Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be returning to The Demon Girl Next Door, for a very clear and obvious reason: the first episode was delightful, and I’d like to see more of it. Yuko has already proven herself to be a charming mess of a heroine, and it seems like Momo’s combination of wry amusement and deadpan delivery will make for a perfect contrast with her “nemesis.”

At the same time, the show’s assumption of “destined roles” for demons and magical girls, as well as its offhandedly class-aware framework for this dichotomy, seem to imply it may be interested in grappling with the same questions of feminine agency articulated by shows like Madoka Magica. The magical girl genre often features inspirational stories of solidarity and personal growth, but it can easily be used to cast a light on the systems that bind young women, with even ostensibly “lighthearted” shows like Pretty Cure frequently tackling these issues. I’ll be intrigued to see if Demon Girl continues to complicate its thematic subtext, but for now, I’m also happy just to watch Yuko trip and fall on her face repeatedly. Let’s get to it!

Episode 2

We open on a fantasy of Yuko actually being a competent warrior, and somehow wounding Momo. This show doesn’t seem to have to have the most generous animation or background design resources (J.C. Staff shows have been on a downward incline in that regard for years now), so it works hard to set this scene with basically no motion, using pans across a broken battlefield to convey a sense of momentum

“Are you really saying I scored a point? I don’t have to be the one to lie to myself?” Oh Yuko

The narrator’s pitch consistently ends on “defeat a Magical Girl in order to save her family from the grips of poverty.” This obviously works perfectly well as a joke – contrasting the fanciful conflict of a magical girl with the mundane conflict of economic struggle is a natural subversion of our expectations, and the added jolt of seriousness provided by “the grips of poverty” adds a spice of meanness that makes perfect sense for this bullying-heavy comedy

At the same time, consistently linking Yuko’s demonic nature and her poverty reaffirms the assumption that the relationship between magical girls and demons is not one of virtue, but one of class. Is it that magical girls become rich, or that only rich girls get the opportunity to be magical girls? Through this persistent focus on class, Demon Girl slyly pushes back against the idea that we are wholly responsible for our own destinies, and implies that the optimism inherent in other narratives requires a certain degree of blindness regarding social and economic opportunity

In Madoka Magica, this conflict was echoed to a degree by the contrast of Sayaka and Kyouko. Sayaka had the privilege necessary to concern herself with lofty ideals like being a pure heroine of justice – in contrast, Kyouko had to concern herself with more mundane, less high-minded conflicts, like “where will I be getting my next meal”

“At least now I know it’s impossible for a level 1 demon girl to fight a level 99 magical girl”

Yuko defending herself with measuring instruments is adorable. Some good faces here too, very important for a show like this

“Sometimes girls who awaken to demon powers get swallowed by the darkness and become a monstrous problem.” Like in Madoka, those who cannot handle the suffering of this world eventually become monsters to be destroyed. And yes, if you live in poverty, it is a whole lot easier to feel like things are hopeless, and become “swallowed by the darkness”

“You don’t have to call me that. You can just call me ‘Momo.’” Momo doesn’t seem particularly proud of her identity – she’d rather be known as herself than as her title

Apparently Shamiko is going to stick

“I’m through with doing all the magical girl stuff.” She did mention that it had been a long time since she transformed

Yuko is very good at talking shit, but extremely terrible at getting hit

“Well then, I’m off to murderize the magical girl.” This show also gets a fair amount of mileage out of everyone’s blank acceptance of this situation. The deadpan gags go a long way, and as I mentioned last time, punchlines of this sort also work well to mitigate the inherently staggered pacing of a 4koma adaptation

“You said ‘weekend,’ but didn’t specify Saturday or Sunday, so I waited here yesterday too.” “I’m so sorry, I should have specified.” This show is also drawing some great comedy out of the inherent similarities between a Destined Rivalry and a romantic relationship. Their first duel is essentially also their first date

“I told my mortal enemy my phone number.” It seems like Momo is mostly just lonely. As a magical girl, she likely feels isolated from her peers, and can probably relate to Yuko’s frustration at being forced into this role. They have been pitted against each other by forces outside their control, framed as antagonists by a system that wants to see them fail. Another easy metaphor for women in society

Momo is genuinely impressed by Yuko’s training results

She also demands they stretch before battle, so Yuko doesn’t hurt herself. This is such a good pair

Yuko does “tail stretches” by just yanking her tail in opposite directions. Incredible

Yuko has failed to gain a rival, but it does seem like she’s gained a personal trainer

“One thing led to the other and we ended up running three miles. You did great, Shamiko.” This is extremely charming. And the concept is so good – rather than tearing each other down in the way they’re supposed to, setting Momo as Yuko’s rival has just given Yuko someone who believes in her, someone who can actually help her grow into her best self

Yuko’s tail echoing her feelings is excellent. Expressive ears/tails are always a good idea

She’s too tired to even haughtily declare how she’ll win next time. Yuko is somehow a sub-Team Rocket level threat

“You’ve always been a frail girl since birth, not to mention stupid.” Thanks, Mom

Her mom decides to offer some support, by shifting her monthly allowance up from 120 yen to 500 yen. Now she can pay Momo back for that train ticket right away!

Yuko is so proud of this upgrade that it’s kind of heartbreaking. The base conditions of her life have made it so that she can’t even really parse how far she is from Momo’s situation

“I’ll never become a respectful Demon Girl if I’m always borrowing from the likes of a Magical Girl!” This system is built to isolate them, but Yuko is too stupid and Momo is too lonely for that to happen

Momo devises a ten month payment plan to pay back the train fare, meaning their fight has been delayed by ten months as well

“I’ll try using a trail of smarties to lure an aggressive dog to her!” Oh my god Yuko. Her hopeless optimism kinda underlines how in general, magical girls are set against problems that exist on a societal level, and which cannot be meaningfully overcome through individual action. Yuko has been set a completely impossible task, but when she fails, it will be considered her failure, not a failure of the system

“I just know you’re going to waste your precious funds to make something totally useless.” Yuko is so helpless that Momo can’t help but assist her, even if that assistance is in service of her own demise. Incredible dynamic

Momo suggests she buy a sturdy aluminum bat (to hit her with)

“Is this another of the Magical Girl’s schemes? To get me addicted to this fancy food court and completely drain my financial resources!?” No, it’s just adorable to see you hopelessly battle against temptation. Even your existing friends love to do this, Yuko

“Your family doesn’t seem to have a lot of money, and you always leave so quickly after school. I had a lot of fun watching you chow down on that udon today!” She might not be getting any closer to defeating a Magical Girl, but she’s finally getting to enjoy her youth, which is a lot more important

“I’m surprised that Anri would do so much for little old me.” In the face of social hardship, solidarity between friends and rivals is the only answer

“I think group outings like these are going to be how I encourage myself to fight!” Yuko has always been a “demon girl” in that she’s been isolated by her poverty and ineptitude. But by actually embracing this label, she’s beginning to find a support network, and connecting with a girl who also presumably feels isolated by her identity

Welp, looks like Yuko’s ancestral relative will be stopping in to set her on the “correct” path

And Done

Well, that was as charming as expected! Yuko and Momo are basically already friends at this point, and it’s both funny and heartwarming to see Momo attempt to support this useless demon girl. In spite of the show’s light tone, we’ve learned that Yuko is grappling with some pretty difficult circumstances, and this episode’s final segment felt like a thoroughly earned victory for her emotional well-being. Demon Girl seemingly can’t help but poke at larger issues of class and competition, with its every fantasy invention serving as a fine metaphor for real-world conflicts. I’m very much enjoying its unusually thoughtful approach, but also am happy just to enjoy its immediate goofiness and warmth as well. It’s turning out to be a surprisingly full meal of a show!

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By admin