What do you get when you mix a lamia, a harpy, a centaur, a mermaid, a living slime, an arachne, and a goody-two-shoes human? Luckily, the answer isn’t another episode of Cooking With Raitzeno. It’s actually a lighthearted, fun show called Everyday Life With Monster Girls! The full Japanese title is Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou, of which the English title is a fully accurate translation, but most fans shorten that to MonMusu. MonMusu centers around a soft-hearted human named Kimihito (literally “You there, the human”) and his misadventures with monster girls living in his house as part of the legal provisions in the Cultural Exchange Between Species Act. His straightforward, stoic nature leaves him as the straight-man to most of the absurd antics in the show, but at the same time he’s not a pushover. On top of surviving daily accidents that really should be fatal, he’s got the strength of will to keep a house full of ‘monsters’ more-or-less in line.
Fun and Funny
First and foremost, MonMusu is a comedy, and it’s a damn good one. It doesn’t take itself too seriously most of the time, and it takes the opportunity to laugh at both its characters and its world. It’s got a cast that bounces off each other brilliantly, a wide array of colorful side characters, and the genre-savviness to successfully poke fun at itself and its contemporaries.
Most of the humor in the show is drawn from slapstick, dirty jokes, or jealousy. The slapstick is especially prominent, with Kimihito (or Darling-kun, as most of the girls call him) being the butt of the jokes. He takes it all in good stride, though, recognizing most of it for the accidents they are.
Suu and Rachnera
Possibly the most fun member of the entire cast, Suu starts off as an unintelligent, almost primal slime, but she quickly absorbs information and eventually turns into a surprisingly crafty character (while still being a bit of an airhead). She also ends up being something of a self-contained Doraemon surprise-box, having a wide variety of useful functions. She steals the scene nearly every episode, usually with either a quick but amusing solution to a thorny problem or a simplistic but brutally effective tsukkomi. And watch out when she absorbs water...
Rachnera is the runner-up for Most Fun Monster Girl. Like many of the characters, Rachnera (or ‘Rach-nee’) starts off as a villain but is quickly charmed by Kimihito. She’s probably the most intelligent cast member, with the possible exception of Ms. Smith, but she also has a mile-wide sadistic streak, so she ends up using her genius for teasing (and tying up) the others or exacerbating situations, rather than helping solve them, fairly often. She’s also a common scene-stealer, and she’s really only trumped by Suu both in that regard and in the general heirarchy of the household.
Smith & MON
Ms. Smith is the hidden driving force behind most of the plot. The vast majority of the girls living with Kimihito were cases that Ms. Smith “lost track” of at some point or another, generally with the full expectation that they’d somehow end up at his place. The show never clarifies whether she’s actually incompetent or, in fact, a manipulative evil genius pulling more strings than Rachnera to get her way – and her way is utter laziness.
Somehow, in a show full of monster girls with interesting and exaggerated bodies in various states of (un)dress, the lone human female manages to be one of the most intriguing. She usually wears sunglasses and a business suit, almost never showing any skin, but she still manages to mess with Kimihito’s heart on a regular basis. She usually does it to tease or incite the other girls to further action, but it’s questionable whether she actually feels anything for him herself. Either way, a surprisingly large portion of the fanbase REALLY likes her. (I place partial blame on her super-sexy voice acting. Damn. I wonder how that’ll come across in the dubs?)
The MON strike team she commands is also a wonderful addition to the show, despite the atrocious contrivance behind the team’s acronym. They’re part behind-the-scenes troubleshooting, part lore/worldbuilding, and part attractive distraction. The show introduces some political finagling early on: Monsters are not allowed to harm humans, and vice-versa. So how do you deal with monster criminals? Well, apparently you hire a crack team of monster asskickers to keep them in line. The fact that each of them is a troubleso— err, amusing personality is just a bonus, right?
The Rest of the Cast
While not as good as the ones I’ve gone into detail about, the entire cast is very well-balanced as a group, and each individual member got a lot of solid character development – with the possible exception of Lala, who simply joined too late. Thankfully, there’s already rumors of a second season, so she’ll be able to catch up later.
The show actually goes about tackling several important real-life issues, which is rather surprising for such an ecchi show.
Much like the X-Men, MonMusu uses the abstract of a different species to both investigate and satirize discrimination. It uses a lot of straw-manning, by way of a Team Rocket-like ‘bad guy’ duo of offensively ignorant douchebags, but they’re obnoxiously believable in their condescension. They usually get their comeuppance physically (or karmically) rather than through coming to an understanding, but expecting a fantasy comedy show to give a realistically acceptable solution might be a bit much.
On top of the discrimination issue, the monster girls have what normal humans may consider ‘nonstandard’ bodies. In a way, it resembles the issues face by people with physical handicaps, eating disorders or glandular conditions, and other such outwardly-noticable conditions. Mero, in particular, rides around in a wheelchair, and thus requires the more familiar handicapped building entrances on top of requiring deep water at home.
At the same time it examines the problems inherent in inter-species building codes, MonMusu also offers something of a body-positive outlook. While tired of being looked down on for being different, none of the girls are really ashamed of their bodies as such. Several of them have rather flippant excuses, like the Doppelganger being “not her real body” to begin with, but it’s kind of interesting that all of the girls are comfortable in their own skin even if not in society. I’m not exactly the best person to ask about sexism, bodyshaming, or any of those sorts of issues, but the show seems to be going for a positive outlook on the whole thing (if you disregard the blatant fanservice).
Harem Tropes: Used ·and Mocked
While the girls do spend an inordinate amount of time fighting over Kimihito’s affections, MonMusu is aware of the absurdity of its harem situation. The show spends a fair bit of time on Kimihito’s indecisiveness, the eventual but impending need to make a final romantic decision, and the possibly fatal consequences of choosing poorly, failing to make a choice... or successfully making a choice. He’s kind of screwed no matter what in some ways, which is really rather accurate once you have that many sides on your love polygon.
Faithful to the Manga
For better or worse, the anime is a near-perfect adaptation of the manga. There’s no filler or character assassination. They barely even cut any dialogue – most of the incidental off-panel commentary is still displayed in tiny fonts off to the side of the screen, and the Monster Girl Encyclopedia entries have been ported (and translated) as ending cards.
On the other hand, the author, Oyakado, originally drew monster-girl h-doujins before getting this series published, so the fanservice quotient is pretty high. It’s not as bad as, say, DxD or Daimidaler, but I can’t really call the show wholesome with a straight face.
Overreliance on Ecchi/Fanservice
An ‘unfortunate’ side effect of both being faithful to the manga and having a high budget is that they spend a whole lot of time animating certain body parts in careful, loving detail. I have nothing against it myself, but it makes it awfully hard to recommend to the general public. Damn near every female character, even if she’s just a oneshot incidental side character, has major fanservice scenes. There’s an entire episode involving Suu and a dryad that’s pretty much just ‘Godzilla Versus Ghidora’ in a topless mud wrestling match. (I almost cannot believe I typed that sentence negatively.) Being that the original mangaka began the series as a few random hentai doujins, it makes sense that he spends so much time on these fictional female bodies, but I can see where it would make an awful lot of people uncomfortable. The incredibly absurd Convenient Censorship is really not helping its case.
While it’s definitely an ecchi show and it has some flaws, MonMusu is a hilarious and fun show that’s well worth your time. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s well-paced, and it’s strangely beautiful.
Header gif by Tim C.