Few Japanese cartoons can claim to have the outright notoriety stateside that Interspecies Reviewers (Japanese – Ishuzoku Rebyuāzu, 異種族レビュアーズ) has gathered in its short 12 episode run. Originally airing as part of a simulcast effort by Funimation, it was pulled unceremoniously after just three episodes airing. With this, various internet denizens and factions began to rally around or against the show. Champions claim this show to be the ultimate stab against those dreaded Social Justice Warriors, the last bastion against those who work tirelessly to homogenize Anime with Imperialistic intent. Detractors claim that the show was too pornographic and the fetishes covered were “too far” with accusations of child pornography and exploitation. In between the two, a show steadily played out its course. Are any of these sides correct?
In a word, no. It’s a solid monster girl (or two) of the week show, and it’s handling of reviews and the experiences of the reviewer are solid, but the show on its own isn’t as avante-garde as those who rally for it would have one believe. On the other hand, accusations that the show was going “too far” are often exaggerated and for some going to be a simple issue of personal taste. A lot of this can’t be discussed outside of the context of the original comic, however.
For the purpose of this article, I’ll not be reviewing or discussing the manga proper; readers interested in learning more are encouraged to read Moegamer.net’s continued coverage of them as they are released. One thing that will become quickly apparent to most is that the show is far more explicit than its source, despite holding to much the same story and story beats. The manga titillates while it suggests, while the anime has no qualms over outright showing its content. The expectation from the source is a show that’s bawdy with just enough fan service to keep the average reader going; the actual result is a show that decided to go the full-on pornographic route. In and of itself this isn’t a problem, but it’s a difference that certainly caught more than a few viewers off guard.
Not that many non-Japanese viewers have been able to watch these episodes, of course. The North American distribution rights (and by proxy, the rights of some other regions) were picked up by Funimation Productions LLC, a company with almost 26 years of delivering subbed and dubbed content. One would expect a company with this much experience to have handled their distribution of this title with much more grace and finesse than they did here. First, one would expect of all the shows to “simulcast” (air at the same time as the original source became available) Funimation wouldn’t choose a show about rating brothels. One would also expect that when it came to light the show Funimation spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for the rights for was less like Monster Musume and more like Media Blasters’ Words Worth that they’d find an alternate delivery model, such as reprogramming their streaming app to actually work gatekeep the content to those who were of legal age in a particular jurisdiction, or perhaps relegating the show to its on-demand services and issuing a full release at a later date when the show had completed its run. Instead, the decision was made to drop the show outright, stating the show “falls outside of our standards” and leaving those who had subscribed to their services to view the show “properly” to find other sources for the show. Overnight, a new generation of anime watchers became learned in the ways of BitTorrent and seedy Russian websites. Other connoisseurs just paid for a Pornhub membership and watched Interspecies Reviewers over there. Gotta support those creators somehow, right?
Those that are curious about the show will be delighted to know it’s exactly what it says on the tin. A group of explorers in a fantasy setting usually spend a half of each episode going to a different brothel that caters to either a specific fetish or a specific type of monster girl. The group features two main members (a human name Stunk and a half-elf archer named Zel), often includes a fallen angel by the name of Crimvael, and rounds out its reviews with a rotating fourth member. At the end of their visit, each individual gives a rating from zero to ten, in a manner not unlike video game review magazines and websites like Famitsu. The show has a lot of comedy, especially in regards to what different characters expect to come across subverted by what they actually discover regarding various races.
The show’s strengths are in its sex positivity and in the way the group interacts with each other and the brothels they visit. It is, frankly, refreshing to see a show that has a group of adults who actively want to have sex engage with individuals willing and skilled to give it. So many popular Japanese shows feature teenagers (sometimes aged up to college students in a localization) and so many strange fantasies as to what sex actually is. This show, by comparison, holds no qualms about discussing its content in a way that shows maturity even as it’s being immature. From discussions on what an individual reviewer is into to how far they feel is too far to situations where the reviewers discover a fetish they expected to enjoy wasn’t quite what they expected, everything is handled in such a solid and well thought out manner. The sex work displayed is in some ways idealized, but the element of consent is strong. The show’s decision to feature an angel who is a hermaphrodite is handled in a fair fashion; Crimvael comes off as a well thought out character who happens to have both sexes and not a parody or a caricature. The use of species who are not as gender conforming as one might expect, such as a hyena girl who can top with her lady-girth. There is some comedy in this, but it tends to punch up and not down which is appreciated.
That said, the show has two major weaknesses. The fact that it goes for broke in showing more lewd action than its source material labels it firmly with the hentai or pornographic labels; however, while there is a lot of content shown the sex scenes themselves are surprisingly short and in some cases mere stills. The show also has some interesting world building for its fantasy world, but almost nothing is done with it. It’s shown that there is a political party for demons that desire more understanding among humans, and an archmage who has created a brothel full of her clones willing to do anything a buyer asks so that said buyers will unwittingly give the archmage what he needs to study all species and understand their weaknesses… but these are always backdrops to the stories and never really explored further. This places the fantasy aspect of the series firmly as a backdrop, not something actively explored, and creates a sex-filled series with surprisingly lackluster sex scenes. In many ways these feel like lost opportunities. There are some interconnected gags and events, so it’s not a total wash, but it’s easy to see how this show could have been more.
Some have argued that the content in this show is problematic, and I frankly disagree with them. Some have commented on how the fey girls look young, or how the angel is drawn in a way that makes him look childish. I frankly disagree with that. I’ve never really caught on or enjoyed to the “she’s a 1700 year old demon so it’s okay” sense of logic, but it’s clear by the style presented here that the workers engaged in these stories are consenting adults, and adults do come in many shapes and sizes. The idea that a character who has child-like features but presents themselves as a somewhat bashful adult who has an idea what they’re into even if it goes against a moral code clashes greatly with a character with child-like features because they’re representing an actual child. I will say that the sex work is displayed positively at the cost of being displayed realistically, but that’s fantasy for you. I personally would enjoy reading stories with more realistic depictions of the work (and have covered one well known one) but I don’t feel that would have worked here. This may have been a missed opportunity, but to say it’s some sort of offense is a stretch.
Overall, I enjoyed the series. It’s smartly written, it plays with fantasy race tropes in an entertaining yet positive way, and the premise is executed in such a way the show becomes much larger than a mere sum of its parts. I’d recommend it to anyone who wanted to see a Japanese cartoon handle sex in a more adult way, as well as individuals who enjoy monster girls. The show knows how to make the viewer laugh in between its set piece showcases, and it reminds viewers that at the end of the day it’s not the score that’s important but rather the information found in the review. I found more enjoyment in the manga overall, though, and appreciate how the source material seemed to know when to leave things to euphemism and suggestion. I almost never give number scores in my longform reviews, but I’ll make an exception here: Interspecies Reviewers is an eight out of 10.
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The manga is being released by Yen Press. There are two light novels; the first is expected to also be released by Yen Press in August 2020. The show can’t legally be viewed anywhere in the United States at this time, not that this fact will stop those truly dedicated to the search.