What They Say:
Issei and his harem of hotties are back to take on their biggest, boldest, bounciest adventure yet as they fight to prevent Ragnarok (aka the end of the underworld)!
With summer vacation just around the corner, Issei’s got one thing on his mind spending sunny days with bikini-clad babes. Unfortunately, the Chaos Brigade is planning something big, and with heavy-hitters like the Norse God Loki in their corner, the House of Gremory is going to have to survive Rias’ underworld boot camp if they hope to stand a chance. While they prepare, dark forces gather strength behind the scenes, Koneko’s family reunion turns into a real catfight, and Asia must survive an indecent proposal from a high-ranking demon. With plenty of balls-to-the-wall battles and bare-it-all beauties, fans of High School DxD should start making room on the shelf their perfect pair is about to become a Menage a trois.
The audio presentation for this release is fairly standard fare for FUNimation as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that has a very good mix of action and dialogue to it so that it gets to shine on all counts. The action scenes work well in both mixes where it uses the forward soundstage well as it goes big and has a variety of effects that come across clearly and with a lot of good impact. The 5.1 mix brings a bit more to the rear channels and overall creates a good design to things where the show works well. The dialogue is generally well placed and there are some good scenes with depth of placement to help set the situation well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally broadcast in 2015, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine episodes on the first and three on the second along with the majority of the extras, of which there are many. Animated by TNK, the series has a really strong look to it overall which is good considering so many of the scenes are darker in nature and there’s a lot of red material, which can be problematic at times. The high definition transfer has a very solid look to it throughout with only a few areas that has some minor noise to it. The big action scenes are ones that hold up quite well without any problems in breakup during it. The color design is important here since it uses a lot of flesh tones that definitely look slick and a lot of red when it comes to Rias’ hair and the end result is a show that really does shine and all the fanservice comes across beautifully, which is hugely important here.
The limited edition release of this series gives us a really fun and good looking heavy chipboard box that holds two Blu-ray cases, one for the DVD release and one for the Blu-ray release. The front of the box is designed like a book cover to some degree and we get Issei mixed in amongst all the other girls, which has grown even more since the previous season as one might expect. It’s definitely bright and colorful and has a great upbeat feeling to the whole thing. The back cover does similar design overall but it focuses more closely on just having Rias and Issei together with her chest being a big feature but also just feeling really serious and action oriented in a way. The series logo is one of the more adorable aspects of the design, especially with the way they work the New word into it, and one that really does show off the nature of the series well compared to so many other bland logos out there.
The two cases are done in a similar overall layout and design as the box itself but changes up the artwork nicely. Giving over more space and opportunities to the pairings and cast shots work well and each of them definitely catches the eye nicely and could function as a main cover without a problem. The back covers have a fairly bland background to it where the new characters get to take these positions so they stand out a bit more. Each one breaks down the episode numbers and titles as well as the extras, though it doesn’t indicate which discs have what. No show related inserts are included but both cases have artwork on the reverse side which shows off more of the girls in an illustration style that’s definitely appealing.
The menu for this release changes things up from the past ones that used clips as it goes with a logo only approach. That’s actually a little more creative this time around as we essentially get the DxD logos floating around and bouncing in slow motion set against a black background. It’s pretty comical but it catches the eye and certainly makes you grin. The look of it is pretty good and the static aspects includes the navigation along the bottom which has a red and black checkered piece that fits the color design of the series nicely. The middle center of the menu uses the series logo with the volume numbering on it which is definitely cute and sexy in its own way. Submenus load quickly and easily and navigation is a breeze with language selection that’s not locked and can be changed on the fly.
The extras for this season are lighter than the second since there aren’t any behind the scenes pieces out of Japan. What we do get of real merit are six OVA shorts that just play up the fanservice and sexuality in a big way. It looks to push boundaries but they’ve been pushed here before so it’s just a continuation. A welcome one, to be sure, as they’re fun and silly as well as damn sexy as they clock in at just over three minutes each and allow all the main girls to get their time in the spotlight. We also get the clean version of the opening and closing sequences and the round of promotional videos and home video spots for the Japanese release.
After a successful second season in 2013 that certainly built upon what came before, and delighted me, High School DxD came back in the spring of 2015 for another season. There were some ups and downs in the creation of this season, and some minor troubles with the dubbing process that resulted in a change or two, and all of that kind of clouded this season a bit unfortunately. The show is one that I find that I really enjoy in a bigger sense because it has some good story ideas mixed in with lots of fanservice that it isn’t afraid to embrace – or animate beautifully. But this season is one that feels like it’s more about the smaller stories and an overall arc that never comes together or feels important. Frankly, there’s not much to talk about there when you look at it because it’s just a nudge to get Issei into a more competent place overall as the villains aren’t memorable in the slightest.
With summer break here, the show gets to open with some fun as Rias takes the gang to the underworld for a while as there’s a summit of sorts going on there. I do like that before that we get a bit further establishment of how things have changed for Issei and his family as Rias has constructed a massive home for them above and below ground so there’s more than enough room for everyone and all that they do. Parents, when done right, can be a great anchor for a show in a very positive way. These two don’t get a lot of time but I love how they roll with it all, such as his mother thinking she can become a great cook now that she has a great kitchen, and just how much they love having everyone around. When we get to the end and there are some new additions, his mother again steals the show in noting that they do get more attention than him since they’re far cuter. Truthfulness via mom is always dangerous. But true.
The underworld sequence itself certainly isn’t bad but it’s throwing a whole lot of characters into the mix with Azazel causing problems and more. The expansion into other gods isn’t a surprise since it means opening up a lot of different things for the characters to interact with beyond basic angels and devils, but I’m admittedly a little tired on the Loki front and having a semi-pervy old man Odin around doesn’t do much for me either. Koneko has some decent time here as she gets involved with Kuroka a bit and this brings out more of what Loki is up to as we get the Chaos Brigade and his always longstanding desire to see Ragnarok brought about. This kind of feeds into the smaller stories that we get throughout the season, serving as the tie that binds it all together, but it really doesn’t do much and it just feels tacked on. Even more so when we get the ending couple of episodes where it’s the main fight and you realize there’s no real intensity or engagement with it.
What this leaves to focus on are the smaller episodes and the character connections. My favorite has to be the episode with Akeno as she ends up setting up a kind of date of sorts with Issei, with Rias’ blessing, and the two have your typical day out together. Issei’s kind of unsure about it and just going along with it but I love watching the others “secretly” following along and just getting more time with Akeno. The girlish side of her certainly throws off Issei as she doesn’t let it out often but it’s a good facet of her to see some of. But I really love that the episode ends up dealing with the arrival of her father more than anything else and we get a look at her troubled and painful past that lead her to Rias. She and Rias certainly have a bond unlike the others since they were together first so getting another glimpse of that here through her eyes reinforced the bond but also made Akeno more interesting.
The season does bring some serious material into the mix before the big ending arc as well and that also works out pretty well. One of the draws to the show is the way that Issei is devoted to all of them but you know some are more than others. Rias is obvious but I love how he’s so into Asia. That becomes problematic along the way because Asia ends up kidnapped with Diodora Astaroth holding her and that just sends him over the edge. It plays into how the end arc goes with Rias being in a similar zone and how Issei has to help her, but I just love seeing how dedicated and intense Issei is when it comes to Asia and the lengths he’ll go to save her. Diodora isn’t all that much to write home about and it’s not a particularly compelling arc in terms of their battle and action, but the way this group has bonded overall has been welcome, even as the cast keeps growing at an unsustainable rate.
While this season doesn’t turn me off from the property, High School DxD BorN feels like a kind of filler season here overall. There’s potential for some fun with what they do by going to the underworld or even spending time with some silliness as part of the summer vacation aspect, but it instead ends up with a kind of bland series of events and an overarching storyline that simply doesn’t connect well. There are some very fun moments to be had throughout so it’s not like it’s not enjoyable, it’s just not as good as the previous seasons. It even leans into the sexuality and nudity more than it needs to at times because it knows there’s not as much in the way of compelling story as we had in the first two seasons, or even as much character material. I’m still hopeful for a fourth season, however, because there’s so much that this property can do.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, High School DxD New Broadcast Commemoration Special: Yoko Hikasa’s Voice Acting School (Parts 1-5 + Final), Textless Openings and Closings, Promotional Videos, Trailers, Commercials.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.