ANIME REVIEW | Kid-Friendly Fun In The Underworld With "Iruma-kun"
Children’s television can be a fickle thing in Japan. Most of the time, things that would be considered for all ages over there may be more appropriate for teens and young adults in the rest of the world. Shows like My Hero Academia, Crayon Shin-chan, Dragon Ball, and even Doraemon on occasion may be catering to kids, but its content would shock certain adults if it were to air in America on Saturday mornings alongside Spongebob Squarepants and Teen Titans GO! So it’s quite the surprise that in order to seek out family-friendly anime that can be deemed appropriate for all ages, viewers would have to traverse to the depths of Hell!
Enter Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, a new series based on the manga by Osamu Nishi. This is a school that’s brimming with monsters, devils, and strange creatures that more than likely go bump in the night. And yet, it’s one of the most kid-friendly series to come out since Laid-Back Camp. Even better is the fact that it caters to all ages without forcing adults to trot along unwillingly like most children’s television.
The plot of the show is somewhat similar to that of Kenjiro Hata’s classic Hayate the Combat Butler, where a noble main protagonist with awful parents is rescued and placed in better surroundings. Here, that character is Iruma Suzuki (Ayumu Murase), a kindhearted boy who can never turn down a favor. For years, he’s been stuck doing various jobs and tasks to make the money his lazy parents refuse to do on their own. But one day, Iruma’s life is flipped upside-down when it’s revealed that his folks have sold him to a devil, tearing him away from his career and smack dab in realm of fire and brimstone.
Fortunately, the devil Iruma is sold to is Sullivan (Takaya Kuroda), a demon whose heart is as golden as Hell’s flames. He pampers the living heck out of Iruma, giving him the love and devotion his parents never did. Because he’s the kind of devil that looks out for others, Sullivan also enrolls Iruma into the Babylis School for Demons (of which he’s the headmaster of). However, as demons enjoy eating humans, Iruma must keep his fleshy means a secret, as he attempts to climb the ranks while keeping his profile low amongst the other students.
Part of the running joke in Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun is the fact that no matter how hard he tries to blend in the background, he always manages to be front and center. From Sullivan making his adopted son read a speech during opening ceremonies to winning a fight against a powerful demon student, Iruma’s notoriety becomes literal front page news within the school grounds. Yet despite the spotlight growing brighter with every moment, his attitude and well-being stays grounded via a mixture of kindness and modesty. It also helps that he makes two friends right at the get-go that keep his humanity and true nature in check: the freshman valedictorian Asmodeus (Ryōhei Kimura) and the goofy imaginative Clara (Ayaka Asa).
What makes these two students a fine pair for Iruma is their demeanor. Asmodeus is the upstanding student that helps push Iruma towards building his confidence around the other demons. Clara, on the other hand, is the playful type, as her wackiness and good nature is very akin to such characters as Star Butterfly and Pinkie Pie. With these two in his corner, Iruma feels like almost anything can be accomplished despite his non-demonic handicap. When student council president Amelie (Saori Hayami) enters the picture, Iruma also learns the importance of setting up goals for his own gain rather than someone else’s.
For a show that’s based in the pits of Hell, Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun is charming, endearing, and filled with some great lessons about friendship and hope. With his knowledge and good soul, Iruma spends a lot of time taking rivals and transforming them into friends. He does this not with threats or physical confrontation (with the exception of a dodgeball game), but with his words and noble actions. It serves not only as a great way for kids to learn about the value of good deeds, but also the proper way of working their way up in the world.
It also helps that the show is undeniably funny and clever with its world. School bells ring with the sound of demonic growls; classes about the simplest of things are instead filled with dangerous tools and classmates; groups & clubs are wild with gigantic monsters and cartoonishly violent initiations; even the school anthem is a song about how tasty humans are. But it’s the characters of the anime that hold the fort of this beautiful comedy, with their antics being as hilarious as they are charming. From Clara taking succubus classes to charm the pants off of Iruma to the shrewd homeroom teacher Callego (Daisuke Ono) accidentally becoming the human boy’s adorable familiar, the humor is practically on-point every time.
On-par with the sharp script is the voice cast, which contains a pretty impressive ensemble. Murase balance of unsureness and kindness comes through wonderfully as Iruma, with Kuroda pushing a big doting personality as Sullivan. Asa steals everything scene as Clara, with her adorableness and silliness making her one of the most memorable female characters of 2019. As Iruma’s best friend, Kimura takes the role of Asmodeus and gives him a dose of noble mannerisms with some straight man-styled humorous qualities. (Currently, it’s hard to judge the voice acting for the entire cast in English by its first couple of episodes, but one can admit that Laura Stahl and Kyle Hebert are pitch-perfect as Iruma and Sullivan respectively. However, the dub does let a few curse words fly that turn the G-rated show into a more PG affair.)
Animated by Bandai Namco Pictures (Gintama), Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun is as bright and colorful as the show is charming. Because it does take place in Hell, there are parts that are rightfully dark and frightening, though the scary elements won’t terrify the youngest of viewers. However, as this is a kid’s show, there are certain parts that look somewhat cheap compared to most late-night anime. With that being said, the show can look impressive when it comes time for a big action scene.
Composer Akimitsu Honma (Wotakoi, RIN-NE) crafts a soundtrack that blends cartoonish cuteness with scary Castlevania-like organ music. Both the opening song “Magical Babyrinth” by Da Pump and ending theme “Debikyū” by Yū Serizawa are catchy for kids, but their repeated choruses may grind on the eardrums of their parents. Oh well, they’re at least better than any garbage “Baby Shark” song.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun may drag its viewers down to Hell, but it’s a show that filled with enough charm, hilarity, and life lessons that make it great for all ages to enjoy. Thanks to its colorful cast and fun storylines, the story of a human rising within the demon ranks makes it one of the most memorable anime series of Fall 2019. Kids and adults will find common ground with the humorous nature and morals that are present throughout Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun, as it never sacrifices its brain or funny bone to get a good point across.
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun can be viewed on Crunchyroll and VRV. It has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-13 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Ellation.