Commonly, the anime that answers questions about the true meaning of love and friendship, and the anime that answers to what men want, are not one in the same. Or so it’s often believed. As against often realistic shojo romance, seinen fanservice-based series are often cast as crude and of lesser artistic merit. High School DxD is ecchi in the greatest degree, baring immense amounts of not just suggestion but actual nudity, and also manages to be touching in a way more than physical.
Whatever it manages to be, there is a lot of it. Inspired by a light novel published between 2008 and 2018 and running to 25 volumes, there was plenty of material! The initial High School DxD anime adaptation came out in 2012, with 12 episodes; it was followed by High School DxD New in 2013, High School DxD BorN in 2015, and High School DxD Hero in 2018, at 12 episodes apiece, for a total of 48 plus OVAs and specials, and with naked girls in every episode, that’s a lot of service! In more serious episodes, lewd bits are confined to the eyecatches sandwiching the commercial breaks from its original late-night run.
But what can be serious in such an anime? Main character Issei Hyodo lets there be no doubt how ecchi this anime is. Chronologically, his first line is, “I wanna squeeze some boobs.” He and two like-minded males form the “perverted trio” of Kuoh Academy, a formerly all-girls school just gone co-ed. Together, they enjoy the time-honored sukebe traditions of peeking into the girl’s changing room and discussing JAV DVDs in class. That is, until a pretty classmate named Yuma Amano asks him out! Issei accepts, and some of the first episode consists of scenes from their cute first date, eating at a restaurant and shopping together, already showing that he also has a kind heart. However, Yuma ends the date by stabbing Issei through the chest with a spear, revealing herself as the fallen angel Raynare, and leaves as he lies dying! Yet he awakens, safe and alive, beside a naked Rias Gremory—the buxom, scarlet-haired school beauty, President of the Occult Research Club, known for iconically overlooking the school grounds from the clubroom window with her benevolent gaze. Unbeknownst to him, she is really a devil.
Granting Issei’s dying wish, Rias revives him, as a devil! Now he shall serve Rias, not only with his new powers but also Boosted Gear, a Sacred Gear (God-given artifact conferring abilities) he was born with—and which the fallen angels feared, leading Raynare to kill him as a threat. Initially, Boosted Gear allows Issei to double his power every 10 seconds and, containing the spirit of Ddraig, the Welsh Dragon, manifests itself as a gauntlet occupying his left arm, begetting a relationship akin to Parasyte. Yes, the supernatural elements are fairly complex, but essentially Rias’ Gremory family is devil nobility. Given the ability to mint new devils using Evil Pieces (magical chess pieces), the noble families compete for status in Rating Games. In the larger world, devils are one of the Three Factions, the others being angels and fallen angels. On making acquaintance with his new master Rias and her servants, busty ‘Queen’ Akeno Himejima and petite catgirl ‘Rook’ Koneko Tojo, ‘Pawn’ Issei forms a new ambition: become a powerful devil with a harem! Also present is pretty boy ‘Knight’ Yuuto Kiba. A team with room for additions, the females hot for to downright aggressive on Issei, High School DxD is set to go from here on both fighting and ecchi fronts. Issei has ample time to build his character, for as in many seinen romances he must train up his abilities to protect the woman he loves (which one?), and he develops endearing friendships, with Rias especially; I also found his companionship with Akeno moving.
Early on, a “blonde beauty” Catholic nun, Asia Argento, enters the action, befriending Issei and Rias. Named for an actress known for portraying nuns and, later, as an early figure in the #MeToo movement (prophetically? like all young females in Issei’s orbit, she is lewded, many times; I am surprised there was not a defamation suit), Asia is and remains an innocent, good-natured Christian, who, even as circumstance brings her to the side of the devils, retains her beliefs. This NSFW harem anime is not the place to look for sound theology; as in earlier hit Chrono Crusade being a demon does not preclude being a good person but is more like a tribe. Asia’s former allies treat her evilly; the plot reminds of Sr. Orsola Aquinas’ arc in A Certain Magical Index, the Church an unsympathetic villain. Nunsploitation is a beloved fetish, and right or not, for good reason, but Asia’s sufferings from sadists from her own Church spoiled some of that for me. However, her persistent faith, even when given the most discouraging news of her God (Who, after all, had already died once and lived to tell the tale), is beautiful, and in the second season leads Issei to make one of the kindest and most understanding requests in all anime. Later, Asia even joins up with two other Catholic friends, thus forging the ‘Church trio’, three girls radiant with Christian joy... all members in good standing in Issei’s harem of course, and making sexual advances. Watching this anime for the stupendous service may be hard to square with Christian piety, but any believers here because the flesh is weak might be best off offering thanks for the beauty of oppai (breasts), all represented to such advantage in this program.
Caution: there is a trap in High School DxD; take care which characters you find stimulating. But he isn’t obnoxious, even understands and taking pride in his duty to be a man.