First Love Monster
by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
Is it possible to hug an entire anime series? I ask because that's exactly what I want to do with How To Keep A Mummy this season. That show is unreasonably, absurdly adorable and I love it. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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First Love Monster
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Shelf Life Reviews
We're nearly free from our post-holiday backlog of Perishable releases, but a couple of them are still lurking here and there in the review schedule. Speaking of which, here's Gabriella's review of First Love Monster.
So this is exactly the type of high-octane trash that you'd expect given its premise. Kaho moves into a house filled with manboys, gets involved with one somehow, and finds herself both charmed and disgusted by his immature antics. To be honest, the object of her accidental affections – 5th grader Kanade – seems more like an unusually dumb guy than a little kid, but I digress. This is the kind of anime where you think you already know where you stand just from hearing the premise, and the show proceeds to do nothing to change your mind. However, if there's a potential saving grace here, it's that self-aware horny anime for girls have a pretty decent track record for being funny if they strike the right balance between their parodic elements and sincere celebration of female desire. From Ouran High School Host Club to Kiss Him, Not Me!, First Love Monster is already part of a genre known for spinning comedy out of problematic premises, so its obvious comedic bent gave me a fragment of hope that this thing wouldn't be a total trashfire.
Oh, who am I kidding – this show sucked and I didn't like it. The Perishable rating is right at the top of the review. While First Love Monster is immensely self-aware, its flirtations with parody do nothing to counter its extremely niche fetishism; if anything, the comedic tone helps it plant its feet even more firmly within those questionable sands. If there's anything unique about First Love Monster, it's definitely the tone. As an occasional fan of this genre myself, I wouldn't be making “fujoshi trash” jokes if this show didn't 100% invite them. First Love Monster's main appeal comes from embracing the same self-deprecating mode that some fujoshi use to refer to themselves: equal parts ironic and cynical, but sincerely thirsty. Multiple characters (including another love interest) exist just to insult Kaho, the show constantly constructs scenarios around how reprehensibly dumb its protagonist is supposed to be, that sort of thing. The point is that you – the person choosing to watch this of your own volition – embrace and acknowledge that you have an alarming fetish, so you deal with this by turning the ensuing shame into part of the kink. It's cynical and off-putting to anyone who isn't in on the joke, but it's also true to an aspect of fujoshi culture that I hadn't seen portrayed by anime before. Strangely enough, this show's closest tonal relative is probably WataMote, or No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, but that show was more about the type of girl who would be into First Love Monster, not a straightforward transmission of the fantasy wrapped with a self-deprecating wink. (Also, WataMote was a good show that you should watch, and this is not.)
My slight interest in this show as a curiosity has nothing to do with whether First Love Monster is watchable if you're foreign to the depths of the ‘rotten girl’ sensibility. The show isn't that funny, looks pretty bad, and it's frequently offensive enough to the point where I can't recommend it to anyone who wasn't ready to devour this whole thing based on its premise. For one thing, the show trades in much of the same hacky humor employed by bad fanservice anime in general, such as a “comical pedophile” side character. When they're not just gross, the jokes are largely lazy, consisting of pseudo-elementary schoolers shouting the word “wiener” for minutes on end. Now I've been known to appreciate the occasional dick joke, but the mere acknowledgment of the member's existence isn't enough to get yuks out of me. It's the same for just shouting the word "poop", "balls", etc. So even when the show wasn't being all-out offensive (either fetishizing or making light of pedophilia), it was just unfunny. Visually, the only nice thing that I can say about the show is that it's colorful. Otherwise, it's yet another minimally animated affair with generic bishonen character designs. So if you're just into raw manservice, there are hundreds of alternate avenues that won't make you ogle mysteriously post-pubescent twelve-year-olds.
Extras include the regular slate of trailers and clean theme songs that are barely worth mentioning. Other than that, there's an episode commentary from the English voice actors that mostly consists of them goofing off. I'll admit that I enjoyed the dub for this show – it's pretty dumb and hyperactive but the voice actors seem like they're having fun, and their diffident attitudes were the source of most of the laughs that I did get out of the show. For once, this flippancy actually matched the show's intended tone, so I just let myself enjoy it.
The nicest thing I can say for First Love Monster is that it's one of the less boringly terrible shows I've had to endure throughout my tenure on Shelf Life. The self-loathing fujoshi trash angle was certainly unique, and the show does occasionally manage to be innovative in its commitment to crass stupidity. That's not to say that its clever by any stretch—you won't find any Pop Team Epic-style transcendent idiocy here. It was just loud and offensive enough to stand out in the pantheon of shows rated Perishable. It was different enough to hold my attention without pain (a rare luxury at this point). What I'm saying is that if we had separate ratings for the “bad shows for nobody” and the “truly execrable wastes of space,” First Love Monster would fall into the higher echelon.
At least I got my roommate to laugh by showing him the Blu-Ray box, just like Super Lovers – although he had to read the back-of-the-box description instead of just glancing at the cover. On the bright side, this review concludes my current foray into the realm of trash, since my slate is looking decent for the near future. But I won't be gone for long – there will always be trashy anime to review, and I can never resist the siren's call for long.
That wraps up the review section. Since we don't have a Shelf Obsessed entry this week, that's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send photos of your anime collection to [email protected] if you'd like to see them featured in the next installment of Shelf Obsessed!
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