• Titles: Shinigami Bocchan to Kuro Maid, The Duke of Death and His Maid
  • Genre: Supernatural, romance, slice of life, comedy, drama
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: J.C. Staff

The young duke is a man who will never know love and never be loved. He was cursed as a child and now everything he touches dies. So how can anyone ever get close to him? He is after all the Duke of Death. No normal person would want to be around someone like that, right? Or would they? His long-time butler Rob only seems interested in his well-being and his little sister Viola certainly isn’t intimidated. His new friends Cuff and Zain also aren’t bothered but then again, they are witches. And then there’s Alice. The duke and his maid Alice have known each other since they were children and they’ve always been quite fond of one another. It seems some things never change.

The Duke of Death and his Maid has so many things going against it. For one it’s sort of a musical. There are a lot of musical numbers peppered through the first season. And although musicals have had a bit of a revival in recent years, it remains a tough sell for general audiences. Also, the series is entirely CG which is one of the worst things you can say to anime fans. A lot of us are not yet on the CG bandwagon. I was wondering whether a show like this could really find an audience…

SPOILER: I just added the upcoming season to my To Watch list…

in the eye of the beholder

Production

Like I said, The Duke of Death and his Maid is an entirely CG production that faces different challenges than more traditional anime. You may have something in mind already, I know I did! Let me say this, I think The Duke of Death and his Maid really chose the best possible art style and character models for a CG show. The characters seem quite natural in CG and the movements, although obviously computer-generated also work along with the rest.

How can I say this? There is no visual clash or uncomfortable uncanny valley in this show. You can clearly see it’s computer-generated but all the visual elements work together so it doesn’t bother you. At least that was my experience and I quickly forgot about that particular aspect. Oh, and I guess I should mention that I liked both the art style and most of the character designs.

What struck me more about the visuals was the backgrounds. Not so much the layout rather than the texture. The backgrounds in the show all have a visible canvas texture which makes it seem like that characters magically came alive in a painting. It’s an interesting choice and I think it adds a lot of visual interest to the series.

Music has an important narrative role in the show so I was happy to see that the score is quite nice. Bocchan (the Duke) plays piano and there were several truly lovely pieces throughout season 1. I enjoyed just listening to them and if you like classical piano, I would definitely give this series a try.

You can make out that background texture in the stills but it’s more obvious in the show

Story & Characters

I have never been shy about letting you guys know that Romance anime and romance fiction in general, isn’t really my thing. But I am realizing that that’s not exactly true as I’m slowly building up a library of romances I enjoyed. What doesn’t appeal to me personally, seem to be the more classic tropes and devices of romantic comedy/dramas.

I dislike uneven power dynamics in couples where one partner is infinitely passive. I get annoyed by the manufactured conflict that makes one or both characters seem crazy as they fly into rages or fall into deep sorrow over seemingly random events without even bothering to make sure they didn’t misunderstand anything. I’m not a fan of how partners in romances never seem to simply have a normal conversation whenever any sort of challenge comes up.

And I do understand that a lot of these tropes exist because they are a tried and true way to create conflict in a romance narrative. They are part of the building blocks of romantic fiction and I’m not saying these are bad. They are simply not my thing.

I wouldn’t go that far

However, without these elements, I often find romances quite charming. It’s simply a matter of finding another way to create that conflict or tension. And The Duke of Death and his Maid certainly does exactly that.

There are two main conflicts in this series. First and least is the class disparity between the Duke and the Maid making a romantic relationship between the two somewhat socially inept. It’s not as acceptable. And certainly, it seemed like this could cause an issue as Alice was gearing up to take decisions by herself “for the good of her loved one”. But season 1 actually does a very good job at resolving that one conflict smoothly and with maturity. It was in fact the climax of the series and I have to say, it made me honestly proud and happy for the characters.

The second and really main conflict and hook of the show is of course that the duke is cursed. He cannot touch the one he loves, even accidentally. This makes simple cohabitation risky and challenging in all sorts of ways and adds a lot of tension. It also is at odds with a young man full of hormones living under the same roof as a very beautiful girl who seems to have nothing better to do than to tirelessly tease him.

It takes the conflict outside the main couple and makes it something they absolutely need to face and solve together rather than an issue only one of them has to resolve.

And just like that, the romance went from tedious to sweet for me.

one f these things is bound to be sweet

I’m not saying that The Duke of Death and his Maid is a perfect show. It’s not even my favourite romantic anime. But I enjoyed it despite its weaknesses. And what are those you may ask?

The dialogue is sometimes a little clunky. I’m not sure if this is a case of losing something in translation. It sounded that way to me at times. The supporting cast is also a bit underdeveloped. There is potential for more in further seasons but in the first one, they are still rather 2-dimensional characters. Ha!

This might be just a personal pet peeve, but the fanservice looked a little awkward to me at times and I blame the CG. There isn’t all that much fanservice in the show. The character models do have ridiculous proportions though and somehow it just looked funny to me in 3d. Most of it was Alice being a little seductress and I actually thought that was fine. It’s more just particular scenes with Cuff and Viola where you could see that they were going for traditional sexy poses or “weird camera angle bro” but it doesn’t look the same in CG and for me, it just ended up either actually looking weird, like the angles didn’t work or silly rather than sexy. It’s not a big thing but it did take me out of the moment and remind me that I was watching a CG animation.

some of it looked great!

Finally, The Duke of Death and his Maid threads the line between comedy and drama. I personally think that so far, the drama is a little weaker simply because the foundations haven’t all been properly established. But I did feel for the main characters so it’s not like there’s nothing to it. I did think that the balancing act will turn off some viewers though and make the experience a bit more shallow.

I did say that I put season 2 on my to-watch list but when I finished the first season, I did not know that there was more planned. I remember thinking that it felt a little unresolved. That could be a problem because although season 2 has been announced, I don,t think there’s a release date yet and if we have to wait years for the rest of the story, it’s going to really mess with the narrative flow.

For me though, these were relatively minor setbacks in an otherwise enjoyable little romance. I was pleasantly surprised and I think that if you like romantic comedies, you’ll find something to enjoy about The Duke of Death and his Maid.

You might like this anime if:

You enjoy romantic comedies with a bit of drama in them.

My favourite character:

Zain. I just think he’s the best character foil for everyone else! Also, I want to see him confess. I have a feeling it will be the cutest thing ever

Suggested drink:

A Milk Maid

  • Every time Alice is too close – back up
  • Every time we see the Duke’s mother – take a sip, you’ll need it
  • Every time the Duke plays piano – clap – he’s really good
  • Every time the Duke’s family is having dinner – get a snack
  • Every time Viola talks about Rob – take a sip
  • Every time Alice humours Viola – take a sip
  • Every time the Duke blushes – awwww
  • Every time there are wilted flowers – take a sip
  • Every time we see a cat – take a sip
  • Every time Rob puts his foot down – take a sip
  • Every time it’s snowing – brrrrrr
  • Every time Zain gets hit – ow
  • Every time there’s a musical number – take a sip
  • Every time we see an owl – hmmmmm

I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.

7 thoughts

  1. I really like the story but I just don’t like the voice acting in the sub or the dub😕

      1. I’m not sure. Its just something I noticed recently, something in me just may not jive with the VA’s so I just can’t watch the show. It’s mostly the Duke’s VA that I just don’t like.

  2. I’m really fond of the show. And I actually thought the show was really pretty. Let me explain: I don’t like the CGI at all. It’s clumsy and all the characters move exactly like algorithm dolls. But, well, as you said, it doesn’t take long to get used to it and then… you have these really pretty colours and very good scene composition. There are a lot of really good shots in the show. A lot of them involve the moon… Yeah, basically, if you’re doing all CGI, you either go all out and produce something like Beastars, or you put it on the plate as is, warts and all, and focus on what you can control (like colour and scene composition, as this show does).

    I also really like the dynamic behind the romance. They start you off with the constant teasing, which – initially – felt a little eye-rolling and cliché to me. But as the story unravelled so did the layers around the teasing: These characters have their own value systems and priority, and slowly a got a sense that it’s the curse that actually keeps them together, and suddenly the teasing doubles between the social status and curse barriers, and works in two directions. Our Duke is understandably bitter about being abandoned and kicked out, and here’s only really Rob and Alice to keep him company, so – from his perspective – it’s clear that he’s in love with Alice and he wants to stay with her – family be damned. But Alice won’t stand for that. Something happened to her mum (and it seems to have something to do with the curse), and the one thing she can’t allow is family alienation on her account. So in a sense she teases him with physical closeness, both to reassure him she’s here, she’s not afraid of the curse, but the curse is also a shield, because of what it *doesn’t* allow. And there’s a sense where actually resolving the curse will activate the second barrier with force… This really does play out beautifully throughout the show.

    One of my favourite scenes in that respect is when they have their boat ride, and at one point the boat rocks and Alice falls overboard. The Duke sees it coming and instinctively reaches out to steady her, before remembering himself, and then he just stands there looking on as she plummets into the water. There’s not much of a threat to the scene, but there could have been, and – well – he’s more of a threat than the water… The show has many such moments.

    Also Zain is totally one those characters you hope won’t open his eyes on *you*… (I really loved our witch duo; they opened up the show a lot.)

    1. Oh yay. I’m glad to this one didn’t trigger any motion sickness! It really is a rather sweet show. I’m looking forward to more

      1. CGI in itself actually doesn’t cause motionsickness (it did in early 3D-computer games when rendering wasn’t smooth). It simply encourages a type of camera movement that’s bad for me. It’s not the type of show with those types of movements, so I’m fine here.

        I’m looking forward to season 2, too.

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