Tentacle-Free Anime: "Monster Musume" (2015) Review
- by Kazekun, 7 December 2015
As an all-around nerd, I have a myriad of interests that I find fun and fascinating. I can be perfectly happy watching something mind-bending and thought-provoking. Something that pushes the limits of my brain and causes to me question all my current beliefs in life. I can also be perfectly happy watching a bunch of monster girls try their hardest to get laid by a human man who's been forced to take them in as a “host family” when an exchange program opens up between humans and monster people for the first time. Oh yeah, it's time to talk "Monster Musume".
What is this, a review of a modern anime?!?!
Why yes, yes it is! Because I actually attempted to watch some anime when they were airing during the summer season, so expect quite a few of those series to start popping up here and there for a good while. Aren't you just getting pampered all of a sudden?
So, how do you take the already shaky matter of a harem, featuring a girl with humanistic features but majority of her body looking like a snake, plus a centaur, and a harpy, and a girl made completely of slime, etc. and turn it into a hit? There's no right answer for this one, however the first step is to make most of the characters likeable and fun to look at.
I really do like the character designs for everyone. I was pretty worried for Centorea, my favorite monster girl from the cast, because in all of her promotional materials she had these stupid nipple nubs underneath her shirt. And while they do make appearances in the first few episodes thankfully they're a genuine thing of the past by episode 3 or 4. It's not an easy task to take a monster and make it sexy, but I do think that mission was accomplished when it comes to Monster Musume.
I was very happy with the personalities of the girls - each one of them has a very distinct voice. And each one of them is multifaceted, none of them feel like a tool or caricature, which is something I know harems always have a hard time struggling with. All that being said though, I never noticed this reading the manga, but Miia gets increasingly more annoying as the story goes along. As more girls are introduced (and with each of them being possible wives for the main character), Miia gets increasingly more territorial and unlikeable as she starts jumping to conclusions about each girl before getting to know them. She becomes very possessive of her Darling-kun, and what I thought was a fun character trait in the manga I see now is wholly unlikeable.
Getting into the story, the anime actually keeps quite in line with original manga. Culling from the first 25 chapters of the manga, I can see why they only went 12 episodes. However, there's so many awesome one-shot chapters from the manga that they skipped over that it makes me sad that they didn't add more of those in. In fact, I believe they really could've made a full 25 episode series with each chapter getting their own episode. They prove that opinion to be fact with the very first episode.
What is the most upsetting to me is that if they had just gone one more episode and made it a full 13 episode series, they could have introduced one more element to the story and left the series on a really cool cliffhanger, that could lead into season 2. I won't spoil the plot element, but chapter 30 of Monster Musume's manga introduces something that is really, REALLY interesting to me as a reader and considering their big build up to Lala the Dullahan by series end, one more episode would have introduced that extra element and the series would've had an even better ending.
The anime decides to focus more resolutely on the main six girls: Miia the lamia, Papi the harpy, Centorea the centaur, Suu the slime, Mero the mermaid, and Rachnera the arachnid with a 7th and final girl introduced near the end. I mentioned her above. There were other monster girls involved in the story but none of them get as fleshed out as the main six do. I can't sit here and say that focusing more tightly on these six helped or hurt the anime, again when I say there are so many other awesome one-shot chapters from the manga that they left out. With most of those one-shots focusing on other monster girls that exist within this universe.
But I can thankfully sit here and tell you that, overall, this was a decent adaptation of the manga. The story wasn't completely taken out and there were actual explanations given to why certain events can or can’t happen. Such as why Kimihito is so frustrated when it comes to finding himself in sexual situations with each girl. It's not because he's just another main male harem protagonist that has NO experience with women and therefore cannot function around them, no, it's because there is in fact a law in place that says humans and monsters cannot sleep together. He could be sent to jail for doing so. And so he tries not to get into those situations as much as he can. Obviously his resistance is generally futile.
I feel Kimihito, the main character, is one of the more relatable and stomachable harem protagonists. Again, he isn't flustered by girls because he has no experience with them, it's because he doesn't want to break the law. He also cares about the girls he takes into his home and does everything he can to make sure they're well taken care of, even allowing renovations to be done to his place so that each monster girl has a room fit specifically to her beastly requirements. Of course a lot of that renovation gets done without his permission, but if he really didn't want any of them in his home he could say no. But he doesn't. Because he feels for them. Kimihito also finds himself in situations that require physical force once in a while when hecklers start making the girls feel like freaks. And when someone starts a fight, Kimihito is generally the one to finish it. He's a tough protagonist and we get to see it in full display often. In the first episode alone Kimihito superhumanly takes out a couple of hecklers when they start bullying Miia and it's definitely a scene stealer because very rarely with male protagonists (unless they're shonen types) do you get to see those kind of balls hang loose.
The music in Monster Musume is quite catchy. It's also a very strange, but appropriate mix of J-Pop and Rock music. The opening and ending songs being perfect examples. The opening is quite punchy and wakes you up, getting you up to dance and preparing you for the show with this poppy, dancy tune. The ending is also delivered with a punch, but instead features more of a rock ballad, ending the episodes off with a bang more than a whimper. If you delve further into the character albums where each girl got their own album releases with each of them singing solo, you get to see more of my point with this great genre divide in music. Miia and Papi are much more under the J-Pop and Techno form of music, while Centorea's and the MON girls are all rock all the way. It's as if the producers asked Okayado, the creator, what his favorite types of music are and then just went with it.
Touching upon a few final details I noticed, there are several fun pop culture references in this series that I'm sure many people will enjoy. I know I did. In the opening animation each of the main six use basically a spirit bomb on the Earth that's in the shape of a heart. Obviously a reference to Goku's attack of the same name from Dragon Ball Z. And in one of the later episodes there is an entire scene dedicated to Miia the lamia, you know the snake girl, going undercover and pretending to be Snake from Metal Gear Solid the whole time. Complete with a box covering her that is way too small to actually fit.
The other detail was the censoring, or lack of actual censorship, or plethora of tasteful censorship this series had. Depending on your viewpoint. Let me explain. One thing the manga has that the anime does not is it displays full frontal chest nudity; nipples and all. There are moments where the series displayed breasts, but with the nipples taken completely out, but other than in the opening song those sequences are far and few between. However, I came across screenshots displaying the differences between the TV premiere of episodes and the later Blu-Ray releases which are actually “uncensored.” Apparently there is A LOT of actual censoring in this series, but I quite honestly could not tell through most of it. And I liked that a lot.
Monster Musume is a pretty good adaptation. Sure, it does leave out a bunch of one-shot chapters that I personally found quite enjoyable, but those same chapters aren't detrimental to the story and just serve to expand this world these characters live in. I think it would have been a better adaptation had they included all that, and it definitely would've been a lot better had they added just one more chapter to show what makes Lala so special, but what we got was actually pretty good in the end.
If you like the main anime, there are also 60, yes that many, minisodes ranging from 20 seconds to a full blown minute that add just extra little side stories to the main seven girls everyday lives. Such as Miia grooming herself, or Centorea trying on a new bra, or Papi playing dress-up. These stories don't hinder the main series in any way and are meant to be just fun little add-ons. I've seen all of them and they're just a treat to watch. If you know where to find them I suggest checking them out.
Final Score: 4 Unique Monster Species out of 5
Have you seen "Monster Musume"? What did you think? Let us know below!