The Summer 2020 Preview Guide
SUPER HXEROES: "H"EROES SAVE THE WORLD
How would you rate episode 1 of
SUPER HXEROES: "H"EROES SAVE THE WORLD ?
What is this?
Five years ago, a race of humanoid bugs called Kiseishuu started popping up on Earth. Though they have superhuman physical capabilities, they are most dangerous for their ability to absorb the energy of human desire (called H-Energy), leaving victims as passionless husks of their former selves. High school student Renjo Etto know about them all too well, as he and his close childhood friend Kirara encountered one, and she's been different ever since – colder and more distant, unwilling to have any contact with boys, including him. Primarily because of that, Retto has secretly taken to fighting the Kiseishuu, using a wristwatch-like device called XERO Gear and his own H-Energy to bulk himself up and pummel any alien he finds – though one unfortunate side effect is the destruction of his clothes when he powers up. There are three girls he already teams up with (and thus cohabitates with); will Kirara become the fourth when her own capabilities surface?
How was the first episode?
As I suppose is only appropriate, the summer anime season begins with a show about characters who transform using the power of horniness, and get naked in order to fight giant horniness-stealing insects. Your reaction to that sentence will likely dictate your reaction to this premiere - Super HXeroes is a proudly ecchi production, and gets kinda clumsy when it comes to anything outside of its birthday suit battles. That said, if you're actually in the mood for a horny, silly production, Super HXeroes carries itself pretty well through this first episode, and might end up being a pretty fine comedy.
Super HXeroes' biggest weakness is likely its script. After previewing the childhood friendship of its two leads Hoshino and Retto, the show illustrates their current high school life through a sequence of painfully labored exposition, and the dialogue never really gets more convincing than that. The writing is pretty much strictly functional from start to finish; Retto and Hoshino possess limited, familiar personalities, conflicts arise out of hackneyed conceits like “I tripped and grabbed your boob,” and the course of this episode's larger plot is predictable from the very first scene.
Fortunately, while Super HXeroes' writing is subpar, its visual execution is actually far above average. Even mundane scenes around Retto's school possess more character acting and distinctive cinematography than the standard, and this episode's fight scenes have some genuinely impressive cuts of animation, with the explosive effects of Retto's transformation serving as a particular standout. Additionally, the show's color work and post-processing are very good at selling the characters' feelings during the emotional moments; smart use of soft focus and consistently purposeful direction mean the show is able to sell the bond between its leads through purely visual means.
On the whole,Super HXeroes isn't so exceptional that I'd recommend it to people who aren't generally fans of ecchi comedy, but if you are a fan, this seems like a fine example of the form. And to be honest, “our suits are powered by horniness energy” is one of the best explanations I've seen for why it's always teenagers who have to save the world.
I've been a fan of Super Sentai and Power Rangers since I was old enough to comprehend television, and I went through an especially big tokusatsu resurgence right after I finished college, when my roommates and I binged multiple Super Sentai seasons in a post-Gokaiger haze of hype. Point being, the premise of SUPER HXEROES sounds awfully similar to the exact kind of hypotheticals that my friends and I would come up with when we were up way too late, a dozen episodes deep into that sweet tokusatsu goodness and more than a little inebriated: “What if you had a Super Sentai, but instead of transforming into battle spandex and piloting giant robots, the heroes all had their clothes explode, and they…*snicker*…fought all the monsters butt-ass naked!” As premises go, it is maybe enough to sustain an amusing Twitter thread, or even sketch or two for some lowbrow YouTube comedy series if you're feeling ambitious. But to commit that ridiculous story to a full season of animated television with surprisingly high production values? I would have raised a dubious eyebrow at such a prospect even when I was fully blackout drunk on my love for silly tokusatsu kid's shows (and craft Colorado IPAs).
Don't get me wrong; anime has a long and proud history of turning dumb story pitches into even dumber soft-core porn sex comedies, and I even like some of them. SHIMONETA was pretty good, after all. In addition to having a truly obnoxious title, SUPER HXEROES: "H"EROES SAVE THE WORLD suffers from the problem that kills so many comedies: It thinks the joke of its premise is enough to carry the whole show. From the alien bug monsters that eat peoples horniness, to the fractured relationship between childhood friends Renjo and Kirara, to the fight-scenes that basically boil down to Renjo punching a bug monster a couple of times before his clothes explode, SUPER HXEROES doesn't seem to know whether it would be funnier to play everything completely straight, or to crank the Weird Sex Stuff dial up to 11 and revel in the zaniness. Nothing kills a comedy more than a lack of confidence, and for all of its unabashed willingness to flail its heroine's breasts around in an impossible ballet of nightmare physics, SUPER HXEROES seems afraid to do anything other than take every cliché from generic action anime and tokusatsu shows and slap a bunch of tits onto them.
Here's a scene that gives you everything you need to know about SUPER HXEROES. All episode, Kirara has displayed an aversion for men that is framed as a legitimate phobia, to the point where she won't touch anything they've touched, which is especially jarring since an early flashback showed how she once was a very affectionate young girl with an obvious crush on Renjo. We eventually learn that one day, when Renjo and Kirara were maybe nine, the evil alien bugs showed up and tried to drain Kirara of her horniness. Her secret, though, is that she is so insanely horny that even touching a boy's hands is enough to, you know, send her rocket into orbit. This pre-teen girl's libido is so terrifyingly all-consuming that the evil alien literally explodes. This scene is played both as a joke, and as a serious explanation for the years' of anxiety and social isolation that has given Kirara the reputation of “The Iron Maiden”.
All of what I've just described could conceivably work as an over-the-top comedy. It could also come across as just being really dumb and not particularly funny. My opinion happens to fall in the latter camp. Fans of super-sentai, juvenile sex comedy, and big bouncing anime boobs will likely get a lot out of SUPER HXEROES. I'm more than happy to stick with the shows where the heroes get to keep their clothes…and their dignity.
As a child, did you ever go through a phase where you'd take the clothes off of your dolls or action figures? I get the impression that SUPER HXEROS creator Ryōma Kitada tried that with their Super Sentai figures as a kid, was stymied by the clothes being part of the plastic mold, and dedicated the rest of their life to correcting this mistake. Or one day they stumbled onto how “sentai” and “hentai” rhyme and started running from there. Either way, the result is a shamelessly horny parody of Super Sentai/Power Rangers formula: the monsters of the week all have prominent boobs on their alien carapaces, the morphing gear shreds the rangers' clothes, and of course everyone's power comes from how hot and bothered they can get despite fighting monsters.
To be honest, I'm just not the target for cheesecake shows like this. I'm not opposed to sexuality or some shameless fun, but most shows like SUPER HXEROS tend to focus on the embarrassment and discomfort of their leading ladies, to where it stops feeling fun very quickly. Thankfully, this premiere is mostly devoid of that – in fact it's revealed that romantic lead Hoshino is secretly too horny for the libido-draining aliens to handle, which hopefully implies any future fanservice nonsense will be more consensual than it's long forgotten forebear Hybrid x Heart. That our male lead also gets down to his birthday suit in the fights helps even things out a bit. It's not exactly “equal opportunity” but it puts both characters on the same level when they have their nude heart-to-heart towards the end of the episode.
The premiere also looks pretty slick. There's a handful of neat cuts during the fights with just enough stylistic flourish to stick in my brain after the episode ended, at least, which is more than a lot of fanservice series can claim. And I admit I did laugh at some of the pure absurdity of the premise – especially with the full team shouting “Dokyuu Hentai!!!” before the credits started. In a lot of ways SUPER HXEROS reminds me of Kandagawa Jet Girls, a similarly silly premise that was baldly designed to throw anime boobs in the viewer's face. It knows what it is, tells you straight up what it's aiming for, and manages to stay lighthearted enough to never feel really uncomfortable. While I doubt I'll stick around for the whole season, I can't fairly ask for more from this premiere than it gave me.
Hey, did you know that someone once noted that “hero” is just a combination of “h” (ecchi) and “ero”? Neither did I, and although it's not technically wrong, it's also one hell of a pun to base an entire story on. But that's just what this series does, and while I'd hesitate to call it anything approximating “good,” it also really seems to enjoy itself in its opening episode. The fact that the protagonist punches his own clothes off every time he attacks an alien monstrosity – Kiseishuu in the story's parlance – is actually really funny, while the scene where the Kiseishuu steals the erotic energy of a crown at an idol show, along with that of the idol herself, is also worth a laugh. Watching her walk offstage muttering that she's going to get a real job in a voice distinctly less high-pitched than she was using before isn't precisely an indictment of idol culture, but it is a good use of humor about it, along with one audience member leaving because he's got exams coming up.
There's also some unintentional humor that comes from the fact that Funimation is showing the censored broadcast version of the show. While I'm not a fan of censorship at all, I do appreciate that it's gotten less all-consuming where the artwork is concerned – you don't get to see the girls' nipples, but unlike the glowing fog, beam of light, or black bar methods of censorship, that's really the only thing that's concealed with the “shining star” method the episode employs. This does work a bit less well when used at the end, when protagonists Retto and Hoshino end up looking like they're about to fire lasers out of their butts, but that does have its humor value if nothing else. Also the issue looks like it will clear up a bit when the hero team gets actual costumes that can't be punched away, although those have their own problems, such as how that one girl's shorts stay up and the remarkable unsubtly of Retto having a flame spouting from his crotch.
Where things go awry are in some of the actual plot, which seeks to at least imply more serious issues than it ends up covering. I am almost positive that Hxeroes doesn't mean anything by inadvertently painting asexuality as making people into “empty husks” or as being “neutered,” but I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. For more viewers, however, the fact that Hoshino's man-hating attitude is at first implied to come from some sort of assault – “she just changed suddenly one day” only has so many meanings in the context – and then later turns out to be because she's been made to feel ashamed of her sexual feelings is likely to be the sticking point. While everything is done in ostensible good fun and in pursuit of the romantic subplot between Retto and Hoshino, it doesn't necessarily come off that way, and all the bizarre handholds while running can't change that. We also have one of my least favorite shonen romance tropes, where Hoshino slaps Retto into outer space for her own misconception of a situation.
If the sticking points I mentioned aren't likely to bother you, this could be a very fun, completely not serious show. But if they sound any warning bells, this may not be the fanservice comedy you're looking for.
The concept of using erotic energy as a power-up or transformative mechanism is hardly a new one in anime, as numerous non-hentai titles using some variation on the concept have popped up over the years. The concept keeps coming up because it invariably provides convenient excuses for all sorts of sexy shenanigans and fan service – and if it winds up being enormously trashy in the process, who cares? (That's kind of the point anyway, right?) Hence the question here is not so much whether the concept works or not – that it does has been well-proven – but whether this series can put any kind of fresh spin on it. The first episode is inconclusive on this but shows at least some potential.
Normally in series like this, the male character either empowers himself by doing perverted things (Daimidaler: Prince vs. Penguin Empire) or uses eroticism to serve as a battery/stimulator for female characters by doing perverted things (Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia, So, I Can't Play H!). This series is not clear up front on how its power-up mechanics are going to work, but the last few minutes of the episode imply that this could be a rare case where the female characters can power up on their own merits, rather than having to depend on the guy. The late-episode twist that Kirara did not go cold because she lost her desire, but rather because it's so overwhelming that she has to keep it locked in a mental iron maiden, could be a game-changer if used to allow her to act independently of Retto by harnessing it. (It also could make for some interesting commentary on repressed sexual desires, though I doubt that the series will be sophisticated enough to delve too seriously into that.)
Or it might not make a difference at all. This is a harem series, after all, and clearly also a fan service series. While not as passionately devoted to raciness as some series out there (so far the series has not used random panty shots or obsessive concentration on girls' chests, for instance), the first episode nonetheless has two instances of both buffed-up male and regular female nudity; whether or not they will be censored in the eventual Blu-ray release should be interesting since characters within the show seem to react to the censoring light flashes over the character's nipples. The other three girls don't come into the picture until the end of the episode, so nothing has been revealed yet about how this whole superhero team concept will work.
There is an inherent silliness to the set-up here, though the first episode actually plays things mostly seriously, especially in establishing the relationship between Retto and Kirara. That does not prevent it from getting off a good joke or two, such as the way the idol singer walks off stage commenting about “getting a real job” after having her H-Energy sucked out (and is the uncle trying to cosplay Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist, or is something else being implied?), but it does leave the overall tone unsettled. I'm giving this one a middle-of-the-road rating for now, as it looks like another episode or two will be needed to properly estimate its merits.
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