“The laws of probability, so true in general, so fallacious in particular.” –Edward Gibbon
After a fire destroys his home and family, Kōshi Nagumo is rendered homeless. A chance encounter with university student Mineru Wachi changes his fortunes: she invites him back to the Goddess Dormitory of Seikan Women’s University and, after sending him off to the baths, suggests to the other residents that he take up a role as the dormitory mother. While Kōshi is initially thrilled with the prospect of having a roof over his head and a bit of income to work towards, he decides to turn down the offer, since resident Atena Saotome has androphobia, and he doesn’t wish to inconvenience her. However, Atena decides to try and accommodate Kōshi. Over time, Kōshi gets to know the residents better: Mineru is a chemistry student with a fondness for concocting dangerous compounds, Kiriya Senshō is a martial artist who enjoys shōjo manga, Frey is a cosplayer and frequently forces others to don various outfits, and Serene Hozumi is an enigmatic, silent individual who claims to be in cahoots with the Moon Men. Despite their eccentricities and the resulting misadventures, Kōshi acclimatises to life at Goddess Dormitory, even convincing his childhood friend, Sutea Koroya, he’s doing fine: the others have come to regard him as a brother of sorts and even develops a crush on Atena. As Kōshi helps out in keeping Goddess Dormitory ship-shape and attends a group vacation, plus a culture festival at the residents’ university and helps out at Kiriya’s family dōjō for Christmas. When Kōshi collapses from a fever, the Goddess Dormitory’s residents look after him, and he recovers just in time to celebrate New Years’ with the others. This is Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory (Megami-ryō no Ryōbo-kun), an ecchi-comedy that I ended up picking up out of vain curiosity. While the series is worlds apart from the shows I typically watch, Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory does provide an opportunity for me to look at what I look for in comedy, whether it be in ecchi series like these, or more conventional comedies (such as the incomparable works of Samuel and Michael Hui’s 80s films, or Steven Chow).
In practise, Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory has a simple theme: it deals with the idea that shared experiences bring people closer together, and specifically, presents a very optimistic view of how eccentricities alone does not make an individual unworthy or troubled by any stretch. Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory‘s messages are by no means intricate or detailed, being sufficiently written out as to make the series serviceable, but otherwise, is unremarkable. Instead, the main reason why the series has an audience lies with its use of ecchi to drive comedy, placing Kōshi in unfavourable or compromising situations that defy probability. Ecchi series utilise timing as the main driver behind its humour: in general, humour arises out of a defiance of expectations in a non-threatening manner, in such a way as to surprise someone. A scenario is set up, and then the viewer’s expectations must be subverted, resulting in a moment that acts as a punchline, the joke’s culmination which results in the observer realising something absurd had occurred. In Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, Kōshi is placed into awkward situations with any one of Atena, Mineru, Frey, Serene or Kiriya (say, Kiriya walking in on Kōshi while he’s alone in the baths). Ordinarily, probability dictates that there’d be a silence and some blushing, and that’d be about it. However, uncommonly bad luck or poor timing then sets Kōshi down a route where he is compromised further (Kiriya collides with Kiriya and “docks” with her). At this stage, the punchline comes with the presence of an observer and their subsequent reaction to Kōshi’s situation: in the aforementioned example, Atena and Sutea walk in on the two and react to it in their own manner, but then, then consequences aren’t shown. This simple formula underlies all jokes, and everything, from Rick and Morty, Futurama to Cantonese comedy, employ this approach. In particular, ecchi anime tend to be very blunt about things: the visual aspects form the biggest component of the humour, which follows the framework for jokes very closely. Admittedly, this can come across as derivative (here is a limit to what ecchi can do, after all), but the characters’ personalities can add variety to things. Watching how each of Atena, Mineru, Kiriya, Frey, Serene and Sutea interact with Kōshi creates humour unique to each character: Mineru’s lethal experiments, Frey’s pursuit of cosplay and Serene’s beliefs in the Moon Man flusters and embarasses Kōshi in different ways.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Because of the way WordPress works, I’ll kick things off with as ordinary of an image as one can expect from this series: from here on out, I’ll be highlighting some of the more amusing moments from Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, which includes nudity and adult situations. This is one’s last chance to hit the back button and read something a little more agreeable, and before continuing on with the post, I will remark that Calvin and Hobbes‘ interpretation of “adult situations” as grown-up things like going to work, paying bills and taxes, taking responsibility and the like, was hilarious. There’s a little of that here in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, but folks looking for a bit of Bill Watterson level genius could do better to pick up Calvin and Hobbes rather than reading this post (or this blog, for that matter).
- Kōshi’s time at the Goddess Dormitory is marked by a series of unfortunate events, where he finds himself subject to the resident’s whims whenever he tries to carry out his duties. However, this is a part of the character development in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory: over time, Atena, Kiriya, Mineru, Fery and Serene appreciate the work that Kōshi does around the place. Of course, moments like these remain common, and given their frequency, it stands to reason that aside from Atena, everyone else is acting this way deliberately because they find Kōshi’s discomfort amusing.
- Works like Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory are considered by some to be immoral, since they seemingly glorify impure thoughts (or something along those lines). However, to argue thus is to miss the point of ecchi comedies: such topics are often considered verboten or taboo under most conditions, and as a result of not being openly discussed, creates discomfort when brought up. In middle school health classes where sexuality was discussed, or in biology when we covered reproduction, instructors found they couldn’t teach the material without the students giggling at every concept.
- Whether it is the processes themselves or the social constructs surrounding sexuality, I approach this as another part of biology; it is not something to be ashamed of, embarrassed about or fearful of. With this being said, it’s also not a topic that I’d openly discuss in a serious fashion because it is a bit of a private one. For the purpose of blogging and cracking bad jokes, however, I have no qualms with writing about ecchi anime: this is a chance to mix up the screenshots I have around here.
- Outside of the various “accidents” that befall Kōshi, and the fact that everyone at Goddess Dormitory has their own unique traits, life here is actually quite ordinary: Kōshi turns out to be a skillful cook, and crafts meals that impress the residents, whereas before, cooking had always been a bit of a hit-or-miss depending on who was cooking. Scenes of normalcy are precisely what Kōshi yearns for after a difficult time on the streets, and indeed, he is at his happiest when involved with making the Goddess Dormitory’s resident’s lives as smooth as possible.
- Of course, the women of Goddess Dormitory see Kōshi as a younger brother figure of sorts, someone who can be a model to test cosplay on or otherwise tease. After Atena begins to see herself as an older sister for Kōshi, the other residents follow suit and even hold a competition of sorts to see who’s the best suited. With the perspective afforded from being a third party, I find that Atena would do the best job: aside from succumbing to nosebleeds whenever contacting Kōshi, she genuinely wants what’s best for him.
- However, the others are capable in their own right, as well: while Atena has a sisterly vibe about her, Mineru and Kiriya are also responsible despite their outward appearances. They end up enrolling Kōshi in a nearby middle school so he can get back to his classes and keep up with his studies. Of course, this doesn’t stop Kiriya from using Kōshi as target practise: despite being an older sister herself, Kiriya can become a little carried away with reading shōjo manga. She’s responsible for the damages to the walls and ceiling at the dormitory, and during one unusual evening, Serene pops in to fix things with powers derived from moonlight.
- For Kōshi, returning to school means running into Sutea, who’s Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory‘s version of Yuzu. Like Yuzu, who has a crush on Aki, Sutea has feelings for Kōshi but vehemently denies everything. Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory and Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō have much in common, especially with respect to the basic premise and character dynamics. Kōshi’s desire to be helpful is similar to how Aki strives to be manly: in both cases, it’s about having the confidence to be mindful and considerate of others. Such messages are inevitably lost amidst the antics in their respective series.
- Of course, Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory has a much larger ecchi piece, and even Sutea herself is not spared the indignity despite the pair being first years in middle school. This much became clear after Sutea’s backstory is explored (she developed a crush on Kōshi after he spoke with her and found a way to contact her without exacerbating her sensitivity to thermal energy): after he takes her to the school infirmary, the two somehow get tangled in one another in a suggestive manner. Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory comes close to crossing the line on several occasions, but never actually does so.
- Later, Sutea decides to visit the Goddess Dormitory for herself to see what’s going on, and immediately finds herself overwhelmed by the colourful individuals here. In the space of seconds, it becomes clear why Goddess Dormitory’s residents are considered to be troubled – the sorts of things that Frey does to visitors would violates municipal, provincial and federal laws simultaneously, and similarly, Mineru’s love of experimentation would break every single protocol outlined in WHMIS (equivalent to the United States’ OSHA program).
- For any sane individual, life at the Goddess Dormitory would be a headache owing to how off the chain everyone (save Atena) is. The sheer ludicrousness of this is what drives the humour in the moment. This is nothing new; the idea of forcibly stripping someone for cosplay is a trope that has a storied past. Mikuru is the victim of Haruhi’s cosplay desires, and Sawako’s subjects Mio to similar suffering. However, what makes Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory‘s version stand out is precisely how upfront the anime is, where as K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, being different genres, keep the incident off-screen for the viewer’s benefit. Being only in middle school, Sutea lacks the strength to fend off Frey, and it is only intervention from Atena that spares her further agony.
- The most jaw-dropping moment in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory is probably when an accident leaves Kōshi and Kiriya in a very compromising position, which resulted in . I’ve heard people speculate that Kōshi and Kiriya hit the grand slam here and did the horizontal tango, but from a biological sciences standpoint, it is unlikely anything happened owing to the time frames: after colliding and landing, they are spotted almost immediately. This is certainly not enough time to go through everything needed to satisfy the criteria of doing the horizontal tango.
- I’d recently started watching A Series of Unfortunate Events‘ Netflix adaptation, and in a hilarious bit of double entendre, Esmé mentions the horizontal tango as a dance she’d like to do with Count Olaf, resulting in much laughter. Back in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, Kōshi’s misfortunate continue; that incident creates much embarrassment for Atena and Kiriya, who both begin to realise they have feelings for Kōshi. This leaves the pair absent-minded, forcing Kōshi to cross-dress and deliver their lunches for them, resulting in yet another misadventure.
- Atena ends up suggesting that everyone go on a vacation together in order to know one another better, and while Serene is initially reluctant, Atena ends up buying a special umbrella with a lunar print on the inside. When Kōshi finishes washing Serene’s tracksuit, Serene begins to feel at ease and decides that she would very much like to go on vacation with everyone else. Of the women staying at the Goddess Dormitory, Serene is the most stoic and only speaks tersely. In this way, she resembles The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Yuki Nagato.
- Even in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, no one really knows what Serene’s true story is: the other residents only state that she’s been around longer than anyone else, but otherwise, isn’t seen attending class and maintains some very unusual beliefs (which I’ve jokingly referred to as the Moon Men in this post, all in good fun). Serene comes to take an interest in Kōshi as well, and the anime leaves ambiguous whether or not Serene is actually of another world, possessing legitimate powers that has allowed her to easily fix a hole in the floor and defuse a sticky situation on campus.
- On the day of the vacation, Atena finds herself down in the dumps after realising the ryōkan she booked was the wrong one. This reminds me of Steven Chow’s From Beijing with Love, where Chow’s character accidentally books a decrepit accommodations rather than the opulent one owing to a single character difference in the hotels’ names. While Atena is dismayed at how rundown and creepy the inn feels, the others seem fine with things, and set about enjoying their day as much as possible. Nothing supernatural occurs, although the inn’s atmosphere does lead Mineru to share some unexpected time with Kōshi.
- In order to ensure viewers were not left shafted, Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory continues the vacation with a full-on beach episode, during which Sutea laments the fact that everyone else is more stacked than she is. While swimming on her own, Sutea runs into some misfortune of her own, but after Kiriya saves her and spots Kōshi pulling Atena from some men who are accosting her, she apologises to both Kiriya and Atena in the aftermath.
- When I think about it, Atena reminds me a little of Yuru Camp△‘s Nadeshiko in terms of facial appearance – both share similar hair and eye colours. Atena is named after the Greek Goddess Athena, and she’s voiced by Ayaka Nanase, who I know best as Sakura Quest‘s Yoshino Koharu and Reiko from Super Cub. As it turns out, Serene’s voice actress is Yuki Yomichi – she voiced Super Cub‘s Koguma. When I picked up Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, I did not know that Nanase and Yomichi would be playing lead roles in this anime, so it is a bit amusing to learn that there’s a little Super Cub in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory.
- Now that I’m here looking at Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory and considering the commonalities between this series and 2018’s Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, I cannot help but reminisce about things three years earlier. At this point in time, I would’ve been back home for a few weeks now, and the Xamarin assignment was slowly crawling towards completion, about a month overdue. During lunch breaks in September, I shot through Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, and while the anime itself had been a cheerful one, my memories of it were a bit melancholy.
- In retrospect, the melancholy had come from the fact that after an individual episode ended, I was right back at the grind. By this point in October, I was what the company had referred to as “code complete”: there was enough built out so that we could upload the app to HockeyApp (now known as Visual Studio App Centre) for testing and QA. Since then, I’ve never described something as code complete, since the term is a bit of a misnomer (code isn’t ever truly complete, and constantly changes to meet current needs). When I finish a feature or work item, I simply refer to it as “ready for peer review”, after which it is sent off for further QA if it passes.
- Looking back at my old writing, I didn’t once betray the melancholy I was feeling at them time, and in fact, my review for Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō pegged that series’ theme as appreciating a bit of liveliness in one’s life upon growing accustomed to it. Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory also covers similar territory, along with the idea that sharing time together is the most central piece of being a family. It is clear that I enjoyed Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, and reading the premise for Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, I became interested in this series because of the similarities, as well as to see how this series would do things differently. Having remarked that Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō was rather restrained about things, I would conclude that Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory with the limiters disengaged: the latter has no qualms about showing papilla mammaria for viewers, and situations of implicit embarrassment become portrayed for everyone to check out.
- Of the characters, I felt the most sympathy for Kiriya because after Kōshi begins regarding her as a girl rather than an older sister, she becomes more bashful around him and even comes to develop a crush on him. At the same time, she struggles with these feelings and finds it difficult to know whether she should express herself: by the time Christmas arrives, the pair go on an outing to pick up a few things after Atena bows out, and others remark that the pair resemble brother and sister more than anything, leading Kiriya to believe that Kōshi’s got a crush on Atena.
- Thus, at this point in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, the score is as follows: Kōshi has feelings for Atena, who in turn is fond of treating Kōshi like a younger brother. Kiriya has a crush on Kōshi. Sutea definitely loves Kōshi and expresses open jealousy when others challenge this. Frey, Serene and Mineru enjoy teasing Kōshi but otherwise don’t seem bothered by where his heart lies. The makings of a love tesseract are all present, and thing could become very messy, very quickly. However, it doesn’t look like the series will go in this direction: the manga looks like it continues on with the sort of antics that the anime adaptation covers, and the anime ends at chapter twenty or so, with a custom ending to wrap things up.
- In taking a quick gander at the manga to see what was upcoming, I also learnt that the anime actually stepped things up in several places, showing papilla mammaria in places where it were absent. While Frey is measuring Kiriya, for instance, the effect of the tape measure is far less pronounced in the manga than it is in the anime. There is one exception: the infamous scene where Kiriya falls onto Kōshi is actually not covered by steam, and there, it really does seem like they’re caught in the act. Again, inspection of Kiriya and Kōshi’s facial expressions in the equivalent manga panel would show that nothing of the sort happened.
- As the year draws to a close, Mineru picks up a kotatsu for the Goddess Dormitory: these heated tables are commonplace in Japan during winter, providing warmth, and many an anime has joked about this, with characters becoming stuck under its alluring warmth. Unfortunately for Kōshi, his days under the kotatsu come to an end when he falls asleep and and messes with Sutea, causing her to destroy the appliance and prohibit anyone from using it.
- Kotatsu are quite unnecessary in Canada because we have centralised heating. Here, winters unofficial last for up to eight months of the year, and any building lacking centralised heating would become an icebox on short order. Conversely, Japan’s winters are downright mild. With autumn now upon us here, and the days shortening, there’s a noticeable chill in the air. In the depths of winter, Atena decides to knit a pair of gloves for Kōshi, while Kōshi himself prepares to do some major cleaning around the Goddess Dormitory.
- The idea of a secret room has been one that dominated my childhood shows, so it was a bit of a surprise to see this return in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory: Mineru evidently secured enough research funding to build her own BSL-3 lab right here at the Goddess Dormitory. When I was a health science student, we worked in a BSL-2 lab, which featured biological safety cabinets: the coursework entailed working with pathogenic strains of E. coli. A BSL-3 lab is a step above, featuring two sets of self-closing doors and a filtration system. These labs are used for researching agents that can be transmitted by aerosols and/or cause serious disease, although Mineru’s entertained the idea of building a BSL-4 lab; ahead of this, she’s outfitted her lab with a chemical shower and airlock. However, I imagine that installing autoclave equipment is outside even her reach for the time being.
- After picking up some gifts from Serene, who’s got a tendency to hoard things, Mineru opens a bottle of alcohol that causes everyone to get hammered. Breathing in alcohol vapours, however, cannot induce intoxication, since the alcohol content from the vapours is actually quite low and still concentrated in the liquid alcohol: the rate of evaporation is quite low and not enough to nearly match the concentration of directly drinking it. For comical purposes, it is a satisfactory excuse to get Mineru, Serene and Atena tipsy enough to cling to Kōshi, in turn causing Sutea to beat him up out of frustration.
- It goes without saying that Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory isn’t going to be for all viewers: the humour is going to be comparatively crude compared to Calvin and Hobbes, or the sorts of comedy that I am used to. However, looking past the Tango-n-Alpha in this anime, there are also a few genuinely touching moments. Kōshi had lost his home and family in the fire, and while this isn’t brought up often, it does impact how the Goddess Dormitory’s residents look at Kōshi. The vast change in fortunes is meant to show that Kōshi is safe now, but when he develops a fever and a cold, he has a nightmare, indicating that the horrors of the fire are still with him.
- Ultimately, Kōshi recovers in time to ring in the new year alongside Sutea, Atena, Kiriya, Frey, Mineru and Serene, ready to welcome a new start with a smile on his face. This brings Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory to a close, and at ten episodes long, the series is a bit of a shorter one. While I had a little trouble writing about it, it remains an entertaining enough anime for me to rate as a B (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 of ten for those who prefer the ten-point scale): Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory isn’t going to be a world-changer, nor does it do anything remarkable with its animation, artwork or soundtrack, but it did offer consistent laughs for me. Writing about this series was no walk in the park (unlike the latest episode of The Aquatope on White Sand), so I’m now going to unwind with a bit of Halo: Infinite‘s second test flighting. So far, the game appears to run well, and I’ll have a verdict on whether or not I’ll be picking up Halo: Infinite this holiday season for its campaign very soon.
On closer inspection, Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory feels like a hulked-out version of 2018’s Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, which has a very similar setup (protagonist Aki Shiina moves to a dorm, falls in love with the caretaker and has to contend with the dorm’s whacky residents, similarly realising he’s gotten used to a life that rarely gives him a moment’s peace). Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō also utilised a very specific sequence of events to set Aki up for moments equivalent to Kōshi’s: ecchi anime that play on feelings of embarrassment and humiliation for laughs also share in common the disregard for the probability of certain events occurring. However, the two series do seem to convey a completely different aesthetics; Kōshi’s situation in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory is much more dire than Aki’s desire to be manly in Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō, but the situations Kōshi finds himself in are also more outrageous, whereas Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō feels much more restrained with its humour: by comparison, Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sō feels a little drab compared to Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory. The former presents gentler moments of introspection for Aki, while in Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory, Kōshi is barely afforded any time to breathe at all. The pacing and tone in a given ecchi anime can do much to set one series apart from one another, although at the end of the day, one watches these series to unwind and laugh, not contemplate the universe’s greatest mysteries. In this area, Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory is successful in creating humour, in turn leading me to wonder about other ecchi series out there, and their particular approaches towards comedy: which of these series would be a good way of killing some time and eliciting a few laughs from me on days I wish for something off the chain?