Content note: this post is a review of an ecchi anime, and contains text and images of a mildly suggestive nature.
In preparation for a longer post about the worrying lack of adult female characters in anime, I made the regrettable decision to have a look at some of this season’s more worrying titles, in order to have some concrete examples of why this lack is a bad thing.
First on my list (simply because of alphabetical order) was ‘Ao-chan Can’t Study!’
Ao Horie’s father, an erotic fiction author, chose Ao’s name because A stands for “apple” and O stands for “orgy”! Desperate to escape her father’s legacy and get into a prestigious university, Ao focuses on school instead of pursuing romance. She has no time for boys, but there’s just one problem: Kijima, her handsome classmate, just confessed his love to her! And to make matters worse, she can’t stop thinking dirty thoughts about him! Looks like escaping her father’s influence will be tough…
My intention had been just to watch as much of the first episode as I could stand and make some notes on inappropriate representations of schoolgirls in anime. But this show…Dear god, this show.
It’s like it can’t figure out what it’s trying to do.
To break it down (so you don’t have to watch it yourself), Horie Ao is a highschool girl who’s so embarrassed by her erotic lit-author dad that she’s pledged to study hard, effectively ‘giving up’ her youth, so she can get into a good university to escape him. For reference, Ao’s dad is the tiny green goblin-man in the cover image above. The first time we see him, Ao is serving him dessert – a pudding shaped like a breast, which Ao destroys by dropping a spoon into it, triggering an epic meltdown from this frightening man-child. The guy talks to (and about) his teenage daughter in ways that would have any right-thinking observer call social services in a heartbeat.
We see Ao at school, affirming her determination to avoid boys, romance and sex, so much that it’s really no surprise when she spends the rest of the episode, nay, the series, stumbling into a series of classic ecchi situations. Falling on top of a boy with her bust in his face? Yep. Accidental underwear exposure? You betcha. (Not so accidental when it turns out her father actually planned it.) Caught staring at a boy’s crotch? Of course.
So far, so standard ecchi.
But the confusing part comes from the reveal that the boy who’s professed his affections is actually supposed to be fairly wholesome, trying to cover up her knicker-flashes and talking about ‘love’ rather than lust. Which means that, when Ao keeps on finding herself in lewd situations, it’s genereally her own doing (or her father’s) rather than the fault of the boy. So I don’t know if we’re meant to be sympathising with Ao and her misfortune, or if the message we’re supposed to take is ‘girls really do think about sex as much as boys do’ and we’re supposed to be rooting for Ao to get over her hang-ups and give in to temptation.
The dad would be an absolute nightmare in real life, encouraging his teenage daughter to read his own erotic novels and pushing her into sexual situations. But by drawing him as a tiny goblin-man who behaves like a child, the creative team have turned his threatening behaviour into something we’re meant to laugh it.
To re-iterate: we are meant to laugh at the idea of a man pushing his unwilling teenage daughter into a sexual relationship and exposing her to erotic literature that she has clearly objected to.
And adults made this show. This is not some teenager’s misguided fantasy. Actual adults wrote this, animated it, voiced it, directed it, distributed it, and generally felt like this was an okay thing to do.
Look, if someone wants to make a comedy series about an adult who unintentionally finds themselves in compromising situations, that’s one thing. I’m not saying I’d watch it, but it’s okay to laugh about sex sometimes.
But this is a teenage girl. An actual adult person made the decision to draw a teenage girl having her underwear exposed to a boy against her will. And expected us to laugh about it. I don’t care who the intended audience is: adults made it, and that’s the problem.
How does this still happen in 2019?
How does it happen more than once? This season alone, I can spot at least three other shows on Crunchyroll that look like they have a similar tone, and more with either teenage boys and their teachers, or adult male protagonists with younger female characters. For every anime that I fall in love with, there seems to be at least one that makes me want to die a little.
That post about the lack of adult women in anime is hopefully coming soon, but in the meantime, do I subject myself to more of this in the name of research? Is there demand for a series of ‘I watched this crap so you don’t have to’?
I do think Ao-chan Can’t Study is funny, but it wouldn’t be if it were reality instead of anime. I also don’t ever laugh at the weird old man-child… he’s not amusing. But it’s cute the way Ao-chan is a teenager who thinks about sex and lust even though she tries to pretend she does no such things. It reminds me of how I was.
I can see where the humour lies, and some moments probably would have made me chuckle if only they hadn’t been bundled with this idea of sexualising teenage girls. I think ‘The Inbetweeners’ did a great job of showing teenagers constantly thinking about sex in a way that was funny but without actually sexualising the female characters in uncomfortable ways, so the premise is do-able, just not the way ‘Ao-chan’ does it.
That’s fair enough. I’ve never seen Inbetweeners.
It’s worth watching if it’s available where you are. It’s a British live action comedy about four sixth form students (16/17 years old) attempting to do typical teenage boy things like getting drunk and getting girlfriends, but awkwardly failing at everything. It has the bawdy humour that a lot of ecchi anime aims for, but without any titillation – you’re never meant to find any of the teenage characters attractive.
That sounds hilarious!