Review for Monster Musume Collector's Edition
Love it or loathe it, ecchi is big business, the Carry On genre of anime which features plenty of saucy situations, animated nudity, and implied crudity. There’s a fine line between entertaining and provocative, and crass and offensive. I’ve recently watched Daimidaler which was so far across the line that I was tempted to go skeet shooting with the discs. I certainly wasn’t in the mood for more, but then I saw that it was Monster Musume next on the pile.
I’ll let you into a little secret. There’s a great way to tell a good ecchi series from a bad one. All you have to do is watch it. The trick is to watch it on a streaming website like Crunchyroll, Funimation NOW or HIDIVE, as they will invariably have the broadcast version of the episodes, which will have censored all of the ‘good stuff’ for general audience sensibilities (and to sell the presence of the ‘good stuff’ on home video). There will be no boobs, no crotch shots, and no visible sauciness, just plenty of mist, sunbeams, shadows, or just plain Tipp-Ex. All that will be left will be characters, writing, and comedy. I tried watching To-Love-Ru, and Wanna Be the Strongest in the World that way, and had to give up after a couple of episodes. But when I watched the streams of Monster Musume, even with anything potentially offensive obscured, I was tuning in regularly for each new episode. If it’s that good with half of the image missing, imagine what it must be like in its entirety!
Kimihito Kurusu is a man with a problem. That problem is a government worker named Smith who’s looking for an easy life. Three years previously, the government admitted to the world the existence of demi-humans, creatures previously considered mythical, and the Inter-Species Exchange Bill was introduced to allow for the cultural exchange and eventual assimilation of these beings. Kimihito Kurusu being a soft touch got him designated a ‘host family’ and his house was remodelled to allow the Lamia (half snake/half girl) Miia to move in. The Inter-Species Exchange Bill is exacting in the behaviour expected from a host. Certainly don’t be abusive, violent or rude to one’s guest, but also don’t be too kind either. In other words no hanky-panky. Only no-one has told Miia. And with Kimihito being a soft touch, it isn’t long before Smith is introducing Papi, Cerea, Suu, Mero, and Rachnera, a Harpy, Centaur, Slime, Mermaid, and Spider-woman respectively into Kimihito’s household, and to further inter-species relations, he’s expected to marry one of them!
Monster Musume is coming out first on a feature laden Collector’s Edition (standard BD and DVD to follow next year), but I only had the DVD check discs from that combo release to review. You get 12 episodes, 2 OVA episodes, and extras distributed as thus...
1. Everyday Life with a Lamia
2. Everyday Life with Harpy and Centaur
3. Everyday Life with Dangerous Circumstances
4. Everyday Life with a Slime
5. Everyday Life with a Mermaid
6. Everyday Life of Molting and Laying Eggs
7. Everyday Life with MON and Arachne
8. Everyday Life of Poor Health
9. Everyday Life with a Threatening Letter
10. Everyday Life with D
11. Everyday Life with a Dullahan
12. Everyday Life with Monster Girls
OVA 1. Everyday Life at the Pool in the Gym
OVA 2. Everyday Life Without Rachnera
Monster Musume gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer on these discs, and everything is tickety-boo. The image is clear and sharp throughout, colours are strong and consistent, the animation comes across smoothly and with no issues, and there are no signs of compression or aliasing. It’s a perfectly fine transfer of a colourful comedy anime. It’s a decent harem show, with a central male character that is actually a little more memorable than the usual cipher males in these situations, but of course the real design effort has gone into making the females of the harem visually impressive. And when you’re talking centaurs and harpies and the like, you get more than a little variety in character design. With the censorship removed you also get to see all the boobies, nipples and crotch shots that were obscured online.
You have the choice between DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate audio track. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos. The stereo is perfectly adequate in presenting a mostly dialogue focused comedy series, although there is enough space and sound design to convey the action sequences with a degree of immersion. The show gets some appealing theme songs, while the incidental music suits the comedy well. The dialogue is clear throughout, and I found the Japanese version’s voice actors really suited the characters well. I gave the English dub a try, and the fact that I hadn’t switched it off after five minutes must mean that it’s a good ‘un, although I did feel that Papi’s voice actress sounded a little mature for the character.
The discs present their content with static menus and jacket pictures. Each episode is followed by a translated English credit scroll.
This has the textless credits, one of each. You also get two animated music videos to the full versions of the songs, running to around 7 minutes, and with player locked karaoke and translated subtitles.
There are 1:36 of TV Spots, a Japanese Promo that lasts 1:40, and BD Promos running to 2:09.
Finally there are trailers for Diabolik Lovers II: More, Blood, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle, and Chivalry of a Failed Knight.
Here you will find the Almost Every Day! Shorts, 60 in all running to 34:04. These are little fly-on-the-wall snippets of Monster Girl humour.
I only saw the DVD check discs for this release, but the Collector’s Edition also contains the show on all-important Blu-ray, with the CD soundtrack, art cards and an art booklet, as well as the collector’s packaging, none of which I have seen to comment.
Monster Musume might just be the best saucy harem comedy that I’ve seen. It’s probably not my favourite, as comedy is a subjective beast, and harem comedy even more so. But objectively speaking, Monster Musume has one thing going for it that other harem comedies don’t. It has a message. It’s a pretty obvious allegory at that, but it isn’t every lecherous sex comedy that has you pondering on the inequities of life, about bigotry and difference, about acceptance and social cohesion. The monster girls are all immigrants, forced upon a society by a law that amounts to social engineering, and one man becomes the poster child for assimilation and tolerance. Once you get past that, it becomes your usual ‘falling over into a face full of boobs’ anime show, but Monster Musume is probably the first harem anime to get a foot on the first rung of the meaningful ladder.
The show also caters for the fans of the different, the mythological and the supernatural, and so Kimihito gathers a harem of unlikely monster girls, beginning with a lamia (half snake), a centaur, a harpy, a mermaid, a slime (more of a goopy shapeshifter), and an arachnoid (spider-girl). Given the political sensitivity of his situation, he’s often in contact with a government agent named Smith, a human who has on her team a zombie, doppelganger, ogre, and a Cyclops, all cute girls too. As is the anime convention, most of them need cantilevered bras. The important point is that their personalities are recognisable and applicable to the usual harem tropes, although thankfully we seem to be shifting away from the tsundere stereotype.
Of course, sticking to true anime convention, Kimihito is a passive milquetoast when it comes to an active sexual interest in any of his houseguests, although he’s quick and effective in dealing with any slight to their honour, or threat from any less evolved members of the human race. It may be illegal for a demi-human to attack a human, but that doesn’t stop Kimihito from punching a bigot in the face. But when it comes to acting on sexual attraction, in this show, as in any harem comedy, it’s a one way street. Let’s face it, the male character in these shows is meant to be a bland cipher for viewers to relate to, and the minute that he becomes a sexual aggressor, the show becomes completely different, and rather skeevy. Monster Musume avoids that, just as most of its peers do.
The show’s strength is in its writing, and its characterisations. The stories are interesting and watchable, as well as varied, while the harem is cute and quirky enough to hold the attention and really entertain. The writers have created ‘rules’ for each of the species, a sense of culture too, and that comes through in the way the characters behave and interact. It means that they aren’t just funny looking girls, but conform to a certain logic. Miia’s cooking is bad because she doesn’t have as many tastebuds, Cerea has the demeanour of a warrior maiden and a knight, Papi is a birdbrain, Mero has a penchant for tragic romances. Then again, some character traits are a gimme. Rachnera spins websilk, so it’s only natural that she’s a sadist into bondage. Close to the end of the series, we also meet a Dullahan (think Celty from Durarara), a supernatural being that is something of a grim reaper, and her ominous, doom laden statements stem from a Chunibyo complex.
The bottom line is that Monster Musume is fun. It doesn’t put a foot wrong in its twelve episodes, and we also get a couple of equally entertaining OVA episodes. The bonus shorts can be a little hit and miss, but the reason why you’re buying this set are the episodes. It’s a story with a lot of heart, appealing characters, and just the right level of sauciness. Actually, Monster Musume felt a lot racier in its censored streaming form, and thankfully, the episode where Papi lays an egg was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined it to be. It’s your standard saucy anime comedy in terms of boobs, nipples and crotch shots, and it actually seems odd that the BBFC rated it an 18.