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Familial Bondage – The Testament of Sister New Devil (Complete Season One) – Humble Opinions

The picture of innocence

Family can be a weird classifying unit, a fact that none may understand more clearly than the humble anime protagonist. Partly because more extreme examples  make for more engaging narratives and partly because anime is a medium in which family can be anything from a group of friends you hold truly dear, to a demon girl with whom you accidentally enslaved through a combination of good intentions and a succubus…this is an example of the latter.

Despite the bevy of scars that litter his flesh, Basara Tojo seems like your standard fare slice-of-life anime protagonist. He’s a guy and in high school…and I’m pretty sure that’s all you really need to claim a series in this genre. No, wait, I forgot one more thing: An ungodly ability to attract every female within a 10km radius. Maybe it’s a pheromone thing, that’d explain why it can be hard for an audience to understand why exactly a generic character can slowly but surely amass a harem that somehow never reaches a point wherein the enamoured take a step  back and question what exactly they are doing with their life. That being said, The Testament of Sister New Devil does respond to that last issue with an in-universe explanation: Demon Sex Magic.

It’s a fine line…

After suddenly discovering that his father is soon to remarry, Basara is dealt a second wave of shock upon learning that the woman in question, whom he has never met, has two daughters; his soon to be stepsisters. Naturally, his father reveals this information over a pleasant lunch and has organised for the girls to meet their new brother. I’m not really sure that I need to go over this blow-by-blow, as it is fairly obvious how the next moments play out. Basara of course decides to wash his face and ponder every way his life is about to change, only to ignore a sign informing him that the lock on the bathroom door is broken and walk in on his soon-to-be stepsister Mio who is in the middle of getting dressed. Obviously, he then charges into the bathroom and covers Mio’s mouth with his hand, pleading with her to not scream at his accidental invasion of privacy, all while still not knowing who she actually is. A classic meet cute and I can only apologise for wasting your time explaining such a traditional, wholesome-what the actual hell?! Okay, I’m not innocent when it comes to how these types of anime unfold, but that is one bold way to open. And by bold, I mean unsettling. We don’t even get the chance to know the type of character Basara is before he forcefully silences a girl, literally pushing her against a wall whilst doing so. Just…no. Never. Ever. Do that.

Anyway, we somehow find ourselves continuing through the episode with zero police intervention or societal repercussions, whereupon Basara, his father and the two new ladies of the family (the other being a young girl named Maria) all move in to a brand new house. Again, I explain the obvious, as the very next day Basara is awoken by Mio straddling him, before calling him a pervert and deriding his ownership of a stepsister-based dating sim. Obviously another harmless misunderstanding, as Maria had merely bought it as a gift for him. And by gift, I mean instruction manual. Keep in mind, this is all before we discover that Mio is the daughter of the Demon World’s previous ruler and that Maria is a succubus sworn to protect her from those who wish to steal the power of the former Demon Lord sealed within her. Oh, Mio is the daughter of the Demon World’s previous ruler and that Maria is a succubus sworn to protect her from those who wish to steal the power of the former Demon Lord sealed within her…also Basara is from the Hero Clan and is sworn to protect the world from demons. What this means for the plot, when all is said and done, is that there are a bundle of new magical ways for sex to permeate the lives of this new family. Because anime is weird sometimes.

Long story short, because otherwise I’ll be rambling on about moments that were unprecedented and served only to show what a demonic student looks like without a shirt on, Basara decides to defend his new sisters from trouble, heritage be damned. Mio also resolves to enter a Master-Servant Pact with Basara, in order to grant them an inherent knowledge of each other’s location, only to have it backfire and place her in the role of servant. On its own, this reversal of expectation is not a bad plot element and leans into the confusion of a hero deciding to protect a demon, granting each a simultaneous status of knight and royalty. However, this reversal of expectation is not on its own and, in the presence of this series, serves to strip even more power from Mio, rendering her a girl unable to defy the yoke of her stepbrother, under threat of sexual over-stimulation. Now, I’m not here to shame anybody for liking what they like within the confines of a private and consensual environment, however, The Testament of Sister New Devil attempts to have its cake and eat it too…in more ways than one.

The hug seen round the school

Were this series unabashed in its sexual message…it probably wouldn’t have been officially  licensed in multiple countries, but it would have been honest. In constantly shifting between fan service delivery system and earnest tale of acceptance, it loses footing in both. Attempts at characterisation make it weird and disheartening when the girls are shown to only exist to fawn of Basara, while the aforementioned fawning makes any characterisation seem shallow and meaningless. Yuki, for example, is allowed roughly ten seconds as a mysterious student at Basara’s new school before she immediately hugs Basara and blushes over their days together as childhood friends. Mio also takes roughly two seconds after said hug to shatter her school persona and begin an outward rivalry for the guy both of them have only seen for a cumulative day in the last five years…or ever. Now, whilst I am well aware that this is exactly how these harem series work, the higher rating of Sister New Devil really muddies the waters. Normally, one can attribute the blushing of anime girls to a crush and budding interest in love. It can be cute. It steps somewhat beyond the bonds of cute, however, when characters skip this notion entirely and jump straight to rubbing maple syrup and cake on each other’s naked bodies. Which is one hell of a jump. Like, the kind of jump a lot of people never even think to make, or do and then wonder why that idea even entered into their minds.

This all being said, Sister New Devil is not without its moments. Namely: Any moment that involves Yahiro. As the only other male character who isn’t a part of the school’s weird agreement to never let any guy get close to Yuki or Mio due to the blinding jealousy of everyone else, he serves as Basara’s only friend who doesn’t want to mount him. What makes this relationship interesting however, is Basara’s very un-anime deduction that Yahiro is indeed the demon known as Lars. Appearing in a bid to awaken Mio’s latent power, Lars is very, very obviously Yahiro. Ray Chase’s voice acting aside, the character simply wears a mask, leaving his rather discernible hairstyle on full display. Yes, Basara provides a slightly more circuitous in-universe reasoning for his discovery (Yahiro correctly identifying the cause of Mio’s most recent blushing feat), but he figures it out nonetheless. Previous jokes aside, I really do not need to explain how satisfying this is to any anime fan who has had to sit through plot mandated discoveries. Better yet, Basara does not immediately fight Yahiro, or even tell him to leave Mio alone. Instead, he notes how such an action would only result in a stronger enemy appearing and forges an alliance with the literal devil he knows. It’s a brilliant move that adds an interesting depth to an otherwise bland friendship dynamic and brings the series as close as it ever gets to meaningful plot or character development. It truly is a shame that it is summarily outweighed by moments of Maria describing the merits of Basara forcing Mio to physically submit to him.

Just the four of us

A little from column A, a little from column B, The Testament of Sister New Devil is not enough of either to truly satisfy anyone. If A leans into the more hardcore audience out there, the weak attempts to tie moments of fan service together with plot come across as pointless and hollow. For the B side, any weight behind the characters is undermined by the repeated insistence that fondling Mio is necessitous to saving the world. Not that it would matter, as the series never feels as if anything is progressing when not directly on screen. Characters, and perhaps even the world itself, may as well not exist when not immediately relevant. One egregious example even extends this to anybody and anything that isn’t specifically Basara Tojo. In the climactic battle, Mio and Yuki simply stand around, tearfully lamenting the beating their love(?) is taking. Not once do they attempt to help using the powers they each possess, nor does Basara tell them to stay away, it is simply assumed that only he stands a chance…and that isn’t wrong. Don’t let the title fool you, The Testament of Sister New Devil is a power fantasy wherein tropes throw themselves upon a cliche, which does not for a compelling tale make…unless you just sometimes like to see boobs.

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