A change away from isekai, death matches and sequel series, The Duke of Death and His Maid was an anime I was quite curious about given I do enjoy a good supernatural romance and rom-coms are usually quite enjoyable. So how did I find Shinigami Bocchan to Kuro Maid?
Watch or Drop? Rules
Rules modified for the Autumn 2021 season.
- The anime must be new (not a sequel or spin-off).
- I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
First Impressions of The Duke of Death and His Maid
The Duke of Death and His Maid makes a definite first impression, though whether you like it or not will entirely depend upon your personal tastes. See, this is a CGI anime and the characters have a weird rubbery/plastic kind of look and their movements are quite odd (just watch the OP where the two main characters sing to one another and look like two goldfish gasping for air after you tossed them out of the bowl).
It isn’t a deal breaker on its own (hardly in the same realm as Hand Shakers), but I suspect some viewers will be quite put off. I do find it odd though how textured and lovely the backgrounds and settings are while the characters look like they’ve been pasted over the top.
Anyway, once you get over the visuals, the characters and story seem to swing between super adorable and sweet and so incredibly lame and cliché and sometimes do it in the space of half-a-conversation. I’d be ready to quit watching in one scene and the next I’d be totally hooked back in.
The basic and tragic tale of the boy cursed by a witch to kill any living thing he touches is a pretty effective premise and focusing in on the relationship between the boy and his maid really personalises this.
So let’s look a bit more closely at what works and what doesn’t in The Duke of Death and His Maid.
The Duke of Death and His Maid Series Positives:
Part of me wonders why they aren’t playing this as a more serious romantic drama rather than a rom-com given the tragic nature of the cursed duke living with his maid. When the two are allowed to be real people, The Duke of Death and His Maid shines and you are completely drawn into this narrative.
Whether this is when we see the duke alone in the garden or the touching scene where the two dance in the moonlight without actual physical contact, or even the duke composing Alice a ballad and playing it for her on the piano, it is ridiculously sweet and just makes me want to hug both of these characters and wish them happiness (which considering visually they creep me out is saying something).
Equally, the music has so far been gorgeous. This includes character songs within the anime, the duke playing the piano, or even the upbeat OP (again, ignore the visuals and just listen to the two voice actors singing). The sound is so incredibly on-point and engaging that regardless of how anything else turns out, The Duke of Death and His Maid will be my pick for best soundtrack this season.
And finally, I love how beautiful the backgrounds are. There’s been a number of night scenes and all of them have been truly beautiful, but even just seeing the duke in his library with the rich texture behind him is glorious. There was one screen cap I tried to get but didn’t (and wasn’t going to go back to it) that was just a shot of the duke’s feet. His shoes weren’t that interesting but I loved the textures in the background of that shot.
So there’s a lot of positives here.
The Duke of Death and His Maid Series Negatives:
Rom-Com shouldn’t mean girl with big boobs continually thrusts them in face of male protagonist. Alice and the duke have a real connection and Alice’s antics make so little sense and seemingly come out of nowhere, often totally derailing what otherwise might be a sweet moment between the pair. That she’ll die if he accidentally moves forward even an inch sometimes just adds a whole other level to why this really isn’t funny because I just keep imagining how devastated he’ll be if he accidentally kills her.
It doesn’t help that her breasts are the ridiculously shiny kind with the ugly red splotches and the CGI makes the movement of them absolutely unappealing. This isn’t good fan-service. Nor is it good fan-service where she just randomly flashes her fish-nets at the duke.
The justification The Duke of Death and His Maid makes for these intrusive and fairly unfunny moments is that Alice likes his reactions, but she gets just as much reaction from licking an ice-cream or taking a bite from his cookie and then telling him it is an indirect kill so it is largely unnecessary.
Also, the other characters have so far been of the not great variety. The excellent butler Rob, who keeps putting out his back, apparently has such poor eye-sight he can’t tell the young duke and a stray cat apart and the duke’s sister who comes to visit is most definitely a one-note kind of character. There’s potential for these characters to be fleshed out later but given the overall tone and the focus on the central duo it seems unlikely they’ll rise about being one trick ponies.
The Duke of Death and His Maid has some real charm in places and I admit I mostly like the main pair and the romance between them. I just wish that not so much screen time was taken up by ugly shots of Alice thrusting her over-sized chest about.
I’ll probably finish this because there’s some seriously cute moments in these first three episodes but my expectations are fairly ordinary because it will be anyone’s guess as to whether this anime focuses in on the parts that work or whether it doubles down on the poor fan-service that rely on visuals that aren’t up to the task.
Let me know what you think of The Duke of Death and his Maid in the comments below.
Images from: The Duke of Death and His Maid. Dir. Y Yamakawa. J.C. Staff. 2021
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