Straight after the appallingly bad Brothers Conflict comes a new reverse harem. Happy happy joy joy. Will this manage to be better than BroCon, and perhaps even rise to the level of 'almost tolerable'? Hah, fat chance! This irredeemable pile of excrement is the story of a young woman being surrounded by young vampire guys that are hellbent on making her life as miserable as possible, and nothing else. It's basically your regular harem show, but with a colossal heap of domestic abuse added to help separate it from its ilk. The setting is about as cliché as they come, and there is nothing new to be had from the plot and backstory, both of which are barely even there. Describing them as 'perfunctory' would be a stretch and it would dilute the word to such a degree that it would be rendered meaningless in the process, and we can't have that now, can we?
I know the visual novel has more information about how horrible the brothers are, but this is what I watched and the anime will be judged as a stand-alone work. The summaries I've read on the web after I started watching the show did not really make me any more interested in playing the game. Besides, the only VN that I have played is pidgeon dating sim Heartful Boyfriend, and I aim to keep it that way. Anyway, moving on.
The show begins with Yui going to a mansion (very foreboding) because she can no longer live with her father (I can't remember exactly why) and there she meets a young man asleep on a sofa. Given that he is cold, she starts to think that she is dead, but unfortunately she is not so lucky. Turns out he is Ayato, vampire fuckface extraordinaire, and he promptly begins to assault her. She then meets his equally detestable siblings, and she is told that she is a sacrificial bride and that they will kill her if she tries to escape. Sounds fun? If it does, I suspect you and I have wildly different tastes in entertainment.
Despite its urban fantasy trappings, Diabolik Lovers seems rather realistic (especially if we go by anime standards) in its portrayal of how it is being trapped in an abusive relationship. Things like feeling helpless in front of your unpleasable abusers; constantly being insulted; her views and person being monitored very closely; forced to endure the sadistic treatment of these vile brothers just because these selfish beings are able to draw out some twisted form of enjoyment from it, it shows just how horrific an experience this is. Seriously, search the web for lists of signs that a relationship is abusive, and I assure that you this will fulfill most criteria on most of the pages you find. Thing is, it's trying to portray this as romantic and edgy, and it offers some inane excuse of a backstory that tries to explain – at least in part – why the Sakamaki brothers are unfit to ever be near a sentient or sapient being ever, but it sure as hell doesn't begin to excuse any of their abhorrent behaviour nor does it ever make me feel even the slightest bit of sympathy towards them. Oh, spoiler, it was mainly their mothers' doing, perhaps coupled with an absentee father. This attempt to shift the blame onto women for the failings of the male characters is offensive and ineptly done. The few flashbacks we're treated to show them as rather stern parents, but nothing more, making it even more stupid and offensive. If the guilty parties behind this travesty actually have read up on abusive relationships, it's clear that they used the information as an instruction manual, and nothing else.
The six brothers are, as has been noted, horrible beings through and through. Their entire raison d'être is to be the most selfish and malicious eye candy ever. Yui, the unfortunate heroine, is at times timid and cowered, afraid of the capricious moods of her attackers, and at other times she stands up for herself, though her exhortations are obviously never heeded by the disgusting fucks she lives with. As far as personality goes, she is ostensibly a blithe and caring person, but we get to see very little of her personality since she is tormented without cessation, relegated to the role of abuse victim when she's not asking really obvious or stupid questions in order to trigger some exposition. That last bit is a hallmark of great writing if there ever was one...
She mostly just spends her day acting like your garden variety horror protagonist, i.e. making incredibly bad decisions just for the sake of creating more tension, getting harassed or other things that the “story” demands. This gets old fast, and you just wish that the whole mansion would burst up in flames, making the remainder of the show to be about firefighters digging out their charred bones from the ruins. The plot starts to develop after the midpoint, but it's so laughably and yet infuriatingly incompetently handled and its conclusion so pathetically executed and anti-climactic that I can't see why anyone would actually care about it. And seriously, a 13-episode (and not even full-length episodes at that!) anime that had to have a recap after six of them that only focused on assault scenes? Yeah, even the anime itself doesn't give a damn about the plot, so why should I?
The characters have distinct looks and character types, though their personalities are less distinct than one would think. They are purportedly different types of characters, but they are de facto basically just differing in their approach to abuse and type of abuse they suffered themselves as wee vampire children, and the banter they have between them is just some sneering or snide one-liners. This being a harem game adaptation, this is no surprise, but it is a fault nonetheless. Couple this with a short running time, a merciful (yet still far too long) 15 minutes per episode instead of the usual 24, and we get characters so shallow that the nearest puddle of water seems like the Marianer Trench in comparison. Honestly, the only remotely likable character in the show is Cordelia, one of the mothers, and she threw her kid into the lake to torture him...
This edifice to abhorrence is barely adequately animated, with character designs that are pretty pleasant but at the same time rather unoriginal and derivative since they have be able to indicate the character types even from a quick glance. The backgrounds really give off that haunted mansion vibe, though the CGI used in some places is incredibly awful-looking, like the grotesque mockery of a chandelier present in episode 1. The animation really shows off the vampires' unbearably smug mugs as they force themselves on Yui in any of the many awful assault scenes, but otherwise it really doesn't stand out.
Aurally, it is pretty much an unrelenting on the assault of the senses, with the horrible lines being conveyed with all the skill you can expect from a modern anime production. Some lines are also pretty hilarious: Kanato singing Scarborough Fair comes to mind. The music department is very unremarkable, as background music is used sparingly and usually to little effect. The OP is bad rock blandly sung by some of the VAs with some goth vibes sprinkled on to make it feel more appropriate while the ending song would most aptly be referred to as 'unremarkable'.
In short, this show is bad and everyone that took part in creating it should feel bad, but I guess they won't. Whatever, fuck this piece of shit and fuck everything about it.