Dance With Devils Is An Anime Musical Version Of Twilight And It Rules

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

Music is an instrumental part of anime. There are hundreds of shows about music, filled with musical performances. But the vast majority of them are just about singers or bands trying to make it big. Actual musicals are next to non-existent, and spontaneously breaking into song isn't really a thing in anime. This is why any show that dares explore the theatricality of musicals is worth checking out.

One such anime is "Dance with Devils," a musical that's also a reverse harem — meaning, a story about a single girl being pursued by many male love interests. The story follows Ritsuka, a regular high school girl whose mother gets kidnapped one day. It turns out, Ritsuka holds the key to finding a magical artifact called the Grimoire, which holds tremendous power, enough to turn the tides in the never-ending battle between vampires and devils, who are now all after Ritsuka. To complicate things, Ritsuka is suspiciously summoned to meet the mysterious student council, which is full of dangerous and potentially devilish hot boys.

"Dance with Devils" is essentially "Twilight" the anime, in other words, but with music that matches the cheesy plot. It's also hilarious and completely unpretentious, with catchy songs and a whole lot of entertainment value.

What makes it great

Let's be honest, you don't watch a show like "Dance with Devils" for intricate plots, thematic resonance, or extraordinarily fluid animation. You watch it for some trashy fun, likable characters, some hot dudes — and in this particular case, also good songs. Thankfully, this anime delivers on all those fronts.

Unsurprisingly, the plot isn't anything transcendental — on the contrary, it feels very much like a visual novel because it was made by a visual novel game company, with a music company also collaborating on the production. That being said, "Dance with Devils" does support its thin plot with an interesting mystery. From the origin and meaning of the Grimoire, to the kidnapping of Ritsuka's mom, there is a reason to keep watching beyond the cute boys and the songs. Because of this, the boys serve as more than just eye candy, driving the plot forward in interesting ways.

Speaking of the lads, that is at least half the reason to watch this show. In the early going of "Dance with Devils," we spend each episode getting to know a different member of the council, as they talk through song about how they're tormenting Ritsuka while at the same time getting her to be attracted to them. Granted, they are little more than archetypes, but they are fun archetypes — you have the masochist, the leader, the handsome flirt, and a guy who is literally a dog (yes, and it gets better). Each of them has a rather distinct character design, and his own music genre too!

What it adds to the conversation

Of course, the actual real reason to watch "Dance with Devils" is to experience the over-the-top theatrics of the musical numbers, because they rule. The first time we are introduced to Ritsuka, she is doing chores and waving her mom goodbye before breaking into her own Disney-style "I want" song.

Every episode has at least one musical number, and I'm not talking about a staged number where it is clear they are doing a performance. Instead, the show abides by full-on Broadway logic, wherein the characters can only express their emotions through song and dance rather than words or fists. As mentioned, each of the student council members sings in a different genre, from a ballad to rap to rock.

The numbers are also staged like music videos, with elaborate visuals, rising curtains, lots of moody stained glass windows, and exploding arcane symbols. The best one is without a doubt the song number that includes a whole chorus of hellish Pomeranian dogs, which must be seen to be believed.

Why non-anime fans should check it out

Are you tired of the same old romance anime with nuanced relationships that build slowly over several seasons? Are you tired of musical anime that is just about the same old band shooting for stardom and staging performances in public, grounded in reality and with no pizzazz? Well, then you should give "Dance with Devils" a chance.

There's not an ounce of subtext in this anime, no complex characters or intricate plot. No need for any of that nonsense. This is a show that is here to offer two things, and only two things: cute boys, and over-the-top musical numbers that feel not so much out of the "Phantom of the Opera" stage musical, but its messy, cheesy sequel, "Love Never Dies." And you know what? It's lots of fun.

Watch This If You Like: "Twilight," "Phantom of the Opera," "Ouran High School Host Club."

"Dance with Devils" is streaming on Crunchyroll.