It’s a difficult day for Lady Vermillio, a powerful fire sorceress with an administrative position in the Demon (Oni) Realm. After the death of Lord Demon Thor, the customary gladiatorial games were convened to appoint a worthy successor. A human hero, Helck—kind, muscular and good-natured—has taken advantage of the rules to participate and may become the first human Demon Lord ever. Now, this is Very Bad News, since there is an ongoing war between humans and demons, and the Human Realm has been advancing after Thor’s defeat. In fact, a bluff of this magnitude could get both Vermilio and the current manager demoted or killed by the higher-ups. Thus, Vermilio tries a variety of strategies to get him out of the tournament. But Helck is a man of many talents, and he can build a castle of cards, beat his opponents at chess, and cook a parfait so delicious that even the Demon Lady herself cannot give it anything but a perfect score. Vermilio’s spies, though, find out something strange in the Human Realm. Apparently, there’s a bounty on Helck’s head, due to the murder of his younger brother, the hero Cless.
Helck and Cless: these names are nods to Hercules, a character that might inspire grim and dark stories or fun and cartoonish ones. Where are we? Well, though we’re firmly on the second camp, the real answer is that there’s a bit of both, which I found to be an impressive balance of goofiness and seriousness. If you like the Silver Age Superman (or Grant Morrison’s more recent homage, All-Star Superman), you should love this story. The aptly named Lady Vermilio works as an overly serious, temperamental bureaucrat, while the eponymous Helck feels like a He-Man/All Might amalgamation, and I found the campy back-and-forth really funny. Yet, without breaking that tone, something more serious is creeping into the background. We hear of Demon Lords sacrificing themselves so that their subjects might evacuate, empty towns with apples and drinks still on the tables, and intriguing flashbacks showing us the hero without his perpetual smile. Add to that the cool, Celtic-sounding music, a cool opening, and my favorite ending of the season, which teases intriguing new characters and relationships, and you have my interest. I had a glorious time with this one, and I cannot wait for episode two.
Helck can be streamed on HiDive.