Part 5 of my final impressions rundown.
9. Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist
As many people have noted, there’s been an excess of trashy shows this season. We’ve had Monster Musume, Prison School, Symphogear (dodges bottle) & even some shorts thrown into the mix. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Trash can be entertaining and even insightful, even if the manner they go about it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Monogatari might be both about growing up and a meta commentary on the tropes modern anime employs, but it’s also a long-winded mess that indulges in the very things it mocks. Detroit Metal City might be one of the most scathing takedowns of the alt/rock/metal scene, but to get to that message you first must watch someone singing about fucking his parents, or raping the Tokyo Tower.
Series that claim to address Japan’s (and by extension the world’s) extreme aversion towards sexual proclivities are hardly a rarity, but most are usually a complete cop-out, using the idea of sexually open youths as a paper thin premise to follow the same ecchi, but ultimately chaste banality of nearly every rom-com out there. B Gata H Kei/Yamada’s First Time is my personal poster child for this movement.
Shimoneta is definitely a little bolder, both in ideas and presentation, with its portrayal of an exaggerated Orwellian society dedicated to the destruction of erotic paraphernalia and repression of sexual awareness within the school system. Like Monster Musume, it isn’t afraid to go beyond the standard accidental boob grabs and panty-shot norms. Here the cast of characters, whether censorship freedom fighters or law-abiding enforcers of morals, are shown to have clear sexual urges that the show isn’t afraid depict in explicit ways, either in the constant deluge of sex puns, or literal acts of masturbation. The imagery is mostly female-centric, unmasking the real intent and audience the show is aiming to appease, but it’s hard to deny the complete absurdity of seeing erection-Tasers or a woman leaving jizz rainbows behind as she team rockets away. It’s definitely crude, but rarely grotesque in delivery.
Of course all this fanservice is apparently in service of Shimoneta’s overall message, which is something I have a bigger problem with. Making grand statements about how repressing one’s sexuality can lead to a dangerous level of ignorance and twist natural impulses into more harmful outlets of expression is all well and good, but in all honestly it usually feels little more than a fig-leaf to provide context for the jokes. The whole premise clearly comes from a place of dissatisfaction over the Japanese government enacting stricter laws of censorship in the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, attempting to ridicule it by depicting an absurd worst-case doomsday scenario. However, by doing so it also fails to address the reasons why many elements of society take issue with paraphernalia expressing things like non-censual sex or explicit depictions of minors. Shimoneta takes place in a world where taking away people’s sexual choices is a moral evil, yet making doujins about them without consent is perfectly fine.
This problem is amplified by the show running out of ideas by the hallway point and falling into standard ‘light novel syndrome’ sitcom territory through repeating the jokes and storylines to artificially propel itself longer than necessary. On the plus side it doesn’t pull a Hataraku Maō-sama, with the humour and character writing remaining generally consistent throughout; but on the other hand, turning things like Anna’s sexual abuse of Okuma into a reoccurring gag moves into unpleasant territory and begins to negate the original statement behind her actions. The major foe in the second half also feels like a simple idea given form, rather than a legitimate obstacle.
Honestly, my biggest and most personal issue with Shimoneta is that it’s basically Aku no Hana/Flowers of Evil as an ecchi comedy. The basic premise is essentially the same, with a holier than tho protagonist trying to deny his base impulses while putting his love interest on an unreachable pedestal, a self-proclaimed, if ultimately naive deviant who rebels against society to mask her own uncertainties, and a school idol who has been indoctrinated by society’s obsession with purity to the extent that she mistakes lust for love and carries out sexual assault in the name of devotion.
Now granted, both shows are aiming for very different things. One is a psychological thriller while the other is a comedy, so it’s expected they would tackle their subject matter in entirely different ways. However, as much as I disliked Flowers, I respect that it tried to point out some of the toxic repercussions with our societal obsession over purity and innocence. It deliberately showed the audience how fucked up and unpalatable most light-novel/rom-com tropes really are by applying them in a more realistic setting. With Shimoneta, a similar point seems to be made purely for the purpose of complaining about the government trying to take the writer’s toys away.
In the end what you’re left is a relatively entertaining comedy, with some interesting but underdeveloped points, and a sense of ignorance in the obliviousness way it constantly wanders between progressive/regressive sentiments. It still has the style to pull it off the humour, and its heart seems to be in the right place, but twelve episodes were just too much given the amount of ideas it actually had.
I had fun while it lasted, Shimoneta. Now don’t come back.