The Summer of Love continues this week! We are now in the final stretch of our look at the series High School DxD and season 4 has begun! After the rather rough ride that was the back half of season 3, I can happily say that we are back in firm ground with our next installment, so join me after the cut as I dive into the first arc of High School DxD Hero: The Kyoto Arc
Out of all the installments of High School DxD, I was looking forward to season 4 the most for two reasons, and while I’ll get to the second one next week, the first can be discussed today. I have to be honest that when I first watched this as it premiered last year I wasn’t 100% blown away by it, mostly because Season 4 and the Kyoto Arc especially had to pull double duty of re-introducing people to the series after a near 3 year break between the seasons AND continue a story that was hamstrung by the BS in the third season. Coupled with the fact that three of the four main harem girls (Rias, Akeno and Koneko) are barely in this arc probably didn’t help things either. I liked it, I enjoyed my time, but I wasn’t blown away by it at all.
However I hoped that upon a second proper re-watch with the benefit of watching the entire series up to this point, that the Kyoto Arc would improve and I can happily say that it has. Out of everything I’ve watched of High School DxD, the Kyoto arc is probably the strongest entry we’ve had since the first season. While it is not the most character heavy, the Kyoto arc brings DxD back to it’s roots with some great action, good character development, and fun harem hijinks. Gone is the rushed sense of pacing and ripping through content that dominated season 3, and instead we are back to the comfortable 6 episodes per story arc that gives characters and plot points time to breathe. I never felt that the story was rushed and everything moved along at that brisk pace that DxD is known for, but with enough effort to leave the corners filled in.
Something that surprised me, and I’m glad that was done, was the Kyoto Arc choosing to take the A-tier harem, out of the story for a while. While Asia is present, she is very much a supporting role this time, and Rias, Akeno and Koneko are only ever seen in cut away scenes. I can understand some fans frustration with this, but I think it is vital because it allows the other female characters of the cast a chance to shine. Xenovia, Irina and especially Rossweisse have pretty much been regulated to side characters up to this point, and the Kyoto Arc finally allows them a chance to cut loose. It’s not amazing to be sure, but seeing Irina and Rossweisse have moments of comedy, moments of action and just their own chance in the spotlight was so welcome. Like all harems, High School DxD can start to suffer under the strain of too many female characters (which is only made worse in the light novels apparently), so giving Rias and crew a break to let other characters have a turn was a real nice surprise.
Another surprise was the establishment of Sairaorg as the season’s big hurdle for Issei to clear. Unlike the other antagonists of the series though. Sairaorg isn’t a baddie, but more of a friendly rival for Issei to get over. In the short scenes he is in, Sairaorg forms more of a bond and brotherly friendship with Issei than Kiba hasn’t done in 4 seasons and I was shocked at just how well it worked. Sairaorg is good man who wants to prove himself to people who would never give him the time of day, and while he views Issei as a rival, they are also friends, and give each other the respect they are due. While their fight will dominate the final arc of the series, I was glad it was getting some build up time at the start of this one. Cao-Cao, the villain of this arc is also a step up from previous entries in the series. Like Vali, Cao-Cao is very much being set up as a recurring rival for Issei to measure himself against instead of a off-on villain of the week, but with more sinister undertones than the latter. He does the arc well enough, and in a series where the bad guys are the sore thumb, that is more than I can expect.
Finally, this arc begins to start paying off the series long build-up in the relationship between Issei and Rias which finally comes to a head in the next arc. Seeing Issei’s inner struggle and his wish to get stronger with both the series (and hilarious) side effects is done extremely well this time around, and once again DxD shows it’s strength by FULLY committed to the perverseness of his character with some of the best action done yet, and some really clever moments. Illegal Move Triana is honestly the coolest use of his powers yet.
The Kyoto Arc of High School DxD is a welcome return to the quality that sets the show apart from other ecchi/harems of its type, and reminds viewers who might have been put off by season 3, why they love this series in the first place. I know some people are still hung up by the animation, but everything about the Kyoto Arc says that powers that be know what works and have learned the lessons of the past. Again I was so surprised at how much fun I had with this and I know things are only about to get A LOT better. Now that seasons can all be watched together, the Kyoto Arc takes it’s place with some of the strongest the series has produced and deserves it wholly. It’s good to be through the storm. Later this week we’ll take a small detour before we get into the final story arc with a re-dive into the character of Issei Hyodo! Don’t miss it!
- As much as I love the new animation (and seriously go back and watch season 3 and tell me that it is better, i’ll wait) there are some moments where it feels the animators just went to Kyoto, took a bunch of pictures and and just drew the characters in front of them. It’s kinda strange.
- Kunou, the cute little fox girl is thankfully not one of the annoying bratty characters and knows when she has to stand back and let the “adults” take care of things, not trying to be a hero or solve things herself. We’ve all seen shows that try and do that, and we all wanna strange the kid with our bare hands. Kunou is not one of them. Also her mom is fucking STACKED.
- The arc also soft introduces us to Le-Fay, who becomes a regular player in the harem in the following story arcs (that are not adapted). She’s fine, but she’s barely in the story that I feel she could have been cut, especially if season 4 is all we get.
- The running gag with the unlocking of Issei’s “potential” causing a rampant increase of molesters was just great.
- I hate Issei’s friends, more so in the dub, but they honestly just feel not really important anymore. Seriously, can we have Issei and Kiba have a bro moment instead of spending any time with those idiots.
- Saji’s abilities here were suppose to be revealed in the Gremory vs Sitri rating game arc that was cut from season 3. It sucks that we lost what I’ve heard is a great moment, but Saji’s new powers are cool and fun.
- The mini arc involving the “devil rangers” was also hinted at, but again we will probably never see it. I was hoping we might get an OVA about that and the Sitri rating game, but it looks like that isn’t going to be the case. Just another victim of season 3.
- I’ve gushed about my love of the dub of High School DxD before, and this has some of my favorite dub lines of the whole season, but it is also one where they play pretty loose with the script, dropping references that frankly don’t have any place in a series like this.
- Since Rias, Akeno and Koneko aren’t mentioned at all in the light novel version of this arc, the anime smash cuts to them at least once an episode and almost every time they are in the baths talking about their boobs or Issei. Unnecessary fanservice? Probably, but A) that is what this show is) and B) No one keeps Akeno’s titties in the corner. NO ONE.
- Rias showing up to have her boobs poked and unlocking Issei’s new powers, then instantly vanishing back home almost made me give the show a standing ovation. Perfect.
- So Serafall Leviathan, one of the strongest devils of all time is present during all of the fighting and just kinda sits there. I guess since her little sister wasn’t around she didn’t want to get involved.
- Always remember, the 100 yen shop is just by the station.
- Hey, Ravel is gonna join the school! Do you remember her? I kinda do. She’s like Koneko’s arch rival. Or just the Loli with boobs.
- The mid credit fanservice cards are some of the best the series has gotten so far.