Part 3 of my final impressions rundown.
11. Monster Musume
Like a lot of people, I originally didn’t even bother watching the first episode when it aired, shrugging it off as just another harem with a half-baked gimmick. It was only after becoming an unavoidable meme-shitting sensation across anitwitter that I gave in to morbid curiosity and caught up. Even now I can’t exactly decide whether or not I regret making that choice. With Monster Musume my opinion tends to change by the minute.
In the show’s favour, it certainly makes the most of the premise. Rather than having the girls exist as mere props displaying a few design-appropriate quirks like you tend to see in most anthropomorphized series (Kancolle, anyone?), you can sense the original creator’s enthusiasm for thinking up outlandish ways to wring as much humour from their unique physiques and characteristics. The lamia climaxing from having her tail rubbed, in what may as well be called a snakejob – sure; let’s open with that one. The spider using her webs as ropes for literal bondage – got that covered. The zombie trying to seduce/horrify the m.c. by making him sew her tits back on – no seriously, I wish I was making that one up. Excessive consideration has been given to milking out as much spectacle as possible. That last sentence hasn’t actually happened yet, but the harpy does lay an egg if that somehow does it for you.
It’s cheap, crass and absurd, and while those types of shows tend not to be my thing, next to the tired & true jokes of your Infinite Status’ and Nisekoi’s, the comedy feels positively inspired. An accidental boob-grope feels far less groan-inducing when it happens whilst riding on-top a centaur. The show’s strengths are ultimately just the manga’s but the imagery on display definitely benefits from being animated for full effect.
Of course at the end of the day it’s still a harem, so the same type of chaff tends to apply. Despite the focus apparently being on the girls themselves, they tend to come across as fairly one-dimensional. There’s the genki snake, clearly shown in the OP and all the promotional materials to be the cannon pairing because she’s more open with her feelings, tsunderSaber with a horse’s arse, the requisite loli-bait with the mind of child, another with the mind of a toddler and a side-lined ojousama that the show ran out of ideas for within about a minute of her appearance. Rachnera, the spider, is pretty much the only character legitimate attempt has been made to give depth to beyond her relationship to the lead. There’s also the problem that many shows fall into, where by the halfway point the story has largely run out of ideas with the main cast so resorts to a stream of cameo appearances from a bunch of one-quirk characters. Events are still entertaining, but things do start to feel a little tired.
Honestly, I can accept such tropes as part of the territory with material like this, but it’s the pretty insidious and gross values it displays that really set me on edge. The show likes to make a song and dance about wanting to humanise the haremettes and to treat them as girls, rather than monsters, but has such a dim view of the female gender that for all intents and purposes they may as well be furniture. The formula basically follows the path of ‘meet girl, get flustered by their antics, save them from drama/accidentally defile the ones with dominant spirits, before saying something vaguely pleasant to win them over’. Girl tamed. Just take Centorea’s introduction – you may as well be watching someone actually break a horse, only to be followed up by oblivious lectures on ethics. At this point, their goals immediately change from acting as ambassadors for their species to being good stay-at-home pseudo-wives.
Add to that a good dose of provocatively framed sexual humiliation (usually from Suu’s ‘accidental molestation’ or Rachera’s bondage) and borderline slut-shaming whenever they dare to act on any sexual impulses and it becomes difficult to not feel disheartened. Not that the girls purely get the short end of the stick, with the odd male thrown into the mix acting the role of creep/thug/rapist in order to make the lead look better and save the day. Honestly, I can handle all the blushing, butt-shots and bland self-inserts Monster Musume throws at me, but the lack of empathy towards its cast, while simultaneously sermonising human decency is a bitter pill to swallow. There’s a difference between showing pervy antics aimed at hormonal youths & giving insidious messages under the name of comedy.
In the end I’m left torn between appreciating the visual creativeness of the show and being frustrated by some of its underlying attitudes. The good wins out, if less from being bowled over by the humour than just inured to the ideas harem shows tend to eschew. This is a trashy franchise and so long as you don’t take it as seriously as it takes itself there’s probably enjoyment to be found. At the very least, some of the animation and parodies are stellar.
TL;DR – Cerea is Best Girl
Come at me.