It was with a fair bit of trepidation that I started the first episode of Dance with Devils. Sure, I’d been looking forward to it, as it had seemed promisingly trashy, but as the airdate drew nearer, I’d felt increasingly uneasy about it. The premise was worryingly reminiscent of Diabolik Lovers (and, indeed, was originally developed by the same gaming studio that brought us that series, Rejet), with vampires swapped out for devils, and this type of show has a fairly poor record more generally – lots of terrible boys, and dull heroines who are treated badly by those terrible boys. So a tale featuring a girl trying to dodge a pack of demons? Hmm…
An opening musical number featuring the heroine walking mutely down the aisle of a church in wedding-type attire with a black veil as male characters look on from the shadows didn’t do much to dispel my concern. Imagine my surprise, then, when the next scene featured a heroine who actually speaks words and in full sentences, and who seems to be competent. Even better, our heroine ends up standing up for herself a few times during the episode, and isn’t dazzled at all by the handsome visages of her harem-to-be. Sure, some shadowy villains try to kidnap her at one point, but, hey, the girl does pretty well for herself on the whole given that she’s surrounded by supernatural creatures who think she knows where an important book is.
One thing in particular I liked in this episode was the relationship established between Ritsuka and her mother, Maria. Mother and daughter have a strong relationship, and are also both allowed to be capable people within their own spheres. Anime really loves to give us semi- to wholly-useless parents, so I liked that while Maria was permitted her foibles, she isn’t consumed by them. Interestingly, the mother-daughter bond is positioned as the most important one ultimately in the show. It’s the charm Maria insists the skeptical Ritsuka wears that protects her from a bout of devilish hypnotism, while Ritsuka’s driving motivation ends up being the search for her mother when Maria is kidnapped by mysterious figures.
Honestly, I was impressed with this episode. It has several cheesy musical numbers (which wasn’t quite what I’d expected), but it’s a really solid opening episode, and not in the sense that I tend to assess otome-y reverse harem shows (“otome-y” since this technically isn’t a game adaptation, although a game company came up with the concept, AND a game was announced for it in the past couple of days). Uta no Prince-sama is a great goofy-ass, over-the-top otome adaptation. Dance with Devils at the moment is a pretty decent anime series. I just really hope that it stays that way.