by Theron Martin,


Episodes 1-12 streaming

Conception—Episodes 1-12 streaming
High school student Itsuki is trying to come to terms with his long-time friend Mahiru's out-of-the-blue declaration that she's pregnant when both suddenly find themselves summoned to another world. After battling a spirit that seems to come out of Mahiru and encountering a lascivious raccoon-like being called Mana, they eventually learn that they are in the Kingdom of Granvania. Its ruler tells them that periodically a Visitor appears from another world and saves the land from Impurities by uniting with Star Maidens, specially-chosen young women who he joins with in a Love Ritual, and Itsuki is the most recent version. Doing so creates Star Children, which are the keys to fighting off the Impurities. Mahiru is one of the Star Maidens, but there are eleven others too. Can he win over so many young ladies and fulfill his duty so that he and Mahiru can go home?

In recent years, non-reincarnation isekai stories so commonly have some degree of harem elements that it's almost noteworthy when they aren't present. (They're slightly less prevalent in reincarnation isekai, but only slightly.) Most of the time, the protagonist happens into the harem situation because of the female characters who surround him, so in that sense, this adaptation of a game originally made for the PSP is unusual; it goes for the gusto by not only making the harem an integral part of the reason that the protagonist is in the alternate world but also specifically tasking him with fathering a child by each of the girls. So is this an otaku fanservice dream scenario the likes of which anime has never seen before?

Not quite. While the story can have fanservice components, the whole scenario is nowhere near as tawdry in execution as it sounds. Despite Mana's insistence, actual sex isn't necessary to create the Star Children; just physical contact sufficient enough to stimulate a strong emotional response. Just stripping down is required, and some of the maidens do have orgasmic reactions, but in most cases the Love Ritual doesn't even go as far as heavy petting. The Star Maidens don't actually give birth either, as the Star Children just pop into existence, already matured to a chibi size. In other words, as much as the Love Ritual is played up and Itsuki gets to use lines like “I want you to have my child,” the whole situation is a big tease.

Beyond the first episode, most of the story involves Itsuki cycling through each of the Star Maidens in turn, sometimes two at a time; apparently Star Children created during a menage a trois are stronger. However, these episodic scenarios are not about convincing the girls to do the Love Ritual with Itsuki, since in most cases they know up front what's expected of them as Star Maidens. Instead, the scenarios focus more on Itsuki getting the girl to be comfortable enough with him for the Love Ritual to be successful. In other words, the show largely plays out like a dating sim. The series does deserve credit for one novelty on this front, when an entire episode speculating whether one of the men present in the cast's supporting roles might actually be the mysterious 13th “maiden.” (There is an additional twist on the true identity of the 13th Maiden.)

The problem is that none of this is executed well. The large number of girls necessitates that the characterization of each is fairly shallow, and only a couple of the bonds Itsuki forms with them are convincing enough to justify how the series ends. There is theoretically some action to the story, as Itsuki and the Star Children have to defeat the various boss Impurities, but these scenes are depicted only briefly if at all, with no interesting action to speak of. Itsuki is thankfully not portrayed as woman-averse, and he does seem believably interested in sexual activities for being a teenage boy, but his characterization is also inconsistent. That the leadership of Granvania wouldn't be familiar with all the details concerning the Visitor's necessary activities also strains credibility given that this happens on a set cycle, and the world structure is a very random mix of fantasy and 20th century technology. Granted, this isn't a concept predicated on strong world-building, but something more than a halfhearted effort would've been nice.

The one thing that makes the series watchable could also be the factor that initially drives people away early: Mana. This raccoon-like creature is lecherous to the extreme, always intent on setting up the sexiest possible scenarios for Itsuki even when that goes well beyond what's actually needed. This kind of shtick can be irritating at first, but as the series progresses, Mana provides one of the few regular sparks of energy in the series. The creature also has a surprisingly interesting background and is responsible for a perverse late twist in the story.

The technical merits certainly won't win the series any viewers. Character designs make all of the Star Maidens distinct from one another, but neither the designs nor the background artistry ever impresses and the series often struggles with staying on-model. The animation effort by Studio Gonzo is also limp, with one notable exception: the spectacular closer, which features versions of Mana dancing in paper puppet form, is a stand-out effort. While it may not be fully appreciable without seeing the series, it is worth a look even if you decide not to check out the rest of the content. The opener impresses less, but the musical score is serviceable, with highlights in the mood music for the Love Rituals. In Funimation's simuldub for this title, relative newcomer Maya Maxwell doesn't sound quite right as Mana and definitely doesn't capture the verve of the original performance by Yurin, but other casting choices and performances seem adequate. Overall, it's a run-of-the-mill dub effort.

Conception isn't totally without entertainment value if you mostly treat it as one big joke, and it does have moments where it betters itself. However, there isn't enough going for it overall to rise above the level of bland mediocrity.

Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B-

+ Mana's enthusiasm grows more charming, plot has a couple of interesting twists
Mana is more annoying up front, lackluster technical merits and worldbuilding

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Production Info:
Director: Keitaro Motonaga
Series Composition: Yuuko Kakihara
Mitsutaka Hirota
Yuki Ikeda
Yuuko Kakihara
Hiroko Kanasugi
Takamitsu Kouno
Shigeki Awai
Hiroki Itai
Goichi Iwahata
Nobukage Kimura
Keitaro Motonaga
Shinpei Nagai
Nanako Shimazaki
Kazuyoshi Yaginuma
Episode Director:
Daiki Handa
Yoshito Hata
Nobukage Kimura
Toshihiro Maeya
Juria Matsumura
Keitaro Motonaga
Nanako Shimazaki
Naoko Takeichi
Music: Masato Kōda
Original Character Design: Shinichirou Otsuka
Character Design: Yousuke Okuda
Art Director: Yoshimi Mineda
Chief Animation Director:
Akiko Kumada
Yousuke Okuda
Animation Director:
Hisashi Abe
Wataru Abe
Yong Joo Cho
Zhen Yu Guan
Hiroya Iijima
Tae-sun In
Yukie Ishibashi
Dae Hoon Kim
Hee Kang Kim
Yong Sik Kim
Yukari Kobayashi
Mitsutoshi Kubo
Akiko Kumada
Shao Lei Li
Ippei Masui
Yūichi Matsumoto
Nobuhiro Mutō
Akinori Oka
Tsutomu Ono
Soon Young Seo
Hideaki Shimada
Keizō Shimizu
Ayako Suzuki
Shinichi Suzuki
Kazumasa Takeuchi
Ya Xia Tu
Keiko Yamamoto
Yuki Yamamoto
Hajime Yoshida
Toshiyuki Yoshioka
Sound Director: Yasunori Ebina
Director of Photography: Tsubasa Yokoyama
Kazuhiko Hidano
Satoshi Koike
Daiki Meguro
Tomoyuki Ohwada
Toshio Okada
Kazuo Ōnuki
Junichi Takagi

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Conception (TV)

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