Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist
16 years ago, Japan's Diet passed a stringent (to say the least) public decency law: the "Law for Public Order and Morals in Healthy Child-Raising." Now, Japan prides itself on having a more righteous populace than any other country: all of its citizens are mandated to wear "PM" devices on their necks and wrists that alert the government if a person utters lewd jokes or profanity, or if one engages in any activity that could remotely be described as "sexual."
But there are still some who would dare oppose this world where dirty jokes do not exist, and Tanukichi Okuma is the son of one such well-known terrorist. Trying to escape his jailed father's legacy, he succeeds in enrolling in the country's most elite school, one known especially well for the righteousness of its students, and home to one Anna Nishikinoyima, the student council president and to Tanukichi, the paragon of purity. Upon enrolling, however, he finds himself blackmailed into joining the rebel group "SOX," headed by one Ayame Kajou an uptight student council member whose secret identity is a sex terrorist codenamed "Blue Snow..."
Content Warning: Rape is discussed in this review. Reader discretion advised.
Of Summer 2015's releases, Shimoneta struck me as being one of the more polarizing ones, not least one of the most controversial, and I'm honestly none too surprised about that. It's an unbelievably lewd series, in the first place; although anything pertaining to genitalia, full-on nudity, or obscene gestures is obscured by careful placement of animated logos, which, in an ironic twist, usually take the shape of an in-universe public morals mascot (a sickeningly cutesy dog in a sailor suit), and although no obscene words are ever heard unobscured, there's still really not much left to the imagination most of the time. Shimoneta is thus likely to be a difficult watch for anybody who doesn't already have a lewd sense of humor, and indeed, much of what this series does could be described as "tasteless."
I suppose this is where my discussion of the show's "polarizing" effect comes in, for while watching Shimoneta, I could never completely be sure of whether this tastelessness amounted to effective satire or whether it was simply trash, and if one first gets past the raunchiness, the answer to that question might be what decides one's opinion. Ultimately, Shimoneta reminds me of B Gata H Kei, a similar (but better) series that masquerades as carefree sex comedy but buries some important points amidst the silliness. Shimoneta has just enough of the latter to work as something besides a parade of raunchy jokes.
Now, if Shimoneta simply is a sex comedy, that doesn't necessarily make it bad, but it does limit its appeal somewhat. I actually had quite a bit of fun with this show, particularly with the absurdity of a "sex terrorism" organization whose members run around with underwear covering their faces and wearing nothing but bedsheets, and with the cleverness of the ways in which the characters get around the constraints of their PMs, with one character learning to draw erotic manga by holding the pencils in her mouth instead of her hands. One of the funnier recurring gags involves a wannabe scientist, the wonderfully deadpan, droopy-eyed, and laconic Hyouka Fuwa, attempting to "research" how so-called "body-melding" works by watching flies copulate and pestering Tanukichi with bizarre questions, since the law has been in effect long enough that an entire generation of Japanese youth are essentially ignorant of their own biology.
Actually, Hyouka, who's deemed too weird for SOX even by Ayame herself, was probably my favorite character in the series, but some of her behavior, particularly her appearing underneath the main protagonist's desk unannounced in order to ask inappropriate questions, underscores a point I have to stress about Shimoneta: it's tasteless at just about every step, and Hyouka's behavior is probably one of the more benign examples of this. Though it's difficult to discuss this point without spoilers, I'll say that some of the characters presented outwardly as the most "innocent" are nothing of the sort; one such character's obsession with our main character is nothing short of stalkerish, with her going far enough to attempt to rape Tanukichi on several occasions. As if that weren't messed up enough, there's an infamous scene in which she tricks him into eating cookies that he subsequently finds out contain her bodily fluids, which she happily calls her "love nectar."
And with that, Shimoneta runs into a quandary. These scenes are, frankly, pretty horrifying, but it's to the show's credit that it portrays them as such rather than use them for purely comedic purposes, and it thankfully doesn't pull the double standard of female-on-male rape being somehow "more acceptable," as some anime do. It does, however, run up against the question of whether there's something voyeuristic about even depicting it, in the same way that ero-guro might verbally condemn rape while depicting it in a sensual manner simultaneously. I do, ultimately, think that these scenes ultimately fall into the category best exemplified by the TV Trope of "fan disservice", for the show draws a contrast between the character in question, who, in her ignorance, mistakes lust and her body's sexual urges for a ridiculous ideal of "pure love," and Ayame, who, while vulgar, constantly inappropriate, and immodest, is all the better for it and has workable concepts of consent and love underneath. Given how much is made of "purity" in this universe (and in real life, in fact), Shimoneta persistently critiques the idea of "purity" as a virtue, in that it simply leaves behind droves of horny teenagers who don't know what to do with their libidos.
It's ultimately both to the show's credit and to its detriment that it goes as over-the-top as it does in making points such as this, for while it can be funny, it can also shoot itself in the foot by doing so. Some of the satirical jabs that Shimoneta takes, while salient, are exaggerated to the point of farce, or to the point of inadvertently showcasing the very thing it seems to criticize. For example, SOX's conflict with a rival group of sex terrorists has potential: there's a contrast drawn between the former's ultimately goal of freeing Japan from the morality police, as absurd as their methods seem, and the latter's ultimately helping its charismatic but unambitious leader satisfy his own panty fetish. Sadly, said character is so over-the-top that he's more of a walking gag than a character, and we thus don't really get anywhere with him, or with this discussion. The show also takes several jabs at "political correctness" amidst its ridiculing of "public decency," and it was at these points that Shimoneta lost me somewhat. In particular, the first episode centers around a false sexual harassment accusation lodged against Tanukichi, seeming to imply that hyper-awareness of harassment is simply a negative side product of the new public morals law; conflating said awareness with squeamishness about sex is a massive mistake on the show's part, also.
That aspect aside, Shimoneta actually surprised me somewhat with its gender politics. It doesn't shy away from female sexuality, for one thing, and while the aforementioned rape scenes may take this point a step too far, the show does seem to argue against repressing female sexuality and imposing purity culture on girls. Ayame's enthusiasm for raunchy jokes (to say the least) and Shimoneta's ultimately positive portrayal of this trait also speak to this, as does the fact that SOX considers it as important to, say, awaken latent hankerings for BL Magazines in girls as it is to bring out the inner panty-fetishes in boys (it's obviously simplified, but it works well for recognizability's sake). The show even manages to portray same-sex relationships in a halfway respectful light, which came out of nowhere: there's a very buff and muscular student council member, Gouriki, straight out of a bara manga, whose (eventual) ultra-courteousness and gifts of bentos make his feelings obvious, and while Tanukichi doesn't reciprocate, he doesn't exactly object to what Gouriki is doing (nor, for that matter, do their female classmates).
Shimoneta, for all of its narrative weaknesses, is indeed bolstered by a strong cast. Ayame is a riot, and her antics are hilarious to watch, but her heart is in the right place in spite of how outwardly crass and off-putting she is, and that helps the show quite a bit. Tanukichi, meanwhile, moves past his inner angst between his sex-terrorist father's legacy and his own self-ideals of righteousness, ultimately turning into a rather effective right-hand-man for Ayame; heck, maybe wearing a nurse's outfit while donning panties on one's head (as he does in the second episode) really was what Shinji Ikari needed to do, in the end. Aside from Hyouka, my favorite character was Otome Saotome, the aforementioned budding erotic manga artist, whose abilities to find inspiration for dirty humor in just about anything is astonishing. I was a bit more unsure about Kosuri Onigashira, a middle-schooler who (later) masquerades as Tanukichi's domineering younger sister after joining SOX: I got a good laugh out of her scenes, but not all of the jokes surrounding her feel entirely age-appropriate, and it's no coincidence that her hair style resembles a certain naughty part (as Ayame herself notes approvingly).
And so you have it: Shimoneta is a funny but oh-so-wrong sex comedy that veers between being great satire and simply being trash. There's a lot I love about it, from the characters to its visual puns, and even the art and animation are a big step above J.C. Staff's usual efforts (the hilariously inappropriate OP and ED sequences contribute to the fun, also), but at the same time, its own ridiculousness sometimes causes it to shoot itself in the foot, and sometimes it's simply just a bit messed up. I'd recommend this, with some reservation, if you like your comedy on the dirty side, but even then, I'm ultimately conflicted about it.
Do I think that it's funny, surprisingly progressive in its gender politics (most of the time), salient, and home to a cast of good characters? Yes. Do I also think that the show sometimes manages to over-highlight the things it hopes to criticize, some of these things being rather messed up? And do I sometimes also think it's trash? Yes. And ultimately, you shouldn't bother with this if you don't have a taste for dirty jokes. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: This is going to take a while.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on FUNimation.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist © 2015 Hirotaka Akagi, Shogakukan/SOX
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