Romantic comedy covers a huge amount of territory, but it usually is the same thought process: a guy really, really likes a girl, but doesn’t know how to say it or express it or convey it without looking like a fool doing so and, thus, tarnishing his image in her eyes (OK, I will be speaking from a guy-to-gal approach; I know it can happen in the opposite direction as well). Meanwhile, the object of their affection is (usually) well aware of their feelings, but they do not want to make it easy for them and saying it for them. YOU have to convey it, OK, as it commits you to the relationship. But what if death is part of the equation? That brings us to “The Duke of Death and His Maid” (“Shinigami Botchan to Kuro Meido”).
Viktor (him) found himself cursed by a witch. We do not know the reason. Perhaps his parents were awful and rather than curse them, put the blame on Mame, boys. So now, anything he touches instantly dies. To protect others, he has been sent off to the separate estate until something can be done. Well, actually, he has been disowned and the title and all that comes with it will go to his younger brother, Walter. There is a younger sister, Viola, who comes to visit, without Mother Gerbera’s permission, but she doesn’t care what mother thinks. Mother, on the other hand, well……
As we discover, a duke cannot run an estate all by himself, and so he has Rob, the old butler and his maid, Alice Lendrott, who has been infatuated with the duke forever. Alice’s mother was a servant for the Large House and knows of it all. Together, they all live together in this little crooked house, as Viktor tries to figure out how to break the curse.
There are two issues I have with the show. The first is the duke’s attempts to break the curse. I mean, he even gets an invitation to the Witches’ Sabbath, in an attempt to find the witch that cursed him, so it can be lifted (a curse can only be removed by the caster). But Viktor learns some hard and rough truths along the way, which does nothing for his battered spirits, which are pretty battered.
The second is Alice herself. She gets flirtatiously close to Viktor, seemingly unafraid that the merest slip of a finger spells doom. I was of the opinion that Alice is, in fact, dead, but was revived in some kind of deal with the devil (so to speak) to guide Viktor until he becomes of age. Now, it’s just an overview, but a lot is based on her dealings with the duke and her complete fearlessness. The season ending episode proclaims that a possible second season is lurking in the shadows.
It’s just there is a sense of hopelessness and futility to the series, in that here we are and here we will remain, as nothing can or will be done and that’s all she wrote. Even the lifeline of Alice is still frustratingly out of reach, punctuated by the real fear of him accidentally polishing her off. Now, it’s not as bad as, say, “Made in Abyss”, but things are not as light-hearted as it could be. There is a lot of staring off into the moon at night, pondering, wondering, whimpering….I mean…whispering as to how to carry on. Viktor is young and he may live another 50 or 60 years like this and he CAN’T live another 50 or 60 years like this.
As to binging, this can take it. I wouldn’t, as it is nice to revel in the show, but if you decided to surge ahead, that can also be done. A lot depends on how much melancholia you can absorb.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (She, yeah; he, nay)
Plot 8 (Interesting theme)
Pacing 8 (Can get breathless at times)
Effectiveness 7 (Sometimes a bit too incredulous)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Bingebility 8 (It can take it easily)
Overall 8 (Needs a bit more hope)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Not so close, please.