Interspecies Reviewers First Impressions (Volumes 1 & 2)

I never cared for being able to relate to characters in order to enjoy a narrative. However, when I caught the premise of Interspecies Reviewers, published in English by Yen Press, I bought the first two volumes on a whim!

“So, what makes you relate to this lewd-ass manga, you perv?” you ask. Well, it’s simple, really. I’m a pretty big fantasy fan, and I’ve always pondered which cute fantasy girl was the best to have as a… really close friend. And guess what, a group of adventurers set off to all the red light districts in order to answer that very question!

Interspecies Reviewers takes this premise and runs like Jesse Owens with it. The creators actually really went into the… s-s-s-science of what it would be like to do, well, you know, with each species. For example, customers to a fairy brothel need to be measured (including the general), so that their employees don’t get crushed to death. It’s actually made me rethink the prospect of… partnering with girls that I would’ve been totally game with in the past. 

Furthermore, the creators also took into account the fact that every fantasy fan has different preferences. Some of the main characters rotate out, but they always go in groups so that you can see how each person reacts to the same… situation. The bulletins they post after-the-fact are actually very well thought out and can be helpful in similar debates that probably take place in this world.

The cast of Interspecies Reviewers is very one-dimensional, making it either a hit or miss. There are technically five(?) main protagonists, however only three of them really get any spotlight. Among those three are Stunk, who’s basically the team leader, and the one who’s the most willing to try anything. He also has a friend named Zel, with whom he frequently disagrees. Lastly is the punching bag named Crim. He’s one of those “looks-like-a-girl” characters, and he ends up suffering in every… interaction that he comes across. I’m fine with their personalities, since the dialogue concerning… events is the big strength of the manga anyway.

Obviously, no ecchi manga is good without great artwork, and Interspecies Reviewers is… a series of drawings, all right. The art is as if Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon put on weight; the girls are in a cartoony, hyper-moe-blob style similar to Kobayashi, but they’re a lot chunkier. The proportions are often very out-of-whack, which might be a turnoff to some people, but I like it. The good thing is that most of these characters are legal adults, so yay for me- I mean- many people that want to project themselves into the story, none of which are me! (Oh, who am I kidding? I previously said that No Game No Life is my favorite LN of all time…)

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Current Verdict: 8.25/10

Interspecies Reviewers is a great ecchi manga that puts a twist on shipping by not causing arguments over which particular character is the best, but over which species is the best. I’d easily recommend it to fans of the genre, but be warned… this is seriously lewd. You better tread with caution if it’s not your cup of tea, or if you just want to complain about it. I just hope the next volume isn’t the finale, because then I’ll look like an idiot with this post.

Sexiled Volume 1 Review

Cover of volume 1

Looking back on human history, I’d say that women’s rights have made some good headway over the years. Now that it’s the 21st Century, their universe is no longer the diameter of the kitchen! But as we close in on the second decade of this century, feminism has once again become a very controversial topic, especially in art, where creators get crap either for including any amount of men at all, or for including only women. Why am I bringing this up? Well, let me tell you. Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out, So I Teamed up with a Mystical Sorceress!, published in English by J-Novel Club, is aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall about the infallible greatness of women! Men SUCK.

So, here’s what happens. Tanya Artemiciov is a young mage who is removed from her squad, which is led by the misogynistic Ryan Daars. Enraged, she fires off more Explosions than Megumin could ever hope to imagine, and frees Laplace, an all-powerful Sorceress who had been sealed for three hundred years. The two agree to extract their revenge on Ryan, and presumably, every man on the planet.

The elephant in the room is obviously the ham-fisted feminism, and that’s emphasized in the extremely biased cast of characters. As you’d expect, the female leads are the main selling point of the series thus far. Tanya is insane, perhaps even more so than a certain loli in the military. She doesn’t just pack a ton of powerful magic, but a powerful vocabulary as well. She curses her goddamn motherf***ing sh**ty ass off (like in this demonstration), and it’s f***ing hilarious for some reason. The writing is so tryhard and I love it!

Laplace is the Best Girl. With her being so powerful, she’s got a massive ego. She can’t stop reminding everyone that she’s an all-powerful Sorceress, even though she’s not supposed to reveal herself as one to begin with. Nadine is the weakest link. She’s a super-low level and is solely recruited because Tanya and Laplace’s average levels were too high for them to be allowed to enter a tournament. Laplace and Tanya are definitely the “Emilia or Rem” of this series (wow, what a comparison to make).

The guys are the actual scum of the Earth, especially the aforementioned Ryan Daars. Most guys in Sexiled don’t have names, and they all have the exact same personalities as Ryan himself; they’re all one dimensionally sexist and don’t think women are ever capable of anything. In fact, the explanation for Sexiled‘s use of the JRPG trope of skimpy female armor is literally because men designed it to be that way. The biggest source of catharsis in this series is seeing Tanya and Laplace continuously one-up the different men of this world and remind them that women are phenomenal and far better than men.

Along with all of that glorious feminism, there is also some lesbianism as well, a.k.a. yuuuuuuuuuuri. Well, at least according to the genre tags. Despite this being a yuri series, this volume of Sexiled only has three smooch scenes and nothing else. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if these girls form their own lesbian brothel and completely boycott men from existence, or better yet, start enslaving men (since that would be so controversial, the reaction would be priceless). But the thing is… this could be a case where the author has the characters vomit feminist dialogue ad nauseum, but use it as a red herring to get women to enjoy a series that will live entirely off of male titillation. I heard that was the whole marketing technique behind Wonder Woman (key word: ‘heard!’ I don’t actually know if it’s true, so don’t quote me on that), so it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if it was the case for Sexiled as well.

The art for Sexiled seems to have more manga-y style despite being a light novel. It’s good, but since this IS yuri, it’s not gonna hold any water until they start illustrating some of said yuri.

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Verdict: 8.75/10

Sexiled is shaping up to be a very controversial light novel series. Probably. Even though the actual writing and the setting aren’t too remarkable, the over-the-top feminism, Tanya’s putrid vocal chords, and Laplace’s narcissism make it hilarious just the same. I can’t tell if it’s by an actual feminist, or by someone who wanted to comment on society’s current state of affairs. Regardless, I whole-heartedly recommend Sexiled if you want to see some actual, legitimate girl power, and not YA’s pretend girl power.

PS: If they actually have Tanya and Laplace fall in love with guys later, I’m going to drop this series like a brick.

Monogatari Series Review, Part 1 of 3

Cover of volume 1 of Bakemonogatari

The Monogatari light novel series is one of the few that have been adapted, in their entirety, into anime form. However, I heard that the show uses an artsy directing style that sounds really distracting and pretentious, so I’ve been reading the light novels instead of watching the anime. Published in English by Vertical Inc., only the first “season” is available digitally. Therefore, I’ve been borrowing volumes from a friend. At the time of this writing, I’m a little bit into the second “season”, according to MyAnimeList. In the meantime, let’s review the first season.

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Bakemonogatari

For those fans who know that Bakemonogatari isn’t the chronological first installment, I’m tackling the light novels in published order. Sorry.

Anyhoo, Bakemonogatari is a setup arc that serves to establish all of the major players by following a distinct formula. The main protagonist, an angsty, existential teen named Araragi Koyomi has to help cute girls who are possessed by various spirits, called aberrations. The aberrations are all representations of actual, real-life human issues, and the solutions to remove them are roughly the same as actually dealing with them in real life.

Since Monogatari is a character study, the characters are of the utmost importance. Best Girl Senjogahara Hitagi is a super tsundere who carries a stapler around. Her insults put a lot of other tsunderes to shame. Hachikuji Mayoi is also a charming character; she roasts Araragi and intentionally mispronounces his name in spectacular ways. Kanbaru Suruga and Sengoku Nadeko aren’t the most remarkable at this juncture, but the former is at least a weird, jealous lesbian. Hanekawa Tsubasa is- at a glance- a Mary Sue and a know-it-all, but the story gives a preview to a much darker side of her at the end of the arc.

Speaking of pretentious, the dialogue of this series had me- scratch that, it STILL has me- at a crossroads. The vast majority of the series is written in an unconventional and very wordy style.
And.
Also, a lot.
And a lot.
Of crap like this.
Right here.
Yeah, I’m not kidding.
Sometimes the dialogue goes on and on and on, where over half a volume can be spent just talking about random stuff. Araragi himself even points that fact out in the actual story. They talk about things from panties, to sexuality, to existence itself. I find some of the dialogue funny, some pretentious, but the sheer amount of it tends to make this series tedious to read at times. And to top it off, there are no page breaks except for the ends of chapters. Get ready to read 30+ pages without rest!

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Kizumonogatari

This is the chronological first volume of the series, and it showcases how Araragi became a vampire (oh yeah, forgot to mention that part in the review of Bake…). It’s a very long volume and it follows a monster-of-the-week formula.

I also forgot to mention the best man, Oshino Meme. Meme is a cool and nonchalant gentleman who serves as an exposition dump for whatever issue is occurring. He always manages to know the problem and the solution before it even occurs, and this chronologically first meeting is no exception.

Kizu is the proper introduction of Shinobu, the vampire whose fate is attached to Araragi, and goes by a much longer name in this volume. When the conflict gets resolved, she becomes a deadpan loli who speaks in “old-timey” talk. I like her, but not as much as some of the the other people.

This volume is the first one that really showcases Araragi’s emotional insecurities. If you’re fascinated by that stuff, get ready for a treat!

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Nisemonogatari

This two-volume-long arc deals with Araragi’s sisters and also questions the meaning of “real” and “fake” as far as identity and existence goes. Personally, I find these types of arcs to be tedious because there is no way to arrive at a clear-cut conclusion to this quandary. Last time I checked, Morpheus doesn’t exist to give you that clear-cut conclusion. It is at least something you can have an endless debate over if you enjoy that kind of stuff.

But regardless of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, the arc introduces some awesome new characters. The Araragi’s Fire Sisters are quirky and strange. Beware, there are a lot of incestuous interactions between them and their brother. Normally, I don’t have a problem with incest in fiction (because it’s, you know, FICTION), but this instance doesn’t add anything to the narrative and tries to justify itself by having the characters explicitly say how wrong it is, while still doing it anyway.

The other newcomers are the first antagonists of the series, such as Kaiki Deishu. But, this blog’s gotten long enough, so I’ll let you experience these awesome character for yourself.

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Nekomonogatari: Kuro

This is the chronological second volume. It delves into Hanekawa’s background and gives you a true introduction to her character arc. It’s a bit lengthy given the actual content of the plot, but that’s nothing new with this series. The only real issue is that content from it is spoiled too much in the last chapter of Bake.

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Verdict: 8/10

It’s a decent enough first impression, even if it’s a bit verbose. Having read some of the subsequent volumes, I already know that it gets much better from here. If you love the human psyche and generally weird stuff, then this light novel is for you!