Disgaea Volume 3

This being the final volume of Disgaea, we follow Laharl, the show’s cutesy-but-seriously-bad-tempered protagonist, as he seeks to first protect his home the Netherworld, and then dominate the realms of the humans and Celestia. In this volume, Laharl and his friends will face down a massive fleet of invading spaceships from the human realm, and the ubiquitous Prinnys will take centre stage! Laharl will continue to strive to become Overlord of the Netherworld, and in so doing will learn more about the mother he never knew. Along the way, he is further helped (and hampered) by his sidekicks and an expanded cast of larger-than-life characters as the story nears its conclusion.
For a show whose visual appeal hinges so much on its character designs, you would expect Disgaea’s cast to be full of bounce and brio – and they certainly are! We have the spunky Etna, the punkish, genuinely dislikeable Laharl,  the insufferably sweet Flonne. Plus, how could I not mention the deliciously hammy Captain Gordon, 37th Defender Of Earth and his sidekicks, Jennifer and Thursday? The broad, sci-fi pastiche and cheesy characterisation served up by that trio is possibly the most enjoyable thing in this volume’s opening episodes!

It’s just such a shame that I couldn’t find anything more substantial to enjoy in this series. Everything else, from the quality of the animation – which is good by today’s standards, but nothing special – to the bland background music, right down to the way the story unfolds. It all feels very…average.

The appeal of Disgaea as a show is a really bizarre puzzle to work out. There’s a feeling of lightness to it that it never really shakes off, even when plot threads are being resolved and the story is coming to a close. Maybe that’s a good thing, because this clearly is not a series to be taken seriously – and it seems like EVERYBODY involved in putting it on your screen knows it! Yet, there’s some heavy stuff going on in this volume – some deaths, a few revelations, not to mention the conclusion to the series. But even these feel a bit throwaway. Possibly that’s because I didn’t see the previous volumes, although I’m more inclined to believe it’s the default tone of the show. Disgaea’s not the sort of anime to get into any of the issues it touches on in a deep, meaningful way, after all.

I’m rather confused as to who exactly this series is aimed at. At a glance, it’s easy to tell that this isn’t a show for the more mature anime fan. In fact, in execution, it feels a lot like a Saturday morning cartoon show. But at the same time, some of the humour and language makes it inappropriate for much younger viewers.

Nevertheless, there’s stuff here to enjoy. I’ll admit I smirked and giggled at a few of the gags, and there’s a nice line in running jokes. There’s something irresistible about the Prinnys, for example, and Flonne’s repressed otaku tendencies, which raised a smile on my face whenever they surfaced. There‘s just enough humour to be found in the characters to make the show tolerable at the very least.

I’ve got a lot of admiration for the guys and gals who turned in the performances for the English language dub, including the heavyweight talents of Barbara Goodson (Laharl) Michael McConnohie (Captain Gordon) and Jamieson Price (Seraph Lamington). These actors are always enjoyable in a dub, and they bring a set of very polished performances to the table. Worthy, award winning voice acting it’s not, but it fits the tone of the series to a tee, providing much of the fun that’s to be had here.

So. It’s hard to know what to say in conclusion. Disgaea has its fans, and those fans are sure to lap this volume up. After all, if you’ve been watching up to this point, it’s probably safe to say it’s your kind of show. But coming to it as a newcomer, and as an anime fan slightly more (ahem!) advanced in years, I couldn’t see much to convince me that it warranted more of my attention. It’ll satisfy its devotees, but beyond that, this feels like the conclusion of a series that was watchable and amusing without ever being exceptional in any regard. 

6 / 10