This Week in Anime
What the Hell is Happening in Conception?

by Nicholas Dupree and Steve Jones,

Conception combines isekai adventure with sex comedy hijinks in one of the most baffling ways possible, but is it a trainwreck worth watching? This week, Nick and Steve find out the hard way.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Nick
Y'know Steve, I knew that Darling in the Franxx was fairly popular, but I'm still surprised they got a sequel out this quickly.
Steve
Welcome to This Week in Self-Flagellation, where we suffer immense pain because deep down we know we deserve it.
We haven't even started, and I already feel so tired. At least, unlike with FranXX, I can't imagine many people will be upset with us for making fun of Conception, because I can't imagine many people are actually watching Conception.
Please, who could pass up witnessing this feat of modern art?
Look, I know we're here to entertain, but please, if you aren't already watching this, don't let us convince you otherwise.
Okay I can't lie, Conception is a bad show. It's terribly paced, has a totally nonsensical premise that should belong in a hentai  OVA, and yet somehow manages to have less sexually explicit content than a Ken Akamatsu anime. But for all those same reasons, I find this weird-ass show fascinating.
It has to be seen to be believed, that's for sure. And by that I mean, all you have to see are the first 30 seconds of the show to believe that nobody working on it has seen a naked woman before.
Sexuality in art is a topic that I find interesting, and as so much of anime straddles the line between art and commerce that it's a rich medium for that type of discussion. But then you get stuff like Conception, a blatantly commercial product dumped out with neither the passion of somebody trying to express their fetishes nor the polish of market-tested masturbation fodder. Just the premise—a hero gets Isekai'd to a world that he's prophesied to save from an ancient evil by impregnating a dozen "Maidens"—sounds like either a parody meant to take the piss out of modern isekai anime or a straight-up hentai, yet Conception manages to be neither.
I'd definitely have a firmer grasp on Conception's appeal if it did commit to being one of those things? As-is, it's at least a fascinating case study in how far a premise executed solely for the purpose of fanservice can go while also totally chickening out.
Ah, you're referring to perhaps the first ever literal anti-climax in anime.
Turns out in this show all it takes to make a baby is some light dry-humping and rounding second base.
I'm still so mad about it! Keep in mind, this is how the first episode literally sets the stage—you assume that our milquetoast Protag-kun does literally have to get 12 women pregnant in order to save the world. That's a horrible premise, but the truth is even worse. Because he's not actually fucking the women, so by the show's logic, they all stay virgins. So it's just about the most puritanical way to execute a raunchy fanservice anime.
Near as I can tell, this is a consequence of the weird-ass mechanics of the original game, which is also hard to track down info about because it's a goddamn PSP exclusive form 2012. Basically, the gameplay of Conception The Game is that You, The Player court each of the 12 love interests to build your party, then you upgrade your kids based on who you pursue through the dating sim tiers. So like min-maxing a modern Fire Emblem game but with worse scenario writing.
Oh and also Horny Monokuma is here to scream vulgarities at you the whole time.
i hate the awful red panda
For real, everything else about Conception is so pitiful you almost feel bad for it, but then this horrible geyser of bad sex "jokes" shows up and the show becomes actively painful to experience.
Conception seems dead-set on pushing the limits of the "fanservice is okay as long as we're constantly self-aware about it!" method, which puts a show on thin ice to begin with. Occasionally an anime like Monogatari can get away with it, but this ain't doin' it, chief.
To be fair, Mana seems to be the closest thing to a character that our protagonist actually has an emotional connection with. Even if their relationship is uh...

Yeah, it doubly sucks because shitty-monokuma is the pretty much the only part of the show that seems to be having fun, and it's still just bad.
Also, I'm normally not bothered by stuff like this, but it drives me CRAZY that they hardly ever animate Mana's mouth. Like, it has the lion's share of screen time, so that means a large chunk of the anime is a static image of a smirking red panda.
Look, somebody out there might be turned on by a tiny Sanrio reject in bondage gear making the Dreamworks face, and who are we to judge them?
To be fair, I guess the ED stands out...?
Personally I'll take the OP instead, if only because Nano is a criminally underrated anisong artist who deserves to work on an actually good show some day. Even if the OP is 80% recycled animation, it's still the most pleasant 90 seconds of this thing every week.
I should also give Conception credit for being better than most video game adaptations, because when tasked with explaining game mechanics and lore, it just tells the audience to go to its website.
On the one hand, it's lazy storytelling hidden behind smarmy meta-humor. On the other, it makes the show go by faster.
and for that i'm so grateful
And speaking of fast, the show is apparently wasting no time with its ladies. You'd think that with 12 episodes and 12 prospective hump-buddies, the show would dedicate an episode a piece to each character, but by episode 5, Itsuki has already awkwardly groped his way through 7/12s of the cast.
Talk about a minute-man.
Yeah I just noticed that, for a harem anime, we haven't talked about the girls at all. But there's not much to say about a collection of archetypes we've seen dozens of times before.
You've got your childhood friend (and also cousin because sure why not), your onee-chan, your shrine maiden, your kinky nun, your nurse, and Chaika the Coffin Princess.
Chaika/Yuzuha's arc is the only part of the show I found myself enjoying, because it's the one place where it seems to sincerely commit to its absurdities rather than incessantly nudge and wink at the audience.

It's the closest the show comes to actually having a "focus" episode on any of the cast members, and it mostly serves to show how weird Yuzuha is before Itsuki can get her comfortable with some heavy petting, but it's by far the most interesting thing so far.
Yuzuha is here to proselytize about how handy a coffin can be, and quite frankly, I'm convinced.

Also the way that Itsuki tries to "woo" her is by building his own coffin so the two of them can go on a coffin date, which is a mode of courtship I can see really taking off in 2019.

Okay that's slightly untrue. Itsuki, being the potato that he is, doesn't actually build that coffin. Mana does and then he takes credit for it.
o u r    h e r o
That's only the second saddest thing he's done so far. Number One was that time he "arrived early" from seeing four whole boobs.
 
 
Oh yeah, that's a whole thing. He's not making good enough babies at first, so he has to start having threesomes because that makes better ones, of course.
And probably the most unbelievable thing in this show about immaculately conceived warrior furries is that not 30 seconds after staining the carpet, Itsuki somehow works enough finger magic to get this response.
Look, Conception, I am never going to believe that the dude who got jerked off outside a sword shop by Aggretsuko's horny cousin is smooth enough to satisfy a fleshlight, let alone another person.
What? You doubt the fortitude of this modern
nippleless Lothario?
Begrudgingly, I also have to give Conception credit for framing multiple shots around Itsuki's dick.

See, that's the kind of ridiculous stuff I wish the show would indulge in more. As it stands, Conception is basically a speedrun of the world's blandest dating sim, and each new episode feels more slapped together than the last.
I imagine the most important question is whether Conception falls into the "so bad it's good" category. And speaking honestly, I agreed to do this column because I hoped that it would. It def has its moments, but it doesn't go far enough in any direction, good or bad, to justify its existence.
I find it interesting in the same way that it's interesting to take apart a broken watch or to dissect owl pellets in middle school. There's not much enjoyment in watching Conception, but there's something valuable to be learned about the construction of this kind of series by watching a broken example of it.
That's admittedly condescending, but at the same time, I invite anyone to defend a show that features this line.
Yeah, I'd agree that it's interesting from an anthropological perspective. But in the wake of so many episodes of Conception, I'd much rather embrace the cleansing power of sleep.

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