Demon Lord Dante Vol.3: Dante Agonizes Review
The war against the Satanists continues and matters are getting even bleaker for the demons as the Children of God unleash their man-made SX monsters on an unsuspecting public. Meanwhile the Four Demon Kings are stepping up their efforts to turn Tokyo into hell on Earth in order to goad the Demon Lord into making an appearance. Will Ryo rise to this bait?
Well, we’ve finally passed the halfway point of Demon Lord Dante and I cannot say the show has picked up much nor that volume three helps redress the balance somewhat. So far most of the enjoyment I’ve had from the series has stemmed from chuckling at the camp histrionics and ostentatiousness of the characters and setting, but with the arrival of the Four Demon Kings we’ve had a much more serious physical antagonistic presence for Dante to face off against, and if anything I find this a bit of a let down because they are a reasonably menacing threat and don’t look too daft either, add to them the SX monsters that the Children of God are engineering – who have no personality of their own and can’t even speak to make grandiose diatribes – and there’s much less to poke fun at! Indeed, I found myself looking back on Demon Beast Zenon’s battle against Dante with warm nostalgia throughout this volume.
There is some consolation to be had from the slightly more competent writing across volume three though – the plot is starting to develop in more interesting ways. For a start Ryo is beginning to sympathise more and more with the demons, he’s also growing more and more disillusioned with the Children of God’s morally dubious manoeuvrings – the same can be said of his best friend Sosuke, who still hasn’t managed to open is right eye yet. We are also fully introduced to the new love interest Saeko Kodai, or to use her demon name: Medusa. She’s clearly arrived to serve the purpose of establishing a love triangle within the story and to become another damsel in distress for our flamboyantly side-burned hero to rescue. The real gem on this volume though is the final episode, entitled: Encroachment. It’s a corker, not only does it reveal almost the entire back-story in one long flashback sequence, but it also reveals how Demon Lord Dante came to be – and trust me, it’s every bit as stupid as you could possibly imagine, it does not disappoint! Also in a rather laughable sex scene we get to see Dante playing with a tit, rather than acting like one. Simply in terms of story Encroachment is the best episode so far, factor in these classic moments and it can also match some of the most ridiculous moments of the show so far - now that’s quality entertainment.
Yet ultimately one crazy episode and a few interesting plot developments do make up for the many problems Demon Lord Dante has as a whole, it just doesn’t have enough characterisation and direction for my liking. The characters haven’t developed much, they’ve just shifted allegiances a little. Ryo was a wishy-washy teenage moper at the start of the series and he’s still that now, only with horns and a pair of wings. The rest of the Utsugi family haven’t changed much either, Tamiko is still dull and relegated to background scenery for most of her appearances, Kosuke is a deluded fool and Saori continues to act like jailbait every time she’s left alone with her big brother – and just what is that all about anyway? I know it was revealed in volume two that they’re not blood related, but she doesn’t know this yet and both were raised as true brother and sister. In order to sell the idea of these two developing romantic feelings for other you’ve got to flesh out their backstory a hell of a lot more than one or two flashbacks and compared to shows like Koi Kaze, that genuinely delve into the whole incest issue, the incest subplot of Dante just seems utterly superfluous. I know the Japanese are famous for their wacky eccentricities, but one aspect of their pop-culture I bafflingly endearing is their obsession with all forms of forbidden love. There have been so many dramas dealing with taboo match-ups that it’s hard to keep track: love between siblings, parents and their children, teachers and students, normal people with the mentally retarded and even between a human and a dog – well, a dog reincarnated into human form - I’m not talking Animal Farm here! (Although I wouldn’t be surprised, given Japan’s sex industry).
Anyway I’m digressing here, if you’ve stuck with Demon Lord Dante this far then I’m sure you’re either aware of its limitations and are along for the ride regardless of how crazy it gets, or you’re genuinely lapping it up – either way, I’m pretty confident that volume three will not be changing your opinions on the series as a whole.
While I have tried my best not to reveal too much about each episode in these synopses, please bare in mind that the second episode and onwards may feature spoilers for the episodes prior.
Episode 08. Disbelief: The Four Demon Kings have set up a very public sting in order to lure Dante out into the open. They have sent a message to the Tokyo media promising a grand devil show at the stroke of midnight for all to see. Unfortunately for the huge crowd that takes up this invitation, they’re going to be sacrificed to further the Children of Gods scheme to sully the name of demon kind.
Episode 09. Labyrinth: The Four Demon Kings continue to corrupt and terrorise the residents of Tokyo more than ever with the creation of Lamia’s Labyrinth. All across the city hundreds of people are vanishing and suddenly re-appearing later having changed in some horrible way. The only constant in all of this are their exultations of this mysterious Labyrinth where all their wildest dreams were realised, and Lamia’s legacy has become so widespread that everyone is talking about it and actively seeking it out. This spells bad news for the Utsugi household when Saori becomes the latest person taken in by the Lamia craze.
Episode 10. Encroachment: After rescuing Medusa from Lamia’s Labyrinth and discovering the true nature of his father’s war against the demons, Ryo is finding it more and more difficult to stay at home with his human family and announces that he’s thinking of getting an apartment. His parents support his decision to become more independent but Saori is deeply upset by the news and remains set against the idea. But it cannot be helped, for now is a very important time for Ryo, as he must decide once and for all whether he should side with the demons or mankind.
PresentationI sat through volumes one and two of Demon Lord Dante blissfully unaware of the censorship problems that Geneon’s DVDs have. It seems that their sub-licensors, Enoki Films, weren’t happy with the amount of nudity (and in some cases, gore) in the series and proceeded to alter the images to cover the naughty bits in shadow and fog. This decision is baffling to say the least because Dante isn’t really that violent - nor does it have any explicit sexual content in the first place, but there is a chance for U.S viewers to see brief snippets from a small selection of uncensored clips in the Highlights Montages that come with each separate volume. Here I have provided some comparisons between clips from episode nine on this volume with this episode’s highlights clip on volume two:
None of these images are animated aside from the second set – in which Lamia turns her head once - so it’s not like this is writhing, salacious material and why they saw fit to alter the web-hanging in set three, I will never know. Anyway, once you know how they like to alter the images it’s very easy to spot where they’ve been tampering throughout the series. Any form of censorship is annoying, but I can’t say that greying out a bit of nudity and blood is going to rescue Demon Lord Dante from its general mediocrity. Detail is ok, contrast is decent, brightness is a little low and colours are reasonably clean
Presented in the original 4:3 ratio there’s not really much separating volume three from its predecessors, although the Lamia’s Labyrinth episode has clearly been considerably darkened at times due to the issues above. In general though the image is pretty solid, detail is ok, some scenes look soft and hazy but it looks like the animation is more to blame for this. Contrast is decent, brightness is a little low resulting in poor shadow detail at times, but colours are solid and reasonably clean. Little niggles that commonly plague anime and Geneon releases in particular are present of course, like minor Edge Enhancement and some aliasing.
Again there’s no real departure from volume two here, we have a choice of Japanese/English DD2.0, the English is slightly louder but otherwise they’re very similar in terms of audio reproduction. The Japanese track incorporates deep bass, clear and audible dialogue and some ambient use of the rear channels to provide a good sonic experience.
Optional English subtitles are present with no spelling or grammatical errors I can recall.