Seven Deadly Sins is not a bad anime; at least not in the same way you might come out of a movie theatre and exclaim, “well, that sucked”. The writing is functional if somewhat sloppy and occasionally tedious, the story is easy to grasp and most of the characters aren’t difficult to tell apart. You can find Cultured Vultures’ full review here.
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I say all this to ensure you understand the context of my forthcoming argument. Call it a fatal flaw if you like, an aspect of the show that somehow bleeds into everything else and puts a downer on the whole thing. Something that takes Seven Deadly Sins (7DS) from a merely average show to one that’s frustrating and exhausting.
To outline the problem let me first fill you in on the plot: in the ancient magical kingdom of Liones an order called the Holy Knights stand for justice and maintain order in the land. Within the order are seven famous knights called the Seven Deadly Sins, led by a guy called Meliodas.
If you’re bored with this set up already, the show throws in a pretty interesting twist early on. It turns out that a few years ago the Seven Deadly Sins tried to overthrow the kingdom, taking out a whole load of Holy Knights in the process. Without really telling us what happened next we’re informed that all Seven Deadly Sins are now on the magical kingdom equivalent of the FBI’s most wanted list.
The even bigger curveball, of course, is that the Holy Knights are the bad guys and we’re actually supposed to be routing for the Seven Deadly Sins. Even if we’ve seen this sort of thing before it’s a fairly workable premise to build a story around. Our hero is Meliodas as he travels with an exiled princess to reunite his gang of rogue knights, and this is where the problems come in.
See, Meliodas is the biggest creep in the Kingdom and the show doesn’t even realise it. Upon meeting the aforementioned princess, at the time comatose, Meliodas’ first action is to squeeze her boob like a rubber ball. Hilarious apparently. Didn’t you see that? Why aren’t you laughing? Ahem.
Now in anime this would probably be classified as “fan service”: gratuitous shots of cleavage and the like which Japanese animation studios presumably think appeal to a profitable audience of teenage American boys. While it can become frustrating, especially considering just how big Japanese animators believe breasts to be, most anime fans have learned to ignore it. With Meliodas and 7DS, however, it’s impossible to disregard. Trigger warning for the video below:
Meliodas’ lecherous groping is played for laughs and is near unavoidable for the first few episodes. “Oh that’s just Meliodas, don’t mind him if he tries to take your underwear off when you’re not looking, isn’t he a character?”
No, 7DS, he is not. Aside from his constant princess groping, he’s barely got two character traits to rub together. The main dynamic we’re supposed to notice about Meliodas is that he’s known as the “Sin of Wrath”, yet he never seems to get angry. He’s calm, loyal, goofy and heroic – if we were being direct we’d probably have to call him a Gary-sue for the early episodes. Except for the fact that in the real world he’d be considered a sex offender.
The awkwardness is multiplied by a factor of ten with the character of Diane, a leotard wearing giant who would genuinely like a physical relationship with Meliodas. As Meliodas chillingly outlines, though, “Sorry, but it’s not the same if you’re told to do it”. Yes, because getting permission to get physical is such a turn off. Consent clearly isn’t near the top of this guy’s priorities.
As the series progresses, Meliodas’ itchy fingers are scaled back. It’s almost as if a memo came down from someone in marketing telling the writers to cool it. Even so, every few episodes the princess is forced to endure Meliodas as he tries to cop another feel at the most inappropriate moments. It’s hard to imagine this wasn’t intentional either, as if the writers were too lazy to think of any other gag to add levity to their occasional emotional character beats.
Perhaps it’s naïve to expect fan service to vanish from anime completely. That’s not quite the problem with 7DS though. If it was a matter of the occasional cleavage shot it would be frustrating but not outright offensive. In 7DS, the main character is a pervert without even a basic understanding of consent and not once is he called out on this in any meaningful way. The princess is his love interest and that’s about as much permission as he needs (let’s not even get started on how much of a tragic doormat this all makes her seem).
This needs to stop. It’s lazy and gratuitous and not even slightly entertaining to any half decent human being. Anime writers: if you’re trying to write for teenage boys, just remember how impressionable they are. If they see your show’s hero abusing women without consequences, what message does that send? Next time, think before you write.
Cultured Vultures is a site by writers, for writers. We like words.