It is easy to hate on things, but it is even harder to admit that something you hate or dislike actually has some redeemable qualities. While we can dismiss pieces of art and entertainment as bad and never think about them, it is the work that is flawed or has a moment of greatness that leaves you with something to chew on. Hence despite my heavy dislike of the series, there is one scene in Shinmai Maou no Testament that stands out as a shining example of possibility and potential. However, before we talk about the said scene, we need to take a small detour and speak out two things: Anime blue-balls, and Shinmai’s Basara Toujou. Let’s get into it after the cut.
(THE VIDEO CLIP PRESENTED IS VERY NOT-SAFE-FOR-WORK. PLEASE WATCH WITH DISCRETION)
It should be also said, that comparisons to High School DxD are going to happen throughout this post. While I hate doing it, the fact that both DxD and Shinmai are similar in many ways (Demons, Angels, both Harem shows, red-headed lead, oodles of fanservice) and the fact that Shinmai was created a YEAR after DxD and was probably trying to chase after it’s success can’t be divorced completely. While I never try to judge something against another of its peers if I can help it, it will be happening in this case. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.
Anime blue-balls, or as some may simply say “Why doesn’t anyone ever fuck?” is something that has been present in both ecchi, and non-ecchi titles for decades. While the reasons for it are simple and easy to understand, they are interesting to examine when you decide to dive in. You see, despite Japan having a much more “relaxed’ view of sex and sexuality compared to the West, entertainment is still held to practices and standards of decency. Shows that delve too deep into sex will often find their shows forced into later timeslots and left out of prime time areas where the most eyes are on their product. Simply put, any sexual act “below the belt” is strictly forbidden and shows will often find themselves rated 18+ or even classified as a Hentai. That can mean a loss of sales in the general public, which means less profit and less of a chance of being a long-running series.
So how do manga and anime handle this, but still manage to have oodles upon oodles of fanservice? Well, the common answer is that they stop JUST short of actually showing sexual intercourse or any heavy foreplay. You have probably seen this dozen of times in anime and manga. Right before things get just a little too steamy, just a little too heated, something happens that ends the scene, changes the subject or tries to bring a laugh or shock. People will barge in on the couple, a loud noise or something will distract them, one of the partners will freak out and end things, etc. By doing this anime and manga can show things getting heated, getting sexual, but nothing on the level that would warrant a higher age rating or reclassification. However, it also leads to none of the characters ever really engaging in any serious sexual endeavors, and while that is fine for many shows (and having and showing sex is never needed for any relationships to form or be depicted in anime) it also, simply put blue-balls. There is a lot to be said on this topic and its prevalence in the industry, but for the sake of this article, it is important to simply know it exists and the reasons for it.
Now, what about Shinmai’s male lead? Toujou Basara?
Basara is a shitty harem lead. Yes, he’s better than Ichikia from Infinite Stratos, but not by much.
You see, Shinmai’s main gimmick is that, in order to both keep the girls in his charge alive and to power both himself and them up to fight their enemies. Basara has to form a “master-servant” contract with them, in that to keep the girls loyal and alive, he has to perform increasingly lewder and lewder acts to them. By doing so, he increases both their power and his own, making them stronger and keeping them alive, as if they ever disobey him, they will die.
Now, this is a harem ecchi anime, and as far as reasons for fanservice go it’s fine. If Shinmai Maou no Testament does anything well, it shows how RIGHT up to the line it can take its fanservice and ecchi antics, and that is admirable where other shows are either unwilling or unable to do so because of editorial mandate. Even High School DxD’s author wanted to have more ecchi but was forbidden by his editors (and credit should also be given to Shinmai’s author Tetsuo Uesu for actually having the courage in later Light Novels to just go ahead, bite the bullet and have the characters start fucking all the time.)
But as for Basara? Well, the main problem is that like other harem characters discussed. Basara never has any real moment of realization of the situation he is in. He never questions, asks why, or wonders just exactly what is happening around him. Furthermore, unlike Issei Hyodo of DxD, Basara does not have any real traits or character motivations that endear him to the audience. Issei is a lovable loser, a guy thrown into a situation way beyond his understanding, and a lot of DxD is him trying to come to grips with both his feelings to the girls, his fear of getting close to them, and his place in the peerage of his master. Issei is a pervert horny teenager, and he wears it with pride. He isn’t ashamed of who he is and it is easy for the viewer to empathize and connect with Issei.
Basara however? The thing with Basara is that he while he does what he must in order to protect the girls and keep themselves alive. There is never if any sense that he gets any real feeling of satisfaction from it. He engages in these acts because it is a JOB because it is the ONLY way he can protect them, and the fact that Shimai never explores or develops that plot point only makes things worse. Almost all of Basara’s sexual and ecchi encounter with the girls feel like. “Well, the seal went off so I gotta do this or she dies.” This is a healthy good-looking young man presented with a buffet of beautiful women, and he feels nothing, and more important, the plot doesn’t want to do anything about it.
There is never a moment of contemplation, a moment of realization, or self-reflection about the situation he is in, and what is happening. Never a moment where Basara talks to the girls and asks how he or they feel about everything that’s happening. Even just a simple “I know this is because of the pact, but I really love doing this with you girls” or “Damn, this is getting to be too much,” would have sufficed. They just do it because the plot and fanservice quota demanded them too. Never in my time watching Shinmai did I feel that Basara wanted to be with the girls, or had any wish to, and the show’s failure to address that seeming disinterest just leaves everything feeling hollow. It’s fanservice for fanservice’s sake, with no justification or feeling behind it. While they may have been more acceptable a decade or so ago, this is the age of the internet, you can go watch Hentai or real Porn if you want meaningless titillation.
Until we get to this scene.
The scene that follows actually manages to address both of these problems at once and remains probably the best moment of the entire series. Before this scene takes place, Basara has been spending time with Chisato Hasegawa, the nurse in his school (it’s anime, roll with it) who is actually not part of his harem, but someone who has been shadow mentoring him through each “crisis” that has happened. After some classic anime ecchi hijinks, Basara ends up back at Chisato’s home where he needs to take a bath, she enters and then..this happens.
(Go to 18:37 cause Dailymotion is a bitch and won’t let me pre-start the video)
(AGAIN, THIS IS REALLY NOT-SAFE-FOR-WORK, YOUR LAST WARNING)
So..there is a bit to unpack here.
First off, this scene is sexual, raw, hot and heavy. As far as fanservice goes in Anime, it is a credit to Shinmai and the artists and animators to create something that is on par with some of the live action love scenes seen in television, but what is more important and what makes it the best scene of the series is two things. The first is that there is absolutely no bullshit.
None of it. No cutaways, no comedy gags, no interruptions by other characters, no jokes to break up the action, no hesitation, no blue-balls. For this entire scene, it is just a raw, real sexual experience with nothing to get in its way. For anything non-hentai, it is extremely rare to see in an anime because of both editorial interference and broadcast standards. In this scene, we see two people engaging in a healthy and normal sexual experience, and the anime wisely just steps back and lets it happen for along as they are allowed. It is refreshing to see the characters just act as they would, respond how they would and just really..be human.
The second reason is that, for the first time in the entire series, Basara Toujou is actually showing real sexual independence. Instead of doing it because it is his “job” or because he is required in order to keep the girls alive. Basara engages with Chisato not because he has to..but because he WANTS to. He wants to kiss her, to hold her, to touch her and it is the first time EVER that we actually see that there is a person beneath the generic harem protagonist. That underneath the male power fantasy, the empty shell of a personality and anime tropes, we have a healthy young male who has a healthy normal sexual libido. After thirteen episodes of Basara just being pulled along a bare minimum plot and oodles of forced (but well done) fanservice, this scene is a punch to the gut that wakes up the viewer from a stupor. For this single scene, we see that Basara Toujou is probably the most human out of all harem protagonists, and it is a breath of the freshest air to see.
The problem that remains, however, is that Shinmai does nothing with it. Even after it is all over and Basara returns home alone, saying he has “a lot to think about” the show never develops this further. Yes, there are more scenes with him and Chisato, but there is a wonderful foundation being laid here that Shinmai never decides to pursue. She could have been his escape away from the burdens he has with the other girls, the one example of a normal relationship that he could cling to. Chisato and Basara could have tried to have a relationship and love that anchors both of them to the insanity of the world around them. She could have become his rock, his way to cope, to just have someone to talk to about what is happening. The potential drama that could have happened when the other girls find out about their affair would have made great entertainment. However none of that happens, and Basara instead goes RIGHT BACK into his normal state of being, back to his harem and back to his job.
This scene remains the best out of all of Shinmai Maou no Testament, and easily in the top three best harem scenes of any show, I have watched. So much is done right and well in this scene that it is almost tragic that the show refuses to keep going afterward. While Shinmai may have never wanted to dive deep into the potential plot developments this scene creates, it missed what I think is a golden chance to set itself apart from other harem anime. For now, we just have to deal with a quick flash in the sky. A single moment of greatness.
Now excuse me while I go scrub my computer of all the Shinmai stuff I had to look up to write this, and celebrate that I NEVER have to talk about this again. Piece of shit fucking show…..