When I first sat down and began watching Demonbane, I was expecting a good ol' giant robot anime. You can imagine my disappointment when what I got was a lame parody of anime genres. It took a lot, I mean A LOT, to get me to keep watching this! I'm glad I did, since I hate to leave things unfinished.
There's at least a few things to like about Demonbane. The art work is very nice and Gonzo does a good job with the CGI for the giant robots. The opening theme song “Man, God, Machine” by Yuuichi Ikuzawa has the great driving beat and techno vibe of many giant robot anime series. Oh yeah....There's also a lot of references to the Cthulu Mythos. A lot of references. The names of major and minor characters, places, and attacks are pretty much all derived from various stories by H.P. Lovecraft and other Cthulu writers. If you can, try checking out Shinsen Fansubs digisub which contains approximately five minutes of notes at the end of each episode on lots of stuff like Cthulu, Lovecraft, and odd science facts that fit into the Mythos.
Kurou Daijuuji is a lovable screw-up and semi-out-of-work detective, who usually frequents the local orphanage to steal a meal. His life, like that of so many accidental heroes in anime, is changed when a girl falls from the sky (actually a rooftop) and lands in his face, butt first.
It just so happens that this girl, Al Azif, is actually the fabled grimoire Necronomicon. Aquiring her just so happens to be the mission he was hired to carry out by the Hadou Fininacial Group. It also just so happens that the comical Doctor West is attacking the city with a giant robot.
Quickly, Al does a henshin sequence with Kurou. It's just like many magical girl change sequences, what with all the pseudo nudity and sparkles. Only it's both the girl and this guy naked together and changing. Kurou grows long white hair and one of his eyes turns red. Al shrinks to a chibi form of herself.
She then goes on to summon the great Deus Machina (God Machine) Demonbane using an elaborate magical girl like dance, and regaining her original non-chibi form. She is co-pilot while Kurou takes over the main controls. This is all just in the first episode, mind you.
In the second episode, we meet Master Therion, who has his own grimoire known as Lady Etheldreda, a.k.a. Pnakotic Manuscripts. Therion has quite a few tricks up his sleeve and a gang of loyal....well, maybe not so loyal followers called the Black Lodge.
In the mean time, Dr. West invents a female robot called Elsa. This, along with Al, Princess Ruri Hadou (Kurou's current employer), and her maids lead to some pretty fun harem hijinks at an onsen in episode five.
The reason why I'm glad I stuck with this, is the pick-up in the momentum of the story beginning with episode five. Master Therion announces he, himself, will try to take over the world by performing a magic spell. It had been thought that Al Azif and Demonbane were needed for this spell, but Therion assures the members of Anticross, the elite sorcerers of the lodge, that his powers are sufficient. They promptly turn on him, then manage to take out Al later. Kurou wonders around fighting Anticross and mourning the loss of Al, until a battle sends him over the edge into another plain of existence where he's reunited with her. The final two episodes include plenty of plot twists to keep you entertained. The ending is a bit confusing, but just think of it as two alternate universes overlapping.
Based on a PS2 game, which in turn was based on a PC eroge (erotic game), Demonbane TV still retains some toned down, yet still risky imagery. I mentioned the henshin scene where both the male and female lead appear in “barbie doll” nudity together. Tiberious,a member of Anitcross, takes Princess Ruri hostage, then, from a distance, appears to molest her with his tentacles. Kurou jumps in, cutting her loose and chiding Tiberious that tentacle play is out of style. There isn't any detail other than Ruri's cries for help and Tiberious's obscene comment about her not breaking on him. However, my experience with the hentai Madam M, where the same “don't break on me” expression is used, leads me to believe the animators tried to sneak something in. Also, in the eleventh episode, a female character is restrained with tentacles, a couple of which seem to be creeping up through her nether regions. All the female characters are large breasted, with the exception of Al and Ennea. Particularly busty is Naia (Nyarlathotep, the evil trickster god of the Cthulu Mythos). Despite the pseudo-hentai feel, I still enjoyed the anime's battle scenes.
I really liked Al Azif. Her character is reminiscent of other spunky, smart ass heroines like Shana of Shakugan no Shana. The point where she died was where I really started to empathize with her and Kurou. I found Ruri to be fairly annoying, as she really was just a princess in distress most of the time.
I would like to check out the OVA, which came bundled with the first PS2 game, and features a journalist investigating the arrival of the mysterious Demonbane mecha.
Demonbane has a lot to offer, and it's not always coherent. There's a bit too much comedy in the first few episodes, which will turn off people looking for an action series. However, if you're a Cthulu fan looking to pick up on the many references, or a mecha fan looking for some decent giant robot warfare, you'll find it here. Just sit tight and you'll eventually find something to make it worth while. If not, then at least it's only twelve episodes of suck.