2020 has been a tough and weird year for all of us. The effects of COVID are still being felt and have already been discussed more than enough. Even in other walks of life, there have been events transpiring which are worthy of note. At the start of the year, jokes were made about a certain manga-adaptation called Interspecies Reviewers being the best anime of 2020 for its ‘philosophical’ content. However, with the end of the year closing in fast, humour might turn into reality.
Interspecies Reviewers is a fantasy sex comedy series adapted from the manga by writer Amahara. As the show comically points out, ‘this wonderful world abound with diversity is naturally abound with a diverse selection of brothels.’ The plot follows a group of adventurers who like to regularly visit ladies of the night. The show opens up with Stunk – a human – having a debate with his companion Zel – an elf – about who is better in bed, a 50-year-old human or a 500 year-old-elf. They eventually decide to settle the argument by having each of their friends of different species write up a review of their own personal experiences. At some point though, they end up posting these reviews and find that writing about their experiences actually makes them a decent amount of money. With gold and women on their mind, the adventurers set out to review each species.
And that’s the whole premise of the show. Over its twelve episode run, Interspecies Reviewers never strays from this basic format, whether they be tangoing with a fairy or a vampire. Each episode is split into two stories, which makes the viewing experience snappy and the show overall doesn’t out stay its welcome. The comedy always feels refreshing. Granted, it also might be a bit too lewd for most audiences just from that description.
It uses a lot of different techniques to get laughs out of its audience. Obviously, there is the sex-based comedy – which is a given for a show like this (one of the first jokes they make is the adventurers introducing a nervous fallen angel they befriend to his first sexual experience.) In addition to some of the dirtier moments, it also has the standard anime comedy trope of referencing other anime, >common in other anime comedies like Food Wars or No Game No Life. It even makes a point of using censorship for laughs, conveniently changing a scene which is too risqué or weird for something more ‘pleasant’.
As for how the show itself was received by the public, it was so popular at one point that it was for a brief time ranked as one of the highest rated anime on the website MyAnimeList.net. Even now, it still has a respectable standing on the list. As for the animation, it is pretty good as far as anime standards go. The people working on this clearly had a passion for the project and worked hard to make it look good in all its titillating glory. Speaking of which, the unrealistic body proportions and bodies defying physics, now a tired trope associated with anime, provide an additional layer of comedy.
Obviously, a show like this is not without its share of controversy. It originally was picked up by Funimation to receive official subbing and dubbing, but the company famously dropped it after getting up to episode three because of the content, much to the outrage of fans of the show.
It also serves as an interesting case study in adaptational changes. While most manga-to-anime adaptations tone down certain aspects from page-to-screen, like violence or gore. A good example of this would be Goblin Slayer, which deals with a lot more adult themes in the manga. Interspecies Reviewer is actually a lot sexier than its book counterpart. Whether it was played to up attract more viewers or if the creators simply thought ‘fuck it’ is a matter up for debate, but it’s a decision which seems to have paid off.
But how did it get so successful in comparison to other anime this year? Well, in addition to its strong comedic writing and solid animation, some of its success can also be related to the COVID outbreak. Like many other industries, animation studios the world over got a huge delay in production thanks to the virus, and many anime projects which were in the works/ due for release had to get pushed back, whether they were new IPs or sequel seasons. Interspecies Reviewers, however, had the good fortune of first airing on the 11th of January, a whole month before the first cases of COVID were officially recorded in Japan.
As for the show itself, I can’t recommend it enough. At twelve episodes lasting about twenty minutes each, it’s a very quick and easy watch. There is a very real chance that you will find it a bit too crude or raunchy, but if you can stomach it, you will definitely get a few laugh out loud moments.
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