Eromanga Sensei Part 1 (Episodes 1-6) (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 142 minutes approx.
Here in the west, whenever a teenager does something horrifically destructive the first thing the media do is blame video games and TV, a knee jerk reaction that helps no-one. In Japan, it is fair to say they have some of the weirdest fetishes and peccadilloes – can we blame this on anime?
Wait – hear me out, as it is pertinent to this title under review. It features orphaned high school boy Izumi Masamune who lives alone with his younger hikikomori stepsister Sagiri, who share an unusual joint secret the other has yet to twig. Izumi is a light novel author with minor success whilst the illustrations are by an anonymous artist known as Eromanga Sensei, who Izumi has never met despite three years working together.
One afternoon, Izumi watches a live internet stream by Eromanga Sensei holding an art demonstration, his mysterious colleague hiding behind a cartoon mask. Izumi notices something in the background that alarms him – the dinner tray he only just took up to Sagiri! Yes, Eromanga Sensei is Izumi’s 12 year-old stepsister working out of her room, whilst he is in the next room banging out the scripts.
So what? I hear you cry. Where’s the harm in that? Well, despite being a teen, Izumi’s novel series Silverwolf of Reincarnation is an adventure saga whilst Sagiri’s illustrations are a bit saucy to say the least – denoted by the not so subtle non-de-plum of “Ero” manga Sensei. This shy prepubescent girl makes a living drawing lewd, erotic artwork and is rather good at it to boot.
But this isn’t the worst part of it – not by a long shot. Taking his vow from when he first met Sagiri a few years earlier to be a good big brother and protect his little sister, Izumi is keen to help Sagiri keep her secret identity between them. Fair enough, but somehow this has led to him becoming infatuated with Sagiri and develops a loli-complex for his own stepsister.
Cue the eternal debate about them not being blood related so this okay, they are 15 and 12 years old respectively and living unsupervised under the same roof! Forgive me for sounding like an indignant Daily Mail reading snowflake but this set up is the latest of a long line of tawdry tropes designed to tickle the fancy of the deviant contingent of the Otaku universe, who we know by the devotion to anime and manga can be quite the impressible bunch.
Eromanga Sensei is the creation of Tsukasa Fushimi, the man behind the controversial Oreimo about an incestuous relationship between brother and sister, suggesting he has a bit of a problem with this topic and might want to see someone about it. A glance at the cover artwork above shows that the character designs are the same, with Izumi a clone of Oreimo’s Kyosuke and Sagiri a silver haired approximation of Kuro Neko.
As the series progresses, more young women are brought into Izumi’s life, such as rival light novelist Elf Yamada, who conveniently moves in to the house next door (alone, natch) and susses out Sagiri’s secret fairly quickly but only after dropping her panties whilst modelling for her. Yamada provides plenty of comic relief through her unbridled ego of being a 2 million selling novelist, thus is superior to Izumi.
They begin a rivalry of sorts over who gets to work with Eromanga Sensei next which oddly brings them together though on an entirely platonic basis, but we never know a Yamada has a habit of playing the piano naked and may be fonder of Izumi than she lets on. But, for the most part, there is mutual respect over their art and this is solid and less prurient foundation to build a friendship on.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Sagiri’s classmate Megumi Jinno, an upbeat and overly persistent girl determined to bring Sagiri back to school. On her first meeting with Izumi, the former model is surprised he hasn’t fallen for her “charms” (because he is preoccupied with someone else…) and tells him “Your dick is useless” and “she loves dicks” because all girls her age do.
Megumi is, like Sagiri, 12 years-old! Now, I get this will amuse some people and the idea of crossing forbidden lines is always going to have huge appeal in being so daring, but we live in an age when the innocence of youth has become increasingly eroded thanks to the internet and social media, and at the risk of sounding like a prude, shows like this really don’t help the cause.
By this point, you might be wondering if this series does anything right and this is a valid concern. In actual fact, the artwork is very pleasant and there are some genuinely amusing gags and the odd tender moment between Izumi and Sagiri. When the focus is on the actual business of light novels, from the writing, illustrations, dealing with editors and the sales figures, we are afforded a welcome respite from the bawdier content, just don’t expect it to be as in depth as Bakuman.
Thankfully any suggestions of incest within the central step-sibling relationship is only tacitly (not subtly, this show doesn’t do subtle) implied, though this doesn’t justify how we are expected to accept Izumi not to be appalled or shocked by his younger sister creating such lewd artwork, using models (Yamada and Megumi) or photos of her own body, akin to the lurid fan art you find whenever you Google your favourite anime show.
Eromanga Sensei could have worked if the story wasn’t built about such a tawdry and tacky premise and instead served to celebrate the talents of young people in the highly competitive world of light novel writing and illustrating. Unless under age fan service, priapic obsessed airheads, and potential pseudo-incest is a particular bell ringer for you, this show only exists to remind us what the anime gutter looks like.
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Trailers and Commercials
Rating – **
Man In Black