High School DxD New Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

High School DxD New Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review The balance of existence is at stake and in the hands of one very sexual young man.

What They Say:
Issei Hyodo is back with all of his voluptuous friends, only this time he has more power than ever before. With the Excalibur swords and the Archangel Michael joining him in battle against the deadliest of foes yet, only time will tell if the Occult Research Club continues to thrive or if new leadership is needed to usher in a new magical era.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is fairly standard fare for FUNimation as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that has a very good mix of action and dialogue to it so that it gets to shine on all counts. The action scenes work well in both mixes where it uses the forward soundstage well as it goes big and has a variety of effects that come across clearly and with a lot of good impact. The 5.1 mix brings a bit more to the rear channels and overall creates a good design to things where the show works well. The dialogue is generally well placed and and there are some good scenes with depth of placement to help set the situation well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally broadcast in 2013, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine episodes on the first and three on the second along with the majority of the extras, of which there are many. Animated by TNK, the series has a really strong look to it overall which is good considering so many of the scenes are darker in nature and there’s a lot of red material, which can be problematic at times. The high definition transfer has a very solid look to it throughout with only a few areas that has some minor noise to it. The big action scenes are ones that hold up quite well without any problems in breakup during it. The color design is important here since it uses a lot of flesh tones that definitely look slick and a lot of red when it comes to Rias’ hair and the end result is a show that really does shine and all the fanservice comes across beautifully, which is hugely important here.

Packaging:
The limited edition release of this series gives us a really fun and good looking heavy chipboard box that holds two Blu-ray cases, one for the DVD release and one for the Blu-ray release. The front of the box is designed like a book cover to some degree and we get Issei mixed in amongst all the other girls, of which this season adds a few more to the mix. It’s definitely bright and colorful and has a great upbeat feeling to the whole thing. The back cover does similar overall but it focuses more closely on just having Rias and Issei together with her chest being a big feature but also just feeling really chummy in a good way. The series logo is one of the more adorable aspects of the design, especially with the way they work the New word into it, and one that really does show off the nature of the series well compared to so many other bland logos out there.

The two cases are done in a similar overall layout and design as the box itself but changes up the artwork nicely. The DVD case has a really great image of Gasper as the dominant player here along with Koneko and sia with a playful feeling to it all. The case for the Blu-ray discs has a really good image for it that lets Xenovia and Irina take center stage in part of their combat uniforms but also with some good expressions to the dynamic action poses. The back covers have a fairly bland background to it where one has an image of a Aken that definitely plays up her cute side side while the other lets Xenovia get another chance to shine. Each one breaks down the episode numbers and titles as well as the extras, though it doesn’t indicate which discs have what. No show related inserts are included but both cases have artwork on the reverse side which shows off more of the girls in an illustration style that’s definitely appealing.

Menu:
The menu design for the release us pretty simple but works nicely as we get a piece that largely uses clips from the show with some really nice images of Rias in particular that makes for a striking transition at times. The look of it is pretty good and the static aspects includes the navigation along the bottom which has a red and black checkered piece that fits the color design of the series nicely. The middle center of the menu uses the series logo with the volume numbering on it which is definitely cute and sexy in its own way. Submenus load quickly and easily and navigation is a breeze with language selection that’s not locked and can be changed on the fly.

Extras:
The extras for this release are all on the second set and that’s good because there’s a huge chunk of space devoted to them. The first one here takes an hour as we get the six segments that show some of the Japanese voice actors going through a bit of voice acting school. This is definitely a lot of fun, though I had to break it up because watching it straight through was just too much for one sitting. For fans of the Japanese voice actresses, it’s a lot of fun to get four of them together here to go through it with Yoko Hikasa leading it. We also get the special segments that work as promotional videos for the show that clock in at about five minutes each for thirty minutes total, kicking off with a look at the first season and then delving into how this season and its characters work. It’s edu-tainment at its finest. In addition to this, we also get the usual segments such as the clean opening and closings, the commercials and promos and the domestic trailer. Sadly, there are no dub cast commentaries here, which could have been fun. But with the resources devoted to the Japanese side (those live action segments aren’t easy to translate!), it’s not a surprise.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of High School DxD was a whole lot of fun when it landed in the winter 2012 season because it did something that worked well that a lot of shows forget. It actually had a story to it. With its combination of very overt fanservice and sexuality, that was obviously a draw, but light novel author Ichiei Ishibumi also laid the foundation for a pretty good story here that told the tale of angels, fallen angels and devils with the human world as the place where it all happens. With the second season, the show landed in the summer of 2013 and advanced the story in a good way, adding more to the world, to the cast and making the characters more realized. Which, in turn, has me excited for the spring 2015 series that’s coming. A lot of second seasons falter in a big way, but this one manages to do a lot of things right.

This season works in a good way as it’s already established the cast well from the first season and it actually breaks things down into two main stories that play out. The first story runs through the first half of the season and it delves into the character of Yuto a good bit as we learn more about his past, which comes from him learning more about Issei’s past. When everyone is hanging out at Issei’s place, his mother shows pictures from when he was a tiny tot and in one of the pictures with a friend of Issei’s, Yuto see a Holy Sword within it that sets off all sorts of triggers. We’ve known a little bit about him, but the show does a good job of exploring Yuto well as we learn about how he and many others were part of an experiment in creating artificial Holy Swords and how, at the end of things, those that were used for it were disposed of with only Yuto surviving. That’s made him a rarity but also gives him a lot in his background that gives him drive when things really come down to it.

Yuto’s story naturally comes into focus as some of the architects of it are revealed as being active in the town and that drives him towards it as he plainly wants revenge and makes no bones about it. As this story unfolds, we also get more of what’s going on with Issei and Ddraig as Ddraig reveals that there’s another one like him out there that’s known as the White Emperor Dragon. This proves to be just as interesting a history as what we learn about Yuto as it turns out that the Red and White dragons have been around over the ages and have their own unique aspect within the larger war that’s fought between the angels and the fallen angels and devils. The dragons were fairly dismissive of it all, feeling that it had nothing to do with them, and spent many years just causing widespread damage across the terrain over the centuries. Because of the way things played out, they’re now in the form that they’re in and look forward to when they reconnect in each life to go against each other. So it’s no surprise that the White Dragon Emperor, known as Albion, is in the possession of a fallen angel under Azazel’s command and is definitely far, far more competent and confident than Issei is and is looking forward to when they can finally face each other again – when the time is right.

These plots all come together well in the first half as we get Freed back into the picture from the first season as he’s being managed by Kokabiel, one of the more powerful fallen angels that have their own nefarious plan at work. This goes in a big way here that really challenges the team and lets Issei discover things about himself as well as Yuto coming to grips with who he is and what happened in the past. It also provides for fun with new characters that come in early in the form Xenovia and Irina, who are like Asia in a way except not excommunicated. Both are a lot of fun as the they provide a good push against the Rias’ devil group for a bit but also work together to deal with the the threat that Kokabiel represents and how dangerous he is to the city and the world in general.

What I liked about all of this, beyond the character interactions and the action itself, is that they do wrap it up nicely within the first half of the season, though it has greater implications. We get it so that the second half instead gets to do some character focus, which includes Xenovia being cast out for learning that God isn’t there anymore, which means she can’t be what she was and instead signs on to be a devil. There’s some good stuff between her and Asia as Xenovia has to realize what Asia went through and that gives Asia someone that understands her situation in a way that Rias’ club/family wasn’t able to. Xenovia isn’t heavily developed here, but she brings a good bit of fun to things and a new area to play with, especially since she’s also latched onto Issei and actually wants to have babies with him, which leads to some great condom sequences.

The second half spends some good character time in exploring the dynamic like this, and the fact that Rias is also now living with Asia and Issei, and there’s a lot of really good stuff with this. Especially since Issei’s mother is practically encouraging both girls to seduce her son, which is great to see even if it’s hilariously wrong in so many ways, such as the naked while wearing apron moments. A lot of the fun of the show is very much the sexytime side of it since Issei is such a horndog and wears it proudly on his sleeve. The way he interacts with everyone is great because they know it and on various levels, character depending, they like it and admit it. And with some of them content to be tiered against the others, there’s a different kind of competitive nature that forms. And that may be difficult for Issei at times since they compete, naked, in front of him, but for someone like Issei it really should be one heck of a fun time.

The second half isn’t all fun and games though as there is a story that builds as a summit is called at the academy which brings in Rias’ older brother, the angel Gabriel that’s trying to run things in God’s place and Azazel himself. That makes for a crowded academy on top of all the students and there’s some fun in seeing how Issei’s father gets to be very friendly with Lucifer without really realizing that’s who he is. The summit has a great angle about it as the three heads are trying to figure out the path ahead, to either work for a peace or go to war, because the balance that they have now isn’t going to work much longer and something must be done. With each side having taken their hits and struggling in different ways, there’s some history that comes from it but I loved that the “elders” here took their time to talk and get things figured out, but also made sure the next generation are involved in the decision as well. It goes big with the action as other elements come into play, notably with Albion, but it’s the character dynamic that won me over here.

In Summary:
I love this show. It’s so easy to write it off as a smut fest but it’s so much more than that. You can easily enjoy it as just a lot of sexuality with some action mixed into it, but it really does work the characters in a good way, changes and expands relationships and sets a larger backdrop to work with that’s going through its own changes that span eons when you really think about it. The story for the show is definitely a big plus and I love that it doesn’t get lost in it and that it really does have meaning for the characters and their motivations. But I also simply love the fact that the series has such an absolute blast with its fanservice and sexuality side, enjoying every bit of it and having all of them very much enjoying it. Instead of it being creepy and unwanted, it’s all about the fun and enjoyment, which is definitely one of the best selling points of it for me. Very highly recommended.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, High School DxD New Broadcast Commemoration Special: Yoko Hikasa’s Voice Acting School (Parts 1-5 + Final), Textless Openings and Closings, Promotional Videos, Trailers, Commercials.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 11th, 2014
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 321 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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