Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am eager to dive back into The Demon Girl Next Door, whose first two episodes were as charming as is legally permissible. Yuko and Momo have already proven themselves to be excellent heroines in their own right, and far greater as a matched pair. Yuko’s confident spirit and profound incompetence slot her into a long and distinguished line of anime gremlins, while Momo’s deadpan affectation is a fun twist on expectations that make her a perfect foil for Yuko. Momo seems genuine in her support for Yuko’s ambitions, but also can’t help but tease her adorable demon friend, making for a wonderful central dynamic.

Of course, along with that strong character chemistry, I’ll also be keeping an eye on this show’s intriguing perspective on magical girls more generally. Like Madoka Magica before it, Demon Girl seems interested in how magical girls can be used as a signifier for society’s expectations about women. In these worlds, righteousness is not something we embody, but something we are assigned, and must perform as the eye of society wills it. Demon Girl gestures towards the limits of this philosophy even with its lead’s personalities: Yuko’s chipper disposition makes her a natural magical girl type, while Momo’s cool, imperturbable affectation is more regularly assigned to villains. But here they are, trying to do their best with the roles they’ve been given, and propping each other up in spite of society’s demand for blood. Let’s see how our perfectly mismatched heroines fare!

Episode 3

We open with Yuko getting another message from her ancestor

“It’s right here, on the tip of my stomach!” “In other words, it’s already been digested.” Huh, is there some Japanese equivalent for ‘on the tip of my tongue’? It’s frequently impossible to translate idioms, since the specific words don’t really mean anything without their cultural connotation

Even dream-Yuko just wants to go back to bed

“In all those years and different lands, did you ever actually win a fight with the Light clan?” Well, at least it looks like Yuko isn’t letting down a grand family legacy or anything. It also makes sense given the themes this show is working with that the demons have never been victorious. Girls like Yuko are doomed to failure, condemned as devils from the start, and placed in systems where they have no chance at success

You don’t have to be an outright Calvinist to believe in predestination to some degree. Society is happy to profile and condemn people for any number of reasons, assessing them as destined to failure or servitude or criminality based on factors entirely outside their control. And even for those that our system doesn’t condemn from the start, there are systems of behavior that they are expected to embrace if they wish to avoid condemnation. It’ll be interesting to see if Momo’s magical girl status ends up being challenged due to her fondness for Yuko

“I pulled this table and chairs from your most recent memories.” This show has a bunch of oddly compelling fantasy flourishes for an outright comedy

“Are you going to the library?” “Yep. I’m studying hard so I can become a great tactician who can help Sis.” And it continues to get incredible mileage out of everyone’s deadpan acceptance of this scenario

“I’m thirsty. I’ll take something to drink from the depths of your subconscious”

“Our clan has the ability to dive into people’s dreams and manipulate them freely.” Jeez, that’s a lot more specific than general demonic abilities. Though there are other possibilities, this could be pointing to Yuko being a succubus specifically, which further plays into this story’s underlying themes. After all, the process of socially defining a “moral woman” is basically the process of controlling women and their sexuality. The metaphor of magical girl versus demon maps to the traditional dichotomy of chaste versus fallen women, which is all about framing women as property that can be “spoiled,” rather than as people who have the right to decide their own actions

“Your soul is too weak to pick up on my sensor! It’s pathetic!” Yuko getting roasted in ways no mortal has been before

“The power of pancakes is not to be trifled with.” “Ah, you truly are my ancestor!”

This five second cut to her sister at the library is fantastic. The middle shot sets up the comedic contrast of this tiny girl in this massive facility, and then we close in for her studious announcement of battlefield tactics, further emphasizing the disconnect between character and action. A tonal palette cleanser between the two larger scenes that serves as a callback and farcical punchline. This show’s understanding of comedic pacing is so good!

“I’ll wash my own school uniform. This is my first step towards becoming a great demon!”

Also very much appreciating this show’s actually voiced sound effects. More shows should have actual human actors making the weird “garugarugaru” or “zazazaza” sounds in the background

Her mother offers the intriguing “I don’t think I’ll be able to fool her for much longer”

Yuko’s uniform shrinks due to her inept washing. The next day at school, Yuko explains this, only for Momo to pop in through the window with a spare uniform

The uniform is absurdly oversized. “I think it makes you look cute, like a fairy that lives in a forest.” Jeez, Momo has already got it bad

Another gesture towards the class separation of our leads, with Momo mentioning how she sends all of her laundry out for dry cleaning. Capitalism is basically the only true form of predestination, and yet it’s also one many people are happy to downplay or ignore. It is far easier to maintain wealth than to acquire it, and far easier to play by society’s rules when you have the buffer of financial stability

“You’re really daring, Magical Girl. I hope you don’t come to regret those words!” Another terrific yet understated gag here, as we zoom outwards for the punchline of Yuko being completely buried in Momo’s school uniform. Momo’s shirt is a dress to her

Oh my god, Yuko’s “after-school training” is so good. She’s just chucking wadded-up tissue paper at a Momo doll while yelling ominous battle noises

“Close-quarters combat against Momo would put me at a disadvantage.” ‘Momo’ is also one of the least threatening names in history, amplifying the silliness of her quest

Her little sister recommends projectile weaponry

“You look cute in that, Shamiko. Like a kindergartner with a smock.” Absolutely merciless. They’re getting so much mileage out of Yuko In Big Clothes

“Are you studying up on projectiles?” “That’s none of your business!” “Yes it is. As the victim, I have the right to offer my opinion”

Momo is good at sewing, but terrible at cooking. This conversation feels very natural – I like that we’ve moved beyond the base contrasts of their personalities, and they’re now actually getting to know each other. So many character dynamics, even when it comes to romance, feel based on a handful of canned interactions; in contrast, this feels like a genuine conversation, driven by mutual interest and the natural flow of their discussion

“A while ago, I blew up this factory and then bought it.” Momo is scary

“Let’s start by practicing your form.” Momo actually seems more dedicated to Yuko’s demonic development than Yuko herself. This makes for a funny dynamic, but I wonder if there’s something more to it

Momo offers her wand as a focus. I like this – it feels like she’s underlining how arbitrary these powers and sides are, that a demon can use a magical girl wand just as effectively as a magical girl can

God, Konomi Kohara is so good at making weird noises. Both this show and Kaguya-sama are lucky to have her

“Do you have any strong feelings about the world? Like ‘this world should be plunged into darkness’ or anything?” “Not really, no.” Yet again, the arbitrary nature of these designations is emphasized. Yuko isn’t driven by any inherent love for villainy, she’s just inheriting this

Momo’s activation phrase is “Fresh Peach Heart Shower!,” and Yuko is not going to let that pass without comment. Momo strikes an excellent balance of reserved yet still emotive – she’s not totally deadpan, and you can see her embarrassment about this goofy title

Momo reveals that she’s actually been watching over Yuko to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself or others with her new abilities

“Not every magical girl is the cunning type like I am! Most of them show absolutely no mercy!” Momo seems to care about her enough to get genuinely angry that she’s taking her safety so lightly

Even Yuko seems surprised by her level of concern

The wand at last activates with “I hope everyone becomes friends!”, a decidedly undemonic battle cry

And Done

Well that was certainly a generous episode! Both the first and second halves offered interesting new wrinkles in this show’s worldbuilding, offering new details about the ongoing battle between light and darkness, and thereby further underlining the fundamentally arbitrary nature of this distinction. But themey-wemey stuff aside, basically every moment with Yuko and Momo was hilarious and endearing in equal measure. Demon Girl knows exactly how much mileage to draw out of all its jokes, making the most of simple concepts like Yuko wearing Momo’s uniform, and buoying its comedy with earnest, convincing moments of emerging friendship. Demon Girl knows exactly what it wants to be, and it is executing with distinction on all fronts.

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By admin