After experiencing a strange dream in which a girl that looks like a demon tries to communicate with her, ordinary high school girl Yuko Yoshida awakens to find that she has become a demon herself, growing horns and a tail overnight! Uncovering the truth of her new-found predicament, Yuko learns that her family are descendants of the Dark Tribe, demons who have been in a perpetual war with the Light Tribe and their magical girl warriors. Long ago, the Light Tribe sealed the Dark Tribe’s powers, but now that seal is starting to become undone, and at the behest of her cola-loving ancestor residing in the family’s demon god statue, Yuko must obtain the blood of a magical girl as an offering to completely undo it. As luck would have it, Yuko bumps into a magical girl straight away in classmate Momo Chiyoda. And so begins this tale of unlikely rivalry and friendship, as Yuko continually attempts to challenge Momo in an attempt to defeat her and take her blood.
The Demon Girl Next Door is a fun, slice-of-life comedy series adapted from Izumo Ito’s manga of the same name, serialised in Manga Time Kirara Carat. If, like me, you’re into a lot of the other fuzzy “cute girls do cute things” series that make up the Manga Time Kirara stable, then it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy this as it has much of the same strengths as its sister series, mainly excelling in gathering together an idiotic cast of characters that you can really have fun with.
While we initially have a very compact cast here, comprising of just Yuko, Momo, Yuko’s demonic ancestor Lilith, and Yuko’s mother and sister, the series slowly expands out to include Yuko’s friends and another magical girl named Mikan (yes, the magical girls are all named after fruit), and they are all an utterly charming bunch.
While the side characters are fun (Yuko’s sister is adorable and her friend who is into the occult is a riot) the focus of the series is almost always on our leading duo. Yuko, in particular is fascinating, as while she starts off fairly normal, her demonic ancestry slowly transforms her as the series goes on and she becomes very outspoken, cheeky and playful, which makes her a very fun character to watch. Momo, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Being very much a tsundere type of character, her serious attitude makes her appear quite cold, when she actually just wants to be friends with everyone, and while her magical girl status is something that she wishes she didn’t have, she often ends up using those powers anyway to protect those she loves.
The pair have a really good dynamic as they form a rivalry that slowly evolves into a firm friendship, and the show establishes a solid comedic formula around them, as Yuko continues to challenge and lose against Momo, resulting in a Team Rocket-esque “Don’t think this means you’ve won!” one-liner that hilariously ends every confrontation. There are some good gags involving the magical girl elements too, as it continually pokes fun at the genre, from the transformation sequences to the silly costumes.
Things get crazier when Lilith is involved though, and it really shows her as a bad influence on her descendant. While you get the feeling she means well, Lilith is so clueless herself that she amplifies Yuko’s klutziness and gives us some hilarious moments. A normal thing like being scared of a dog becomes a world-altering event as Yuko gets a magical demon transformation sequence into her Crisis Management form, while taking any suggestion to help her friends just makes the situation worse! Thankfully, her friends take it all in their stride, and they are very welcoming to Yuko’s new-found demonic nature, which is nice to see.
Despite having this cute and endearing cast and a lot of heart-warming character moments, the storytelling can be a bit hit-and-miss as the show moves forward. There is clearly a much bigger story trying to emerge from the background, and trying to fit in this more involved plot involving Yuko’s family and the true meaning of the seal around the slice-of-life comedy template seems to be a real struggle for the series.
It constantly feels like it wants to stick to the comedy, rather than take the leap and deal with the actual problem at hand. This leaves us with an oddly balanced narrative, where plot points that feel like they should have been established at the beginning of the series are instead set up right at the very end, which makes for a very unsatisfying stand-alone viewing. It’s the very epitome of a “go read the manga” ending, and in that sense it kind of works, as I did feel that urge to go and find out what happens next, but thankfully there is a second season on the way to hopefully fill out the story in this anime adaptation.
Production is handled by J.C. Staff, who do a good job of animating the series. The artwork is bold and colourful, and while there’s a heavy reliance on characters over coloured static backgrounds in a lot of the gag-heavy scenes, particularly early on, there are some nice-looking backgrounds of the town later on. The characters are all very lively too – just check out Yuko’s tail, which waves around in response to what she’s feeling and gives an extra dimension to her character from what you would perceive in the manga.
In terms of audio, the soundtrack (composed by Miki Sakurai) doesn’t stand out too much on its own but it is used well to help set the tone of each scene. Instead, it’s the sound effects that do a lot more of the work, with plenty of bangs, beeps and bops punctuating all of the various gags as they shuttle by on-screen.
The voice work is good in both the Japanese and English language versions, and generally reflects the characters well. Konomi Konohara is a good choice for Yuko considering some of her other recent roles have also been the excitable airhead type of character, like Chika from Kaguya-sama: Love is War, while I felt Genevieve Simmons does a good job with Momo considering how flat Akira Kito’s portrayal of the character is.
The Japanese voice cast also provide the opening and ending themes, and while the opening “Machikado Tangent” by shami momo is a nice track, the ending theme, “Yoimachi Cantare” by Coro Machikado, is a lot more fun to listen to.
MVM’s release of the series features all 12 episodes over 2 discs, subbed and dubbed, with on-disc extras featuring the clean opening and ending, the complete collection of the The Demon Girl Next Door Mini shorts which were used to advertise the series on social media, and some trailers for other Sentai Filmworks licenses.
Overall, The Demon Girl Next Door is a slice-of-life comedy that offers plenty of laughs with a cute and colourful cast of characters that you can really have fun with. While this will appeal most to fans of other Manga Time Kirara series such as Blend S, New Game!! or Is the Order a Rabbit?, the fact that the series ends just as it really gets started will no doubt frustrate a lot of viewers, which sadly makes it a lot harder to recommend for those who aren’t already familiar with it.