The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?In a world where Succubi, Elves and humans roam the streets together, a flourishing sex work scene of extreme variety has emerged, where all different kinds of species come together to sell their bodies. But, as with all forms of entertainment, there must be curators; commentators who exist to sort out the mediocre from the cream of the crop.
Enter Stunk and Zel, a human and an Elf who visit the various red-light districts and brothels all over the realms and transcribe their opinions on the bulletin board of their favorite bar. Recruiting an angel named Crim to help in their expeditions, the two work their way from shop to shop, experience to experience, indulging in the pleasures of their profession and earning a great deal of coin to boot. From good times to bad times to bizarre times, the three reviewers' journey all across their world, seeing all the abundant, diverse species that call their planet home.
Is It Worth Reading?
Probably the biggest strike against this book is that it aspires to be a sex comedy but seems to have left out the comedy part. That's of course subjective – few things are more subject to taste than humor, and if you find the idea of having sex particularly funny, or the idea of guys rating the prostitutes they sleep with amusing, then you'll probably enjoy this much more than I did. Because that's pretty much the be all and end all of Interspecies Reviewers: three-to-four dudes visiting different species' brothels and rating their experiences.
While I hesitate to say that I was actually offended by this book, I did find it kind of bland. In point of fact, the idea of reviewing prostitutes who are doing the work voluntarily – and there's absolutely nothing to suggest that they aren't – is really treating them like any other service worker, free of stigma. That's not a bad thing, and it is mentioned that the guys' reviews do help their businesses. That said, it does feel kind of disingenuous, like an excuse for men to rate women they've slept with, and it does feel kind of icky in that way. But equally problematic is the fact that for a porn-adjacent manga, this is pretty dull – not that I'd expect to see actual sex scenes, but artist masha isn't even particularly good at implying what's going on, which is an issue when sex is the main selling point.
The art doesn't help matters in general, really. masha's pages are dense and crowded, with lots of small panels and gray spaces. The text is also densely packed on the page, and the reviews in particular are difficult to read with the way they're printed. Nor are the different species all that well designed or creative, which is a problem when that's, once again, a purported selling point of the series. If this does sound like your very specific type of humor, it may be worth checking out, but otherwise, this is one-note and unattractive enough to just let slip by.
Interspecies Reviewers makes no bones about being about one thing and one thing alone: reviewing the sexual experiences a fantasy world red-light district has to offer. Stunk, a human adventurer, and Zel, an elf, are joined by a retinue of men of various other fantasy species, most often Crimvael, a feminine, well-endowed angel the others don't know is intersex. The characters are one-note, Stunk and Zel both being entirely driven by their sex drives and always arguing about which kind of woman makes for the better lay. Crim is always reluctantly being tagged along to the various brothels they visit, yet due to their holy nature, they're usually the one who winds up with the most amazing experience. It's a comedy first and foremost, even with the non-stop fanservice, and though the jokes do get to be predictable once the characters have been established, they land more often than not, making the whole bizarre setup worth a chuckle or two in addition to offering plenty of perverted delights. Due to the variance in fantasy women working the sex trade, there are usually in-universe reasons for assets such as ginormous breasts to the point of being laughable or the light that censors the most explicit of areas on a person's body. It's all thoroughly ridiculous, but the series embraces its absurdity and the manga is stronger for it.
masha's cartoony art style is ideally suited, accentuating the comedy and over-the-top qualities of this world. Backgrounds are extremely limited and not at all important to the visuals, which focus unabashedly on the fanservice at hand, where the women pose coyly to the audience. With a few exceptions, the sex acts themselves are off-page, the buildup to the big moments instead what takes up the majority of the panels.
Interspecies Reviewers volume 1 is an adults-only manga for those who like their fanservice with a side of comedy. Though the concept of “rating” brothels and the species themselves may make some readers uncomfortable, these women retain full agency in what goes on here and there aren't any discomfiting moments that tread the line of decency when it comes to consent. Reveling in its own preposterousness, Interspecies Reviewers has more to offer than it seems to at first glance.
I think you'll be able to tell whether or not Interspecies Reviewers is for you just by glancing at the cover. It's smut. Otaku smut, meaning that all the TNA comes with extraneous lore dumps and copious, indulgent world building. If that's your bag, great. As for me, I found Interspecies Reviewers to be, at best, boring, and at worst, actively unpleasant and gross.
There's not much to say about this. The plot is paper-thin, little more than an excuse to carry our characters from brothel to brothel and indulge in all kinds of crazy monster girl designs and wacky sex hijinks. The art is mediocre, the character designs a very if-your-into-it kind of thing. I can't talk much about this in a traditional review capacity, because there just isn't much to talk about.
I can talk about the thing this manga is designed to cater to: Fetishes. Monster girl fetishes, fetishes regarding various ways to view women. Now, fetishes are all fine and good, and are at the root of all erotica. The problem is when fetishism begins to supersede the autonomy of who is being fetishized.
One of the main characters is an intersex angel named Crim. Crim's being intersex is framed as a simultaneous joke and fetish, their discomfort at being forced to participate in the hijinks of main characters Stunk and Zel continuously made light of, as if their identity somehow robs them of the ability to make choices. There's are several ‘jokes’, one after a visit to a place called ‘The Gender-Swap Inn’, about Crim's gender being hard to determine. These are the exact kind of ‘jokes’ that incite real-world violence against trans and intersex people. Because in the reality, these aren't just fetishes. Being intersex, being trans is the lived experience of millions of people—me, a trans woman, included. That's my fundamental problem with this kind of manga. It frames many different, sometimes incredibly painful and difficult experiences as little more than wank-bait. Or even casting them off as nothing but a joke like with Crim. Maybe I'm taking porn too seriously, but porn is a real thing that really does impact mindsets and perspectives.
Porn is one thing. Having an ethical understanding of the humanity of your participants is another. And if smut can't have that, then I'm just not interested.
Interspecies Reviewers focuses on a rotating group of men who, every chapter go to a brothel and have sex with different species of succubus girls. Each one of these girls are half succubus, half otherworldly being. From fairies to cow girls, Stunk, Zel, and the rest of the Yoruno Gloss reviewers are sexing their way through the Succubus District, debating which girls are the best lay.
In theory, a manga about a bunch of different cute monster girls sounds awesome, but in reality it's an excuse to fetishize women and to make incredibly creepy comments under the guise of reviewing monster girls. The female characters are mostly looked as sex objects, and Meidri, a server at the bar that the Yoruno Gloss reviewers post their reviews at is mostly there to chastise the men into not being completely gross, but she fails terribly.
Interspecies Reviewers is unfortunate to look at, as well. Despite there being several different types of girls, all of them look the same. Sometimes, breasts or a little bit smaller depending on the species, but overall, they're all one note sex-hungry girls that are barely appealing. None of the sex is actually shown, only text descriptions in the reviews of the girls. The only time is when the crew takes a potion that turns all of them into women so they can learn how to please women better.
Overall, Interspecies Reviewers is a poorly written manga with no real depth, and poor monster design. If you're going to make a whole manga about having sex with monsters, make them actually look like monsters, you cowards.
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