Monster Musume is an anime that gets all of its traction from the fact that it’s a twist on the standard fan-service/harem genre – it’s basically a giant “what if” scenario. The foundation of the anime’s plot and story is textbook harem. However, the strength lies in how convincingly the addition of the outrageous monster girls ends up contorting otherwise stale elements, turning them into something much greater. If you’re a fan of the harem genre and have a good tolerance for fanservice, this is an anime you shouldn’t miss. If you’re not a fan of the harem genre, you could probably still find some purchase in the outrageous comedy. If you’ve read the manga, I’d say it’s a pretty solid adaptation.
Purpose: Excellent. The best way to describe this anime is “shameless,” or, rather, “unashamed.” There’s a huge variety of situations in this anime that range from lewd to sweet. Unlike other, especially fan-service, anime they actually work in the fan service so that it isn’t out of place for the setting. The concept of the monster girls was handled in a much stronger way than you might expect. There’s a ton of practicality involved concerning the girls and what ends up being fanservice. While the fan service is unabashed, there’s usually an underlying reason for it, rooted in the blended nature of human/creature.
Going a little deeper into the anime, one of the thematic undercurrents is about acceptance of the other, the inhuman, the foreign. Time and time again, they emphasize that these girls are people. Yes it seems somewhat ironic to say that and then use them for flagrant fan service. However, it’s generally seen through the eyes of the main character, who, in spite of these crazy (and nearly lethal) antics, appreciates each of the girls for her uniqueness.
Characters: Excellent. The base character personalities are standard for a harem anime. At first, there is nothing really unique about them. That said, the base personalities are done strongly enough to make them distinctive within the harem genre. Building off the base personality, monster traits are added to the girls. It’s the combination of the two that makes the girls really special. Part of what’s strong about the monster traits is that the anime conveys a sense of realism behind those traits. For example, the larger monster girls have a sense of presence, weight, and power behind their movements. When you combine the basic harem premise of possessive fighting with girls that have these dangerous traits, it really changes the relational dynamic between characters. Suddenly, the possessiveness takes on a very dangerous feel and the atmosphere is really different. However, the anime doesn’t just stop there. As the anime nears its end, the characters actually start having depth and they become more interesting. True to the harem genre, as more girls are added, the relational dynamics shift and characters actions and reactions change to match. The most noticeable will probably be Mia, who takes on a much sweeter feel later, instead of being more annoyingly clingy early.
What really ends up making the characters excellent is this blend of human and monster. Examining the characters a little more in-depth, they’re made up of a really interesting conflict between their human sides and their animal/monster sides. While the monster may make them do things in a more forward fashion, it makes the human side embarrassed. This is actually the most convincing dichotomy I’ve seen in the harem genre – not as forced as you usually see. For that matter, the nice guy male lead actually works here. In part, it works because the monster girls are horribly violent, but at the same time, he’s helping bring out the more human elements of the monster girls.
World: Good. Again, the base world is textbook harem, and pretty plain. While there is some background given, it’s little more than a pretext for the setting. That aside, it’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the creation of these monster species. As a species, they have distinct traits, likes, dislikes, etc. The attention to detail even extends to how even monster races treat each other.
Plot: Decent. Frankly, there’s more holes than plot. That said, the plot is prevented from being Bad because of how the plot holes are shamelessly used. Rather, a character was specifically created to be a plot hole and force advances in the plot when convenient. She is Smith. Yet, Smith ends up being an entertaining character in her own right, essentially explaining sudden “plot” as ineptitude or laziness on her part. Honestly, she does an adequate job of preventing the anime from becoming too stale. One other note, some semblance of character plot actually starts to coalesce near the end – that’s when the anime begins to transform into something (slightly) more than a shameless ecchi comedy.
Storytelling: Good. In sum: basic harem antics spiced up by crazy and dangerous monsters. The introductions of the girls are handled in a really great fashion. They introduce them without overwhelming you with the details – they slowly reveal character/creature specific traits at relevant points. Of course, the harem in-fighting comedy and personality clash takes on a unique tone because they are careful to keep the fact that these are monster girls in mind. Later towards the end, you do start to get some really strong personality clashes and even some sweet moments.
Pace: Good. Nothing really remarkable. They spaced out the introductions of the girls well so that it isn’t always a new girl per episode. It ends up making a good punctuated effect of meeting the girls, while maintaining the humdrum of everyday life.