Exchange programmes occupy a strange space somewhere between education and vacation – people travelling across the world to engage with other cultures for the enrichment of all mankind, while also enjoying local food and sights as a bonus deal. This is a sweet enough deal in the real world – but what if the exchangees were cute monster girls?
Yes, that’s right, anime’s love of cute things that aren’t normally cute strikes again! First we were having interviews with them, now we’re living with them.
In the world of Monster Musume, the Japanese government has actually been hiding the existence of mythical creatures from the general populace for years. One day, they decide to reveal them to the world, and begin a cultural exchange programme – the creatures, henceforth known as “liminals”, will be allowed to integrate with human society while following strict rules: they must be registered with a human guardian; they must only venture outside while accompanied by their guardian; and they must not harm humans.
Kimihito Kurusu is living the average life of a non-specifically aged young adult with pupil-less eyes when he is suddenly saddled with the responsibility of supervising a lamia (snake woman) named Miia.
Now, Kimihito never registered to become a guardian, but being the anime protagonist and generally nice guy that he is decides to look after her anyway. Unfortunately for him, the initially timid Miia falls madly in love with him and makes sure to let him know about it despite the golden rule of the cultural exchange programme – NO NOOKIE.
To make matters worse, Kimihito’s awful (or awesome) luck lands him with a seemingly endless number of additional liminals to take care of – bring on the images!
Needless to say, Kimihito’s (who we’ll now refer to as “Darling”, since everyone else seems to) cozy house becomes positively packed with peculiar personalities – and with Ms Smith and her MON squad keeping a careful eye on the new tenants, there’s no room for mistakes – especially when Darling is tasked with marrying one of them. Because apparently the government can do that?
You would be forgiven for thinking MonMusu was a standard harem anime with a gimmick, because that’s basically what it is. However, the creators of the series treat the gimmick – mythical creatures living in Japan – with such detail and dedication that it becomes completely endearing.
Every single race and permutation of liminal is given a figurative textbook of lore, detailing anything from what centaurs eat to what on earth a lamia’s underwear looks like. It’s this level of detail and the humour that it derives that prevents the series from drifting into the mire of softcore pornography… just.
Yeah, MonMusu is pretty overt in terms of its sexual content, though I personally think it stays in the realm of endearing cuteness, narrowly avoiding tastelessness by virtue of its otherworldly heroines. Still, quite often a simple conversation can suddenly turn into, say, sucking on a nipple, or trying to fish a vibrating phone out of your pants – MonMusu certainly earns and embraces it’s BBFC 18 rating.
Luckily the voice acting of the characters is uniformly excellent in both dub and sub, with stand-outs including Bryson Baugus as Darling, Molly Searcy as Cerea and Courtney Lomelo as Rachnera. I felt like maybe the weakest link was Alison Sumrall as Miia (she sounds a little too old for the part), but that’s getting into the realm of nitpicking.
It’s also nice to see a good hero in a harem anime – too often is the “hero” a weak milquetoast who everyone is attracted to for no good reason. Darling, on the other hand, is kind, caring, and not afraid to stand up for the girls, in one case full-on punching a douchebag bully in the face, sending him crashing through a glass door. It’s awesome.
I’m also impressed by the variety of side characters in the series – obviously, not all species can receive representation in Darling’s meagre household (which gets extended as the series continues, but still), and so are relegated to occasional appearances. My personal favourites are Draco the Dragonewt and Polt the exercise-mad Kobold – both small parts, but memorable ones.
And now let’s talk about the music. Specifically the theme song. It’s a bit like eating an entire packet of strawberry bubblegum at once – it’s poppy, cheery and silly… and I adore it. Even as a dyed-in-the-wool rocker, something about its earnest lyrics and explosively peppy instrumentation resonate with me and never fail to cheer me up.
So overall, what do I think of the series? Well, I think it’s great. While some may be put off by the huge amount of fanservice, that’s never been something that has bothered me. Regardless, aside from the fanservice, the series has a deceptively deep lore, great characters, genuinely funny moments and a solid dub cast that ably matches the original Japanese release.
A bright, breezy series about interesting characters in interesting situations, with a hefty dollop of cheesecake fanservice thrown on top. If you can see past the boobs (or enjoy them as well), there’s a lot to love here.