Welcome, one and all, to the final first round match-up of the 2017 Crunchyroll of the Dice review tournament. As always, before I begin, these are the rules:
- The series must be picked at random
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
- For round one, I use episode 1
- After writing up both episodes, I compare them in different categories to decide the winner
This month, we have two shows that are very different conceptually. With one will win? Who knows. After having our first ever CotD draw last month, I’m pretty sure that anything could happen at this point. So, let’s get this show on the road!
Interviews With Monster Girls
Heading into this one, all I really know about this show is that it involves interviews with monster girls. While I was disappointed with Monster Musume, I do hear that this one is a little more serious and less focussed on fan service, so I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise. Anyway, the episode blurb says that Takahashi Tetsuo, a biology teacher, is fascinated by demi-humans but hasn’t yet had the chance to meet one. That changes when his High School takes on a new math teacher, a succubus named Satou Sakie. Succubus eh? Well … let’s see if it manages to spin that into something interesting.
We open with a snowy scene and a girl smiling and humming to herself. She wanders up to a high school and gets approached by a guy who looks relatively well-built, but in a natural way. She panics and we cut to the opening. Lots of different monster girls are on display here, and the combination of the bouncy music and the chirpy animation does actually make me think that this will be a fairly decent show. There’s no focus on fan service and the characters look like they’re having some light-hearted fun. From the clips, I’m guessing that the girl we just saw is some sort of vampire. Anyway, we return in the morning and the head is talking about there being a new teacher starting but that, as she’s not yet there, he’ll do introductions later. Takahashi is speaking with a colleague, who mentions that Takahashi was interested in demi-humans. Anyway, the teacher turns up, explaining that she had a bunch travel mishaps. There was a car inspection and, weirdly, she mentions a crowded train as a problem. Takahashi picks up on that immediately and the teacher mentions that she’s a succubus.
We get a little run down about how demi-humans are integrating into society and even have a welfare system, which is kinda cool. Discrimination is down, and being a demi-human is just part of who people are now. Takahashi approaches Satou and she gets a bit panicky, and backs away from the offer of a handshake. She explains that she dresses to avoid sexual thoughts and avoids physical contact for the same reason. Takahashi tries to explain himself, but she says that it’s a problem if he just approaches her out of curiosity and scarpers. Another day rolls around and Takahashi bumps into Satou again. He tries to explain himself again, and she apologises instead, then runs off.
The girl from the start of the episode appears and we get a brief flashback to Takahashi, for it was he that she bumped into outside the school, asking if she was OK. She also panicked and ran off, but is now happy to approach him in the school. He asks what she was doing that night and she says that she’d tried on her uniform, got excited, and decided to go to school. Takahashi says that she didn’t have to run off, and she points out that any young girl would if some old guy she didn’t know came up to her at night. Anyway, she has a sick classmate and needs help carrying her to the infirmary. She confirms her name as Takanashi and Takahashi says he’ll come and help. He says that, while a biology teacher rather than a health teacher, he can judge a student’s health by the look on their face … and then we see that the student in question has no head. Instead, there’s an eerie glowing green light coming out of her neck. She’s a dullahan you see. Takanashi has taken the head to the nurse’s office, but the body was too heavy. Takahashi asks if it’s safe to touch the flame and Takanashi says it doesn’t look hot but … and then another sick student comes by on a stretcher, in this case an overheating snow woman. Takahashi asks Takanashi why she’s so calm about all the demi-humans, and she says that she’s a vampire.
Later, Takahashi is a little confused. Takanashi gives him an update and asks if he’s OK, and he says that meeting demi-humans was easier than he thought. She asks if he hates demi-humans and he says that he actually loves them and has tried to meet them before but had no luck. Takanashi is happy that he’s happy to have met her. She also says that the term demi-human is outdated and not cute, so he should just use ‘demi’ instead. Later, we meet Takanashi’s twin sister who is not a demi. Takahashi asks Takanashi if she’d be OK to talk to him about vampires and she agrees, but only if she can hang out in the biology prep room. We also get to see Machi, the dullahan, talking to her friends. She says that she walks to school rather than takes the crowded bus as it can be dangerous with how she’s built.
Takahashi tells us that demis occur due to mutation rather than genetics, which is why one twin can be a demi and not another. Anyway, Takanashi is in the biology room with him because she doesn’t do well with direct sunlight and this room is far more shaded. She reads through some vampire legends and scoffs at the crosses and garlic but does say that a stake through the heart would probably kill her. She doesn’t need to drink blood to live, but often just feels slightly anaemic. Vamps can get around it by having a careful diet of things like liver and onions. She does desire blood, but the government supplies one pack per month to combat the need to drink. Takahashi asks her what she thinks of vamps that can get by without relying on the governmental blood and she says they’re amazing. Takahashi starts to end the interview, but Takanashi wants to continue. She explains that what she meant was that vegetarians get by without eating meat, which Takahashi thinks is amazing, so he simply misunderstood her. He asks if she ever wants to take blood directly and mentions the concept of making people vampires, as the drinking and turning people is what fangs are supposed to be for. Takanashi says that she does want to. She mentions the snow woman and how she likes to cling to her because her body’s cold, but that she thinks her blood may be warm and would love to feel the contrast. We get a brief shot of Takanashi opening the snow woman’s top, then cut back to the interview where she confirms that she thinks about it, but doesn’t do it because the girl would hate her.
Takahashi tells Takanashi that her description sounded erotic, which surprises her as she hadn’t realised. He asks if she ever wants to drink blood from the opposite gender, but she says no. She explains it as being due to never having fallen in love. Takahashi theorises that it represents sexual desire and that she has some reservations with boys. Takahashi is enjoying seeing her approach to life, and it really does come across as genuine, which is nice. He thanks Takanashi for the interview and the bell goes for class. Takanashi stares at the nape of his neck briefly, sneaks up … and pokes him with pencils for a joke. That was actually very funny.
Takanashi bounds up to Machi and starts chatting about how rough it must be having to carry her head everywhere. Machi says it’s not and seems happy that someone has tried to see it from her point of view. Takanashi tells her about her own troubles and another girl wanders up. Machi asks Takanashi where she goes during breaks, and she smiles. We cut to Takahashi, and Machi’s body turns up with a letter thanking him for carrying her body to the nurse’s office. She offers to be interviewed too. Takahashi writes an answer and sends the body back. Just as he did with Takanashi, he tells Machi that she can come by any time. The ending theme cuts in in rainbow crayon style. It’s nice enough as a song. I must say, Monster Musume left me with a lot of reservations about the monster girl genre. That show had so much potential to be a commentary on different cultures, but just got mixed up in so much fan service that it lost the intrigue for me. This has approached things far differently and I love the little changes that it’s made to how demis work. Great work and a big surprise!
I know of this series by name, but nothing else. It’s named after a Beatles album though, so maybe it’ll be a revolution. Of course, it could be named after a Diamond Head album, so I could say that it’s electric, but that may be too obscure a reference. Anyway, we open with the male lead Touya having a nightmare about his girlfriend Yuki. They’re chatting, but then Yuki’s voice fades out under the sound of a heavy guitar riff. She says something about not being able to do something and starts crying. The noise gets louder and the cups and saucers in front of the pair get blown towards a crowd. They’ve apparently been having tea in front of a rock concert performed by a rock star standing on a giant Subbuteo figure stand. Finally, Touya wakes up to see his girlfriend being interviewed on TV. Touya suddenly realises that it’s noon and starts getting ready for the day while Yuki talks about her aspirations as an idol. From the sound effects, Touya does manage to wash, which is good. He leaves and we cut to the opening. Thus far, the animation reminds me a little of Oh My Goddess! which is no bad thing. The opening theme is pretty classy with its piano and strings backing and a vaguely familiar vocal styling and melody.
And we’re back. But Touya won’t be. Not to work anyway, because he’s been fired for being late. There’s some really nice background music going on here. So, Touya heads off to university and bumps into Yuki en route. They talk a little and Yuki is a bit self-conscious about the whole TV thing. Yuki’s manager turns up to pick her up and she leaves. It feels a little strained as a relationship there. Back inside, Touya bumps into some fellow students – Misaki and Akira – and Misaki gives him a book of poems to read. Touya talks about Yuki with Misaki and she says he’ll hardly be able to see Yuki now that she’s getting busier. Touya mentions that he’s going to be a tutor. Later, Touya is walking with Akira, and tells him to go after Misaki as he clearly likes her. They have a minor argument and there’s a bit of reaching from Touya about fate and his subconscious. Suddenly, Haruka, a short haired girl on a bike, turns up and tries to get Touya to go for a walk. Since he now has a new job thanks to Akira, he says no. Akira offers to play tennis with Haruka and she starts to cycle off, with Touya giving chase. She stops and tells him that she was responsible for him meeting up with Yuki on the way to the university. Akira catches up after she cycles off and apologises to Touya, accepting that her reaction was due to something happening to her brother, and noting that she hasn’t played tennis since. Akira is worried about her, stating that she seems to be disintegrating. Touya gets angry, saying she’s always been like that, which seems an odd over-reaction. They talk about Yuki again and how little Touya gets to see her thanks to her status as an idol.
We cut to someone walking through a hallway and saying hello to a group of idols. She notes that they’re tamer than normal and thinks that that’s a bad sign. The woman wanders up to Yuki’s dressing room and finds that her outfit has been ruined. The woman is an idol named Rina, and she soon finds that the girls she passed, a group called Sakuraden, made Yuki go and buy them juice, then wrecked her outfit while she was out. Rina asks Yuki’s manager why she didn’t go to buy it, and she apologises, saying she’d just stepped out. Rina wonders if this is revenge for something that happened last week with her as she’s Yuki’s sempai. She offers to speak to the producer, but Yuki wants to battle on. Meanwhile, Touya is at work in a bar, the same as Akira. A musician, Eiji, leaves the back of the bar having written some music. Touya recognises him as something to do with Yuki and runs outside, but was surprised to see that Yuki wasn’t there. Akira says that they can go, but Touya says that he can’t accept the boss’s money because they haven’t had a single customer. Akira says he should speak to his father then, but Touya doesn’t have a great relationship with his father. He gives in though and calls his father to say that university has been hard and he hasn’t been able to work much so … he hangs up on him.
So, Touya goes home to watch TV. Off in idol land, we see Rina scolding Sakuraden live on air while Yuki and her group sing back-up. Meanwhile, Yuki is on some sort of game show. Touya’s phone rings and it’s Yuki (the shows were pre-recorded). They chat, but it all feels a little distant. We see that Yuki and her group salvaged the situation by all modifying their outfits to look edgier and get around the damage. They talk and talk with some sad music in the background and a lot seems left unsaid. We cut to Rina and Yuki, and Rina gives her the thumbs up. She says that she wants to see Yuki’s boyfriend. Back at Touya’s place, the doorbell rings, and it’s … the end credits. The ending theme is as classy as the opening theme, and features some water colour pictures of the cast and youngsters. Well, that was not what I expected from the show at all. It was certainly gloomier anyway.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The battles will be: Best Opening Episode (in terms of achieving the goal of setting the series up), Best Character, Best Individual Scene, Best Storyline, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
So, here we have two different approaches to the same goal. For Interviews With Monster Girls, this entailed introducing the core cast and setting the tone in terms of how the interviews work and how the episodes will likely be laid out. It was certainly effective, and it did a good job of dispelling my negative expectations. Meanwhile, WA was an odd one. It took the same route of introducing the core cast, and made it clear that the lead’s relationship is the crux of the story, but the way it leapt from moment to moment to essentially cover the same ground felt a little disjointed to me. Despite that though, it did seem like it set up what we can expect moving forward, so I can’t really fault it for that. So, though the approaches were different and one episode certainly felt cleaner than the other, I’m going to call this one a draw. Best Opening Episode: Draw
The leads in White Album don’t interest me so much. Yuki was barely there for a lot of it, and Touya seems very mopey, though I can understand why. Rina was interesting to a point, but again, there was nothing to make me feel drawn in. Much of the cast of Interviews With Monster Girls has the same problem insofar as very few got enough time to become anything too interesting by themselves. Takahashi was fine, but there wasn’t enough there to push him over into being a stand-out. However, I did like Hikari Takanashi. A lot of time was obviously put into animating her and it shows through both how much she moves and her clear facial expressions. She also served the role of not only being interesting due to her general attitude, but also making other characters interesting due to the content of her interview. I’ll explain that: That she does not fit the stereotypical vampire role from folklore and modern fiction means that the rules for each demi have been changed. By making her differently interesting in this way, it opens it up for others to follow suit. For holding that role well, she gets the points. Best Character: Hikari Takanashi (Interview With Monster Girls)
This was an easy one. White Album was so gloomy, and nothing really stood out as a great individual scene. The scenes were important, don’t get me wrong, but nothing really sticks for me. On the other hand, Takanashi using the pencils to poke Takahashi in Interview With Monster Girls actually made me laugh, and is still making me giggle while I write this. That scene wins. Best Individual Scene: Blood Drinking Lead (Interviews With Monster Girls)
This is difficult in some ways. The problem is, Interviews With Monster Girls doesn’t seem like it really has a storyline per se. It feels more like it’s a world concept in animated form. Meanwhile, White Album is very simple in that it seems to be about a failing relationship, while hinting at side relationships and story arcs without actually broaching them in detail as yet. As intriguing as Interviews With Monster Girls is though, I think that White Album does have far more going on here, so it gets the points. Best Storyline: White Album
OK, so this is essentially a battle of eras. Interviews With Monster Girls is a decent example of modern anime. The colours are nice, the animation itself is smooth, and when it throws itself at particular points (such as Takanashi as an episode focus), it does so to a high level. Meanwhile, White Album is a 2009 anime that looks like something far older. I do believe that this is an artistic decision though because it’s set in the 1980’s and is based on a 1990’s visual novel. So, if I’m working on that basis, does the good modern work take the points, or does the throw-back to the old school get it? Well, that’s the thing. If White Album had been a 90’s anime, I’d day that it was a decent example of that era. The problem is, for 2009, I felt that more attention could have been given to some of the facial expressions and lip movement, in particular during idol performances. Had they gone for an old-school design style but with a 2009 overall quality (I’m thinking Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Eden of the East as benchmarks for quality here), then it would have won for artistic reasons. As it is though, it’s a nice idea that just misses the mark. Best Animation: Interviews With Monster Girls
There’s no doubt which episode wins this one. From the opening and closing themes to the mood-driven music throughout the episode, White Album excelled at this and I cannot praise it enough in that regard. Best Soundtrack: White Album
Final Scores: Interviews With Monster Girls – 7 points, White Album – 5 points
Well, that was not how I was expecting this one to go! In all honesty, I do think that White Album is probably a series that is worth sticking with, but I wonder if it’s the sort of show that takes a while to find its footing? Interviews With Monster Girls is an unexpected gem thus far though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it does in the semi-finals. Speaking of which, the line-up for said round will be:
SF1: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid vs. Beautiful Bones (S1E2)
SF2: Flip Flappers vs. Interviews With Monster Girls (S1E2)
After that, the losers will advance to a S1E3 battle for third place and the winners will duke it out (again, S1E3) to be crowned the second Crunchyroll of the Dice champion. So, there’s all that still to come. Let me know how you think the tournament is going thus far and who you think will be winning! Thanks for reading everybody, I’ll catch ya later.