Sun. Oct 24th, 2021

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time! Today we’ll be embarking on a new journey, as we check out the first episode of 2019’s The Demon Girl Next Door. I’ve been told this show is “the most directly post-Madoka series” of recent years, but beyond that mostly know of it via cultural osmosis, as a generally well-regarded mix of slice of life and romance. It’s based on a 4koma strip, so I’m expecting things will be fairly gag-driven, which seems to suit its director Hiroaki Sakurai (Cromartie High School, among a variety of other acclaimed shows) quite well. I feel like it’s been too long since I checked out a solid slice of life show, so here’s hoping Demon Girl offers the good vibes we’re looking for. Let’s check it out!

Episode 1

“I had a dream.” We open in a gilded fantasy of a girl in bed, under a haze of artificial stars. A voice tells “Yuko” that “thou must awaken”

“Thou hast inherited the blood of the dark ones. You must vanquish a Magical Girl who lives in this town, and restore our clan to its former glory.” Efficient motivation! Pretty easy to clarify what a story is all about when it opens with one of the protagonist’s gods or ancestors assigning them an outright quest

Yuko is too sleepy for this nonsense

We transition out of this first scene with a fade to black after she gets her butt kicked. It’s somewhat common in 4koma adaptations that you can sorta see the page breaks like this. Unless you do a large-scale rearrangement or expansion of the material (like K-On!), the individual gag-based nature of the original material can create a sort of staggered pace in adaptation

“Something very abnormal is poking out of my very normal head.” Yuko is fifteen, and until now was a normal teenager

Interesting that we’re starting with an originally normal girl who becomes a demon girl as a teenager. That’s an inherently loaded choice – there are countless narratives that use some sort of adolescent supernatural awakening as a metaphor for growing into your adult self, and magical girl stories in particular tend to frame their transformations as aspirational things, a way to reach out towards the person you want to become

In this case, Yuko becoming a demon at fifteen, contrasted against a heroine who’s becoming a magical girl, quietly plays with the idea of some women being “fallen” as an inevitability, which is frequently a background assumption of more conservative narratives. This is absolutely something Madoka interrogated – that show was painfully aware of how society tends to compress women into specific shapes, and condemn those who fall out of line. You are never a person, only an object of either worship or derision – the Madonna/whore binary, which maps pretty easily to magical girls and witches/demons

Madoka also emphasized how our inhumane systems and assumptions provoke potential allies into fighting each other. I’m guessing we’ll get plenty of that here – the premise of the show rallies against the “destined duties” of Good Girls and Bad Girls, shouting out that we should reject arbitrary labels and embrace love

The OP is appropriately light in both melody and visuals. Interesting to see a bunch of clocks behind Yuko, implying some sort of time motif

“For Family Reasons You’re Now a Demon Girl.” The episode title makes the central metaphor even more explicit, emphasizing how being a demon girl is just another representation of any family’s assumptions about their children

Her mother is not surprised. “It seems the day has finally come”

Yuko’s lazy indifference to all this myth and prophecy is pretty good

They are descendants of the “dark clan,” which was banished long ago

The show is actually doing a good job of linking comics naturally. By embracing a lot of staggered deadpan punchlines, the distinction between individual comics becomes blurred, because the show itself is adopting a stop-start comedic pacing. As a result, the odd transitions between beats become jokes unto themselves

“In the end, they put the $400 per month curse upon us”

“What, doesn’t this make me the bad guy?” “Unsealing your power will make you a little taller.” Fantastic

Their doorstop is actually the statue used for blood sacrifices. It’s kind of adorable

Yuko fiddling with her tail when she’s nervous is also a good bit

And so she sets off to kill a magical girl, armed with a utility fork. This super-deformed aerial view of her neighborhood is also quite adorable

“I’m supposed to splatter her blood all over this statue, right? But I hate icky horror films and I have the worst grades in gym class.” Getting a lot of comic mileage out of her deadpan acceptance that this is just what life is now, while simultaneously playing into that underlying theme of life’s arbitrary role-sorting

Yuko manages half a dozen pratfalls in as many steps. “Demon who is terrible at everything” will never get old

Our magical girl gets a luxuriously animated transformation sequence, complete with… what is that, a keyframe count in the corner???

Interesting. Our magical girl actually has a very subdued, deadpan vocal affectation. It feels like they’re deliberately playing with expectations here, as Yuko’s bubbly, goofy personality generally leans more towards the “magical girl” archetypes, while we expect our villains to be the emotionless ones. A choice that once again emphasizes how arbitrarily these roles are assigned

Yuko raises her fork in defense, and the magical girl hands her some bread

“Don’t think this means you’ve won!” she shouts, retreating with her bread

Yuko has proven herself an excellent gremlin already, and I’m eager to see how this rapport develops

Yuko’s friend Anri is very polite about her new accessories

“I bet you could hang your umbrella or gym clothes from them!” Now that’s some practical thinking

“I’m totally jealous. Having a destiny is so cool.” Her friends’ general non-reactions are a fine demonstration of this show’s deadpan humor, and also further emphasize how normalized it is that we accept our assigned paths

The production also uses explanation pages to soften the cuts between individual gags, like this cutaway to a croissant. A nice array of subtle tricks being used to smooth the adaptive rough edges

The magical girl also attends their school. Her name is Momo Chiyoda

Magical girls normally try to hide their identities, but like with Yuko’s identity, having it be publicly known is both funnier and more in line with the show’s thematic concerns

I also like how this show is integrating so many of the original comic’s sound effect noises, with Yuko actually voicing all her internal reactions. It really fits her somewhat manic personality

“I guess I’ll go show her who’s boss!” I admire her optimism

Oh my god, Momo is a full head taller than her. This is a very good dynamic

Yeah, the background noises are great. Konomi Kohara did a great job as Yuko – no surprise, given she also killed it as Chika in Kaguya-sama

Momo leaning down to speak at Yuko’s eye level only makes this even more humiliating

I am very happy to learn that Momo isn’t generally lacking in emotions, but instead has a genuinely deadpan sense of humor. She can’t help but toy with Yuko, who is now Shamiko

Yuko exhausts herself ineffectually punching Momo. “I never thought my first battle would go so poorly”

Momo offers her more pastries, and begins critiquing her punching form. These two are amazing together

Momo’s attempt to kindly let her down is incredibly brutal. Great use of timing and sound design here – the whole show essentially slows down its pace as she stumbles over a polite response

Interesting. Momo seems to live alone, inside a spacious and well-kept house. There’s a bit of a class element built into this magical girl/demon binary, it seems

Some nice backgrounds and color work as we reach the late afternoon. This show has a very cheerful, pastel-heavy color palette on the whole, so this switch to early evening colors is a nice change of pace

You don’t tend to notice it unless it’s not working, but balancing a show’s color palette is tricky business. A show like The Tower of God always looks inherently discordant and “cheap” because its colors simply do not work in harmony

Yuko is out practicing her punches on the riverbank. Ah, youth

“You’ve made your first step on the path to becoming the leader of the demon horde”

And Done

Well that was charming as heck! Yuko is adorable, and it’s fun just hanging out with her as she continuously trips through her daily existence. Momo also surprised me, offering a personality-rich twist on the deadpan character type, and generally making for a great, endearing contrast with our young demon lord. Meanwhile, the base concept of this story seems to imply we’ll be investigating some fascinating magical girl-adjacent themes, with the show already poking at the implications of purity and predestination inherent in this magical girl/demon binary. Couple all that with this adaptation’s energetic pacing and comedic timing, and you end up with an altogether excellent first episode!

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By admin