Monster Wrecks

What’s the anime-manga industry up to these days? Monster girls, from the look of it. Mike Toole recently wrote an Anime News Network article about this trend, which seizes the base elements of sex comedies or domestic dramas and adds centaurs, lamia, harpies, mermaids, ogres, spider-people, slimes, and other creatures, most of them female.

I find this fascinating in concept. I always like it when people appropriate legends and creatures in new and ridiculous ways, so I see nothing wrong with a sitcom about a guy forced to share a house with a snake-person or a pile of sentient protean goo. I’m sure the storytellers of ancient Greece and general antiquity came up with things like this. They just didn’t write them down.

The problem with most of these monster-girl series is that they’re typical stories beneath the new paint. The leader of the whole movement is Monster Musume, a manga and anime about an average guy with various roommates from the monster realm: first a lamia who can’t keep her coils off him, then a juvenile harpy, then a noble centaur, and so on. It adheres to the same bland template as countless other risque comedies, as nearly all of the mythical beast-women want the protagonist in one way or another. That's why I gave up on the series. Well, that and I started feeling sorry for the lamia, who met the protagonist first and clearly liked him best.

Monster Musume doesn’t hesitate to overload on titillation, and rarely does it take its premise to imaginative heights. For example, we’re told that lamia are all female and thus require human males to breed (gosh, how convenient), even though many brands of fiction have male snake-men. What about Michael Swanwick’s The Dragons of Babel, where a male lamia is called a lamius? What about the G.I. Joe movie, which features a serpent-emperor voiced by Burgess Meredith? What about those Piers Anthony novels that a lot of people warned me against reading? I’m sure at least one of them has a male lamia.

There’s one section of the monster-girl trend that I actually enjoy, if only for selfish, nerdy reasons. It’s a manga called T-Rex na Kanojo, or My Girlfriend is a T-Rex.

It’s ostensibly a parody of the whole monster-girl thing, and it envisions a world where dinosaurs didn’t go extinct so much as they evolved over untold epochs to live and work alongside humans. Of course, this evolution means that dinosaur girls look human as far as their heads and torsos are concerned—everywhere else they have scales, claws, horns, or armor plating.

My Girlfriend is a T-Rex introduces Yuuma, a college kid of such placid disposition that he thinks nothing of a carnosaur woman named Churio digging through his garbage one night (because T-rexes aren’t above scavenging). After failing to frighten him away, Churio is strangely impressed with the thoughtful, laid-back human guy, and she moves in with him. The manga then delivers loosely linked gags about Churio fitting into the human world; she doesn’t know her own strength or grasp the mores of civilization, and that’s dangerous when you’re a dinosaur from the waist and elbows down.

More gentle comedy than ribald fantasy, My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seems to enjoy mocking reader expectations. Churio is buxom and naked when she’s introduced (and kept PG-13 by sound effect placement), but she dons clothes early on, and the series never goes for sex jokes when fish-out-of-water gags will do. The art is average and the humor tends to be mundane day-to-day fare, but the series has a slow charm that I can’t resist.

I also respect My Girlfriend is a T-Rex for its allegiance to a deeper cause. Churio makes friends among other dino-girls, and one of them is Kram. She’s an ankylosaurid woman who wags her clubbed tail when she’s happy. That joke is probably why the author went with an ankylosaur, but I’m glad to see my favorite dino get high billing here. Instead of following convention and introducing a Triceratops, an Apatosaurus, or a Stegosaurus as a supporting character, the series skipped to the Ankylosaurus.

Most dinosaur fiction sticks the noble creature, with its plated back and macelike tail, down among the C-listers. Jurassic Park took four movies before an Ankylosaurus or Euoplocephalus did anything, and they never had prominent parts in Dinotopia, Dino-Riders, or even Shotaro Ishinomori’s obscure, child-traumatizing Age of the Great Dinosaurs.

Most insulting of all is Dinosaucers, the mediocre ‘80s cartoon that pairs up hyperevolved alien dinosaurs with unnecessary human kids. The villain’s chief toady is Ankylo, a snorting, sniveling dimwit who looks more like a Dragon Ball Z devil-pig than a genuine Ankylosaurus. For that wretched aspersion, I hope Dinosaucers rots in the same remake-deprived cartoon hinterland as The Biskitts, Sport Billy, and Hound Town.

So I’ll give My Girlfriend is a T-Rex some credit: it knows what matters.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, the obscure dinosaurs are awesome. That ankylosaur looks like an animated pine-cone!