Review: Interspecies Reviewers steelbox BD

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Note: To see episode-by-episode commentary that I did as the series was airing, go here. This review offers more of an overview instead.

Any adult who has ever played tabletop and/or electronic fantasy RPGs has probably wondered at some point where the sex is in the setting. After all, a diverse array of sentient races also makes for a diverse array of sexual possibilities! This Winter 2020 series, which adapts a manga, goes all-out to answer that question. The result is a light-hearted, surprisingly entertaining series so notorious for its explicit content that Funimation dropped the stream of it after only three episodes. (Only Australian streaming service Anime Lab continued with it, albeit in censored form.) Now it is finally available in the U.S. in fully-uncensored form, and it is an absolute delight to revisit.

The premise used here assumes that a fantasy world with numerous different sentient species peacefully intermingling would also have a vibrant and diverse legal prostitution scene, especially when the government’s ruling party (currently composed of orcs) includes fornication as a right in its platform. The series then further postulates that this reality, combined with the presence of magic, would result both in racially-themed brothels and some other creative takes on the concept, such as a golem brothel where you can essentially custom-design your own girl or even a temporary-sex-change brothel. Since succubi are a real thing in this setting, all prostitutes are generically known as “succu-girls” (under the idea that most sentients in the setting have at least traces of succubus blood in their ancestry if one goes back far enough), and of course magic helps prevent diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The story – such as it is – follows human adventurer Stunk and his elf partner Zel, who are frequently joined by the angel Crim (who is stuck in the mortal realm for a while due to a damaged halo) and a fourth member who rotates primarily among a halfling, a beastman, and a lamia. Stunk and Zel get into an argument one night about which type of succu-girl is best and why (Stunk tends to favor appearances, while Zel favors mana quality), so they decided to start writing reviews of the brothels they had visited to formally compare opinions. When they discover that they can make extra money that way, Stunk and Zel make a goal of going around sampling all the different brothel possibilities and writing about their experiences, much to the dismay of Meidri, the bird maiden waitress at their local watering hole, who worries that they are corrupting Crim (who is earning his keep by also waiting tables there).

Each of the twelve episodes features the group’s experiences visiting either one or two brothels. The episodes are not entirely standalone, as characters and circumstances in earlier episodes can pop up in later ones; a brothel recommendation pass that the guys get in episode 2 does not end up getting used until episode 12, for instance. However, any sense of overarching plot is incidental. In fact, the lack of a plot even becomes a gag at one point, as an off-handed reference is made about how Stunk and Zel just happen to save the world from destruction while out recouping their funds from a drinking binge at a brothel which features alcohol fairies. This is not a story with any antagonist, either; a vampire lord that the group encounters (naturally!) winds up going to an undead brothel with the gang, and the Demon Lord – who looks like a 13-year-old girl but is around 10 feet tall – is just campaigning in an election and trying to raise the image of demons, who are notoriously regarded as one of the least-marriageable races. (Exactly what the problem is here is revealed in the last episode, and the reasons behind it are rather amusing.)

Nope, this series is all about the sex, and it is very up-front about it; hell, the first line of the opener song is “I love being a horny bastard!” Expect plenty of nudity, orgasmic moaning, intense sexual situations, and all manner of fetishes, including some you’re probably best off not thinking about much; arguably the most outrageous episode features sexualized egg-laying, including commentary on which races really get into it (including buying the unfertilized eggs at auction), though the scene where one character tries to figure out how to fuck a literal animated skeleton is also an eyebrow-raiser. On a couple of occasions, the series even self-censors, but even then. the production team makes jokes out of it; maybe the single funniest moment in the entire series is a sexual sequence where a mayonnaise jar represents the experiences of one of the characters, and it is arguably far more lewd that way. (I believe someone has made a T-shirt of “Angel Mayo,” and I really, really want it.  

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of all of this is that the content is vastly less seedy than it sounds like it is. That is attributable to two key characteristics, one of which is how enormously creative the series is. This is an extremely well-thought-out concept, one which even considers factors like how patrons at the gender-swap establishment are restricted to the premises until the gender-swap wears off (there’s just too much opportunity for mischief), or how a sexy archmage is using duplicates of herself to surreptitiously collect semen samples for her research while using the payments provided by customers to fund that research. Want to combine a nyotaimori establishment (where food is served on a woman’s body) with sexy fun in a fantasy setting? Have the food cooked on the naked body of a fire salamander succu-girl! The degree to which the series makes female characters who might not normally be considered sexy seem quite sexy is also quite remarkable.

The other key characteristic is how shockingly sex-positive the series is. Yes, many of the characters in the series are prostitutes, but nothing is exploitative about it. The succu-girls never give any indication that any of them are doing this unwillingly, and they are universally shown enjoying the experience. Even one brothel where the characters seem to be taking advantage of imprisoned girls is revealed to actually be a role-play-focused brothel, with the staff shown collectively deciding on what theme to use next in an after-hours scene. In fact, the only ones ever shown having unpleasant experiences are the guys, when they either get in over their heads or get in situations which do not align with their tastes. The closest the series gets to unpleasant sexual content is that the guys do harass Meidri a bit, but they always violently pay for it, too. While doing the episode reviews of the series for ANN, I head from numerous people who said that they didn’t normally like fan service series but liked this one because of that sex-positive aspect, and I understand that it was fairly popular with couples viewing for that same reason. Sure, an argument could be made that this is all glossing over the unfortunately-very-real problems with sex trafficking which still exist in the world, but this is a comedy at heart so it’s not striving for any deep social commentary.

The production effort by studio Passione offers a vividly colorful presentation, one where brothel and character designs get equally creative. One of the most frequently-recurring succu-girls is a 50-something human who may look baggy but has lost none of her verve (and occasionally hosts epilogue pieces ), while others are part-octopus, part-hyena, demonic lust machines, or any number of other wonderfully-conceived designs. The underlying attitude presented here is that the world of sex has something for everyone, no matter your kink or taste in women. One episode even has an incubus come on the scene to stir up trouble. Strong animation and music support also goes a long way towards make numerous scenes remarkably erotic, and the opener (which I think sounds like a Village People rip-off) are both fun and memorable as well.

The steelbox release is, I believe, being offered exclusively by Right Stuf under their adult Critical Mass label, and has warning notices similar to those seen on hentai titles. It is subtitled-only and includes typical on-disk extras like commercials, promos, and separated Next Episode bits, but it does also have a separate disk with the OST and a bundled artbook, which includes storyboards for the opener, episode 1, and episode 12, and a beautiful collection of background art. The most fun extra feature is a trio of short bonus manga, the most interesting of which explains why elves become succu-girls. (The logic is more sensible than you might imagine.) The one about elves could safely be read after the first episode, while the others are best read after completing most of the series.

Ultimately, this series is strictly for adults, but if you are an adult who can appreciate a healthy dose of sex in your anime content, then I highly recommend checking this title out.

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