August 22, 2019

Interviews with Monster Girls

This adorable 13-episode series revolves around one of my favorite variations on the slice-of-life genre. Call it the "supernormal supernatural."


A supernatural element is introduced into everyday life without significantly altering the known world, other than possibly requiring the creation of a government agency to provide oversight. Before long, the "normal" world grows so accustomed to this supernatural element that its existence becomes rather run of the mill.

In the equally delightful Kamichu! an otherwise normal junior high school student becomes a Shinto god and pretty much keeps on being a normal junior high school student at a normal junior high school in a normal fishing village on the Inland Sea. Except for being a Shinto god, of course.

That the "monster girls" represent a small proportion of the population helps to maintain an aura of normality. Some inherited their traits. Others are the product of mutations. There is nothing at all supernatural about Hikari's fraternal twin sister, for example. Aside from the headless Kyoko, none of them appears that out of the ordinary.

And even without her head literally on her shoulders, getting accustomed to Kyoko proves surprisingly easy.

Amidst all this "supernatural normality," Tetsuo Takahashi is a biology teacher at Shibasaki High School. Despite his keen interest in "monster girls," he has never met one. Until this semester. Three of the first year students and a new teacher turn out to be "demi-humans" (Japanese uses the cute diminutive "demi-chan").

Hikari is a vampire (and thus receives a monthly blood ration courtesy of the government). Yuki is a yuki onna (a snow woman from Japanese mythology). Kyoko is a dullahan from Irish mythology (and thus carries her head separate from its usual location). And the new math teacher, Sakie Sato, is a succubus.

Hikari starts hanging out in Takahashi Sensei's office because it has the best air conditioning (she and Yuki have an aversion to hot weather). Takahashi asks her about what being a demi-human is like. The preternaturally extroverted Hikari happily strikes up a conversation. Before long, Takahashi is interviewing all of the girls.

Takahashi Sensei is smart and insightful, and being a nice guy, brings both a natural empathy and a knack for problem solving to the subject. Some of the most interesting parts of the series are these "interviews."

While Kyoko is the strangest in appearance, she is the most "normal" of the three monster girls in terms of personality. The dullahan is depicted in legend as a violent and bloodthirsty demon, more commonly known as the "headless horseman." The starkness of this contrast leads to a fascinating discussion about how mythical types arise.


Takahashi Sensei later introduces Kyoko to a friend of his from college, now a professor of physics. He comes up with a explanation for her "condition" based on theoretical physics that could qualify as an episode of Because Science with Kyle Hill. This contemporary fantasy very often snugs up close to "hard" science fiction.

There are a few episodes at the beginning that suggest Takahashi Sensei is getting a little too personally involved with his students (at least applying real-world standards). But then the grumpy vice principal suggests to Takahashi Sensei that he dial it back a bit and the grumpy vice principal turns out to more or less right.

It is always better to directly address the obvious rather than wave it aside.

The presence of a succubus at the school means the subject of sex is bound to come up. But director Ryo Ando and screenwriter Takao Yoshioka, adapting the manga by Petos, keep the dialogue smart and relevant. Takahashi Sensei and Sato Sensei engage in the kind of intelligent conversations that only make you wish they went on longer.

As it turns out, Sato Sensei's personality is at odds with her "powers." She is a reserved person, loathes being the center of attention, avoids crowds, and dresses plainly to suppress her aphrodisiacal nature. The word for the latter in Japanese is saiin (催淫), which you should have learned by the end of the series.

Sato Sensei is an excellent example of how fantasy can give substance to a psychological or metaphysical concept and make the metaphor concrete. Her concerns about whether a man will ever truly be interested in her for her arises out of neither neurosis nor narcissism but is rooted in the realities of her supernatural biology.

(Another great example is when Youko kills the monkey spirit in Shadow of the Moon, she is literally killing the voice of her uncertainty and self-doubt.)

Alas, their relationship doesn't have time to progress much by the end of the series. The manga is still ongoing so that subject will hopefully be addressed in the future. The only disappointing aspect of Interviews with Monster Girls is that it contains so much great material and not enough time to handle it all.

Related links

Crunchyroll
Funimation

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Comments

# posted by Blogger Panino Manino
I wish this had more episode so bad!
It was really good.
8/29/2019 8:16 PM