With the third volume of the Interspecies Reviewers (aka Ishuzoku Reviewers) manga just around the corner, I figured it was high time I cracked open the shrink wrap on Volume 2 and checked it out.
Can we expect a harrowing tale of life on the wrong side of the tracks, exploring the things that might drive young women to sex work and causing the reader to question the very morality of their own libido while confronting them with increasingly erotic scenes?
Can we fuck. This series is a light-hearted romp in the hay that takes in the joy of sexual freedom, open-mindedness and a willingness to explore new things. And, having firmly established the tone, setting and characters in the first volume, the second amps things up quite a bit!
Some NSFW content ahead!
For the uninitiated, the concept of Interspecies Reviewers is pretty straightforward. In a fantasy world, the adventurer Stunk, his elven friend Zel, the intersex angel waiter/waitress Crimvael and a rotating cast of guest characters pay a visit to various “succu-girl” establishments catering to various specialist tastes. While there, they sample the local cuisine to their satisfaction (and sometimes a little beyond) and write about their experiences in a publicly available newsletter, the production of which they have managed to turn into an actual paid job. Truly living the dream.
The fun thing about the manga is that the actual reviews Stunk and company write are part of the overall format. They’re presented much like the sort of multi-perspective reviews you’d get in a magazine like Weekly Famitsu in Japan — or, for those of us in the English-speaking world, much like Electronic Gaming Monthly used to do things. In other words, each of the four individuals reviewing the establishment in question provides some brief thoughts on their experiences and a score out of 10, and since each of them are from a different species, they have their own unique ideas, priorities and considerations when contemplating something as personal as sexual gratification.
Much like the first volume, each chapter in Interspecies Reviewers, Vol. 2 focuses on a specific establishment — with each providing a bit of a sidelong, allegorical glance at a particular aspect of real-world sexual tastes, fetishes and practices.
The opening chapter, which involves myconid (fungus) girls, for example, looks at the concept of diversity — both in terms of the wide variety of different types of girl that are available within the myconid species, and the broad range of possible tastes in sexual partners and fetishes people have.
The madame of the myconid establishment takes great care to match each of the reviewers with a suitable girl for their tastes — and, being older and more experienced, is able to immediately pick out what each of them will be into. Except when it comes to Crimvael, of course; she ends up pairing him with the common puffball which, it transpires, was a very good choice, as both Crim and the myconid have a lovely time.
A subsequent chapter on golems and dolls contemplates the ethics of being able to design a sexual partner to your own exacting specifications; while it may seem desirable to recreate someone you have found “unattainable” in the past, if the person in question finds out what you’ve been doing… well, things most likely aren’t going to end well for you. As you might expect, the group learns this first-hand when Meidri, the attractive (and fiercely independent) winged woman who operates the tavern where Crim works and the rest of the group hang out, discovers the truth.
This chapter also questions the idea of whether creating an artificial sex partner can be as satisfying as the real thing, given that the very existence of them reminds you of how artificial the situation is. That said, visiting a prostitute is already a distinctly artificial situation in the first place, so having the opportunity to design your own partner and temporarily infuse them with a soul reflecting the personality you most desire isn’t too much of a leap… in a fantasy world, of course.
The doll chapter also acknowledges the existence of and popularity of male masturbation toys. The dolls themselves do not have sexual organs; instead, they are able to be equipped with “magical holes” — perhaps a riff on Dungeons & Dragon’s “portable hole” item — which are just onaholes infused with magic so they can move independently. They supposedly “stop moving after about a month”, which could be a reference to the fact that many Japanese sex toys — such as Tenga’s popular array of rubbery, knobbly dicksleeves — are marketed as being disposable or even single-use in some cases. It’s all about how you take care of it though; much as a Tenga Egg can last you a lot more than one wank, I’m sure a magical hole that has lost its magic can still have its uses.
A fun story in the book encompasses two chapters, and explores the idea of encountering a fetish you didn’t know about and are not sure whether or not you want to explore further. In this case, it’s a fetish for egg-laying girls — something which I know at least one person on my real-life Twitter timeline is legitimately into — which the group decides to explore as Meidri encounters the winged woman’s equivalent of having a period — the need to lay an unfertilised egg or two.
The group attends a specialist establishment where amateur performers are able to show up, lay their eggs in public and auction them off to the highest bidder. They discover that merfolk are particularly into the egg-laying from a sexual perspective, while lamias are especially interested in purchasing the eggs and eating them, since, as any chicken-keeping middle class friends you might have will gladly tell you at great length, repeatedly, there’s nothing quite like eating fresh.
Our heroes are somewhat nonplussed by the situation, however; after sitting through several hours of nothing but lizard girls and the only winged woman that shows up being a penguin, they really don’t know what to make of things. And the lesson from this little story as a whole is that however deep into depravity you think you might have sunk, there’s always someone that little bit deeper than you — or perhaps more accurately, there’s always someone who is really into something you never thought of being into, ever.
The book as a whole is a bit more explicit than the first volume; there are a lot more O-faces on display — particularly from Crim, it has to be said, who is shown to very much be getting into the whole thing despite their initial reticence in the first volume — but it still stops short of being full-on hentai.
The fact the book holds back somewhat is deliberately played for laughs at one point; the narration decides that a scene between Crim and an actual succubus (as opposed to a “succu-girl”, which is the in-universe term for a prostitute, regardless of species) is unsuitable for children, and replaces Crim with a bottle of mayonnaise. The result is both hilarious and far more sexual than anything they would have been able to get away with by depicting things literally.
A running theme throughout the book is the question over the ethics of being able to hire a “perfect partner” — whether that partner takes the form of an animated doll, someone who is roleplaying a morally questionable situation such as being raped, or a magical clone that will disappear after three days, regardless of what you do to her.
Given the opportunity to explore fantasies like this, is it appropriate to do so? Is it safe and healthy to do so? What impact might this sort of thing have on your “real” relationships? Would the ability to get particularly extreme with the partners you hire mean you place unreasonable expectations on people you encounter and develop a relationship with naturally… or does the separation between “fantasy” and “reality” allow you to get the dark urges out of your system and free you from your more primal desires?
Interspecies Reviewers, Vol. 2 perhaps wisely doesn’t give any definitive answers in this regard; it instead poses some intriguing questions to the reader with the various situations it depicts over the course of its ten chapters, and invites them to think about their own sexuality. And with the fact that the actual sexual content is amped up somewhat over the first volume, the reader is forced to ask themselves these difficult questions while under the influence of their own libido — which, as I’m sure many of us will be able to attest, isn’t necessarily conducive to thinking especially rationally.
I’m really enjoying this series so far, and it’s pleasing to see that it’s more than just the simple gimmick of “dudes fuck monster girls”. I mean, it’s that too, but there are some interesting core themes underneath all the deliberately provocative and sexual stuff, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it develops in the subsequent volumes.
It’s more than just hentai, in other words, but make no mistake — if you’re into your monster girls, this series will take you to heaven and back time and time again!
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