Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Apr 21st 2014
GN 1 & 2
Humans have recently made contact with “liminals” - monster/animal people, and in the interest of creating a harmonious relationship between them, liminals are coming to spend time among humans as “exchange students.” Kurusu Kirihito is just an average guy who finds himself caught up in the new Cultural Exchange Accord when a lackadaisical caseworker accidentally drops Miia the lamia off at his house for a homestay. Before Kirihito quite knows what's going on, he's also acquired Papi the harpy and Centorea the centaur as houseguests too. What's a poor guy to do surrounded by lovely liminal ladies?
Kirihito's life is not going quite the way he expected it to, but he's making the best of it. The twentysomething one day found a strange woman at his door with a lamia – half snake, half woman – announcing that the girl, Miia, would be staying with him as part of an interspecies accord recently forged by the government. The fact that she had the wrong house didn't stop Ms. Smith from leaving Miia with Kirihito, and now he's trying to figure out how to keep things going and not let her strangle him in her sleep as she tries to keep warm. But then one day when he's out he runs into another liminal, Papi the harpy, and Ms. Smith decides that she ought to live with him too. Ditto to the centaur, Centorea, who thinks he's probably her destined master. And if all of that isn't enough, there are two more monster girls who show up in volume two!
You could be forgiven for thinking that Monster Musume is harem schlock. It certainly has all of the hallmarks of it, what with the one normal guy and the many hot girls throwing themselves at him. But Okayado's monsterfest is good harem schlock, far more entertaining and enjoyable than one might have expected, and his use of the liminals and their unique traits enhances the story. While it isn't as thoughtful as Seven Seas' other monster girl title A Centaur's Life, it does address some of the difficulties of different species living together in amusing and interesting ways, such as Papi's lack of real hands (because of her wings). Suu the slime's body is another great example, and with her introduction in volume two she quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters, at least physically. Likewise the fact that Miia is coldblooded because of her snake half, along with other snake-like attributes, helps to keep the story from being just another harem romance.
Unfortunately for every question Okayado answers, there are a few that he does not, and some of them are kind of annoying. Is it a problem that Centorea can't take off her horseshoes when she comes in the house and is just clomping around without slippers? Why don't the ludicrously buxom centaurs (which is explained) wear bras? (Because the author is male?) And, more importantly, if lamia have the requisite genitals for mating with a human, as is shown and mentioned several times in both volumes, how does that work when they don't have legs? Perhaps this is overthinking things, but given the very sexual nature of the romance in the story, it really seems like something that ought to be addressed.
And the story is very sexual. In some ways it is surprising that the series isn't rated M instead of T+, for while there is no actual sex, there are multiple orgasms and plenty of scenes such as Kimihito giving Miia a handjob (the end of her tail is very sensitive) and Papi looking as if she's performing oral sex. There are also lots of nipples, both male and female, and barely covered vaginas throughout both volumes. On the one hand, it's nice that this doesn't have an M rating, as it makes the book more accessible to more readers. On the other, it is worth noting that it is very explicit and really not for the kiddies, although still well within the realm of your average Avon romance novel.
Okayado's art is solid, with different figures for all of the females and a clear sense of place in each panel. The panels flow nicely and the books are really easy to read, a fact helped by a smooth translation. Breasts are a bit of an issue, and one that arises mostly because we see them so often. Their physics are, shall we say, implausible, but the bigger issue is that Okayado tends to shade them a darker tone than the rest of the women's bodies. We know from color images that their skin is not darker on their breasts, so this is just an awkward affectation that distracts from the fanservice aspect. Suu is the only female not to get this treatment, but that's likely because her entire body is shaded.
Issues aside, the first two volumes of Monster Musume are surprisingly fun, even if fanservicey harem is not your preferred genre. Kimihito is a genuinely nice guy who goes out of his way to do his best but still reacts fairly believably to the girls' advances, and each girl has a distinct personality. Those are a bit clichéd, but the monster aspect helps to keep things from feeling too rehashed. It's not a classy series, but if you're looking for a bit of fun for your reading list, Monster Musume is just that.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Enjoyable characters and fun plotline. Species differences are well used to enhance the story, Kimihito isn't as bland as many harem leads. Yes, Centorea's shirt does have pockets for each breast, so at least the way it fits is explained.
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