The Summer of Love continues this week with our look into the final “part” of High School DxD BoRn. Like I’ve said before, Season three is a strange beast because since the final few episodes are anime-only, the last real canon arc takes place in the first 3 episodes of the back half. While it has been a great ride so far, it is finally time where we hit some serious bumps in the road. Join me after the cut as we take a look at the final arc of Season three: The Asia Arc
This is the worst arc of the series.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now. When people talk about how season three is the worst out of the four, they are mostly talking about these episodes. I was surprised that I enjoyed much of the first half of Born with it’s solid training arc and enjoyable (if basic) time spent on characters like Koneko and Akeno. However the great thing about the previous Summer Vacation Arc is that it had time to breathe, encompassing pretty much half of the season. The Asia Arc meanwhile is pretty much shoved into three episodes (four if you count the non canon ending that Hero Episodes 0 fixes)
Most of the blame can be placed on production, because it feels very much that the show runners of High School DxD thought that Born was going to be the last season, so they needed to create something to wrap it all up. Because of that, this story arc has to be squeezed in between the two others and it really shows. Six episodes has always been just enough to tell a story in High School DxD, but with this arc only being three, the problems that I’ve discussed before are only magnified. In a sense I can understand their reasoning, since there is a three year gap between the third and fourth seasons and they (and us viewers) thought that this was going to be it, so something had to give.
Which is a shame, because the content of the Asia Arc is some of the strongest we’ve seen in a while. Asia Argento is probably only second to Rias in terms of her importance among the harem, and honestly sometimes it feels like she is more so. She is the only one out of the first four girls to genuinely love Issei at the start and their relationship as being the “newbies” among the Gremory family only furthers that bond. Asia and Issei’s relationship represents the pure true version of what Issei wanted with Yuma/Raynare, but never had the chance, and Issei’s guilt at bringing Asia into the devil world, and the inner debate he has over whether to see her as a woman or just a friend is has been a underlying theme throughout the entire series. To see it come to a head here is great and as I’ve said it before, Asia Argento is the only one out of all the girls who is the biggest threat to Rias, and probably the only one Issei would seriously consider choosing over her if he was forced to pick just one girl to be with. While it is rushed because of the episode production I did feel satisfied with how it all ended, mostly because a lot of the heavy lifting was done in previous seasons.
In terms of the other characters they all manage to get on quite well. Xenovia and Issei get a great moment when they discuss their upcoming battle and what the plans are for the future. While Xenovia has always been a more comedic member of the harem, it was good to see her actually have a serious one-on-one moment with Issei, which shows that she too is just as in love with him as the others. Akeno and Koneko, their respective character arcs finished do good as well, having some great comedic moments that continue the underlying theme of the series. I was glad to see that while Koneko is now officially in love with Issei, it doesn’t stop her from calling him out on his stupidity, which is what makes her characters so great. Rias meanwhile takes more a backseat this time around compared to the last few arcs, but work is still done in foreshadowing what is to come next, and again I am so glad that all of this work is being put into this plot thread. Even when Rias isn’t the focus of the story, it helps build up towards the conflict that will come in the final (as of now) season.
In term of the villains, once again we run into the problem that DxD has, but this time it feels even worse because what we are given could have been great. Diodora Astaroth and his obsession with Asia, his role in her banishment and overall attitude make him just a great fucking bad guy, and he would have been the most effective out of all them if he had just been given more screen time. What we get though is just a few examples of that evil personality before he is pretty much crushed by Issei. The scene itself is great, but it would have been even better if Diodora had, had the whole six episodes, or the entire season to be built up. What we get is a rushed condensed version of it, and that sucks. There is also the sudden Necron-like reveal of Shalba Beelzebub, but he pretty much is only there to show off Issei’s rage induced Juggernaut drive, which a really cool power, but there is just nothing to really to dig into.
Finally, we have to talk about the animation which takes a considerably nose-dive in quality compared to before. People have complained about the animation change in season 4 (I’ve made my thoughts on it clear myself), saying the style of the first three seasons are better, and I am sure they were talking about everything BUT this arc. While it never gets to the level of some messes like My Sister, My Writer, the animation of this arc just really isn’t that good. Characters feel weirdly drawn and off model, and there are corners cut when it comes to background characters and expressions. This is a common problem among many long running series where once they know it’s popular, they tend to put less effort into production and High School DxD is no exception to that. Thankfully episode 0 of season 4, which serves as the in-canon conclusion to the arc is a noticeable improvement, it too feels like a bit of a rush job compared to everything that comes before and after.
High School DxD Born is the worst season out of the four and it kills me to say that, but I have to call a spade a spade. While it is never truly “bad’ that some series end up getting, it is a noticeably downgrade from the surprisingly strong and consistent run the anime has had thus far. Again that fault does not lie in the story itself, but with the production surrounding. DxD Born provides some great moments for the entire cast and gives neglected characters their chance in the spotlight. Asia, Koneko and Akeno get their well deserved time and Issei continues to show us while he is an excellent lead in a genre where that is becoming rarer and rarer. Like always I enjoyed my time with this season, but it was a little less than the previous two. However things are going to be looking up as we move into the fourth season next week, where we once again find ourselves on solid footing. So join me next week as we take a look into the first arc of High School DxD Hero: The Kyoto Arc!
- Because I am only reviewing the canon episodes, we don’t get to see Rossweisse join Rias’s peerage. The poor girl can’t just get a break, but we love you!
- The episode 0 that Hero has to fix the canon issues does the job well enough and serves as a good entry point into the new animation style.
- Juggernaut drive is a great looking ability and we actually got to see Issei use the power he stole from Vali, which both you and I forgot he had.
- The Rias and Akeno argument during the fight against Diodora’s lackeys is still one of the funniest moments in entire series, doubly so because Koneko is the one to come up with the idea.
- The girls all dressing in sexy clothes to cheer Issei up is a great moment, and seeing Akeno and Rias fight (again) helps drive the overall theme of the series home once more.
- You know that girl who shows up at the literal last moment to finger-gun the big ass red dragon at the end of the arc? Well that’s apparently a massively important character in the future. *shrugs*
- Issei’s use of “boob-lingual” to read the minds of girls to predict attacks is fucking great. I just can’t believe it comes so late in the series. I also love how Diodora stripped away the girls embarrassment so Dress Break wouldn’t work. Clever!
- We get more teases of Sairaorg and his power in these episodes, which is great for foreshadowing his role in season 4. He’s still off color, but we’ll forgive that.
- The Oppai Dragon song is perfect and I won’t hear anything else about it.
- Irina joins the group at the start of this arc, but is no where to be found until the last moment. They REALLY should have merged her into Xenovia’s character.
- Koneko has now taken her place on Issei’s lap where she will always sit when she has the chance. It’s adorable and she is best girl.