Moetan vs. Inu x Boku SS

Moetan vs. Inu x Boku SS

Moetan VS. Inu x Boku SS

Watched via fansubs and Crunchyroll

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Moetan is an anime adaptation of the wildly popular and totally bizarre English language study aid of the same name, published by SansaiBooks in Japan. The original guidebooks have become so popular that there is also a CD, DS game, and apps for your phone! Despite its popularity and marketing, the franchise has little to do with teaching a native Japanese speaker to speak proper English. The word and topic choices are heavily influenced by otaku culture, and do little more than teach one how to speak a weird amalgamation of otaku Engrish.

A study guide may seem like an odd place to start when designing a television show, but the basic plot works surprisingly well, especially for the genre. Nijihara Ink is a typical high school girl, who has a crush on her classmate. Life is tough for her, being trapped in a body the size of a six year old, and falling on nothing constantly. Ink, however, gets her chance to shine when a perverted wizard gets blasted into her world and offers to turn her into a magical girl. Having little talent at anything, she decides to squander this opportunity by helping her crush, Nao-kun, study English while in disguise.

In typical magical girl fashion Ink ends up having a rival both in magic and for the heart of Nao-kun. Her dear childhood friend Sumi Kuroi also is desperately fighting for his affections. Meanwhile the magician from the beginning, Ah-kun, is being sought out by an evil doer who wants to get revenge. Somehow all of these topics and much more get covered in thirteen episodes. The finale takes on a weird twist as everyone and their younger sisters get turned into magical girls, and inexplicable mecha battles commence. As nonsensical as it all may be, it somehow manages to mellow out the over-the-top moe, and leave the show with just a bit of real otaku humor.

I just…don’t know how you got through this show with such a boring, cliché premise. Maybe it tries to be funny, but I can’t see it saving the show from the magical-girls-fighting-over-a-lame-guy plot.

PLOT: Inu x Boku SS is one of those shows that has too many premises for its own good. To begin with, there are descendants of demons running about Japan who use the purity of their demon blood to create a hierarchy amongst themselves. Some of these demon descendants live in the “Maison de Ayakashi” apartment complex, where they’re protected from attacks and use the services of Secret Service bodyguards, who are others with less demon blood who serve those with purer blood.

The main character here, Ririchiyo, is an extremely shy girl who has a hard time interacting with others because she spent most of her childhood being neglected and abused while she was worshipped for her demon blood. Despite being shy, though, Ririchiyo has a very sharp tongue and lashes out when she feels uncomfortable. She’s surprised to learn that she’s been assigned an SS agent, so she’s quite rude to him, but Soushi’s extremely dedicated to her and takes everything she says with a smile. It gets rather ridiculous at times, but his goal is to repay her for a childhood kindness, and he does everything he can for her.

From there, Inu x Boku SS goes off in two different directions. There are some early hints about Soushi’s past and the reasons for his dedication to Ririchiyo, but those aren’t fully resolved until the last few episodes. Until then, the show squanders its short run (twelve episodes!) with a bunch of filler episodes that follow Ririrchiyo and the other inhabitants of the house doing everything you can possibly imagine and then some. In particular, there’s an overabundance of jokes about S&M tendencies among the main characters, even though these stop being funny the first time they crop up. This split focus also makes for some weird pacing, as the show dabbles about for nine episodes, and then—bam!—needs to wrap up something before it finishes.

I really dislike series that focus on being born into a role of submission to someone else. It’s unrealistic to think someone would just adapt to their situation so obediently. I suppose it may explain itself later, from what you say, but from the get go it looks like escapism and ridiculous wishful thinking at its core.

SETTING: There are two worlds that exist in the Moetan universe. First the show starts off with Ah-kun in a magical kingdom. He is shown to be the strongest magician there, but gets banished after being framed for something he didn’t do. He ends up in Ink’s world, and decides to turn her into a magical girl. Her powers are decided based on her own skills, therefore all she can do is fly and change outfits. Therefore the magical girl routine is mostly there for comedic effect and has no real standing on plot development. Actually it has more to do with fanservice than actual world building. A chief amount of time is divided up between the girls to showcase their lengthy transformation scenes. Which are humorously stereotyped and highly derivative.

While the girls are not transforming they are going to school or to each other’s houses. Ink in particular tends to go to Nao-kun’s house in disguise to help him study so he can get into college. Like I said before, the plot and setting are fairly standard, but that’s what makes the franchise so easily adaptable. The end of each episode even has a little teaching corner where you can learn some of the phrases used presumedly in the books.

SETTING: The main thing that makes Inu x Boku SS stand out from other supernatural anime is that the characters handily all live in their own apartment complex with Secret Service agents, so there’s no other reason needed to bring them together. The apartment complex is lavish, as befits the rich inhabitants, and is several stories tall, even though only a handful of people live there. The house has also been specially designed for its denizens, making it a good location for what conflicts actually made it into the anime, though it also seems like an incredibly unrealistic place. Though Inu x Boku SS takes place in modern-day Japan, the Maison de Ayakashi pushes the bounds of real-world believability.

Outside of the apartment complex, the show mainly features the characters going to school or thinking about their upbringings. This backstory also allows for interesting development of setting, where we get to see where the characters grew up and how their lives were influenced by their demon blood. This is the most intriguing aspect of the series, and it’s a shame that it wasn’t able to spend more time looking at the home life of all of the main characters.

CHARACTERS: Nijihara Ink is the main protagonist of the series, which is a bit different, from what I can tell, from the books. Rather than projecting yourself onto a main male lead, we instead follow the life of the main “love interest” as she courts him. Ink was granted magical powers, so transforms into Pastel Ink in order to teach Nao-kun lessons in English. Overall she’s rather a hopeless character. She has no development over the course of the show, and just continues to painfully pine over Nao-kun while naively trying to retain her friendship with Sumi.

Sumi Kuroi used to be best friends with Ink, but I guess decided to hate her because of their rivalry over Nao-kun. Really, why that guy? Anyways, she’s your typical one dimensional tsundere character who wrecks havoc on Ink’s life. There is a bit of development between the two girls as they rehash their long lost friendship, but ultimately no one cares.

Ah-kun’s probably the most “interesting” character with his double life. While in Ink’s world he takes on the form of a duck, but his real form is of a tall and slim long haired man. He’s an extreme pervert with a lolicon fetish who constantly drools at the sight of Ink and her friends. Because of his backstory he’s caught up in a revenge plot that ends up being more of a love story. I found this angle to be the only real development between characters, and even then it was quite painful to watch it unfold because all the sleaziness.

CHARACTERS: I’m torn when it comes to the characters of Inu x Boku SS, because they’re what got me through the entire show but also made me want to leave it in frustration. This series’ main characters were all clearly designed to fit into certain anime archetypes and to pander to different fans, so basically half of the characters appealed to me, while the other half did not.

Let’s start with Ririchiyo and Soushi, both of whom I liked. Though they’re both hiding things and struggle dealing with people, I find both of them interesting because they’re clearly dealing with a lot of childhood trauma and working their best to be better people. Ririchiyo’s a tsundere (or tsunshun) who’s very self-conscious about this aspect of her personality, and I appreciated seeing her work so hard to overcome her defense mechanisms. Soushi, on the other hand, is almost comically dedicated to Ririchiyo, but he gets serious enough at some moments that I lasted through the series to understand his personality better. To the show’s credit, his storyline had a solid payoff, but I’m not sure it was worth all the filler in the middle.

The show also has a variety of secondary characters, some of whom I found entertaining or cute (like the tanuki and skeleton residents), while the other three drove me up a wall because they just weren’t funny. The biggest offender is also Ririchiyo’s fiancé, who runs around deciding if people are sadists or masochists in a loud, distracting, overly fetishized way. There’s also the standard woman who gets extremely turned on by other women and is unrealistically vocal about it. Finally, there’s the guy who wears rabbit ears and is creepily interested in things and pushes boundaries. He means well, but he enjoys everything too much and kind of creeps me out. Plus, he’s best friends with the S&M guy.

Right…none of these characters sound interesting or redeemable at all. Maybe if I was still in middle school and obsessed with Gothic Lolita, but the designs and personalities are just too over the top. I’m also a bit biased because I hate seeing characters with too different of powers all in the same place. It all just ends up feeling random and aimless.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The colors and character designs are bright and vivid and look like they could pop right out of the screen. The color palette definitely looks like a children’s show, as do the character designs, but don’t let that fool you! As you can probably imagine from a show with “moe” in the title, a good portion of the show is dedicated to loli fanservice.

The show is filmed in a way to make it look and sound like a typical children’s magical girl show, except that there is a LOT of T&A shots. It’s enough to make you feel sick when you’re constantly seeing “young women” sexualized who look like they’re six years old. Fortunately for Moetan, the humor in the show makes up at least for some of it, so it feels just a little little bit like parody, and not like a smut fest. Ironically the show has a couple of meta clips having the “studio” producers talk about how they probably shouldn’t have made it so trashy. Makes you wonder what was really going on behind the scenes.

I can’t believe you aren’t mentioning the lengths to which the character designs go to make sure you know the girls are young and helpless. For example, Pastel Ink’s supposed to have thigh-high socks, but one of them’s constantly around her ankle because she’s that’s helpless. Why is this appealing to anyone?!

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Inu x Boku SS wanted to make sure it was appealing to anyone who might be interested in watching it, so everyone’s attractive and the show works very hard to be pretty. It has an attractive art style that’s kind of bland because it doesn’t have anything original to it. The characters visually all fit into some kind of fetish or other, and the show does everything it can to emphasize these traits via costuming. For example, Ririchiyo’s constantly in clothing that highlights her legs, while Soushi and the other SS agents have these little half-gloves that are only there to look pretty. Yes, this all looks very attractive, but it also made me conscious of how hard the show was trying, which I found off-putting.

The animation’s also nice in a bland way, where it doesn’t push boundaries or look awful. It’s in that middle ground of being workable, especially for a show like this, without doing anything memorable. That doesn’t mean it’s clunky at all, but animation for niche shows like this is generally pretty solid, so Inu x Boku SS fits right in with the competition.

OVERALL: Moetan is bad, but it’s hilariously bad. This train wreck of moe knows exactly what it is and owns it. This show took a wildly popular book series and turned it into a wonderfully cheesy moe anime that panders to otaku just as well as the original format. If you watch Moetan you’ll learn some bad English and see more fan service than you’d probably like to. The plot, setting, and characters are all very weak, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter for this sort of series. Furthermore the show is funny and does manage to bring in a lot of otaku culture into the mix. If you do lower your standards enough to watch this, you’ll find yourself repeatedly groaning over how idiotic and stereotypical the references are, but that’s okay, because you’ll at least smile while doing it.

Now I know the audience for this is probably small, so don’t even try this show out if you have no tolerance what-so-ever for fanservice and moe. This is exactly the sort of thing most people hate when they say they hate all of that. However, if you like comedy and like to laugh at pandering moe, give it a shot, even if it is only to be “ironic”.

I don’t think I have enough irony in me to watch this show and enjoy it. I’d probably be facepalming too hard over the horrible, horrible character designs.

OVERALL: Inu x Boku SS’s biggest problem is that it’s trying too hard to please too many people, so it loses its potential to be anything more than vaguely entertaining. It has a good premise, but then it layers on so many plot ideas and over-the-top characters that it has a hard time figuring out what it wants to do. By the time it let its characters run around for so many episodes, I was almost ready to give up on it but really wanted to know Soushi’s backstory, so I stuck it out. I can’t say the time was worth the reward, especially since most of those middle episodes are pretty weak, but I still find myself oddly drawn to Inu x Boku SS. I know the anime tried too hard and was mediocre, but the manga might be better, right? Except then I would have to slog through the same bad secondary characters, and I don’t think I have that tolerance left in me.

If you aren’t as tired of fanservice-heavy jokes and think S&M is hilarious, while also wanting a story with a fun supernatural romance, I’d say give this a shot. It definitely has its weak points (half of the show!), but I still have a fondness for its main couple and some of the secondary characters. Just don’t expect it to deliver on the early promise it shows for a strong plot.

So basically I can just wiki his backstory and save myself the extra effort? I can see some potential in the two main characters, but a lot better shows also have the same potential, and don’t squander it.

FINAL SCORE: (7/10) FINAL SCORE: (7/10)
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