Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist is published in Weekly Zero Sum, the same magazine that features the likes of 07 Ghost and Karenval. As such you have a pretty clear idea of what to expect here, and in some ways we get it: a lot of pretty young males in grandiose costumery engaged in equally grandiose behavior. In fact there’s not a female in sight anywhere in the premiere, which makes Devils and Realist a bit of an interesting iconoclast in today’s anime environment if nothing else.
Where the series surprised me a bit was in tone. Judging by the synopsis I’d read and the fact that Kon Chiaki is directing, I was expecting something in the line of gothic horror. We definitely get the “goth” part, though the series plays more as a comedy than anything else in the premiere. Going in the comps I had in mind were Dantalian no Shoka (we even have a Dantalion in the cast) and Pandora Hearts, and it definitely has elements of the latter, which combined some subtly dark material with a lot of lighter comedy.
There’s not much darkness in the first episode of Makai Ouji, the story of a wealthy and brilliant schoolboy and occult skeptic “realist” named William Twining (Eguchi Takaya) who returns home to see what’s amiss when his Uncle doesn’t pay his tuition. There he finds the house empty, and his butler Kevin (Fukuyama Jun) tells him that his Uncle has blown the family fortune and fled. In the search for anything valuable enough to sell William finds a hidden room in the basement, where a drop of his blood on the magic circle on the floor summons Dantalion (Terashima Takuma), who immediately recognizes William as the descendant of King Solomon – with whom he made a contract in agent times, and who serves as the elector who will choose the replacement for the napping King of Hell, Lucifer. Also paying a visit is Gilles de Rais (Toriumi Kousuke), acting on behalf of his demon lord master, one of Dantalion’s rivals. Eventually Dantalion ends up in England, and enrolls in William’s school.
Demon Lords, politics in Hell, Gilles de Bois – these are all definitely trendy themes in anime at the moment. And truth be told, Makai Ouji plays as a pretty routine series. There’s a by-the-books quality to the way the plot is laid out and the way the characters behave, and the production values from Dogakobo are pretty average on the whole. The humor too is hit and miss – it often feels a bit too broad for the setting – although there are enough hits to bring me back for at least one more episode. At this point I can’t say this series works as a straight comedy, and I have no idea if the other elements in the series will be more prominent in future episodes. Somehow the whole feels slightly more than the sum of the parts – my overall impression is incrementally more favorable than it should be based on the way I responded to the components of the episode, so there’s something in the characters or setting that sort of works for me – but Makai Ouji has a lot of convincing to do before I’m ready to consider it a keeper.