Interviews with Monster Girls
There are human beings in the world who take on supernatural characteristics very much in line with ancient legends and fairy tales. Vampires, Dullahan, Snow Women and even Succubus people are trying their best to fit in with normal humans. They're labelled Demi-Humans and while not exactly a common occurence, still has their own social wellfare agency to aid them in their acclimation into human society.
Tetsuo Takahashi is a normal human and a teacher at Shibasaki high school. Ever since he graduated college, he has wanted to meet demi-humans and interview them for a project of his, but that proved hard, seeing as demi-humans, while now common knowledge, are not numerous enough that you're guaranteed to ever meet one. But all of a sudden, he meets four.
It feels kind of superficial to state that Monster Girls seem to be all the rage lately, but it's hard not to think so when shows like this seems to be more of a given each season. Monster Musume wasn't even the first show to feature clearly non-human main characters, but I'm sure it did its part to popularize this particularly aspect. Of course, Monster Musume applied a very different kind of lure to draw in its audience, but the show was still a lot of fun because it didn't forget that most of its cast had half-animal bodies.
Interviews with Monster Girls doesn't go all out in the same manner. The girls in this show all look human for the most part; in fact, part of the problem is that girls like Hikari, who is a vampire, and Yuki, who is a snow woman, look so much human that you wouldn't know they were demi-human unless they told you. But while Hikari isn't going to burst into flame or crumble into dust when she walks outside in the sun, she nevertheless has to be careful since she burns easily. She also does require blood in her diet, but unlike most vampires in other movies, doesn't live solely on that. Contrary to public expectation, she's actually quite fond of garlic, but finds crosses sort of out-of-date on the fashion circuit. And when asked by Tetsuo, much like in Karin/Chibi Vampire, she humorously pointed out that a wooden stake through the chest would kill anyone. (Though I believe that when it comes to stakes, old vampire lore basically stated that the cross had to be wooden, and also in some sources, had to be sanctified somehow. Meaning stakes made of anything but wood -- iron, steel or anything else -- would not kill vampires.) To that point, Hikari can also not turn into mist or a bat, and doesn't really have any of typical vampire supernatural abilities. Of the four girls, Hikari is definitely the least bothered by her demi-human status, and will often shamefully use it to her advantage. She's rather mischievous, but never meanspirited, and is definitely in possession of the biggest pool of infectiously cheerful energy in the entire school. But even though it might look like her levels of cheer is near limitless, it doesn't mean that she can't be hurt or embarrassed, or feel any of the other wonderful overblown teenager feelings that's so fun to experience.
This makes her the opposite side of Yuki, the snow woman. Yuki does have some abilities as pertained to legends about Snow Women, but given the extent of which she can apply them, it's safe to say that old folk tales and legends are greatly exaggerated. Still, said legends did cause her to disassociate herself with anyone who approached her in fear that she'd harm them. As a snow woman, her body temperature averages a bit below the human average, so she tends to suffer heat strokes much easier than the average human. When sad, she does chill the air around her to a significant degree, and she can also create ice shards or tiny ice orbs when sufficiently depressed. With some help from our favorite main lead and armchair demi-human psychologist, Tetsuo, she eventually figures it out and opens up accordingly. Of course, Hikari was already way ahead on her, since she was already attracted to Yuki's lowered body temperature, and after Yuki comes to terms with her powers (and learns that she could never actually hurt anyone with them), she opens up and becomes delightfully sociable much in the same way as Taki from Natsume's Book of Friends after the latter got her yokai troubles sorted out.
The Demi-human status is only immediately obvious with Kyoko, a dullahan girl, whose head is detached from her body. Unlike Lala from Monster Musume, she can't just attach her head to her neck because she doesn't have a neck, and her head would cover up the blue flame that comes out from where her neck would be anyway, which causes her great discomfort. Because of that, she basically has to carry her head around at all times when moving around, and that presents a whole new set of dangers on its own. Despite the obviousness of her demi-human status, the other students aren't necessarily afraid of making friends with her, but they do tiptoe around the issue of her status as a demi-human in fear of hurting her feelings, which has the ironic consequence of... hurting her feelings, because she would like for them to treat her demi-human status as a thing it's alright to make jokes about. It doesn't help that dullahans are the rarest of demi-humans, with only three known members of the species known in the entire world. Still, she has Hikari's cheer without her prankster undertone, and as such, is the most lovable of the demis. She, too, also knows how to take advantage of her demi status, but on a more practical level. For instance, she can send off her body to do chores or check things while her head can remain in the sofa watching TV. She also develops a rather adorable crush on Tetsuo, which he remains completely oblivious about. Not that he could've followed up on that anyway, seeing as he's a teacher and she's a student. (And don't worry -- the show does address this at some point naer the end.)
And then, there's Sakie Satou, Tetsuo's colleague and a member of the succubus race. She, too, looks entirely human, lacking the more stereotypical succubus horns, wings and tail. At first, I wondered whether her worries were only in her head, but the third episode put those thoughts to rest quite thoroughly. Aside from Kyoko's mysterious ability to teleport the food and drink she puts into her mouth to her body -- and yes, one episode goes into some theories about that too -- Sakie has perhaps the most developed supernatural abilities; she can make people aroused by simply touching them or sleeping near them, or even just wearing slightly revealing clothing. Out of the four girls, that makes her the sole proprietor of powers that might be able to actually harm her, if indirectly. Unlike the other girls, she's an adult, so she has had some more time dealing with her powers and can also more easily deal with general loneliness. She has to live far from other people (since succubus demi require sleep too), and to avoid the worst crowds on the train -- and Japanese trains can get PACKED during the worst hours -- she gets out of bed and returns home at ungodly hours. She also dresses down to avoid unintentionally arousing people, which adds a rather iffy dimension to her character; "well, she shouldn't have dressed so provocatively" is one of the favorite excuses of rape apologists, but for Sakie, that's a real worry she has to contend with. To the show's credit, it's also presented as just that; a worry of hers. Though it's not one that the show explores all that much, at least in this season. To Sakie, it becomes mainly a concern that she can't ever be physically intimate with someone and know that the feelings her partners have are true or just because of her aphrodisiac effect. The potential for interesting discussions about demi natures are quite strong with her, but it's almost depressing to see that she can't even hug someone because of what it'll do to the recipient of said hug.
In the middle of all this is Tetsuo. He had wanted to talk to demi people, and he sure got what he wanted in a rather big way. Sakie had been the first demi woman he had met, but due to her cautious nature, that first meeting didn't exactly go very smoothly. The show teases the harem genre by having two of the demi girls develop crushes on him, though he seems blissfully unaware of either of them. (Though in all fairness, as a teacher, he probably doesn't really expect the students to go fall in love with him just like that, and he's also being just as cautious around Sakie as she was of him once he gets a taste of her succubus powers. Unlike most high-school anime leads, he's an actual adult -- a college graduate in a teaching position -- and he's a generally responsible and unfazed grownup when it comes to topics that would embarrass a teenager, which is fun to watch. He feels a little bit like Jumbo from Yotsuba, albeit a somewhat less hapless one. His interest in demi-humans might be a bit on the personal side, but he doesn't really do anything untowards with any of the girls. And, mildly harem-tropishness aside, Kyoko isn't doing anything wrong by having a crush on him either. Humorously enough, the guy is quite muscular, and both Kyoko and Sakie find that attractive; it's nice that shows don't portray girls as above that sort of thing, nor that there's anything wrong with that. The show isn't as humorously overt with it as Free was with Gou Matsuoka, but I honestly wouldn't have cared if it was. (It would've been hypocritical of me, given my reaction to Sakie in a swimsuit.)
Interviews with Monster Girls also introduced us to two characters in the middle, one being a young boy named Kurtz and the other a large man named Ugaki. The two of them work for the aforementioned Demi-people wellfare company that oversees their integration into society. If the show has any weak points at all, then that would probably be these two. Mostly because Kurtz only shows up in that one episode, and doesn't really do a whole lot outside of interacting with Sakie for a while. Ugaki shows up every now and then after that, though even he is limited to talking with Sakie on the phone from time to time, mostly so he can prod Sakie into working her succubine wiles on Tetsuo. The problem I have with the two of them is that they don't really do anything in particular other than show up. You never see Kurtz again for the rest of the season (except possibly so briefly that I forgot about it), so it's not like I'm glad to see him gone either. He seems like a fairly nice kid, if a really weird one, and all we really learn about the two of them is that they work as some kind of caretaker for the succubus race -- though that's probably putting it nicely. As Ugaki points out, his job is basically contacting other succubi to find out if they have any ill intent towards regular humans, seeing as there are apparently those who intentionally use their powers to get men into trouble. Or so he says anyway. I'm guessing they might show up more later, but for this season, they kind of just came and went without really adding anything in particular, other than one of them being a bit of a foil for Sakie. I honestly got more out of the two girls who basically spent their introductions in the girl restroom talking about people, because those returned in later episodes and provided more thoughts about relevant topics. It's a minor downer, but if I had to find something to complain about regarding Interviews with Monster Girls, that would be it. And given maybe a second season and some development or plot revelations regarding their situations could even remedy that. Or I could just continue reading the manga, which is also being released in English.
The core of what makes Interviews with Monster Girls so appealing is that it both humanizes and demi-izes its cast on equal terms in a way that borders on admirable. The show is a slice-of-life/ishikei show first and foremost, but that doesn't mean it thinks we can't have serious discussions about various subjects too, but with the mindset that problems are there to be solved, or at least for making a nice compromise. Even characters, like fellow classmate trash talkers or seemingly antagonistic vice principals are more like a temporary devil's advocates rather than villains in need of a good comeuppance. The show itself points out that with demi-humans, it's important to give tribute to both their human side and their demi side on equal terms. More so since the demi-humans in Interviews with Monster Girls aren't their own races like the ones in Monster Musume, but rather mutations of regular humans. The parents of all the girls are regular humans, and Hikari even has a regular human sister in Himari. This probably goes some way in explaining why they don't act or appear like the more fairy-tale-ish versions of themselves, though it still leaves a lot of questions open for later discussions. Which I hope the show will get the chance to explore.
The show is a delight to the eyes too. The character designs are fairly typical, particularly for the girls, but everyone is really expressive both when it comes to facial features or body language. Hikari particularly so, given her energetic nature, but it's great to see Tetsuo's many faces too, depending on who he interacts with. He has this priceless expression whenever Sakie's succubus aphrodisiac effect is working its magic on him, and he's trying his damnedest to look like he's unaffected by it. The animation is generally very good, and the backgrounds look nice too, even if most of the show takes place at the school or in the nearby town. In this case, Interviews with Monster Girls mirrors the usual thing in most "cute girls" series I watch, where the girls themselves take a back seat to the scenery porn. It's not often I see shows whose in-show animation can keep up with the opening segment.
It also works for me that the show isn't as much a comedy as a slice-of-life that isn't afraid to put up its characters and situations for a laugh. Not that purebred comedies are bad by themselves, but if they get too loud and obnoxious, they have a tendency to wear me out quicker, especially if the comedy is completely random. Interviews with Monster Girls is more about the candid observations that follows the demi-human lifestyle. The fact that Tetsuo is an adult, and as such doesn't get thrown off as easily as a teenage boy would, makes the humor even a little bit fresh.
Interviews with Monster Girls does have a bit of fanservice, though most of that is centered around Sakie. Since she's our resident succubus, that does make sense, especially given that she's become very proficient at looking plain as to not let her succubus magic influence people around her. In addition to that, the show does get theoretical about the topic of various sexual situations, like how a vampire feels about biting someone, or even drinking their blood straight from the tap (so to speak.) Said conversations remains strictly candid, though, and thankfully, none of the girls -- that is, high school girls -- are included in the more salacious material. That's strictly Sakie's territory, and while we're hardly talking Monster Musume-level fanservice here, it's still present and noticeable. Sakie's track suit can only hide so much, and she certainly sports a mature figure. Seeing her in a swimsuit in the last episode is an impressive sight, to put it mildly. That said, the show never goes any farther beyond this point, so I'd hardly describe the show as particularly sexy. Cute, sure, and definitely endearing. Maybe it's because I've been watching stuff like the aforementioned Monster Musume lately, and also High School DxD. Compared to those two, this show is positively chaste.
I love being positively surprised by a show, and anime in general has been surprisingly generous in this lately. Weirdly enough, dipping their feet in the monster girl trend has done a lot of shows all the favors lately, with this show getting a rather strong competitor in oddball comedy Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. While Interviews with Monster Girls doesn't really flirt with the more eccentric monster girl types -- there's no half-animal monster girls in this show -- it's still one of the most wonderfully fun shows I've watched in a long time. Sure, it's got some minor downsides for people who like to nitpick -- and I do too, from time to time -- this show tickles my love for slice of life AND unusual character types at the same time, and best of all, many of the episodes left me grinning like an idiot when the credits roll, and that's the best feeling of all.
The fanservice is limited to Kyoko bathing with water up to her neck -- well, her neck flame -- while we do get to see Sakie's cleavage every now and then, plus a scene where she tries to rezip her tracksuit jacket, but her first attempts failed due to her ample chest. (With hilarious reaction from Yetsuo.) Relatively mild stuff, which should be fine for just about all teenagers. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The fanservice is limited to Kyoko bathing with water up to her neck -- well, her neck flame -- while we do get to see Sakie's cleavage every now and then, plus a scene where she tries to rezip her tracksuit jacket, but her first attempts failed due to her ample chest. (With hilarious reaction from Yetsuo.) Relatively mild stuff, which should be fine for just about all teenagers.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Interviews with Monster Girls © 2017 A-1 Pictures.
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