Content Warning: stylized gore, sexual assault
What’s it about? 800 years ago, monsters and demons ran rampant on Earth, only defeated by gods called the Idaten. The Idaten gave their lives to seal away the demons forever, leaving one of their own behind to tell the tale and train any other deities that might appear. Eight centuries later, the world is peaceful—until a foreign military defrosts a demon, leaving the inexperienced new generation of Idaten to deal with it.
There’s potentially a lot of fun in this premise. Superpowered, indestructible beings destined to fight monsters yet stranded in peacetime is an interesting idea. There are already rifts where different Idaten deal with this in different ways: protagonist Hayato is cocky and bored, whereas his friend Ysley is content to use his immortal life to study. There’s also a girl called Paula who… I’m not really sure what her deal is, unfortunately. Ostensibly she has the same super strength and speed as the two boys, and can defy gravity by walking up walls, but she spends an awful lot of this premiere needing to be rescued while the wind blows up her skirt. We’ll come back to that.
The show also looks fun, stylized and shifting into color palettes meant to be eye-catching more than realistic. The fact that the Idaten are immortal leads to some startling slapstick, with the animation leaning into the violence and making sure to show their bodies getting stretched, squished, skewered, and spurting blood in all directions. Ysley walks around for five minutes with a perfectly circular hole blasted through his chest, uncomfortable but matter-of-fact about the whole thing. The rules of physics and logic are here to be played with, and that’s potentially a really cool viewing experience.
There are a few key things that block Idaten Deities from being truly enjoyable, though. The cartoony violence against immortal beings is first introduced when Rin, the single remaining member of the first generation of Idaten, beats her pupil Hayato to a pulp. It’s established that Hayato is at least eighty years old, but the fact that he looks like a young teenager makes this pretty shocking. Presumably, this shock was intended, but it sets up precedent that this is going to be a show about kids getting the guts kicked out of them, so if that’s not something you want to watch do keep that in mind.
Rin is frustrating, because I know in my bones she’s potentially the most interesting character here: an ancient, jaded mentor figure trying to wrangle an overconfident young hero who doesn’t want her advice. Said hero spends most of their shared screentime calling her a “hag” and an “old bitch,” with her punching his lights out accordingly. Because, as we all know, sexist or pervy jokes are fine if the character who voices them gets walloped right after.
I would give Hayato some grace, the benefit of the doubt that his behavior is something he’s meant to develop out of, except that he’s overwhelmingly the hero of this episode in a way that doesn’t leave him much room to grow. After much musing about whether or not this group of peacetime Idaten have the skills to defeat demons, Hayato manages to do exactly that, and outwits then punches through the monster-of-the-week with ease.
I had assumed from the series’ title and premise that there would be some struggle here, some central conflict about how these gods need to step up their game to meet their heroic destiny after so long off the hook. But I guess our cocky protagonist losing a fight wouldn’t make for a spectacular action set piece to catch audiences in the premiere, so… fair enough.
Idaten has a lot of pop and a lot of potential, but I just can’t bring myself to get invested. The hero is already a perfect badass, the bad guys are schlocky Evil Nation’s Military Dudes, and the way this episode treats the three women who appear in it briefly is dreadful. Rin is undermined and reduced to a cranky “old bag,” Paula just sort of hangs around needing to be rescued, and the final minutes introduce a nun only to show her being raped by a group of invading soldiers.
This assault scene slips into the same colorful, stylized artistic techniques as the earlier fight scenes, showing soldier silhouettes practically dancing across the stained-glass windows, and ending with a closeup of her face as she silently begs God for help. It’s a dark turn for what I had presumed was going to be a bright and zany action show about immortal kids kicking demons to death, and frankly it doesn’t bode well for the treatment of such themes in future episodes.
If you like bombastic supernatural action shounen, Idaten could be an exciting new series for that market, but I’m not giving it any more time. All the style in the world can’t distract from its substance.
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