Shelf Life
Monster Musume

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

I went to a screening of The Ancient Magus' Bride last week (one advantage of living in a big college town is that the local theaters pick up a lot of anime events), and I have to admit I was pretty impressed. The art and animation were both strong, and the three episodes that I saw did a nice job of capturing the atmosphere of the original manga's early chapters. It's definitely a series to keep an eye on going into next season. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Monster Musume

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Blue Exorcist: The Movie BD
Aniplex - 88 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $39.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Rin meets a young demon boy while on assignment to exorcise a dangerous phantom train threatening a major festival.

Extra: A limited edition version of this movie was released a few years back, and you'll find a review of that here. The related TV series is available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and the Aniplex Channel.

Fruits Basket - Complete Collection BD, Limited Edition
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Currently cheapest at: $49.81 Barnes and Noble|$62.04 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Tohru Honda moves in with her classmate Yuki Souma, only to discover that the members of the Souma family suffer from a curse that's triggered by contact with any member of the opposite sex.

Extra: You'll find reviews of some older DVD releases here, here, and here. You can stream the series on Funimation and Hulu.

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Right Stuf - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $54.99
Currently cheapest at: $32.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Misaki and Usami are growing closer, but the arrival of Usami's older brother throws their relationship into chaos.

Extra: We don't have any formal reviews for this season, but you'll find coverage of its predecessor here and here. All three seasons are available on Crunchyroll, and Hulu also has season three.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin BD, DVD
Right Stuf - 243 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.99|$49.99
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Extra: While we don't have any reviews for this OVA series yet, our user ratings are fairly positive with an average of 7.8 out of 10. You can stream it on Daisuki and Hulu.

Sword Art Online - Season 1 DVD
Aniplex - 692 min - Hyb - MSRP $89.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Kirito is one of many players who dive into a new virtual reality MMORPG, only to discover that the only way out is to clear the game's world without dying.

Extra: You'll find our reviews of earlier Blu-Ray releases here, here, and here. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Daisuki, Hulu, and the Aniplex Channel.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Monster Musume
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.

I found Monster Musume to be a bizarre yet enjoyable series when I covered it for our daily streaming reviews, and now another member of the Shelf Life crew is stepping up to review the recent physical release. Here's Gabriella's take on the series.

Here it is, folks - the one that started it all. Monster girls have been a trend for a while now, and I've got to admit that when I got these discs in the mail, I was surprised that this show hadn't been released sooner. It felt like a big deal when it first aired back in 2015. I look back on this series fairly often, even more than some anime that made my best-of-the-year list back then. Monster Musume seems to have made an impact on me, which is interesting considering how far I am from its intended demographic. With this in mind, the question becomes “why does this show cross over?” What's so distinct about monster girls to have started a mini-trend?

Now ecchi isn't usually my bag, but as far as softcore entertainment goes, Monster Musume ranks high on my scale of watchability. A lot of this comes from just how far it takes the whole monster gimmick. Thought has clearly been put into how these girls, with their unique physiological requirements, would go about their daily lives in a human world. These sorts of anatomical examinations are pleasurable in their own right, so the series smartly front-loads those sorts of queries. How does a lamia use the toilet? Where are her erogenous zones? These questions and more are addressed right away in the first episode, which seems to know exactly what kind of weirdness I want out of this premise. As the show goes on, you end up taking in a real taxonomy of mythical titty ladies. I don't know about you, but that seems like a good time for the part of my brain that likes TV Tropes and gijinkas. I'd sure as hell read a Kama Sutra of cryptids.

The other reason I like Monster Musume so much is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. That's not to say that it's in any way insincere. It's more that the show knows how silly its premise is (“local man wants to have sex with a giant snake”) and just rolls with it. This results in some pretty good jokes, as well as a particularly chipper attitude for an ecchi show. While most of the humor revolves around the girls' unusual anatomy, there are also some solid riffs on the harem genre as a whole. The show's male lead, Kimihito Kurusu, manages to be both one of the more likable harem protagonists to date, while also acting as an extended joke about just how interchangeable all of these dudes are. They turn the situation's implausibility (“sexy girls keep landing on this dude's doorstep”) into an outright joke, sidestepping a verisimilitude issue that plagues most harem shows. This is all bolstered by a solid production with strong comic timing, so beyond serving as a vehicle for cartoon titties, Monster Musume functions as an above-average sitcom.

It helps that all the girls are very likable as well. Usually these types of shows make me uncomfortable when the women act slavishly toward the main character, but that isn't the case here. While they're all generally trying to please their “master,” the monster girls are far from beholden to him, and their antics have little to do with bolstering his ego. They all have distinct personalities and relationships with one another in the house and dominate the action all on their own whether he's around or not. (My favorites are clingy main girl Mia, wannabe-stoic centaur Centoria, and the bondage-loving arachnid Rachnera.) In most cases, this is enough to ease potential discomfort and allow me to enjoy the sexy antics in peace, although your mileage may vary.

This is a review of the standard release, which is about on par with other stuff that I've seen from Sentai. This set includes the OVAs, as well as a dub, which is pretty decent. All the voice actors do a good job alternating between the show's two required tones – wacky or sensual. Overall, it's very listenable.

Ultimately, if you're turned off by any aggressive sexualization of the female form in anime, Monster Musume won't be your thing. There are titties galore throughout this entire thing, and the girls are occasionally sexualized in situations of embarrassment. While I'm entertained by both Suu and Papi, they're also meant to seem rather young, which veers into uncomfortable territory now and again. For the most part, however, these girls are enthusiastic about what they want out of life with Kimihito, and I'm alright with that. Also – and this is just me personally – I find that the fetishes on display in this show are often so far out of left field that I can't find the energy to get mad about them. It's hard to be scandalized when you're too busy staring agape at a boy erotically drowning because his head is caught in a slime girl's abdomen. It's just so bizarre - and that's why I like it. While there have been a number of monster girl shows since this came out, Monster Musume still stands at the head of the pack. Enjoyable as a comedy as well as erotica, Monster Musume gets an easy recommendation from me.

No Shelf Obsessed entry this week, so that wraps things up. Thanks for reading, and remember to send photos of your collections to [email protected] if you'd like to show them off in this column!

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