Shelf Life Shimoneta
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I'm not sure how the anime world reached a point where I'm more excited about a pair of monster girl shows than just about any other new title this season, but here we are. I'm calling Interviews with Monster Girls my early favorite just because I like the tone it sets in the early going, but it's a close call between that and Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Hey, if it takes a few vampire fangs and dragon tails to make a fun show, then so be it. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Shelf Life Reviews
Anime comedies that feature dirty jokes aren't exactly rare, but few are quite so dedicated or specialized as SHIMONETA. James investigates the raunchy series in this week's review.
I mean all of this as a compliment, of course.
Let's just get this out of the way right now: SHIMONETA is not high art. It seems proud to be the lowest form of art it can possibly be, reveling in filthy imagery and vulgarity at every turn. Its language becomes so ludicrous that it eventually ceases to be “dirty humor” at all, coming off instead as the uncontrollable raving of a sex-crazed lunatic, someone who feels compelled against all reason and good sense to lace their speech with as many references to genitals and masturbation and all manner of bodily fluids as humanly possible. Surprisingly, about half of the show contains some decent character writing, functionally pointed satire, and a few pretty funny jokes. The other half contains some of the weirdest and most idiotic nonsense I've ever seen in an anime. Anyway, I think I liked it.
The plot is at once high concept and incredibly simple. In the future, Japan has become a paragon of virtue and morality by outlawing all obscene art, pornography, discussion, and education. This ban is enforced by using sophisticated high-tech tracking devices to make sure that any and all perversion is contained and eradicated. Tanukichi Okuma is the disgraced son of a former “sexual terrorist” who just wants to live a normal life and win the favor of his school's resident profanity watchdog and student council president Anna Nishikinomiya. Things get complicated when he runs into the infamous Blue Snow, another of these sexual terrorists that spreads filth and pornography throughout the land, in an effort to fight the tyranny of censorship and government oppression. Then things become even more complicated when Tanukichi discovers that the panty-masked debauchery dealer is actually another student council member, Ayame Kajou, and she has plans to rope him into helping her run SOX, an anti-censorship terrorist unit committed to reintroducing Japan to its most debased desires.
The series' satirical edge is pretty obvious for anyone who follows otaku culture: The 2010 revision of the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths caused quite a stir back in the day, and SHIMONETA is clearly reacting to a Japan whose future could contain even more absurd levels of government oversight in regards to racy material and behavior. While the series is only concerned with surface-level jabs at the silliness of being so invested in how people get their rocks off, it does occasionally manage to make some pointed arguments about why this kind of censorship could be harmful, especially for the youth that these laws are designed to protect. Sex is not only natural and healthy, it's also an integral part of the adolescent experience. To deny young adults exposure to the urges and actions that drive them is to risk creating a society of sexually ignorant children in adults' bodies who can't even grasp basic biology.
Before anyone could start thinking that SHIMONETA is at all concerned with being high minded though, it makes sure to toss as many cringe-worthy puns and absurd visual gags at the audience as possible. Make no mistake: SHIMONETA is a vulgarity-fueled sex romp first, and a satire second. This is perfectly fine, and even though SHIMONETA has as many misses as it does hits in the joke department, it manages a breezy and energetic enough tone to make sure that none of those misses sting for too long. Is one of Ayame's forced sexual references too stupid to laugh at? It's fine, because she has a million more of them, and at least one of them will elicit a chuckle. Is one of the series' patented Body Fluid Gags a little too much to handle? Don't worry, because the show zips along fast enough that you can scrub it from your mind in time for another one to waft in. I would be lying if I said SHIMONETA was one hundred percent successful as a comedy, but the series hits the mark often enough to keep you watching, so long as you're into its material in the first place.
If there's anything that doesn't really work in the show, it's where it draws the line between “uncomfortable sexual encounters” and “flat-out sexual assault.” One of the characters adopts a lustful obsession over our protagonist early on in the series, and her advances towards him range from creepy to flat out off-putting. Tanukichi himself is ambivalent at best to her advances, and clearly uncomfortable at worst. Granted, the show makes it clear that everyone involved knows this is kind of messed up, but that doesn't stop them from treating the situation as a joke. For some viewers, this portrayal is manageable, but for others, it won't be. Just make sure you know what you're getting into.
Funimation's Special Edition Blu-Ray offers a swanky package, throwing in some pins, stickers, a SOX flag, and a tube sock (gross) to go along with the discs. The visual and audio transfers are both good, and the set even includes a couple of extras to sweeten the deal. There are some enjoyable commentaries, a treasure trove of textless OPs and EDs, and an entertaining riff on the popular YouTube reaction video formula called “Moms Watch SHIMONETA.” The English dub is also good, with Jamie Marchi doing an especially sharp job of working with Ayame's ludicrous dialogue. Everyone involved sounds like they were having fun, which helps carry even the weakest gags.
In the end, I enjoyed SHIMONETA, no matter how stupid it could get sometimes. Sometimes a racy, dumb comedy is just what you need to shake off the doldrums. Still, I'm going to give it a Rental, because this is the very definition of an acquired taste. If you do have the stomach for tasteless and nonsensical humor, not to mention a very high dose of raunchy sex, this series might be for you. Just don't eat the cookies.
We don't have a Shelf Obsessed entry this week, so that wraps things up for now. Thanks for reading, and remember to send photos of your collections to [email protected]!
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