Here we are at the end of the season and it is time for one last chat with Irina about The Morose Mononokean (at least this season and fingers crossed that we eventually get a third). We’re over on Irina’s site today so to check out our full discussion about The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 13 hop on over and be sure to leave us a comment.
Unrestrained Power Fantasy Involving 1 Guy, 12 Girls, and 1 Tanuki
Every season there is that one anime that I know I’m not going to like, that it isn’t my genre or there’s an annoying character or idea, and yet there’s something about it that manages to catch my attention and I’m unable to just walk away. After watching 12 episodes of this, I’m convinced that I need to learn to drop shows early on even if there is that small carrot of potential. Conception was that title in the Autumn 2018 season
I’ll admit, I watched this through to the end when other shows were dropped along the way. So it isn’t unwatchable. But that is more because of the sheer weirdness of some of what happens. And I’m not just talking about the premise of Itsuki having to make children with 12 maidens and that changing to 13 before the end in order to save a fantasy world.
Conception does a couple of things right. Things that make viewing a poorly scripted, comedy that relies heavily on innuendo and smut jokes to carry episode, something that still seems to hint at being better than it actually is.
One thing it manages is pacing. Just when the comedy elements or the dating the star maiden parts became a little too much, this anime would dangle the story about the labyrinth and fighting the impurities in front of the viewer. By cycling through the different aspects of the show and making sure they never stayed absent too long, no matter what drew a viewer to the anime, just when they got to a point where they might drop it that part of the story would come back.
The other thing that saved this anime from a complete drop is that despite the premise and the incredibly borderline visuals, Itsuki technically doesn’t actually have sex (on screen) with the maidens (maybe Mana, not sure). It is probably just as well given the age of some of these characters and just how weird that would be for all the maidens to happily get along, but the anime does everything but actual sex and it sure implies intimacy so for some people there will still be more than enough reason to walk away.
However, these minor positives can’t overcome the overwhelming negatives that this series is carrying with it.
Because there are 12/13 girls to be seduced and only 12 episodes, we barely get to meet some of these girls that Itsuki seems to woo some of them in an instant. The few that get a whole episode devoted to them are interesting enough but they essentially get seduced, go through the ‘ritual’, produce a child and then they more or less get forgotten outside of group shots.
There’s a lot of fourth wall breaking ‘comedy’. Some of it is kind of amusing but most of it is the eye-roll worthy kind of humour where the writing seems to think it is more clever than it is. The episode that more or less spoofed ‘The Bachelor’ really was the low point for me though if the humour hits than it might work better for you.
Itsuki himself is about as bland a protagonist as any isekai power fantasy protagonist. Though, he seems even more dense at times. His acceptance of his role, or Mana’s advice, and the way he just plays whatever role is currently assigned means his own personality is pretty much absent for the vast majority of the series. He’s very clearly a blank-slate waiting for self-insert.
But, the worst part of this anime goes straight to Mana as a character. Wow, I don’t know how many times I wished death on her during my episode reviews. She most definitely gets the title for the single worst character and most annoying creature of the entirety of 2018.
All and all, I really regret not dropping this. It wasn’t really a genre I am fond of and the small elements that could have been interesting just didn’t get enough time or development to really deliver. While I won’t say this is the worst anime ever, and it isn’t even my worst anime of 2018, it is an anime that you would have to be a very specific audience to enjoy and for everyone else you’d be better off steering clear.
There’s very little left to say about this anime that I haven’t already said, but if I was hoping for an ending that would somehow make it seem worth while then I would have been left fairly disappointed. Though, let’s throw in a positive, they did at least conclude the whole labyrinth thing with the impurities. The fact that the conclusion makes no sense, logical or otherwise, is more or less par for the course and I guess if you watched 12 episodes of this you can hardly be surprised.
I think what really sets this one apart from other bad anime that end badly, is that this one doesn’t even commit to its terrible ending. After giving us an illogical and fairly pointless final fight, all of the characters who we just waved good-bye to show up again and they all jump through the portal to earth. Because that makes sense. Then cut to the credits where we see all the Star Maidens living happily working in their jobs on earth without any issue whatsoever. Sure.
Of course that is only the end point of stupidity. Firstly we have Itsuki deciding he isn’t going to sacrifice himself. Then the King asking the Star Maidens to perform the ritual to sacrifice him. Then the maidens deciding not to. Then some random fight sequence where various declarations of wanting to help each other somehow power things up so the star children fuse into robots, and then Itsuki joins them, Alfie is killed, Alfie’s oddball star-child joins them as a weapon and that’s the end only the star children are apparently now being used to seal the impurity.
Like what? Which part of any of that made sense and how was it better for 13 children to get left behind to seal the impurity rather than one Itsuki. My eyes very nearly rolled clean out of my head trying to watch this one. Okay, I’m going to have to review the whole series of this and I’m going to have to figure out how to be nice (or at least not rant) but in the meantime, I’d suggest avoiding this one.
I’m not sure if this counts as getting my wish or not, though episode 11 of Conception did at least address the issue of the 13th Labyrinth and what Itsuki will need to do to save the world. So I guess that is technically developing a plot that for large chunks of this series feels like it got jettisoned as inconvenient in amongst all the dating and off-colour jokes.
But, then there’s the episode beginning which brings us yet more sex jokes at the expense of seemingly underage characters (though it turns out Alfie is older than she looks). Follow that up with the climatic centre piece of this episode, Itsuki going to be with Mana, and this episode if firmly reminding the audience of what its actual focus has been.
Still, as the penultimate episode of an anime with a large cast, Conception did at least try to remind us that these girls weren’t just disposable commodities to cater to all audience fetishes (sure they weren’t). After hearing the news that he’s unlikely to survive saving the world, Itsuki decides to go present shopping for the girls and what follows is a montage of Itsuki having a cute Christmas moment with each and every one of the previously used and swiftly forgotten Star Maidens. Some of these moments are kind of cute but it doesn’t make the fact that the show is relying on still images and music to convey an emotional narrative that none of the rest of the anime has actually supported.
My money is still on Itsuki surviving this but it is almost irrelevant at this point. If he does survive I’m guessing the final moments of this anime will be Itsuki with all the girls and the guys because this anime keeps feeling the need to one up itself and they’ve done pretty much everything else at this point except actually show the characters having sex.
This is definitely what happens when you know an anime is not going to be something you like but because of one minor bit of curiosity you stick it out. You get to episode 11 and think the next episode can’t come and go fast enough so you never have to think about the anime again.
On watching Conception this week I was initially reasonably happy because for the first time in awhile the focus seemed to be on Itsuki beating the labyrinth and the fight sequence, while clearly not on par with an action focused anime, was entertaining enough. Itsuki would be a terrible action protagonist but in the role of high schooler thrown into life or death situation he works well enough as he stumbles about with the Star Children and tries to protect them from harm even while he isn’t some kind of juggernaut of destruction.
However, any enjoyment I may have derived from this episode quickly evaporated as we moved into the second half where we focused on finding the thirteenth Star Maiden. Alfie has been hanging around since nearly the beginning and the reveal makes sense, and as Mana points out in a fourth wall breaking moment it was perfectly set up by the OP, however a little of Alfie is a good thing. This focus on her just kind of puts her character in the worst possible light and by the end I just didn’t care whether she and Itsuki ended up together.
More of a problem though is my increasing rancour toward Mana. From the beginning Mana has irritated me but their presence in Conception becomes more irksome with every episode. Even with Alfie not exactly being a stellar heroine, Mana’s intrusive ranting outside the window made what was already a tiresome scene significantly worse.
Which leads to the post title as I started wondering just how many ways the writers could use to remove Mana from the picture (they won’t, and it is clear next week is going to focus on the obnoxious vermin, but I can dream). I’ve suggested several times Mana needs a close encounter with a paper shredder, but maybe it is time to get more inventive. Regardless, I can now say with absolute certainty that Mana is topping my most obnoxious character ever list (forget just this year) taking out even Excalibur from Soul Eater.
I think Matt said it best over on ‘Anime Q and A’ but Conception has proven time and again that it has zero interest in pursuing its own premise and is instead determined to indulge in whatever it feels like indulging in. While sometimes that might be the smuttier aspects (though apparently never outright sex despite early promises – and I’m not actually disappointed by that but I would at least understand what sort of anime this was trying to be), it is far more frequently its forays into humour usually spear-headed by the regularly fourth wall breaking Mana (who still hasn’t had a close encounter with a paper shredder despite my endless wishes since episode 2).
Basically if you’re still watching this for the actual plot, I feel sorry for you because I don’t think this show is particularly interested in it either!
Well, Mana pursues the line of thought that the thirteenth labyrinth must be some sort of forbidden door and uses that to create an incredibly flimsy premise that clearly the ‘maiden’ must be someone forbidden and proceeds to suggest that they are either male (in the absence of being a younger sister or a step-mother). We then see the two other male characters indulge in some fairly blunt dialogue with Itsuki that is more or less a take-off of the usual pick ups they’ve been doing with the girls, but now there’s an incredibly amount of awareness behind every single line and it is almost as if the anime is daring you to call them on it.
All of this is rounded up in a twist reveal at the end that more or less confirms what the audience more or less knew all along. And that is, Mana is a punk and the single most obnoxious character of the season.
I’m guessing there’s humour to be found here but to be honest I just found this whole sequence tiresome and Conception has definitely earned its title of ‘Anime I Wish I Hadn’t Watched This Season’. Still, too late now to back out so let’s see if they manage anything resembling a resolution given they’ve ignored their own plot for so long.
This anime has never hidden what it is and I don’t really think it needed to. Right from the beginning the dubious nature of Itsuki’s quest to woo the Star Maidens over in order to make Star Children through a love ritual is as in your face as it can be and despite it not actually involving sex it is about as borderline as it can be. Throw in Mana’s character who is a non-stop parade of lewd sex jokes and references and essentially this anime was very up-front about what its focus was going to be.
Still, in earlier episodes I felt there were some elements that were curious enough or interesting enough to warrant sticking around and further investigation. The overall presentation wasn’t great, some characters annoyed, and Mana was simply toxic, but the basic idea of being summoned to another world to rid it of impurities through a ritual and then fighting through different levels in a labyrinth had potential. To put it simply the balance of things that made me curious vs those things that made me roll my eyes was good enough that I stuck around. In a show like How Not To Summon a Demon Lord that ultimately paid off. Master of Ragnarok on the other hand was a failure.
So where does Conception fit in?
Well, it is hard to say given it isn’t finished yet and potentially, it could still do something with the ideas it laid out early on but has yet to really capitalise on. In fact, maybe episode 8 is just the low point before the thunderous final and I’ll look back at this post and realise that this was a by-product of weekly watching and personal prejudices against reality TV shows and that a thin parody over the top of the format didn’t make this episode any more watchable.
Note: Just playing out the tropes of something isn’t necessarily parody. Small exaggeration of those tropes doesn’t make it necessarily parody either. It kind of just makes it an emulation of the original and if you aren’t fond of the original, unless the parody is actually highlighting a specific issue or idea, basically you are stuck with something else you don’t like.
But basically, this episode brings the worst of Conception to the forefront, while ignoring most of what makes it occasionally interesting and curious. Itsuki particularly has what is left of his character butchered through the attempt to fit him into the mould of the protagonist of an episode of The Bachelor and I was one finger snap away from terminating the viewing then and there.
As it was, I did skip forward at multiple points in the episode, which is something I almost never do on something I haven’t watched through once. Second watches sometimes have sections where I will skip forward if there is a particular scene or moment I’d rather not endure a second time. But first watches are usually safe from this kind of treatment with the understanding that if I dislike something enough to want to skip forward it is probably time to let it go.
And then, just as I was more or less determined to end the viewing on this and maybe pick one of the shows I put on hold back up, they get back to the idea of the labyrinth and give just the tiniest faint hope they might address it. Not to mention, I’ve watched 8 episodes of this and I kind of want to get to the end and do a season final review. There definitely comes a point in the season where dropping something feels like a defeat and that the time will be completely wasted if you don’t get to the end.
That said, I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to the next episode. I just kind of want this one to be done.