“There will come a time when very few will care about other people’s sexual preference – or preferences.” –Clive Davis
Adventurers Stunk and Zel encounter an angel from Heaven named Crimvael, who’s unable to return because their halo is damaged. While resting up at their favourite haunt, the Ale ‘n Eats, Stank and Zel decide to hit a brothel to blow off some steam at a bird-maid place, hauling Crimvael along with them and, upon realising that reviewing different brothels could be a good side gig, Stank, Zel and a reluctant Crimvael become the Interspecies Reviewers. Along the way, they are joined by Kanchal and Bruise, producing reviews that interest other adventurers, while at the same time, drawing the ire of Ale ‘n Eats’ waitress, Meidri. Over the course of their reviews, it becomes apparent that while there are occasionally places that are immensely satisfying, for the most part, different species have their own preferences: this is immediately apparent when Stunk and Zel have a debate about whether or not a 50-year-old human is more attractive than a 500-year-old elf, and throughout the course of Ishuzoku Reviewers, it becomes apparent that there is more to this saucy anime than first meets the eye. Every episode has Stunk, Zel, Crimvael and the other reviewers checking out different brothels to gauge their experiences as casually one writes about anime, movies or games, and at first glance, this has caused Ishuzoku Reviewers to become dismissed as a mindless series on sex. In fact, Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ content proved to be such that Funimation dropped it and refused to show it on grounds that the show was immoral, and even Japanese television studios like Tokyo MX ended up pulling it from their schedule. However, other Japanese channels continued to air Ishuzoku Reviewers (among the AT-X, KBS and BS11). Ishuzoku Reviewers prima facie appears to be a completely meaningless series intended to titillate and shock viewers, with brazen combinations of sight and sound to remind viewers that Stunk and the others are having a blast (or not). However, looking past the surface, in daring to portray what other anime do not, Ishuzoku Reviewers manages to come up with an interesting message nonetheless.
During its run, Ishuzoku Reviewers has Stunk, Zel, Crimvael (and occasionally, one of Kanchal and Bruise) visiting a variety of brothels, hosting færies, minotaurs, undead, dæmons, lilim, lava beings, cyclops, golems and everything in between. For Stunk, vitality and physical attractiveness is key, while Zel prefers high-mana beings. Kanchal is a bit of a sadist and prefers submissive partners, while Bruise, being a dog-man, prefers beings that are easy on his sense of smell. For instance, at the minotaur establishment, the succubus’ busts are a strong point for many, but for Bruise, his lactose intolerance means he doesn’t have quite as good of a time. Similarly, færies are enjoyable to Zel and Kanchal, but Crimvael is unable to participate owing to their own physical traits and feels scammed because they’d been made to pay a registration fee nonetheless. However, there are also places that score highly: the golem shop allows Stunk, Zel, Kanchal and Crimvael to recreate Meidri, and a distant town allows visitors to hang out with a clone of Archmage Demia. Unsurprisingly, the scores are high here because the establishments cater to the individual’s specific preferences, creating a highly personalised experience for them. It becomes clear that Ishuzoku Reviewers highlights how different people favours different things, and moreover, there’s nothing wrong with this at all. This is ultimately what celebrating diversity boils down to: not everyone likes the same things, with some choices being more appealing to others (such as when Stunk, Zel and Crimvael accept an invitation to go to an egg-laying exhibition but are completely turned off, while Narugami, the fellow who invited them, is having a blast). However, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to what is the “best”, either: the answer to this question is based purely on the individual, and while Ishuzoku Reviewers shows viewers through many visceral moments involving the horizontal tango, the message is clear enough; diversity is a good thing, and differences among individuals notwithstanding, at the end of the day, everyone shares in common the desire for similar things (in Ishuzoku Reviewers, it’s to have a good time). Further to this, that the Interspecies Reviewers themselves all rate highly places that offer a personalised experience speaks volumes to the fact that different people similarly have a preference for being able to tailor things just to their liking.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Like my old Yosuga no Sora post, I’ll remark that papilla mammaria are shown in this post to some extent, so, in the manner of Lemony Snicket, this is a final warning of sorts to press the back button and go read something more agreeable. To bring readers up to speed on things, I do Terrible Anime Challenges to see if my response to an anime matches the reception that the community has expressed towards it. Usually, this entails my watching an anime long after it has finished airing; my schedule doesn’t always allow me to watch shows as they air, and I end up returning to a series once it’s done.
- This is what happened with Ishuzoku Reviewers, which began airing in January 2020, a busy period: at the time, reports of an unusual new respiratory illness were circulating, and I’d just moved offices as a result of WeWork acquiring most of the floor space in our old building. As the winter set in, I ended up trying Ishuzoku Reviewers out of curiosity. The raunchy content proved amusing, but with Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record keeping me busy, I put Ishuzoku Reviewers on hold so I could keep up with the other anime and Battlefield V, in turn leading Ishuzoku Reviewers to fall off my radar.
- Ishuzoku Reviewers initially appears to be the sort of anime that seems quite far removed from the typical shows I watch (according to readers, I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for writing about moé slice-of-life series), and indeed, when I picked up Ishuzoku Reviewers, I had entered fully anticipating that there wouldn’t be anything noteworthy to say. It is true that writing about what amounts to a group of friends fornicating their way through various types of brothels is about as tricky as it gets, but as I delved further into Ishuzoku Reviewers, I began finding myself more impressed with how well-written this world was.
- Of the characters in Ishuzoku Reviewers, Crimvael was the most interesting; as an angel possessing male and female genitalia, Crimvael chooses to present as male to prevent people from hitting on them. Pronouns for Crimvael are tricky; on one hand, Crimvael is neither male nor female, but people address Crimvael with male pronouns as a result of their preferences. In this post, I’ve chosen to go with the neutral pronoun for simplicity’s sake. On the topic of pronouns, in Cantonese, 佢 (jyutping keui5) is the only third person singular pronoun, as Chinese has no inflections for gender. Talking about Crimvael would be straightforward, but, if I were I to review Ishuzoku Reviewers in Chinese, I would need to be mindful since written Chinese does have the distinction.
- This is because radicals (部首, jyutping bou6 sau2) are used to separate characters when writing (whereas in spoken Chinese, context usually assists with meaning). In written Chinese, he/him is 他 and she/her is 她. 祂 is the character used to refer to deities, and Crimvael might count, as they are an angelic being, although a quick look around finds a new symbol for they/them: X也, which is appropriate for Crimvael. Conversely, animals are referred to as 牠, using the radical derived from 牛, the character for “cow”. On cows, Ishuzoku Reviewers did indeed have Stunk and the others hit a minotaur places after the reviewers totally flake on their promise to visit a dæmon place.
- While I’d expected the minotaur’s assets to score highly, Ishuzoku Reviewers surprised me with the outcome, and it was about here that the anime’s messages became clear. Nothing is sacred in Ishuzoku Reviewers, as every idée fixe imaginable is explored. One episode has Stunk, Zel, Kanchal and Crimvael taking a potion that changes out their sex. After they have a laugh at their bodies, the establishment gives them a chance to see what things are like from another perspective, and similarly to the minotaurs, Ishuzoku Reviewers shows how some things are not what one imagines it to be, acting as a caution for people to be careful of what they wish for. On the other hand, Crimvael becomes blown away by their experience.
- Indeed, there are several moments in Ishuzoku Reviewers where the reviewers take on more than they can handle: at a lilim establisment, even after being buffed with stamina and resistance bonuses, the reviewers get wiped out by the horde, and here, after collecting volcanic stones for a quest, Stunk and Zel are unable to order the special service from their host because they’d burn to death. On the other hand, Crimvael’s natural resistance to heat allows them to kick things upstairs. Throughout Ishuzoku Reviewers, the once pure and angelic Crimvael slowly becomes corrupted, and despite their objections otherwise, Crimvael’s actions demonstrate this: in one memorable instance, they end up going to a slime brothel on their own without Zel and Stunk.
- The creativity in Ishuzoku Reviewers was actually quite charming, and when I noted that nothing is sacred in this series, I am not kidding – even fungi are viable candidates for doing the horizontal tango. During their visit, the reviewers find that this particular establishment, despite sounding a little strange, actually does do a phenomenal job for its clients: the receptionist gauges the individual and then suggests something for everyone. Stunk and Zel are immediately assigned a match, and in the end, even Crimvael receives something suited for them. Despite the mushroom establishment being unusual at first glance, everyone ends up having an especially good time in spite of appearances.
- One aspect that began manifesting was the juxtaposition of doing the deed with an analogous bit of imagery while the characters review their experiences. Doing this sort of thing keeps Ishuzoku Reviewers from being a flat-out hentai series, but it also enhances things by leaving the viewer’s imaginations to run wild. This technique is often used in horror, where violence happens off-screen. These sorts of techniques are successful because everyone’s imaginations work differently, allowing the moment to impact them in their own way. By showing something on screen, this takes away the need for one’s mind’s eye to get to work.
- This aspect is what Ishuzoku Reviewers suggests as being the most effective; it is after the Golem establishment that Ishuzoku Reviewers indicates to viewers that Stunk and his crew tend to have the best time at places that give them options. When they end up building a phoney version of Meidri and have a blast as a result, it became evident that people tend to rate things better when they can tailor-make something to their liking. This is why things like cosmetics in video games are such a big deal, and why companies offer “build it yourself” options.
- Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ best moments actually don’t happen at the brothels: my favourite moment was watching Meidri’s delivery of a big-time physical beating to Stunk, Zel, Kanchel and Crimvael after learning that they’d made her. By default, Meidri isn’t one to put up with perversions from Stunk, but she does get along well enough with Crimvael, who works at Ale n’ Eats from time to time. To see Crimvael get trampled shows how some lines shouldn’t be crossed, and although Meidri is beside herself with rage, the episode’s second half has Crimvael back to being on speaking terms with Meidri, although Crimvael is drained after the Ale n’ Eats sees an influx of shadow people.
- To help Crimvael recharge, Stunk and the others take them to a will-o’-the-whisp place. Although the staff are very friendly, the fact that it’s so bright in here means that nothing can be seen. Through this establishment, one can conclude that intimacy entails all five senses, and that taking away one (sight, in this case), is to diminish the experience. As Ishuzoku Reviewers continued, it became interesting to see what happened to Crimvael: desires of the flesh begin consuming them, and originally, Crimvael had stated their return to Heaven was contingent on their halo healing up. There’s no sign of that happening any time soon, and so, Crimvael increasingly becomes a fallen angel of sorts.
- Despite clearly revelling in excesses, Ishuzoku Reviewers seems to caution viewers that there is merit in moderation: on a handful of occasions, the reviewers go to places that are a bit more intense than they’d anticipated. To get it out of their system prior to a lengthy quest, the reviewers swing by an actual succubus establishment: from how Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ world works, it is stated that the individuals working at succubus establishments have some succubus lineage in them rather than being a full member of a given species. This in turn makes them much more active than usual, making them suited for “entertaining” clients. While Ishuzoku Reviewers certainly takes things to a new level, the series is by no means the only one to have such a concept.
- In Konosuba, succubus joints do actually exist, although they are limited to delivering highly realistic dreams for their clients, and unlike Ishuzoku Reviewers, where establishments are presumably legal, the ones from Konosuba operate in a grey area. On the topic of Konosuba, I’ve heard rumours of a third season going around, and I greatly enjoyed the series, having watched it after the health crisis prompted me to work from home. I am wondering what a continuation will entail, although the series’ greatest strength lies in how the characters bounce off one another.
- One aspect in Ishuzoku Reviewers I found particularly enjoyable was the moment where Stunk and Zel realise that others have taken their review concept and applied it to places elsewhere. Although they consider legal action, after taking some time to think it through, note their concept isn’t particularly novel and in the end, simply enjoy the reviews from others. This moment was particularly relatable, and as a blogger, I myself occasionally have these reactions when learning another blog has covered what I was sure to be an obscure series. For the most part, it’s fun to see what others say, so long as they remain fair about things. Ishuzoku Reviewers also presents a satire of reviewers like myself through the Incubus, whose physiology allows him to find merits in most everything. Granted, such reviewers are actually worthless by default, although if we were to nitpick, I just tend to be more positive about the thing I do pick up, and my criticisms of a work take the form of “things I’d like to see improved” rather than being a tirade against the creators or folks who enjoyed it.
- Altogether, beneath its vulgar and crass exterior, Ishuzoku Reviewers is actually a surprisingly fun show that capitalises on its outrageous premise to create something that exceeded my initial expectations. In this way, for the Terrible Anime Challenge series, I would count the series as “it was unexpectedly fun”. It appears I’m not the only one: others have praised the anime for daring to go where few have gone, creating humour at every turn, and unabashedly indicating that fun is a matter of perspective in a meaningful way. In short, Ishuzoku Reviewers does deserve the praise it has received. If and when I’m asked, my favourite of the places would probably be the Golem shop, or the Magic Metropolis, precisely because it provides the most customised experiences for the client.
- Overall, Ishuzoku Reviewers is the sort of anime that does demand an open mind to watch, and no small amount of courage to write about. My decision to go through Ishuzoku Reviewers and write about it would’ve been unthinkable during its airing two years earlier, but in more recent times, after becoming a bit more involved with the community, especially through collaborative posts with Dewbond, I’m more open now than I’d been two years ago. Such posts therefore become more fun to write about, as they allow me to cover topics that I don’t normally cover. Similarly, it was collaboration with Dewbond that eventually led me to wrap up Gundam SEED and even press through Gundam SEED Destiny.
- In past discussions dating back to 2020, when we’d first done our collaboration on Yosuga no Sora, Dewbond had suggested Fate/Zero as a candidate for collaboration. For this to materialise, I’d have to actually finish the series first, and this year, things have been looking very busy – I’m just barely keeping up with my posting schedule now ahead of the big move next month. Perhaps once things settle down, I’ll have a more concrete idea of where things are, although since Fate/Zero is a two-cour series with twenty-five episodes, I have a feeling that once I get started, momentum will do the rest, and I’ll finish in a timely manner.
- During the finale, after New Year’s begins, the crew realise that all of their favourite spots are booked solid, but in exchange for having helped bumped up their visitor count, Aloe (receptionist of the Færie place) thanks them by giving them vouchers for an establishment that does dreams. While not the real deal, it does give everyone a chance to start the New Year with their favourite place; this is the moment that brought to mind how Succubus establishments in KonoSuba worked, and also indicates that reviews in Ishuzoku Reviewers are not taken personally: people see a review and may think to themselves that, given what was described, even in a negative review, a place might just be suited for them.
- Ishuzoku Reviewers thus describes the more positive side of critical reviews, a far cry from how they can be handled in reality; people often see negative reviews as a call to stay away from something rather than a mark of what didn’t work for someone. Negative reviewers in turn utilise this as a chance to keep people away from genres they deem unworthy, in turn creating a culture of gatekeeping. I remark that it is possible for a negative review to be helpful, but this demands good faith from the reviewer. With this, my reflection on Ishuzoku Reviewers draws to a close, and I’ll round things out by remarking again that this series was quite the pleasant surprise.
Beyond a rather hilarious, if roundabout, way of celebrating diversity, Ishuzoku Reviewers also has a surprisingly well-conceptualised world. The series is set in a high fantasy realm, similar to those of an isekai, with Stunk and the others doing things befitting of a typical adventurer like clearing dungeons, completing quests and spending their downtime in their favourite tavern. However, through the brothels, glimpses into this world are provided. There is a dæmon lord, but her leadership boils down to whether or not people will vote for her. Challenges like improving armour effectiveness exist, and there are things that even magic cannot accomplish, prompting Demia’s interest in Crimvael and his unique properties. The world observes unique customs, as seen when Crimvael participates in a New Year’s Eve prayer. Stunk himself comes from nobility, but opted for a life of adventure rather. The world of Ishuzoku Reviewers is surprisingly well-written, conveying a sense that it is thoroughly lived-in: things never feel empty or lonely at any point. It is therefore the case that Ishuzoku Reviewers is one of those situations where judging a book by its cover is inappropriate – although the anime is trashy and lacks a cohesive underlying narrative through and through, it is a surprisingly well-constructed presentation on sex-positivity (which can be abstracted to diversity in general). With a healthy dose of humour, Ishuzoku Reviewers excels in presenting viewers with a world that seems welcoming, even if it is a little perverted. The anime similarly succeeds in one other realm; it is a hilarious satire of reviewers as a whole, and while the Interspecies Reviewers themselves try to be as fair as possible, they are shocked when they learn others have taken their concept and are applying it to reviewing brothels in different areas. Stunk and Zel consider suing until they realise the concept isn’t patented and then consent to enjoy other reviews, bringing to mind how it feels when one reads another blogger writing on their own chosen topics of interest. Similarly, when an Incubus shows up, and demands the Interspecies Reviewers to revise all of their reviews to perfect scores, arguing that he gets the different species in ways the Interspecies Reviewers do not, I do not mind admitting that I am reminded of myself: I tend to score everything highly and view things favourably. Altogether, while Ishuzoku Reviewers is not going to be a revolutionary series, it absolutely succeeds in creating a highly amusing journey that reminds viewers of how different people will have different preferences, and how in spite of this, these differences are less dramatic than one might imagine.