Manga is an incredibly broad, rich and diverse medium with a lot of benefits for the modern busy weeb.
It’s affordable, it’s portable, it’s easily consumed in short, digestible chunks and, perhaps best of all, at this point there’s something out there that will appeal to pretty much everyone. And as such, I thought it high time we start taking an occasional look at some manga here on MoeGamer.
We begin with the first volume of Amahara and Masha’s Interspecies Reviewers, a series about fucking monster girl prostitutes. I figured it was probably best to establish the tone sooner rather than later.
Despite the premise, despite that cover, despite the fact this is one of those publications that comes shrink-wrapped to keep the wrong kind of sticky fingers away, and despite the parental advisory note in the corner… let’s just be clear about one thing. This isn’t a hentai manga. It’s lewd, yes — given the nature of the subject matter that much is unavoidable — but it’s not explicit by any means.
Instead, what we have is a cheeky, bawdy romp through an entertaining selection of fantasy tropes, coupled with a sidelong glance at how it’s always worth looking at things from multiple perspectives — especially when you’re dealing with something inherently subjective, whether that’s the sexual pleasure you derive from copulation with a fantastical being, or how much you like Sword Art Online.
The setup for Interspecies Reviewers is that a grotty human adventurer — appropriately named Stunk — gets into an argument with his elven travelling companion Zel over whether or not elves can still be sexually appealing after the age of five hundred or so.
The humour in this situation is that, of course, to human eyes, a 500-year old elf still looks as young and beautiful as ever — hence Stunk having no qualms whatsoever at jumping into bed with one for the right price — while to an elf like Zel, the prospect is unthinkable. Stunk finds the inverse hard to fathom; when Zel reveals that he is very much attracted to older human women of 50 and up, the pair decide that a little cultural exchange is in order so that they can broaden their horizons and understand the wonders of the world a little better.
And, with that, the Yoru no Gloss (literally, Night Gloss) review pages, soon to become a fixture of the adventurers’ bulletin board in town, are born. Stunk, Gloss and occasional companions set about working their way through the succubus districts of town, offering their own individual thoughts and a score out of 10 for their experiences in each type of establishment.
Interspecies Reviewers makes good use of its various fantasy tropes to provide a humorous take on all these reviews and unique perspectives that the other characters might not have considered, such as the dog hybrid Brooz complaining that the five-hundred year old elf who is the subject of the initial debate has an “old person smell that reminds [him] of leaf mould”.
To the cast’s credit, they mostly remain open-minded about all their prospective encounters, with the most obvious examples of their own prejudice and discrimination coming when contemplating someone of their own species rather than someone obviously different from them. The first review we see after the initial elf-human debacle, for example, sees Stunk, Zel, their halfling friend Kanchal and the demonic Samtahn going “one round with a Dagon” and having a surprisingly positive experience in the process — even if the diminutive Kanchal found it more akin to being “wrapped up in a carpet” than anything else.
A particularly interesting part of the volume as a whole comes when the angel Crimvael is introduced. Crim is initially presented as a cute, young-looking female, but is revealed over the course of several chapters to be fully equipped with both male and female parts — and a particularly formidable example in the former case, if the fairies’ reaction to them is to be believed.
Interestingly, during a flashback scene where Crim recalls being rescued by Stunk and Zel, Stunk is shown immediately assuming that Crim is male, not female, and Crim appears to be fairly comfortable being referred to using male pronouns despite, in their words, being “both”. The localised non-dialogue narration refers to Crim as “they” to keep things suitably ambiguous, however, so it’s probably safe to assume that Crim is non-binary in pretty much the strictest sense of the word!
This becomes relevant on several occasions, since not only is Crim’s gender somewhat ambiguous, their sexuality is too. During a chapter in which the group attends an establishment called “The Gender-Swap Inn” — it’s exactly what it sounds like — the (transformed) guys are more than willing to explore their first girl-on-girl experiences, while Crim, temporarily lacking their male parts, finds themselves very interested in an encounter with a big hunky incubus boy.
Too embarrassed to be obvious about this, however, Crim ends up picking a hyena girl to partner with, and it’s not until they’ve headed off for the ride of their life that the rest of the group discover that hyena girls are considered “for experts” because, I quote, “they have dicks too”. Crim ends up rating the experience a 9, temporarily rebranding their female-only form as “Clitorim” in the meantime; everyone else, somewhat shocked at this gratuitous display of sexual fluidity, immediately brands Crim a “Rainbow”, after the in-world lingo for someone who will happily go with both men and women.
It’s little touches like this that give Interspecies Reviewers a cool touch of authenticity about it. Anyone who has ever spent any time on the seedier side of the Internet will doubtless have come across all manner of peculiar acronyms, abbreviations and nicknames for various sex-related things — and often ended up filled with regret when they attempted to discover exactly what they meant. In Interspecies Reviewers, the “jargon” of the business is treated as a normal part of life in these fantasy red-light districts — and if you want to get involved, you’ll have to get informed at one point or another.
It’s worth noting at this point that Interspecies Reviewers presents an extremely glamourised look at sex work in general. Everyone involved appears to be having a great deal of fun, and it’s seemingly treated as a normal part of society. This is relatively common for light-hearted fantasy fiction — though it’s more commonly presented with a bit more nudge-nudge-wink-wink subtlety rather than tackled head-on as seen here — and is actually kind of refreshing given how bleak such subject matter can sometimes get.
Could Interspecies Reviewers have taken the opportunity to say something about exploitation in sex work, or the things that drive people to such a vocation? Perhaps. And perhaps in future volumes it will — though I feel that’s probably unlikely, to be perfectly honest. For now, that’s not what it’s all about; for now, it’s about being open-minded, confronting your prejudices and trying new experiences. It’s about being comfortable in both your sexuality and your gender(s), and celebrating the good times it’s possible to have using only your own body and that of a willing (and perhaps well-paid) partner.
It proved to be a surprisingly entertaining, uplifting read, and not nearly as sleazy as one might expect, given the subject matter. While Crim isn’t necessarily the “protagonist” as such, they are the focus of a number of chapters, and they’re an immensely appealing, interesting character to explore. Hopefully we’ll get to know them even better in the subsequent volumes — along with plenty, plenty more delightful fantasy and monster girls.
The MoeGamer Compendium, Volume 1 is now available! Grab a copy today for a beautiful physical edition of the Cover Game features originally published in 2016.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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