I am not completely sure where to start when writing this because Demonbane is just so many things at once. Like, it feels familiar and yet it’s not at the same time? I don’t think there is any other way to describe my thinking behind this anime other than saying that fact. If I was pushed, it could be described as “what if Fate, Hellsing, and The Big O were merged into merged together.” That’s my pitch to you and it’s up to you to catch it. Now, it is based on a visual novel and came out in the mid 2000’s. That was the time period when visual novel adaptations were one of the latest trends in anime. Knowing that is important because it means there is more story to discover then what is in this short twelve-episode series. That being said, this series is an almost nonstop ride that never slows down. That’s a good thing and knowing that there is more to uncover is like an added treat.
Anyway, let’s discuss the anime in more detail finally. In the gothic city known only as Arkham City, a battle between gods and magicians is about to start. Of course, the story starts much lower than one would expect it to, so not at all epic at first. One day, a poor detective and ex magician student by the name of Kurou Daijuuji is hired by Ruri Hadou of the gigantic and wealthy Hadou Financial Group to find a magic book otherwise known as a grimoire. An offer that he refuses at first, but can’t decline after being offered more money than he could ever imagine. So, the result is him searching for something that is and isn’t beyond his understanding, a grimoire with unknown amounts of magic and an undefined shape. For instance, each grimoire happens to be loli with untold powers which can be granted to the master which happens to have their own personality. The day he finds Al-Azif (or just Al) who just happens to be the Necronomicon, his life changes forever.
The story of Demonbane is a pretty classic, episodic super robot story with a strong gothic aesthetic. Even Kurou himself joins the aesthetic once he merges with Al to become a mage that can fully use the magic hidden inside of him while facing against different opponents of Black Lodge. That group being vampires led by the great and powerful master, Therion. To combat Therion and his many goons, Al and Kurou forcibly (at first) take the Hadou Financial Group’s Demonbane robot to fight against those goons to the best of their capabilities. I also love the “villain” Doctor West and his insane contraptions and team rocket personalities. There isn’t enough of him. But anyway, sometimes Black Lodge will attack the Hadou manor directly, which involves some pretty standard shonen hand to hand fighting with gothic gimmicks. Ruri’s own buttler winning some great fights with his incredible abilitie. It’s pretty classic stuff that moves at a very good yet restrained pace in a way that doesn’t develop much, but escalates well. IT also escalates to levels of where Kurou and Al punch Cthulu with a giant robot fist. Can’t love it enough.
With that playing of fate comes the major story behind Demonbane. This is a story of fates intertwining together with normal people and the super natural. With that thought in mind, Demonbane is a love story between Kurou and Al. It’s a surprisingly very good one and does and doesn’t follow a lot of the clichés one would expect it to. Al is a pretty text book tsundere and Kurou is a text book know nothing at first, but so much changes as they fight together. That cliché romance part is going to be there, but there is a time where it isn’t. There isn’t a separation through a misunderstanding, there is a separation due to Al saving Kurou’s life and her reforming her abilities to a later time. In that powerless moment, Kurou still follows what the Hadou organization wants him to do by fighting enemies to save the world and Al’s return is one of a few things which I consider one of the most romantic things I’ve seen for a while. The ending rivaled G Gundam in sincerity and insanity and I do not say those words lightly.
The biggest strength that Demonbane has behind it are the visual aesthetics. It dives hard into the gothic aesthetic and it owns it. That and the very dynamic direction at play pay off against the lack of animation the show has at a lot of points. The character designs are very flashy and unique with a tinge of vampire to them. I mentioned Hellsing and yeah, they look like they can belong in that universe. The city parts that are seen also carry that aesthetic too when they are shown. There are moments when the robots fight and the destruction of the city is widely shown from the monster sized view where skyscrapers fall apart, but the lower sections of the city, which are the details, aren’t shown as much. The giant robot action is really cool with decent cg in some very cinematic shots and angles that get the biggest appeal out of all of them. The normal person to person action is the same way. In the end, it’s still a good-looking show.
Demonbane is a very fast and I dare say, good show. Maybe that is a controversial statement, but I think something this fun and creative warrants that fact. It gets a lot of information, story, and action out of a twelve-episode series that not a lot of shows can. It also has a great cast of side characters that I didn’t want to mention because of how fast this show goes and the pacing of how I wrote this post. Explaining every detail of this show, even side characters, would ruin some of the mystery and emotions from this show more then the obvious. Despite the lack of animation in the show in a lot of places, it’s a well-oiled machine that succeeds easily in what it sets out to do in a short amount of time. It breezes by and makes you think “wait, where did the show go?” I hope that I can find the visual novel for Demonbane somewhere because I am very interested in playing it.