2130: Scrub Up


I’ve been watching Scrubs on Netflix recently, because somehow, despite E4 showing it nearly every minute of every day for several years (the other minutes being taken up by Friends) I’ve never actually seen the whole thing all the way through. I’ve seen most of it, but I’ve not seen the later seasons in particular.

Scrubs is an interesting show in that it strikes a good balance between comedy and drama. It’s not a show that you can particularly pigeonhole easily, because it’s experimental and strange and isn’t afraid to have one-off episodes exploring interesting, weird concepts. In many ways, it’s a bit like earlier shows that took a similarly experimental approach in a fairly mundane setting — I’m thinking stuff like Ally McBeal here — but it very much has a feel that is all its own.

One of the reasons I’ve been enjoying it so much recently is because I’m finding protagonist JD to be quite relatable, in a number of different ways. In particular, his naiveté and hesitance to truly join the “adult” world — even when confronted with challenging situations, such as those that he faces in his job as a doctor every day — are very familiar feelings to me, and as JD gets older over the course of the show’s complete run, it’s almost comforting to see that he doesn’t really get any more comfortable with being a “grown-up”; although he’s only a fictional character, it’s nice to know that the way I feel sometimes isn’t entirely unfamiliar to others!

Scrubs is also fun for the fact that it captures the atmosphere of working in a stressful environment rather well. There are people who handle stress with aggression and impatience — particularly if, like in Dr. Cox’s case, they’re dealing with other issues alongside anything that crops up at work — and there are people who deal with it using humour. There are some who take the humour further and confront difficult concepts by making use of black humour, and there are others who, at times, allow emotions to get the best of them. And then there are those who are able to leave all the troubles and difficulties of the working day behind them the second they walk out of the door; while this is arguably the best approach for one’s mental health, is this really the best thing for those you are taking care of?

To cut a long story short, then, watching Scrubs on Netflix has given me an appreciation of why this show has remained so consistently popular since it first appeared in 2001. I haven’t yet seen the notoriously different final season, though I’m curious to, even if it’s as much of a shift from the original format as it apparently seems to be. Even if it’s rubbish, though, there’s plenty of good stuff in the preceding seasons, and it remains timeless television that I can see remaining relevant to many people for many years to come yet.

2043: This Would Go Great with Cola

0043_001One of the highlights of the current anime season is Himouto! Umaru-chan, a rather odd little show that takes the Squid Girl approach of splitting each “episode” up into several shorter little vignettes in which nothing really happens, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Umaru (as I shall refer to it hereafter for simplicity’s sake) is a show that exemplifies the Japanese concepts of honne and tatemae, these being a person’s “true feelings” and their “public face” (or, literally, “facade”) respectively. Title character Umaru is the very model of beauty and respectability when she’s out in public: she’s the darling of her whole school, always gets the best grades, is good at sports and is respected by everyone. Back home, however, she’s a lazy slob who sponges off her long-suffering brother and sits around in her hamster hoodie playing games and drinking cola all day.


Umaru highlights this contrast by literally changing the character’s appearance when she switches from one “face” to the other. When she’s out in public being the beautiful and respected Umaru-chan, she’s the epitome of moe — long, flowing hair; big, sparkling eyes; a calming, gentle voice — but when she gets back home she immediately becomes represented by a short, aggressive, chibi character that is cute in an entirely different way to “full-size” Umaru. Her behaviour and mannerisms are completely different, her voice becomes louder and more forceful, but it’s abundantly clear that this is when she’s at her happiest.

As the series progresses, Umaru reveals a third persona: that of the elite gamer “UMR”. UMR is something of a balancing act between the two extremes she had previously exhibited up until this point; she’s realistically proportioned and acts like a normal human being, but is passionate and enthusiastic about gaming — not to mention in possession of some serious skills. UMR is by far the most naturally likeable of all Umaru’s personalities since she tends to keep things fairly low-key — she even dresses considerably more conservatively than her “ideal schoolgirl” persona — but is also a lot more honest about who she really is.


The idea of the necessity of putting up a facade for the rest of the world to respect you is a defining characteristic of the series, and it’s not just Umaru who exhibits this. Umaru’s friend Ebina, for example (above), is an attractive, busty young girl who draws the eyes of everyone around her, but she’s afraid to open her mouth in case her country bumpkin dialect slips out, as it occasionally does when she’s feeling at ease and comfortable. Likewise, recurring character Kirie is completely unable to approach moe Umaru at school, despite wanting to, but she manages to bond with lazy slob Umaru — whom she actually believes to be Umaru’s younger sister, just to complicate matters — over games, cola and laziness.

Over time, these characters all become better defined, and their different personas start to merge into one another. I’m interested to see whether or not the series intends to “say anything” with this concept by its conclusion, or whether it’s simply going to continue using them for comic effect. Either way is fine by me; Umaru is not the kind of show that particularly feels like it needs to have a strong moral message — though I won’t deny it will be somewhat satisfying to see the precocious little slob version of Umaru get her comeuppance for taking her poor brother for granted by the end of the run!

Regardless of how it ends, Himouto! Umaru-chan has been a really fun series so far, and I hope there’s more in the future.

2020: Original Content

0021_001I’ve been watching a fair bit of Netflix’s original content lately. I’ll freely admit that I’d been resistant to the idea of an online service’s exclusive content through irrational prejudices, but I’m pleased to have been proven very, very wrong indeed.

Let me explain those irrational prejudices first.

I grew up in a bit of a golden era of TV, full of popular shows ranging from Friends to Star Trek: The Next Generation via Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. These shows ran for a long time, attracted passionate fanbases and, in many cases, were big-budget productions that put out some impressive stuff on a week-by-week basis. Conversely, in the early days of Internet video, Internet video series tended to be done on the cheap; there’s nothing wrong with that per se, of course, but that cheapness didn’t just extend to production values — it also extended to quality of talent in all aspects of the production. A side-effect of the whole “suddenly everyone is a content creator” aspect of Web 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever it is we’re on now.

So, then, I didn’t make much of a habit of watching regular Internet video series for quite some time. To this day, there are very few YouTube series that I follow, and I generally preferred to grab a DVD or Blu-Ray box set of a favourite TV series and binge-watch it over the course of a month or two. No waiting for new episodes, no having to watch according to someone else’s schedule — just literally content on demand.

With my lack of involvement in Internet video, then, I maintained the assumption that Internet-exclusive video would be cheap, shitty productions that weren’t really worth bothering with. I even continued with this assumption as people started praising Netflix’s first original series House of Cards — largely because the subject matter didn’t really interest me — but just recently, I’ve finally come around to it, and I’m impressed.

The two shows that have made me a believer in Internet-exclusive content and convinced me that Netflix is absolutely a contender in the original TV programming department are Bojack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I watched both on the recommendations of other people, and both have been highly enjoyable, not to mention well up to the standard of the stuff you get on TV or in DVD box sets.


Bojack Horseman is an animated show about a washed-up ’90s sitcom veteran who just happens to be a horse-man. Not like a centaur, he’s just literally a dude with a horse’s head. Over the course of Bojack Horseman, we’re introduced to a number of different characters, some of whom are regular human beings and others of whom are, like Bojack himself, anthropomorphised animals. This is a wonderful source of comedy: for the most part, the animal people act just like normal humans, but just occasionally — just often enough to be funny without feeling like a forced joke — they’ll exhibit some sort of behaviour that their animal counterpart would do.

Bojack Horseman isn’t just cheap laughs, though. It’s one of those “adult animation” shows that looks ridiculous and silly on the outside, but which has a heart underneath. Bojack is a deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic character struggling to come to terms with the fact that he 1) isn’t as famous as he used to be and 2) might actually be a horrible person. The series explores his character in great detail — partly through the eyes of his biographer Diane — and we learn a great deal about him. He’s certainly much more than — and I’m sorry — a one-trick pony.


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, meanwhile, is a live action show from the pen of Tina Fey. It concerns a young woman who was kidnapped and kept underground for fifteen years by a ne’er-do-well claiming to be a “Reverend” saving them from the Apocalypse. Since Kimmy was kept sheltered from all of existence for these fifteen years, she knows pretty much nothing about how the world works, and gets into numerous entertaining misadventures in New York as a result.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, like Fey’s other work, is sharp, quick witted and frequently scathing. Kimmy is lovably naive without being irritatingly stupid, and the supporting characters are all strong in their own right — albeit often being somewhat exaggerated caricatures. It’s a show in which not a great deal actually happens from one episode to another, but the whole thing has a ton of heart and soul to it, and the entire story arc is nicely and neatly wrapped up by the end of the run. I wouldn’t be averse to another season of it, but the beauty of it as it exists right now is that it doesn’t really need one, since it’s told Kimmy’s story pretty much from start to finish over the course of 13 episodes.

And that’s sort of the beauty of what Netflix is able to do here. Without the pressure from networks and advertising, the teams coming up with this stuff have a lot more freedom than they would if they were composing for traditional television. This, in turn, allows them to be a lot more experimental, daring and interesting with what they’re coming out with, and we’re already starting to see what a positive effect that has on output.

I’m over my prejudice towards Internet-exclusives, then — though a ton of YouTube-exclusive stuff is still a load of old wank — and am now much more inclined to check out Netflix’s original content than I would previously have been. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more of Bojack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s calibre in the future, and I’m looking forward to watching them when they appear.

2010: Monster, Monster, Mon, Mon, Mon, Mon, Monster

0011_001One of the highlights of the current anime season for me right now is Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls (typically shortened, as appears to be the custom nowadays, to MonMusu).

MonMusu is a show that I wasn’t sure about when I first heard the concept. I enjoy a harem-type show, I enjoy fanservice and I enjoy slice-of-life, so all the ingredients were there to interest me, but one thing made me hesitate a little: the “monster girls”1 part.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go back on the thousand and one rants I’ve made on the subject and brand it “creepy” or anything, but the idea of monster girls is an aspect of anime that I simply don’t have much experience with. Typically, I’ve found the harem/fanservice/slice-of-life shows that I’ve enjoyed the most in the past to have characters that I either find relatable or so overflowing with moe that it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. And, I assumed, part of this would be dependent on me finding them physically attractive.

Papi’s introduction in the original manga.

The reason why I was hesitant about the idea of monster girls is that they’re a peculiar, striking phenomenon — at least as they’re depicted in anime. The girls of MonMusu are all relatively typical, pretty anime girl tropes of various descriptions “up top” — Miia is a ditzy, adoring “childhood friend” type, Papi is a loli, Centorea is a haughty, aloof, “presidential” type with huge knockers — but below the belt they’re… well, monsters. Miia is a lamia, Papi is a harpy, Centorea is a centaur.

If you, like me, have no experience with the concept of monster girls, this is initially jarring. Miia, the first to be introduced, is a delightfully adorable (if somewhat clingy) character… and then you look down and she has several meters of giant, thick, scaly snake tail. Papi acts like a little kid despite being a lot older than she looks… but she has wings instead of arms and bird legs. Centorea… well, her arse is a horse. This takes some getting used to — with no small amount of thinking “i-is it all right to find them kind of hot…?” along the way — and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people out there who fall at this first hurdle.

But it may not surprise you to find out that this reaction is, I feel, entirely intended, and in fact a core aspect of MonMusu as a whole. The overall concept for the show concerns “non-human” individuals such as the aforementioned (and a few others who will be introduced in later episodes) engaging in cultural exchange with human society, primarily through homestay visits such as those foreign students sometimes do in the real world. The show’s protagonist, as harem shows tend to go, finds himself with a house gradually filling up with chaotic monster girls, and having to come to terms both with their ignorance about aspects of human society and his own feelings towards them.

monmusuuuProtagonist Kurusu is a remarkably tolerant individual who takes most things in his stride — and he proves himself early on to be a dependable, reliable sort of person who stands up to people he feels are “wronging” those that he cares about. The main concept of MonMusu is, of course, a thinly-veiled racism allegory, and Kurusu represents an idealised interpretation of what a truly tolerant, inclusive sort of person should strive to be. He doesn’t treat the monster girls any differently to how he would treat human girls; he doesn’t refer to them as “monster girls”; he’s patient and he explains things to them when they don’t understand — which is pretty often, as you might expect. But he’s not perfect, either; he’s a young man who has no experience with women (and even admits outright that he’s a virgin in an early episode) and consequently has hormones going pretty crazy in his body — particularly as the girls engage in provocative behaviour or fight over his affections. He’s a good protagonist for this type of show, in other words — and mirrors the journey the audience goes on as they overcome the initial hurdle of trying not to judge the monster girls by their “monstrous” aspects and instead see them as just people.

There’s a lot to like about MonMusu so far — and, like most anime shows I’ve watched that initially seem to be fairly throwaway, dumb fun on the surface, there’s a lot more going on than there might appear to be at first glance. I’m really interested to see how it develops, and I’m no longer concerning myself with whether or not I’ll have developed some sort of snake fetish or the like by the end of the season!

1 Monster Girl: Girl inspired by mythological creatures; a mermaid would be a popular, recognisable example. Instances in MonMusu range from lamia (snake-tailed woman) to centaur (human head and upper body, horse legs and lower body) and some sort of scary spider lady thing.

2007: Rias is Love

0008_001In between the “current” anime shows I’ve been trying to keep up on this season, I’ve been gradually working my way through High School DxD (no, I still don’t really know what the DxD is for — likely something to do with devils) and like it more with each episode.

It’s very much an acquired taste — it’s very in-your-face with its nudity and violence (particularly the former; the latter isn’t especially gory as such, but it can be pretty brutal, and there are some fairly strong and unpleasant threats made at the very least) and consequently both of those things are something you have to be 100% on board with before watching, but if you are, it’s a wild and thrilling ride with some stunning fight scenes, an amazing soundtrack and some extremely memorable characters whose “iconic” status in the world of anime fandom is well-deserved.


I’ve found High School DxD an interesting show to watch because it’s one of the few anime I’ve watched to date that is largely action-focused rather than slice-of-life. I’m a big fan of slice-of-life, because it appeals to that part of me that is fascinated by watching relationships unfold (and, sometimes, collapse) but as my love of JRPGs and Japanese shoot ’em ups in the video gaming world will attest, I’m certainly not averse to some high-octane action, too, and High School DxD delivers that in spades.

One thing that feels a little jarring when you first come across it in a show like this is how much like a Japanese role-playing game the action sequences are. I don’t literally mean that they’re taking it in turns to do things, but they do do things like shouting out the names of their moves, unleashing attacks that level the surrounding scenery and take impacts that would flatten a real human being in an instant. It’s a particularly Japanese stylistic element — Western superhero-type stuff, which is kind of the closest equivalent, doesn’t seem to be quite so overblown in its action sequences except when it’s being specifically inspired by anime (the final battle of The Matrix trilogy springs to mind here) and thus it’s a bit of an adjustment you have to make. Even as a fan of the aforementioned Japanese role-playing games, where this sort of thing is de rigueur, it took a little while for me to embrace the fact that yes, they were doing these things absolutely unironically — and it was awesome.


Special mention should be given to leading lady Rias Gremory here. While the show is a textbook “harem” setup — pervy main character, bevy of beautiful ladies inexplicably throwing themselves at him, eventual and gradual redemption of protagonist into a generally decent person — Rias is a highlight. If this was a visual novel (which it probably is in Japan) then she would be the “true route”. She’s a strong, interesting character with plenty of depth to her that is gradually revealed piece by piece over the course of the show’s episodes. Her relationship with protagonist Issei is intriguing, too; she knows full well that he is overflowing with teenage hormones, and knows just how to take advantage of this fact — but she also clearly comes to regard him with genuine affection.

And yet she’s a devil. This is probably the most interesting thing about High School DxD: it’s a show that centres on ostensibly “evil” characters and portrays them as “the good guys”. And it’s not even portraying them as anti-heroes; when they’re not battling in alternate dimensions to figure out whether Rias has to marry Lord Phoenix, the devils are shown responding to peoples’ requests for help. Okay, accepting a devil’s help does come with a price — making a pact with them — but this is not portrayed as anything that is especially bad for the people involved, and in many cases — particularly when Issei is concerned — the “help” involved is little more than being there for someone who is lonely, or upset, or distressed about something. There is, I feel, some sort of message about religion bringing comfort to those in need here — albeit from the opposite angle to what is typically portrayed.


You may well feel I am reading too much into a show that starts its credits sequence every episode with its entire female cast being completely naked (and concludes each episode with all of them doing various stripper dances) but, as I’ve argued on numerous previous occasions, embracing sexuality in an artistic work doesn’t preclude it from having meaningful things to say — and in this respect, DxD is absolutely more than just fanservice. It’s an exciting, thrilling show that I’m very keen to see more of. Fortunately, I have another two seasons to enjoy yet…

2003: Sound! Euphonium


Anime, as a medium, is most well-known for its more exaggerated aspects. Exaggerated action in titles like High School DxD, Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online; exaggerated comedy in shows like To Love-Ru, Squid Girl and Monster Musume; exaggerated horror in shows like Hell Girl and… uh… some others (horror is one angle I’m not massively familiar with as yet). Even pornographic hentai anime tends to be exaggerated, with participants screaming in pleasure (and usually narrating the action just in case it wasn’t already abundantly clear what was going on) and gentlemen ejaculating with the force of Niagara Falls several times in the space of five minutes without any need for recuperation in between.

Uh, what was my point again? Oh, right. Anime is most well-known for being exaggerated. But occasionally something comes along that subverts your expectations and proves that not only is anime a particularly good medium for this sort of exaggerated action — the use of animation means that you can depict things that are physically impossible and/or impractical to show with traditional live-action special effects, as I discussed some time ago — but it’s also a really solid medium for down-to-earth, human, heartfelt and honest drama.

There are a number of good examples of relatively “low-key” drama anime; the most well-known ones are things like Clannad and AnoHana, which are both notorious for being particularly emotional, particularly towards their conclusions. More recently, I’ve been very much enjoying a curiously named show that was fairly popular last season: Sound! Euphonium, also known as Hibike! Euphonium or simply anime-eupho depending on who you’re talking to on which platform.


Sound! Euphonium is a show, like most anime, about high school kids. (There’s a very good reason for the perpetual use of school as a setting for anime, but that’s a subject for another day.) As the peculiar title suggests, it’s also a show about music. But this isn’t an exaggerated Love Live! kind of affair, where the kids involved have unrealistic goals that they manage to magically attain without any real explanation (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I adore Love Live!) — Sound! Euphonium focuses on the rather mundane experiences of a school concert band.

Sound! Euphonium centres largely on Kumiko Oumae, a euphonium-playing girl just starting her high school career shortly after her middle-school concert band just missed out on attending a national competition. Kumiko is wracked with guilt over her last words to her former bandmate Reina Kousaka, who was utterly convinced that their band deserved to go the distance — Kumiko disagreed and incredulously asked Reina if she truly believed that they would have ever made it to Nationals. Reina, understandably, was upset at this line of questioning, and the two parted on bad terms.

Hibike! Euphonium - 03 - Large 32

Kumiko is surprised to discover that Reina is also attending the high school she chose; she’s surprised because Reina has a great deal of talent on her instrument — the trumpet — and the ambition to compete at a national level. Meanwhile, the school they are both attending has a concert band that, upon their arrival, is best described as somewhat mediocre; Reina had her pick of the prestigious schools in the area, many of which have much better concert bands, but she chose the same one as Kumiko for some reason. It later transpires that the reasons for her decision were something to do with the teacher who takes over coordination of the concert band — and who encourages the students within to push themselves as hard as they can through some harsh but fair methods — and perhaps even something to do with her feelings for Kumiko herself.

What I particularly like about Sound! Euphonium is the fact that it’s one of the most realistic depictions of high school music I’ve ever seen. It takes great care to show characters using their instruments correctly and realistically — and not just while they’re playing them; incidental footage during scenes shows characters cleaning their instruments and performing proper maintenance, too. Having lived the concert band life at school — including some competitions and tours, though nothing at a nationally recognised level — I find Sound! Euphonium’s depiction of this aspect of high school life enormously compelling and pleasantly nostalgic.


One thing it captures particularly well is the inherent romanticism and intimacy I’ve always found in making music as an ensemble. During my hormonal teenage years, the majority of people I found myself attracted to were somehow connected to me through the arts in one way or another — primarily through music. While my feelings were usually unrequited, that never really mattered too much; the thrill of sitting next (or near) to someone I liked and making music with them was usually more than enough. The feeling of “butterflies in the stomach” I’d get on the evening of a concert performance as I shared my nervousness with my friends and the object(s) of my affections was something I found intoxicating and exciting; while it was never the primary reason I enjoyed making music — that was always the simple joy of… well, making music — it was a happy perk.

Sound! Euphonium captures this feeling particularly well in its later episodes. An extremely intimate moment between Kumiko and Reina in one episode in particular makes for one of the most honest, heartfelt scenes I’ve seen in any story for quite some time — and after this scene has taken their relationship to a new level (no, they don’t get it on or anything like that, before your filthy mind starts running away with you, pervert) the chemistry and electricity between these two characters is palpable: every glance between them becomes wistful and lingering; every touch becomes sensual and exciting; every unspoken understanding between them clearly deepens their connection without a single word being said. I haven’t yet seen the entire run so I don’t know how — or if — their relationship resolves itself or pans out, but at the stage I’m currently at, it’s enormously exciting and compelling to see.


Sound! Euphonium is well worth a watch, then, particularly if you’re a fan of somewhat more understated drama. Kumiko is a fascinating character, clearly struggling somewhat with a degree of social anxiety and depression — which, as you may well expect, makes her enormously relatable for me — and her relationships and interactions with her friends and bandmates make for compelling drama. It’s a very honest, heartfelt show, and a marked contrast to the more exaggerated end of the anime spectrum — and for that reason, I have a feeling it will stay with me long after I’ve seen the final credits roll.

2001: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist


I’m keeping up to date with a few current anime series at the moment, partly in an attempt to be able to join in the conversations surrounding them online while they’re relevant, and partly because I liked the look of them.

One that I’ve found particularly noteworthy is called Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist, typically shortened to Shimoseka as an abbreviated form of its original Japanese name Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai.

Shimoseka is an interesting concept. At first glance, it looks as if it’ll be fairly straightforward slice-of-life material, but there’s an interesting dystopian future angle to it. The story is set 16 years after the passing of a law in Japan that made all lewd and coarse material and language illegal, all in the name of public decency and healthy child-rearing. All citizens are fitted with a device which can detect when they’re using inappropriate language or even drawing inappropriate pictures. The price for this lack of freedom is a constant connection to the world’s information at the tip of your fingers — everyone’s wrist sports a neat little holographic computer thingie that acts as the natural extension of today’s smartphones.

The protagonist Tanukichi is the son of a notorious “terrorist”; in actual fact, said “terrorist” was guilty of nothing more than expressing his (sexual) frustration at the prudishness of modern society. We’re introduced to Tanukichi as he starts his new high school life at an institution he’d chosen primarily because of Anna, a girl he liked: a girl who, unlike much of the rest of society, didn’t judge him for being his father’s son, but rather appreciated him for who he is. That was many years ago, however, and she doesn’t initially remember him, so doubtless the series will explore their developing relationship and why she means so much to him.


As Tanukichi makes his way to his new school, however, he encounters “Blue Snow”, another notorious terrorist who habitually shows up clad in nothing more than what appears to be an artist’s smock (with no underwear underneath) and a pair of panties on her face. Blue Snow allows him to flee from an unfortunate misunderstanding on the train to school that could have seen him landed in prison, and Tanukichi is very surprised to later discover that his “saviour” is, in fact, Ayame, a member of the school’s student council who presents her public face as being somewhat quiet, stern and hard to approach.

Ayame’s “public face” couldn’t be further from the truth, however. She has a filthy mind and a foul mouth — plus, conveniently, a device on her elderly flip-phone that allows her to freely use as much coarse language as she likes for just a few minutes each day. Ayame quickly recruits Tanukichi to her cause in an attempt to educate the ignorant masses in the wonders of sexuality and “body-melding”, since the student body is so ignorant of basic biology that it’s clearly going to be a problem for future generations.

Shimoseka is interesting in that it feels like a direct response to several things. In some respects, it feels like it’s an interpretation of Japan’s notoriously low birth rate — modern day Japan’s enthusiasm for erotically charged and explicit material is often attributed to this. In others, it feels like it’s a take on Japan’s curious censorship laws, in which sexually explicit material isn’t outright banned, but instead makes use of the most half-hearted censorship in which things like penises and vaginas are still clearly visible, but blurred out with mosaics. In another sense still, Ayame in particular feels like a literal interpretation of the concept of honne and tatemae, the division of the “private” (honne) and “public” (tatemae) faces: putting up a respectable façade to the world while being as deviant as you like in the comfort of your own home.

shimoseka2Speaking from a Western perspective, Shimoseka feels even more curiously relevant considering the growth in “moral policing” that there’s been over the last few years. Given that Japanese media is often on the receiving end of these tedious tirades from self-appointed “think of the children” moral crusaders, it’s entirely appropriate that it would be a Japanese work that shows the inevitable consequences of allowing this sort of behaviour to continue unchecked. It’s obviously an extreme example, but it’s powerful and relevant given the climate of “criticism” (and I use that term loosely) that we live in today. I find it hard to believe that this angle couldn’t have been deliberate; while Japan generally doesn’t give much of a shit what prudish Westerners think of their pretty cartoon girls with big tits, many creators have doubtless run into these attitudes at one time or another, and Shimoseka has — so far, after two episodes, anyway — acted as an excellent smackdown to such criticisms, albeit in a fairly heavy-handed manner.

So far it’s been a really good show, then. I’m looking forward to seeing more, if only to hear more of the creative obscenities that Ayame habitually hurls forth. Cock-a-doodle-pussy, indeed.