Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Interviews With Monster Girls
GN 1 & 2
Tetsuo Takahashi is a high school biology teacher who has always longed to talk with the various demi-humans who occasionally appear in the population. He had actually hoped to study them in college, but ended up having to drop the subject due to ethical concerns. Now he's resigned that he'll never actually get to meet any demis…only to discover that there are three demi girls in the freshman class and that the new math teacher is also a demi-human! Can Tetsuo help these girls by lending a sympathetic ear, or will meeting demi-humans not turn out to be what he's hoped for?
There's almost no way to phrase the premise of this series without it sounding creepy. High school biology teacher Tetsuo Takahashi has always been fascinated by the human variations straight out of mythology known as demi-humans, but he had to give up writing his thesis on them in university because singling them out for research crossed a few ethical lines. Now he suddenly finds himself with three girls in the first year class who are demis, as well as the new math teacher, so it looks as if he's finally going to get his chance to learn more about them. Is this just him reaching out to a minority group or some sort of shady scientific research?
Judging by the first two volumes of Petos' manga, which stop about a chapter short of where the anime is as of this writing, at episode seven, the answer is almost definitely the former. Despite the seriously awkward premise behind it, Interviews with Monster Girls is much more in line with other monster girl romantic comedies, albeit with more of a focus on the everyday trials faced by the different in a high school setting. By volume two, Petos is veering quite close to harem territory, with both dullahan Kyoko and succubus Sato openly admitting crushes on Takahashi and vampire Hikari seeming very close to it, but for the most part this is more interested in the girls themselves rather than as exotic romantic interests for the male lead.
The character we see this best in is Yuki, a snow woman (yuki-onna) out of Japanese mythology. Yuki, like Hikari, can basically pass for fully human with the exception being that she's perpetually cold. She's very uncertain of her reception as a demi, and actively tried to hide it when she first began high school. Given that virtually all snow woman myths end unhappily for the snow woman herself, Yuki's fears seem at least partially justified, and that some of them center on her body and its various changes fits the high school setting. I do find it credulity-straining that she goes to a male teacher with her insecurities; granted, he's the one who set himself up as the expert/ally for the demi-humans, but with Sato, an adult female demi right there, it doesn't quite scan that Yuki, with her general discomfort, would go to Takahashi instead. (Setting him up as an expert on, thus far, monster girl troubles is also problematic.) It's places like this where the harem elements of the story do it a disservice, assuming that you aren't reading it for that plotline. However, since the series seems to go out of its way to set Takahashi up as more of a researcher who happens to have stumbled into his situation rather than a man actively seeking out monster girls for romance, the more traditional aspects of the genre feel like an effort to mainstream the title to fit more comfortably within familiar parameters.
The story seems to have the most trouble with Kyoko, the dullahan. Not only is Petos' art not quite up to the task of drawing a more full-figured female (Kyoko just generally looks thicker and vaguely masculine rather than curvaceous), his efforts at keeping Kyoko's head and body near but separate look awkward. While he really makes an excellent attempt at creating a plausible way for her to function – the bath/toilet head sling is pretty great – the fact that Kyoko's viewpoint is always from lap level or chest level seems like it would make her clumsier or would create visual issues for her. Of all of the demis, she's the one who feels the least well thought out, and that, along with the fact that she immediately falls for Takahashi, makes her the highest bar to entry. Conversely, Hikari the perky vampire feels like a very real high school age girl who is desperately trying to stand out while still coping with her own insecurities. The fact that her twin sister, Himari, is not a vampire and clearly worries about Hikari, gives her a firm base for her behavior, and watching the sisters interact feels very natural, along with amusing. (The scene where Hikari nibbles Himari is great.) Himari's revelation that Hikari's silly hair style is actually a pain to do and makes them late most mornings feels like the sort of inside information that often gets left out of stories about cute girls with impossibly complex hair, and her part of the series is much more grounded in general.
It does look as though we're going to learn that there are male demi-humans as well, as the final chapter of volume two introduces a boy who looks suspiciously like Shigeru Mizuki's famous yokai boy Kitaro. With the story starting to feel a little awkward by that point, his introduction indicates that there may be more world-building to come, which would bring the focus back to Takahashi's stated purpose of learning more about the demis. That's where the story is at its strongest: when it focuses on how the girls cope with being different and interact with their classmates. Be it Hikari telling off gossips or Yuki trying to make up for her stand-offish behavior, there's something real and relatable about the characters when they aren't mooning over, or asking weird advice of, Takahashi. The heart of this series is when it simply uses Takahashi as a means to let the girls know that there's a teacher on their side and then allows them to move the story forward.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Hikari and Yuki feel like very real high school students, good use of the underlying mythologies to inform the story. Four-panel chapter epilogues are nice.
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