Saturday, 16 April 2011

魔界戦記ディスガイア / Makai Senki Disgaea

Disgaea is one of those peculiar anime adapted from a strategy-based video game. In this case, though, it’s done very well, perhaps because the game in question placed great emphasis on its story.

A short series at 12 episodes, it tells the story of Laharl, the young heir to the throne of the realm of demons. He has been asleep for several years, in which time, his father the Maou (demon king) has passed away. For Laharl, taking the throne for himself is not so simple, however, as several other demons have attempted to seize the position in his absence. Along with his loyal servant Etna, a trainee angel called Flonne who wants to teach the demons about kindness and love, and their loyal army of Prinnies – which are, naturally, servant penguins! On their travels, they encounter threats from not only demons and human beings, but even from the forces of Heaven.

It’s all a bit silly, with the usual light-anime mix of silly slapstick comedy, impressive but totally overblown fighting and occasional sentimental episodes to pluck at the heartstrings. It’s interesting in light of a blog I read that reminded me that your average Japanese elementary schoolchild likely doesn’t know who Jesus is (though he does get referenced in anime and manga occasionally), yet they’ll certainly understand the Christian images of demons and angels. Where a lot of Disgaea’s charm lies, however, is undoubtedly its extremely cute art style. Especially big-eyed, baby-faced Flonne-chan and adorably moody Laharl are high up on the cutesy scale. The story jumps about from plotline to plotline like a hyperactive four-year-old and demons, angels and humans certainly don’t stay in their expected roles, even outside the ‘demons can love too’ subplot, but it really doesn’t matter – this is a silly, cute comedy show, and as such what really matters is its exuberance and sense of fun. In this, it excels. I could’ve done without the lame Flash Gordon parody, though.

Great Seiyuu cast, too – including Hanba Tomoe (Tomo-chan from Azumanga Daioh) as Etna and Mizuhashi Kaori playing totally against type (she normally plays calm, spacey characters like Pepper in Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar and Zephiris in Scrapped Princess) as Laharl. The real star was Sasamoto Yuko as Flonne, though. I’ll have to watch out for her in future.

I read the first chapter of the manga version but didn’t really like it. A lot of the jokes seemed really badly timed and unfunny. It seems the game is being ported to PSP, though – might try to get a copy if it gets an English Language port.

(originally written 2.10.06)

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