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.
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.
Protagonist 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.