I watched it alongside Diabolik Lovers, since they're both reverse-harem anime shows from September-December 2015 in which the heroine's under assault by sinister supernatural boys. They're bad, but they're so good-looking! What's a girl to do? Diabolik Lovers has vampires, while this has vampires and devils.
Of the two, this show's far more bonkers. Diabolik Lovers is a very simple show, once you've accepted that it's all about sadistic psychological abuse. It doesn't have much plot. Dance with Devils, on the other hand, is a musical about a devil-vampire war over the forbidden grimoire that will let them control the world. Yes, I did say "musical". There's also a Pomeranian From Hell. Caught amid all this are Ritsuka Tachibana (Japanese schoolgirl), her brother Lindo (exorcist doing his magical training in Britain) and her mother Maria (ordinary human with nothing unusual about her at all). This paragraph contains four lies or half-truths, but saying any more would give away massive spoilers.
It's pretty good, I think. It's also not too weird, apart from the musical numbers. There's a proper plot, with stuff happening and a dynamic protagonist. Sympathetic characters can die. The warring supernatural elements make the show both surreal and sinister, but you'd have been disappointed if it hadn't been. Reality can be fluid. A masked ball can turn into a hall of mirrors, or a funfair. Also the "drowning in hot boys" wish-fulfilment isn't too prominent yet, although it'll become more so later.
I also like Ritsuka. She doesn't just do what she's told. She makes judgement calls and sticks by them. She's steadfast in her trust of people, almost to a worrying extent, not even being thrown by the extraordinarily surprising thing she sees in ep.7. She's even willing to put her faith in people who aren't human, even though the available options are all bad. If you had to put your life in the hands of either a devil or a vampire, which would you choose? Ritsuka doesn't just trust her supernatural entity, but even defends him. (She's still applying her judgement, though. She correctly decides that Mage is a cock, for instance, and knows that falling in love with him was never an option because the person he's most passionately in love with is of course himself.)
Then we have the songs. I approve of them. The idea of doing them was mental and I like mental things. I particularly appreciate the fact that they're integral to the storytelling, instead of being tacked-on plot-stoppers. You can't just skip past them. They'll often be saying important things that we hadn't previously known, e.g. the characters' history or feelings. Brilliantly there's even a fight in ep.9 that's done as a musical number.
The end credits song is really catchy too.
However the show gets madder as the romance gets stronger. By the end, an unlikely collection of males will have all sung to us about how they're in love with Ritsuka. You'll be going "eh?" It's just bizarre. It makes the last two episodes unintentionally hilarious. It's the equivalent of cats falling in love with a mouse. And then our hero's big romantic gesture is to invite Ritsuka to hell... what? Sorry, what? Our loving couple sing about this. Should she go to hell? (Hmmmmm, difficult.) She reaches a concrete decision, which is good, but the episode's trying to do too much in that song and for me the dramatic beat fails. It falls down in a heap. The emotion and the situation haven't been set up properly and the results are unintentionally funny. The conclusion feels to me as if it's suggesting a possible Season 2, though.
Then there's the sight of Ritsuka falling in love with a devil. Admittedly he's quite an interesting character, with even his coldness being suggestive. (If he'd meant every word of his brutal dismissals, then his honesty in itself would be curiously altruistic.) However he's a devil from hell! Ep.5 shows one of his colleagues eating someone's soul. Personally, I was boggling at the romance as it unfolded. Ritsuka, sweetie, might that not be the best choice? There are better people for you. (About seven billion at latest count.) Your brooding sweetie's the dictionary definition of evil. He sends people to Hell for eternal torture. Admittedly you're about to do a implausibly thorough job of winning over the hearts of these maleficent wicked evil infernal demons from the pit of eternal fire... but even so. Come on. They're not even denying it. They're the bad guys. Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub. The guy in red with the pitchfork. Evil with a capital E. It's in the job description and everything.
However that's the viewpoint of someone (me) from a Christian culture. Japan isn't Christian and their interpretations of Biblical concepts can be eccentric. In anime, this can become "completely barking". These are definitely meant to be Christian devils, though, given all the Catholic imagery, rosaries, holy water, etc. of Lindo and his fellow exorcists.
1. That English-speaker in ep.1 can't pronounce "grimoire".
2. Those neo-loli-goth school uniforms. Wow.
3. Lindo's frilly maid apron in ep.4 is a good look for him.
4. The creepiest thing in ep.5 is the lack of reaction from either the teacher or any students when a student council member kicks open the door and physically carries off Ritsuka. In front of them, during class.
This show is nuts. It's only moderately nutsoid early on, without being too much. By the end, though, it's a full-blown rubber room candidate. I still liked it, though. Its problems and peculiarities mostly come from being a reverse-harem anime, but I could imagine someone watching almost to the end without even realising that that was the genre. I'm hoping they make Season 2.