, I found myself entertained for reasons beyond the obvious. The show is goofy in its sexiness and Issei’s perverted antics are played for some genuinely great laughs. The animation is slick and the use of chess as a metaphor for combat is interesting, even if it is a bit superficial. Viewers armed with a good sense of humor will find that the show can be an amusing romp, despite the gratuitous amount of shameless nudity.