The Foolish Angel Dances with the Devil – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser January 9, 20240 Comments
Lily making a heart shape with her chain weapon

Content Warning: Sexual assault played as comedy, mild fanservice

What’s it about? Akutsu Masatora is a transfer student with a secret: he’s actually a demon who’s come to Earth in search of a charismatic leader who can inspire Hell’s forces. He thinks he’s found a perfect candidate in sweet, pretty Amane Lily, but she has a few secrets of her own.

It takes a lot of work for a het rom-com to hook me before the episode’s even over, especially when my expectations were nonexistent. But I’ll be damned if Foolish Angel didn’t get there by mixing extremely weird comedic decisions with an exceptionally fun lead—though the final scene leaves a significant stain on the proceedings.

It definitely looks appealing. Art director Kato Hiroshi has quite the decade-spanning resume, ranging from megahits like End of Evangelion (plus the first three Rebuild films) and Slayers to cult hits like Kyousougiga, Keijo!!!!!!!!, and my beloved Samurai Flamenco. The characters have a pleasant elasticity for them that suits a melding of chibi and exaggerated reactions, and there was much more restraint in the handling of fanservice than I was expecting, between Masatora’s swooning and Lily’s deliberate playing up of her charms. It does feature some heavy focus on moist, quivering lips, which I’ve learned to be very cynical of over the years, but there’s nary a panty shot nor jiggle physic despite plenty of moments I was bracing for them.

Masatora in his demon form

Props must also be given to Tamura Ryota, listed as the show’s “action animator.” The episode features one major action sequence that doesn’t actually feature a lot of intensive fight choreography but is smartly cut to focus on reaction bumps that have a sense of oomph (aided by copious use of animator bestie the dust cloud). First episodes usually pull out the stops to get butts in seats, but the execution here gives me confidence that this is a show that could ride out the common mid-season visual slump with good labor-saving tricks. And then there’s Kawasaki Itsuro, who seems to have developed a fondness for stepping into dual position as director and series composer for weird passion projects. He makes me a little nervous.

The last Kawasaki show I spent much time with was Magical Girl Ore, a genderplay series that similarly had an uneven but intriguing start…only to pretty quickly throw its better angels directly into the trash compactor. You would think I would learn from this, but it was almost six years ago, God help me, and I’m either an optimist or a masochist when it comes to shows willing to be stridently weird.

Foolish Angel’s biggest strength is the dynamic between its two leads. Masatora has a tendency toward maniacal inner monologue but is also, so crucially, as bright as an inner tube and about as useful on land. He puts Lily on a pedestal as soon as he meets her, but there’s a kind of charm to him imagining a whole courtship and impassioned night of fighting games before the presumed sex. He’s earnest and kind of horny but not a sleaze, and the show is thankfully judicious in its use of inner monologue.

Lily, meanwhile, is simultaneously a delight and kind of troubling. The central conceit that she’s sweet and popular but secretly hyper-manipulative risks playing to misogynistic rhetoric of women as users of poor, helpless men….but she’s just so much fun to watch. There’s a telegraphed smugness to her that’s hard not to root for, and when she reveals herself as Masatora’s opposite number, the ensuing battle took on a  downright femdom-esque tint that managed to be less creepy and better executed than either Chained Soldier or Gushing Over Magical Girls.

Lily straddling Masatora and smirking. "I like the way you yelp."

….That is, until Masatora loses and is forced to accept a role as Lily’s lackey lest he be exorcised. That, I’m fine with. Fun. Kinky. Good times. His appalled-but-enamored and her smug-but-intrigued dynamic were playing really well off each other. But then she puts a collar on him, and the smug teasing over something he agreed to (if under duress) quickly becomes a very thinly veiled rape scene, with deflowering visuals and everything. Worse is that it’s played for comedy, with a demurely blushing Masatora despairing that he’ll never be allowed back into Hell thanks to this. It’s a metaphor for defilement, you see. Because sexual assault is apparently funny when women do it to men.

It’s just a huge bummer, as someone who was very much enjoying Lily’s domme vibes to that point and the whole potential vibe being set up. It’s still possible that this is the kind of really bad joke that goes into a first chapter to catch the reader’s eye and then drops off as the story progresses, but wow does it suck, and saps a lot of my confidence in where the show might develop from here. I’m going to give it another episode, but this is one where I strongly recommend waiting to hear how it shakes out rather than investing any kind of trust.

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