This week’s a little different folks. You probably noticed that I usually do my character studies on tragic characters that don’t tend to escape the storyline unharmed. This can be a little problematic since I favour goofy comedies with lighthearted plots. I’ve been running low on subjects, so I’ve adapted the theme a little.

Sakie Sato, dedicated teacher and resident succubus of Interviews with Monster Girls certainly doesn’t come to any harm during the course of the series, but it’s a stretch to say her life has been nothing but fun and games. Sure, she may be on an upswing, but she’s definitely had to overcome some hardships to get where she is.

Monster Girls Sakie
things are getting better

I realize that a CGDCT show may not be the first place you think of turning to for feminist messaging. This is probably why I was so very pleasantly surprised by how deftly the character of Sakie is presented. Obviously, the show didn’t go into too much depth, but it still attempted to depict a nicely rounded image of the succubus’ plight that draws many parallels to certain real-world issues. It should be noted that although problems are presented there aren’t much solutions offered. It can seem a little grim at times.

A little context for those who may not have seen the show, and a reminder for the rest. In the Monster Girls universe, Succubus are a species of monster girls who develop their “powers” unpredictably around puberty. Essentially, at that age their bodies start to produce an aphrodisiac pheromone which has a drastic effect on anyone who is susceptible to it ( i.e. who is attracted to women). The succubus themselves have little control over this (just like most of us can’t really control our internal chemistry). At best they can take certain measures to reduce the effect as much as possible.

In practice this means wearing clothes that conceal their bodies completely and hide their figures, even in stifling hot weather. Not wearing alluring hairstyles (although what is alluring depends on the beholder). Avoiding situations where they are alone with a member of the opposite sex or when they would be surrounded by a lot of them. For instance, taking the first train in the morning to not ride during rush hour. In practice, this renders the succubus more or less a self-imposed prisoner.

young sakie
little Sakie could easily have gone so wrong

Moreover, so as not to risk any potential complications that may come from having a succubus around, many employers will avoid there is an unspoken understanding that they are not welcomed in certain public venues. A succubus cannot expect to find a long term steady relationship and is very unlikely to ever have a family of her own. Even friendships are difficult. As a result, many succubi become completely isolate and hopeless. Some lash out against society ending up criminals and outcasts, some try to make the best of it by taking advantage of their powers, further increasing the prejudice against them. It’s never quite spelled out, but it is implied that some simply can’t accept the grim future in store and don’t make it.

Of course, this is fiction. It’s taking it to the extreme and exaggerating to prove a point. But you have to admit, some of these things do sound depressingly familiar, don’t they?

And in this sad state of affairs, enter a very unlikely hero. Shy, sweet, unassuming and completely unstoppable Sakie. Now that’s what I call a best girl.

Sakie cute
you’ve earned it

What made Sakie’s character really stand out in my mind is the balanced and somewhat disarmingly earnest presentation she was given. Considering everything I described above, it would have been easy to turn Sakie’s into some sort of figurehead. A spokesperson for CAUSE. That would have been devastating to the character and probably a great disservice to the show in general. What makes Sakie’s effective at getting any sort of message across is exactly the fact that she’s so much more than that message.

Instead of a classic martyr to the cause, bemoaning the injustice of her circumstances, Sakie’s is a trooper. A kind and gentle soul doing the best she can with the lot she has. Her problems and obstacles are painful and unfair, occasionally she buckles a bit under the weight of it all, but they’ re not insurmountable. Neither is she the only one with trials to overcome.

We don’t see a militant warrior fighting for a subjective justice. We see a real person trying to find the best possible path in life. And when she has moments of weakness, we see those too, in heart wrenching detail. But that’s all they are, moments.

Sakie drunk
fantastic coping mechanisms

This girl fascinated me in her normalness. I actually recognize her. I’ve known girls like that. Insecure because they’re seen as outstanding. Self conscious over things they couldn’t possibly control. And trying to figure it all out without having any clear answers to offer.

What’s more, never once does Sakie’s, or the show itself, place any blame on those around her. It’s clear that the men affected by her presence are just as unwitting as she is in the situation. Yes the restrictions placed on succubi seem terribly unfair but not entirely unreasonable. At the very least it’s easy to understand why these would exist. On the other hand, the narrative presents those that make an effort to get past that aphrodisiac effect as heroic and wonderful.

It’s possible that once again I’m the one that’s been too dense to pick up on a common message. However, whenever I do notice these appeals for justice and equality, there’s usually an aggressive tone to them. A notion of immediate and drastic change. There are people who are right and people who are wrong. As these are complex and difficult issues they get oversimplified down to two clear sides and grey zones are unacceptable.

Sakie blushing
I suggest objectifying everyone!

For me the character of Sakie is more powerful than such a simple message. She’s an appeal to sensibility and kindness. A hope that we can figure out how to make the best possible world together. Not only because it’s right and fair and all that hoopla… But because if we don’t, we may miss out on getting to know some truly lovely monster girls and that would be a real shame…

I rarely write these types of opinion pieces on my blog. If you’re a frequent reader you probably have a good sense of my values but I rarely go on about them. I tried my hand at a mildly feminist post a long time ago.. Let’s just say I hope I’ve improved. This said, much more interesting than writing about the subject, I would love to read your views on it. Do you think a stronger more uncompromising message is what’s needed at this point. Or do you think like me that now is precisely the time fora softer more inclusive approach?


53 thoughts

  1. Only a month late in commenting, but you do a great job celebrating the normalness of Sakie, a normalness that takes so much effort on her part. And I think seeing the effort she makes to be normal helps a lot of us who are always expending effort to be “normal”, to get along with consideration for others.

    And someone would have to be completely coldhearted to not want Sakie and Tetsuo to be a happy successful couple.

  2. I’m not the most sentimental or romantically inclined person but I did quietly hope Sakie and Tetsuo would get together at the end of this. Does that make me a soppy old git? :-/

  3. Sakie is my favorite character in series filled with great characters. I’ve liked her since she kind of hissed at Tetsuo in the first episode (around 5:50 — what _was_ that noise, anyway?).

    Your article articulated Sakie’s role in a way I wish I had! And now I like Sakie even more!

    You know, it’s easy to hype yourself up for a confrontational fight. But it’s _hard_ to engage in the kind of long duration heavy combat that she chose.

    Your “objectifying” screen shot is probably my favorite Sakie expression. I hope there’s a universe where she and Tetsuo end up happily together!

    “I tried my hand at a mildly feminist post a long time ago.. Let’s just say I hope I’ve improved.”

    I could stand to read more articles like this one! Or more articles like the others you’ve published. Whichever you prefer!

  4. “Sakie’s is a trooper. A kind and gentle soul doing the best she can with the lot she has. Her problems and obstacles are painful and unfair, occasionally she buckles a bit under the weight of it all, but they’ re not insurmountable. Neither is she the only one with trials to overcome.”

    You had me at “doing the best she can with the lot she has” – because that’s the story of my life, both ups and downs. I think it’s the best most of us can ever truly aspire to. And we might end up a hero, if not saving the world, perhaps by the much quieter but maybe more important providing an example of how to live to someone who needs it. We might also be judged a victim, or a villian, by others – but hopefully we have the compassion to not judge ourselves so harshly and to continue to live the best we can with what we’ve got.

    I’ve known some extremely beautiful women who were equally insecure because they feel like they were handed everything because of a simple genetic blessing they can’t claim credit for. And the some of the same women were also resentful and angry when others assumed they got everything for being beautiful – especially when the acheivement or whatever was something they actually earned through courage, intelligence or hard work – you know, like all the rest of us.

    Congrats on another thought provoking post that adds yet another anime to my queue…

    1. The quiet heroes that whether the little storms have always been my favorites. And I love how you bring it out in this comment. Thank you Foovay, you made my post better!

      1. Aw blush blush thank you. I consider that a very high compliment, given that I think your posts are by and large some of the best I have ever read.

  5. Aww, interesting timing. I just re-watched a few episodes, because the season isn’t exactly packed with heartwarming stuff. I really loved her first focus episode. Just imagine causing potential problems even by nodding off on the train. I’m so rooting for her, though I’m not quite sure what that entails, actually.

  6. Take reality, push it a bit to make it more extreme – but not so far that it becomes unrecognizable – and you may have good fiction.

  7. Well…gues what I just added to my que to watch on Crunchyroll? … there ever going to come a time when you write a post that is just horrible? 🤔🤔
    Lol…of course I am totally kidding. If there is one thing I love in shows, as I have pointed out on a lot of occasions, it’s great characters. This one seems so interesting that I just have to see this! 😊😊 Thanks Irina, for yet another great post! 😊😊

    1. I adored the characters here. And I would love to know your take on it. I hope it’s the type of sweetness you can enjoy!

      1. I’m going to restart my theme months in September. And as I have never properly finished anime theme month, I’m going to have September be anime month (again). I’ve got a lot of plans for that, not the least of which will be my collab post with you for Stein’s Gate. But this series will definitely be getting a review in that month as well. (And seeing as in the 3rd week of September I will be having my vacation, I have a lot of time on my hands 😊😊)

  8. Best girl Sakie! (Just Google her on my blog!) I think you nailed what makes her character great, and which I’ve been trying to nail perhaps less successfully.

      1. I assume that “ironing considering” means “ironic considering” and not “considering ironing”… 😀

  9. Feminism where women are treated as people instead of either heroes, victims, or villains? What is this BLASPHEMY!?
    I still think the vampire’s sister was the best…
    Anyways, I think it’s interesting that there’s a problem that isn’t really pointed at anyone in particular. The oppression narrative is kinda overdone by now… cause power’s a real boring way to view the world!
    The world is made of people, not ideals. As long as media can recognize women as the former, I’m good! Demi-chan totally nailed that!

    1. All the girls were wonderful in Demi chan. And you have a very healthy world view. Let’s hope your generation shares it at large.

  10. Funny how if someone was a succubus in real life they would be glorified in the real world, while the Anime brings a different approach.

    But, regarding the message. I think we are still not there, to be honest. It may depend from country to country, but it’s still needed strong, right in your face, feminist messages. I hope that everything gets better when our generation becomes the main leaders of the World.

    I, of course, think everything should be equal when it comes to gender, race, and so on. I just don’t understand how the hell women are still not making as much money as men all over the world, for example.

    Really great post and now I want to watch this as soon as possible 😀

  11. A cute moe show, which does have that message in it. I also appreciate that the guy in the story never does anything bad and continues to retain his decency despite the girl students crushing on him.

    As for Sakie, who is the actual romance in the story, yes, there’s the aspect of being trapped which is probably meant to be a metaphor about extremely pretty women who won the genetic lottery but are still immature inside, still sheltered and didn’t ask for all the attention. For them, being very attractive is probably a curse, and I’ve wondered about that around childhood friends who likewise suddenly got hit by the puberty truck and gained attention they weren’t ready for. Healthy women accept it and adjust with a balancing amount of character. The shrinking violets unfortunately gain even more attention from a certain kind of man, and they often get abused or taken advantage of, to her own dismay or doom. Lots of unhappy marriages start from the physical attraction. And worse, for many young women, the only time they are physically appealling is a narrow window which abruptly ends after their first pregnancy causes serious physical changes and 15 years of aging in 9 months. I’ve seen that aspect too. Its rather common in women with the greatest young vitality, the ones who are most irresistable to men.

    Sakie is physically appealling, and men DO notice pheromones. They can be overwhelming, though we are legally prohibited from even mentioning the situation to a female coworker who needs to remedy the problem just so we can work without distraction, because that’s sekohara, even though she’s the one doing it. More double standards.

    Sakie is a shrinking violet afraid of her body and unable to seize control of it, to own her form, so hides herself with uncomfortable camouflage. She lacks the confidence. While the body is hers, her lifestyle is her choice. I thought the romance between her at the scientist was sweet, and can only hope that she gets the implied happy ending. She is unlikely to ever grow the confidence to own her true form in public.

    1. I’m not sure the message is about extremely attractive women. There are many societies where modesty laws apply to all women. And women are taught to be ashamed of their bodies pretty much everywhere. I do beleive even the states has much harsher dress codes for girls than boys in public schools because it’s our bodies which are considered “distracting” and “troublesome”. Let’s face it, most places are less accepting of women.
      I have had dubious luck in that my race was always much more of an issue than my gender, but I’ve also been told many times to dress up more despite heat waves or that I shouldn’t wear makeup. And that’s just the easy stuff, behaviour also gets very regimented. Keeoing in mind that I have had it extremely easy, all things considered.

      1. The USA has very liberal laws and rules for women’s dress codes. Women in the workplace can wear nearly anything they like, whereas men get fired or passed over for promotion if they don’t follow the rules exactly. I’ve seen WAY more examples of women abusing dress codes here in California, regardless of race. Public schools won’t allow a belt as a skirt, or straps as a shirt, but there are few other restrictions. Dress codes are very loose here. We also have businesses and entire industries which are run by women, who prefer not to hire men and get away with what is obviously sexual discrimination and harassment because no judge will seriously try a case brought by a male victim. The discrimination in the court system is happening, and women are often given a double standard, at least in California. If you ever wanted to be evil as a woman, the law supports your ambitions here. And lots of women take advantage of this. For every Weinstein sleaze, there’s a hundred Feinsteins and Pelosis doing wrong to everyone they can.

          1. So the anime is sweeter than life and that’s why it is moe, and also why it is good entertainment. Good post. A shame that decency is dying out.

      2. All depends on the school. Some are quite liberal, some are more puritanical.

        The perception of many is that girls who are attractive are advertising. Why else would you want to look so good? If you didn’t want to have men competing for you, you wouldn’t shave your legs or wear tight or revealing clothing or anything but a sports bra. No makeup, no hair styling, minimal exposure of flesh, etc.

        And some of *those* think that advertising sexuality should be prohibited since it provokes lust and lust is a terrible sin. There are religions who think even lusting after your own wife is a sin.

        Europe was happy to have their religious extremists flee to the US. They remained dominant in the US, despite the enlightenment. So today we still have many areas of concentrated fundamentalism combined with others of liberalism with the rest of the country not sure what it is.

        But the notion that a woman who does anything to be pretty IS advertising for a partner remains. Probably a bit of truth to this, so it will never disappear.

        Check out Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. Accurate idea of how people thought and acted back then.

        1. The problem with advertising – and yes I’m sure it’s often the case, is the objective nature of what is attractive. For instance, I like wearing my hair in a ponytail when it’s warm because it annoys me to have it down. I’ve been told that this is a bit unseemly since I’m showing off my neck which can be considered erotic. Letting my hair down is also obviously trying to seduce folks, as long loose hair has long been a symbol of femininity. Wearing it in lo pigtails or braids so that it both somewhat covers my neck and is also not lose, is trying to appeal to loli complexes, shaving it means I’m insane (also means that if I happen to not like it shave I’m going to have to spend years regrowing it). Wearing a hat is acceptable as in not trying to seduce anyone but it’s also considered rude in a lot of circumstances and can be hot and uncomfortable… I know it sounds crazy but these types of situations do happen.

    2. “or many young women, the only time they are physically appealling is a narrow window which abruptly ends after their first pregnancy”

      That may be true somewhere. Japan? It surely is not in the US.

      Pregnancy does NOT age a woman 15 years in 9 months and having had a baby doesn’t make her any less attractive to anyone I know. (I admit such people may exist.) America LOVES cougars and MILFs.. Pheromones don’t stop happening because you become an adult – and if they did there are perfumes that more than make up for it.

      I’m not saying that a teenage girl can’t be heartbreakingly beautiful. A child of any age can have that trait. Sexiness is so much more than just clear skin and physical dimensions. It is a learned trait developed over decades and is more about a person’s presence than their appearance. I feel very sad for Japan. They can send all their unmarried sexy beautiful fully adult women over here and we’ll be happy to accept them.

      If anything, a single woman having a well-behaved young child makes her more attractive. Reproduction and pair bonding is the reason behind sexual desire and that is proof of her fitness. Recreation is just an extremely happy byproduct.

      1. Thank you Fred. I also don’t know of a place where pregnancy immediatly renders women unattractive. Sounds like a very sad way of thinking.

      2. I’ve seen that super-aging from pregnancy a few times now, and for each of them, they were super vibrant as teenagers and as young women. Something about the pregnancy wrecked the elasticin in their skin, and caused serious wrinkles and sagging, so it gave the appearance of 15 years of aging, all at once. This isn’t constant with all women. I edited my post heavily and left out that detail. One of the women who suffered this drastic aging was here in California. Another was in Texas. I meet others with similar aging as well. Its odd, and I’m not sure about the cause. The weight gain from pregnancy is often hard to get rid of, and some women find it impossible to be rid of, and hope their personality is strong enough to keep the marriage going. For many, especially here in California, it causes serious problems which culminate in divorce. How long that is delayed is a matter of issue in the couple’s bond, and when people are shallow to start with that bond can be rather weak.
        As for basic aging and the narrow window, that can be very true. I’ve known lots of women who were only pretty in their teens and grew quite unattractive as they matured further. I don’t know what happened to them after because I left my home town behind, but yes, that’s a thing. Its not all Baywatch here. Its almost never Baywatch here.

      3. The women I went to high school with from Laos looked over 30, but they were barely 18 and had 2-4 children each. Pregnancy used them hard, but the Hmong marry at puberty, on orders from their parents. They never said if they were happy or not. Were they good people? As much as I could tell, yes. Attractive? Not to me, but apparently to their husbands since two of the four I knew were pregnant at the time.
        I’m trying to say that women like Sakie won the genetic lottery, and she’s terrified of it, something which many women who will be ugly before they’re 23 would probably find personally offensive (due to jealousy), possibly because their options are so limited, that they MUST marry while they can before its too late, and the changes won’t be beneficial to their lives or personality either. Sigh. I suspect the xmas cake trope in Japan, that a woman must marry by 23 to avoid being labelled a fallen woman, probably is cultural clue that the women there lose their looks at 24. Its probably unfair, but that’s the trope and they keep holding to in their media. That’s why so many of the teachers in Anime who are around 30 are alcoholic obsessives, like the teacher in SNAFU, or the office lady in Kawai Complex, or the mangaka in Ghost Hot Spring. The desperation has to reflect something, and Sakie avoids the whole issue, without wanting it, because she’s a succubus and blessed with perfect attractiveness. So is her character funny or tragic?

        1. Keep in mind I’m not trying to be offensive here. I’m trying to relate the realities of biology to the tropes expressed in anime as it supports or denies the ideas behind Sakie and her character.

        2. I don’t find it offensive at all and it’s a little sad if you’ve truly limited your circle of friends to women who are that insecure and irrational. What’s more I still think that’s not the real metaphor here. There really are many societies (some inside the US) that consider all women differently than men. And that can be destructive to both genders. Regardless of looks or how personally appealing you find someone.
          Also, this is supposing that for some reason we are dealing with people who don’t take intelligence, personality, kindness or compatibility into account when considering attractiveness.

          1. Thankfully, all the women I know these days are married and I’m uninterested in anything more than casual friendship.
            I try to avoid dealing much with broken women, though I run into plenty. I just don’t want to get involved in their disaster area problems. There’s so many divorced and broken addicts raising a child badly, or angry at men for rejecting the monster they’ve become because the ugly personality inside shows on the outside too. That’s not nice either, and its pure madness to even attempt to date when so many women are like that today. The sane ones marry young to someone who cares about them and for many it works. Those who choose badly, or lose their looks and the husband realizes the personality is terrible… that relationship ends and the women are broken by the betrayal, though few admit they bear some responsibility as well. One rarely meets a woman who admits to having an offensive personality or takes the blame for destroying their marriage. And blaming him is often just half the story. The broken ones stay broken. This is true in the cities and suburbs of California, in the colleges and universities, in shops and offices, and regardless of politics. The Rat Race brings out the worst in people.
            The really strong and amazing women marry someone else, and the best a man can hope for is a kind word once in a while, even in California. It isn’t a nice state. That’s just advertising.

  12. This was SUCH a good show, for so many reasons — one of which you’ve nailed here. Its core message of tolerance and equality, regardless of circumstances — and, crucially, without being aggressive and obnoxious about it — is one that we can all draw something meaningful from and get firmly behind. Thumbs up.

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