The first season of High School DXD remains one of the finest examples of fanservice anime, combining a premise with just enough juice to sustain a continuing narrative with high-quality animation and, above all, a self-aware sense of humour. Its constant awareness about its own trashiness kept the show entertaining beyond its purpose as a delivery device for animated boobs, and while second season New was a step down in a few ways, it retained much of season one’s sharpness.
Not so BorN. High School DXD’s third season is hell-bent on expanding its cast as much as possible, to the detriment of everything that made it so distinctive. Developing a serialised narrative is one thing, but delving into a darkly labyrinthine storyline that’s borderline impenetrable – and takes more than a few leaves from Evangelion’s tree – is entirely ill-suited to what makes the show work; this not a show that can sell dialogue like “I shall drown you the depths of crimson purgatory.”
This isn’t helped by the show’s progressive path towards harem comedy blandness; there are a few good jokes, still, but protagonist Issei has inexplicably become an object of desire for every female cast member. Disappointing; hopefully not devastating.