The Curious Case of Interspecies reviewers

Just to be straight with all of you, this isn’t going to be a post on Interspecies Reviewers. I have not watched the show. I wanted to but I don’t get FUNimation which it originally started airing on so I gave up. And now I’m no longer sure I want to watch it. And that’s the bit I want to talk about.

Oh and to be clear I’m not going to debate the worth of hentai and whether Interspecies Reviewers is or isn’t a hentai to begin with. Again, I haven’t seen the show. As for my views on hentai: it seems like a healthier industry than live action pornography. Make of that what you will.

Interspecies-Reviewers-02-01-2020

Apparently that angel is a hermaphrodite. That’s all I know

What actually fascinated me about the hubbub around Interspecies Reviewers is the very unique arc of public perception the show had and how it looked to me, an outside observer.

When the season started out the series had a modest but fairly positive presence in the WordPress blogging community. Not that many bloggers were covering it, which I’ve come to understand is not necessarily representative of the larger anime viewership but it can give you an idea. However the blogs that were talking about the show had generally positive things to say with a few bloggers downright gushing about the series.

It was also very well rated on sites such as MAL (at one point the highest of winter 2020) and all in all seemed to be enjoying a successful season.

I read these posts and reviews. Noted the “adult” content. Made a mental note to check it out if it ever became available on one of my platforms. That was about it. Not the most exciting story but still a good outcome for any anime.

interspecies kitty

I like the art style. Just getting pics for the post made me a little interested again

Then controversy struck. FUNimation pulled the series from the rosters claiming the content simply didn’t meet with their distribution guidelines and the fans went nuts. Again, I’m a complete outsider here. I can only go by what I’ve read and the uneducated guesses I make. Form the outside, it seemed like the fans went for FUNi’s throat, calling it censorship, a poor business decision and trying to rally people to drop their subscription in retaliation.

Aside from the rather bare bones initial statement, where FUNimation explained that they would have to edit the series into oblivion to make it match their standards and as such preferred to let the series air untouched on a different platform, they have remained silent on the subject. Since then AnimeLab, a subsidiary of FUNimation, has picked up the show. (As I don’t know when this will actually publish, all of this happened in the past few weeks. I’m sorry if the story develops further.)

My first reaction was that this was probably pretty good news for the show. Unlike some fans I do not think that FUNimation had not properly vetted the show before signing a distribution deal, more likely they caved to advertiser and investor complaints. And I think they are in their right to chose what they distribute on their platform. The statement to fans could have been better I guess. I’m somewhat numbed to this. I watch older shows a lot and it’s not unusual for Cruchy to decide not to renew a license when I’m right in the middle of a series so that it just suddenly disappears from my queue without any explanation.  As such, personally I’m used to it. It’s frustrating but I never really expect a statement.

interspecies ewww

I know! that’s how I feel too

 

However, as annoying as it may have been for fans, I’m not sure how bad a business decision it may have been. Despite good viewer support it does seem like a show that had been pirated a lot for some reason as actual viewership was not as high as expected and so far, there doesn’t seem to have been a huge drop in FUNimation subscriptions. Moreover as it now airs on a subsidiary it’s all rather academic.

As for the anime itself, to me, it sounded like a blessing in disguise. Even though the distributor decided to stop showing it on their platform, they weren’t sitting on the exclusivity clause (probably the studio had a  condition that FUNimation had to air the series to keep their exclusivity, that’s pretty common) So Interspecies Reviewers were free to find distribution elsewhere and most likely still kept a good part of the distribution money from the original deal as well.

More importantly though, the show now had all this wonderful free publicity and in the best possible form. The events framed FUNimation as a big baddie fans could unite against while the poor little series was the beloved fan favourite underdog being mistreated by the rigid and joyless corporation. It was an us against them narrative with Interspecies Reviewers being solidly on the side of US. The way I saw it, as long as the series was passably decent it would do great as it had already racked up all this good will from anime fans through the controversy. On top of that, my understanding was (and is) that aside from the explicit nature of the premise, Interspecies Reviewers actually stays away from a lot of the more uncomfortable tropes like underage characters, abuse, non consent ect.. In my limited view, it seemed that by dropping it from the roster FUNimation had just doubled the shows popularity and made it a guaranteed hit. I thought that if I was on the production team, I would have sent FUNimation flowers.

inters^pecies

flowers

And for a second time, I was convinced that would be the end of it. And then something unexpected happened… again. Well unexpected for me. As more and more people started watching Interspecies Reviewers to see what all the hoopla was about, and more think pieces started to include thoughts on the anime itself, perception of the show changed.

Everything I read led me to believe fans were all almost unanimously against FUNimation’s decision to drop the show with varying degrees of mad about it, but at the same time the show’s rating started going down. Maybe it was due to the fact that it was now being watched by a more general audience and not strictly devoted fans of the genre, maybe it was just that it didn’t quite live up to the stellar rating and hype, but I was suddenly starting to see a lot of negative reviews.

In fact there must have been quite a backlash as it dropped on MAL despite all the perfect 10 reviews popping up in the comments. I actually read all the reviews I could find to prepare for this article.

None of those negative reviews had any issue with the mature content at all. The consensus I found was the the show was boring. Or to put it in more detail, the stories got very repetitive with little to no character development or deep world building to make up for it. The more positive reviews tend to focus on what the show represents (i.e. a tribute to anti censorship, a more general a acceptance of highly sexual material in mainstream media…). Again, I haven’t seen the series so I have no opinion but I am less interested now. Those new reviews just don’t appeal to me. Also I’m a little disappointed it’s not hentai. Don’t judge me…

interspecies-angel

I dunno, if you have a show about sex why not put some sex in it?

I really didn’t think the community would separate the political background from the actual show. I’m impressed. Obviously not everyone did but enough for a clear picture to come through. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this type of situation before, where extra attention didn’t immediately polarize the fanbase and people calmly put aside the issues from the products. And I don’t think any of the negative reviews had huge backlash from fans either. Is this a sign of growth? If so, Interspecies Reviewers may have had the most positive impact on the anime fanbase any show has ever managed! That deserves a thumbs up!

I still think Interspecies Reviewers is going to come out on top in this whole story. Added popularity is pretty much always more lucrative than extra prestige. But I wonder if anyone feels that they would have been better off maintaining a smaller but more positive fanbase? I also fear that I have been lucky in seeing only the respectful and moderate side on the conversation. Maybe there are people out there getting into fights over this series. If not though, I’m both impressed and just happy. What do you guys think?

Rini 2020 (6)

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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31 Responses

  1. Laleh Chini says:

    Hi dear, if you are interested to read my Canada Book Award winning “Climbing Over Grit” I would love to hear your review. Much love from Toronto.

  2. Dewbond says:

    Interspecies Reviewers works because everyone, the boys and the girls are all having a good time. Everyone knows what they want. This is a comedy series where the joke is the insane amount of creativity that is put into watching all of these monster girls have sex. It’s all about enjoying a laugh and watch some sexy girls, and it works because everyone in the entire show is on board with it.

    Look, we all know there are problems in the sex worker industry. but Interspecies reviewers isn’t trying to make any comments on that at all, it’s just a fun ecchi/hentai (the best in YEARS) romp. It isn’t trying to be anything more, which is why it works so damn well. Trying to walk a tightrope has sunk other series in the past. It’s all about just having a good time.

    So chill out, relax, and enjoy looking at some titty.

    • Irina says:

      But the way the censorship calls and distribution hick ups have changed perception despite being completely independent of the subject matter is an interesting media mechanic, wouldn’t you say?

      • Dewbond says:

        Oh yes, the absolute best thing that could have happened to this show, was Funimation and other stations trying to get rid of it. People involved in the god-awful culture war will watch it out of spite, and people on the fence will check it out to see just what’s up. That’s a win for the anime no question.

        It’s a dumb situation, and I still find it VERY hard to believe Funimation didn’t do a background check on the show.

  3. ManInBlack says:

    I read the synopsis when the show came out, didn’t like the sound of it therefore I didn’t watch it, so I had no idea this was a hot topic! I guess I don’t follow any news sites or Twitter accounts that reported this.

    I do find it amusing that a show is dropped due to its adult/questionable content when you consider half the stuff anime gets away with that Funi has licenced in the past. Oh well….

    • Irina says:

      Oh yeah, people have been really angry at Funimation and they still are. I think I saw the news of the show getting dropped on ANN maybe. It’s also been discussed by a lot of our fellow bloggers which is where I usually find stuff out cause I’m late to every party… I’m surprised you hadn’t heard about it and psyched to not be the last for once!

  4. As you know, Irina, I was watching on Funimation and reviewed the show quite positively just the week before it was dropped. While I was disappointed by Funimation’s decision, I was hardly going to cancel my subscription and thereby deprive myself of their other content (that old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face).

    I fee that the show spoke to inclusivity and acceptance, and should be lauded for doing so in such a straightforward, unrepentant manner. But as to allegations that it became repetitive and/or boring, let’s be honest: in truth, this is a show about work. Having and then rating sex with various prostitutes is the job that these fellows created for themselves, but it’s still their job–and work tends to become repetitive and boring. It just does. Viewers who got caught up in the sex aspect might have initially missed that bit and were just late catching on. For me, however, that just adds to the show’s charm by providing a gentle touch of realism.

  5. foovay says:

    I read a few reviews early on and although I am all for anything sex positive, and as a former sex worker I know that being a sex worker CAN be very positive for some people, the actual premise of the show sounded IMHO a bit boring and not my cup of tea. (Probably…too much vanilla) Thus it really wasn’t on my radar. And then all you know what broke loose over it. I can’t say I’m surprised, really. Amurikins are so idiotic over anything sexual it’s ridiculous. And there is a somewhat sortof thing going on where sex work is considered defacto exploitation as we have a little problem going on with sexual slavery. Mind you, sexual slavery isn’t all that uncommon in other countries – but it’s shocking – shocking I say! – to hear of it in the U.S. (eyeroll) However, that doesn’t mean that ALL sex workers are slaves. In fact, sex work can be very empowering for women. But that’s a whole nother issue.

    Any publicity is good publicity (who said that?) and no doubt there will be many who want to watch this show just to see what the hubbub is about. And then, yeah, they may very well gasp with shock and give it a bad review when they discover that yep, it’s about sex. Others might have to admit they kind of like it, but I somehow doubt they will be writing a glowing review to share that.

    I think perhaps this show was unfortunate to step into the shit pile that is the controversy about sex workers (which is a few centuries old now) in general.

    BTW there are places on the Internet, and used to be actual printed magazines that more or less post reviews of strip bars and whore houses. So leaving out the monster girls, it’s not such an original idea.

    Myself, I’m no more or less interested. If one of the platforms I watch on gets it eventually, I’ll probably watch an episode or two and decide if I like it and want to continue like with any other show that mildly interests me.

    I got tired of the whole american pretense that everyone has a certain attitude about sex (har har har) and morals about what is okay or not to show, produce, watch (hardeharharhar) many many years ago. I grew up in Oklahoma where Baptists regularly pretend they don’t know each other at the liquor store or the titty bar. I’ve known for a long time that the people who froth at the mouth and rail about immorality are generally the most immoral person in the room. Old stripper flashbacks. It’s okay, Reverend, your money is as green as anyone elses 😀 I’m not going to call your wife to complain you spent $500 on me tonight. You know, you really just have to laugh about it (all the way to the bank) and roll on.

    • Irina says:

      I grew up in many places that are more generally indifferent to sex in media. I wouldn’t say sex positive but somehow seeing sex in art wasn’t really that big a deal. And then I grew up in a lot of countries where it was considered just vile and something you should never expose the public to. I’m not sure if there’s a direct correlation but those countries that were very harsh on sex in media, tended to not be too great for women’s rights in general. My default position is add more sex to it, just make it fun…

      • foovay says:

        I always want to say, geez, get over yourself to people who get wound up over sex in media. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it and leave the adults in the room to their pleasure. As long as young children aren’t exposed to it, I don’t really care what you do. Yes, sex is just good clean fun. There is probably some correlation to sexual restrictions and patriarchy – which by definition puts women down. There is a basic division here. In a matriarchy inheritance is through the female line – and everyone knows who your mother is, there’s no disputing that. In a patriarchy inheritance is through the fathers line – and the only way to be “SURE” who your father is, is to restrict your mother and restrict HER sexuality. And therein (IMHO) lies the root of a lot of social issues around women’s rights and sexuality.

  6. I watched the first two eps on Funimation before it went sideways. (Have not seen the manga.) I think the anime was already censored down from what I would have expected. I don’t remember seeing any genitalia.

    Some people may have problems with the whole sex worker thing. There are those who believe that it glorifies prostitution because that’s not what “real” prostitution is like and that sex work cannot ever be viewed as consensual. And that the “angel” is really a nod towards lolicon simply because it looks like a young girl. And that the show is really male-centric with women being used as mere receptacles. Etc. Gender feminist stuff.

    It is a ***really*** sex-positive work. The whole point of the show is that consensual sex is NOT perverse. It is fun and even a source of joy. Since hentai translates to pervert in the popular lexicon of anime, the show does not view itself as hentai.

    If you take the show’s message to heart, then it cannot be considered hentai except in the other translation of the word I know of, “change”. It surely does advocate a change in acceptance of sexuality. I think that particular meaning will be lost on most viewers.

    Just based on two shows, I think it is a fun show but not necessarily a well-made show. The same plot over and over again with different fantasy women sounds like it would get boring really quick. Having just guys rating just women makes it quite a bit sexist too. (Maybe that would change in the later episodes I didn’t see?)

    But they did step out of the conventional mold with the androgynous angel. And especially the elf liking older women. That was a big plus. I’m all for sexual positivity for older people. 🙂

    • Irina says:

      I’ve yet to read a review that has any problem at all with the sexuality in IR. I’m not saying they don’t exist but I’ve just not found one and I read quite a few before writing this. That’s why I’m thinking any issues on that front have more to do with advertising and sponsorship guidelines than public opinion.

  7. Dawnstorm says:

    I was one of those people who were puzzled by the decision to drop the show, but advertisors/investors were something I hadn’t considered at all. Good point, there. (I thought that maybe an acquisition editor had been over-ruled by someone higher up the ladder, later on, or something. Only thing I know is, that I’m not familiar with how Funamition works, so any such speculation doesn’t lead anywhere anyway.)

    I’ve only seen the first episode, but from what I’ve seen this isn’t hentai. A local electronics store once experimented with trying to sell hentai. A few short months long, the anime shelves were next to the porn shelves, with a hentai dividing line. I’ve never browsed so many unknown titles before. Hentai is its own industry, and if you think IR is extreme… don’t look up hentai and preserve your innocence. It is on the more explicit edge of ecchi, though. (I assume they tuned up a little in the following episodes?)

    In any case, I felt that there was far more nudity and intercourse when I first started out watching ongoing stuff in late 2009. OVAs attached to series are also, unsurprisingly, more explicit than what they air on TV. If you’ve been mostly streaming ongoing TV shows from, say, around 2013 on (guess that could be wrong), your probably underestimating just how ecchi ecchi can get.

    I dropped the show because it reminded me most of male locker-room humour, which I’ve always found unpleasant to be around. It’s the same thing that turned me off Grand Blue (which was way, way worse for me, because of the booze angle). I didn’t like the way treated Crim and that winged waitress, but that was no worse than what you see in your avarage show. Corrupting the innocent/making fun of the spoil-sport. It’s because of those inclusion that the consent-based arguments don’t matter much to me: consent is cheap when you write all the women as willing and then make fun of the only one who’s uncomfortable with the reviews. It’s a little mean-spirited, IMO.

    Not a bad show, but not for me. Pity, because I do like the character designs. They’re appropriately cheeky.

  8. Scott says:

    What gets me is that multiple tv stations in Japan hand dropped it too yet Funimation is the only thing getting the flack as far as I know? People are just complaining about Funimation to complain about Funimation when there are more legitimate reasons to do so.

  9. Pinkie says:

    I would be very happy myself to see people who call themseves anime fans at least respect others have different reasons to like or dislike an anime that is completely seperate from their down standards. I do get a sense of “let them have this” in a way. Neither the hate or the love for this show feel toxic with as far as I have gotten involved with it. I do think Funamination made a mistake in picking it up but well that happens with regular tv as well. Someone once Greenlit Heil Honey I am home.

    I don’t think bad publicity always has to be negative .. if anything in these cases it will work out and that is nice. Anitubers inlfuencing others aside (which I very much dislike and strongly disaprove off) it feels that this show has found to open a discussion rather than a shit storm. There is plenty to say about it but it doesn’t turn into a shouting match as much as other things do. So as far as conteroversies go.. this is one I don’t really find obnoxious at least. So I give it the wholesome controversy award.
    Other than that Zero interest in this show!

  10. Most comments appear to have covered the review bombing of MAL so I won’t mention that. I will agree with the notes you’ve made about how it really doesn’t have much of a story and basically no character development. It is a number of titillating scenes, some that take things a little too far. There are plenty of laughs, but don’t go in expecting to be wowed or enjoy a complicated story.

    We spotted that after one episode on Ecchi Hunter and as such our reviews are basically us reviewing the girls from the episode that the Interspecies Reviewers reviewed. We’re definitely taking a more jovial approach to this one (more than normal anyhow).

    Funimation has other shows with similarly ecchi content like High School DxD and Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid. While neither of those show intercourse, they are pretty rude and you’d probably be embarrassed if someone walked in while you were watching them. I agree that it’s going to be down to backer pressure. I like the Funimation service and come from a time when $10 wouldn’t get you a single anime video so all I can watch for that is a blessing.

    • Irina says:

      They do have other risque titles which really makes me think they were just seeing if they could get away with it rather than they didn’t know what they were getting into. And if they convinced someone to pay for 2 of their services instead of 1…well it’s evil …but not the evil they’re getting flack for.

  11. Enzo 277 says:

    Nice post! Speaking from the perspective of someone who also hasn’t seen the show (it doesn’t seem like my thing, and most of the characters designs are not that hot to me), I founded myself in the camp that funimation was incompetent , as in, where is true that is not uncommon for companies to pull out shows mid-airing, I will still consider that a annoying practice, with making a statement about it just giving more attention to the bad practice. As Pete pointed, the reason why the show got such a great rating for a while was because a anituber I personally don’t like, called Nux was convincing his fans to review bomb MAL with positive reviews, which even though was made as a joke,I still find annoying, because I find MAL reviews and scores a very interesting thing to look into. Of course there are a lot of people who genuinely liked he show and I think it’s okay for those people robe mad at funimation’s incompetence, but I find the people who just partake in the “meme” to be annoying and toxic… well annoying and toxic. Also sorry for not being able to keep up with your blog for a while Irina, I been negligent my own blog but I plan to change that soon.

    • Irina says:

      I looked at a lot of wordpress reviews as well and you can see a definite tendency in the perception there too.

  12. K.A.L.T says:

    The increase in rating for Interspecies Reviewers was most likely due to Nux Taku, an anime YouTuber who asked his fans to rate it 10/10 on MAL. After awhile, MAL admins started to tweak the system to negate 10/10 or something resulting in the drop. So honestly, the MAL scores aren’t a very accurate thing to rely on.

    Interspecies Reviewers got all that attention because of the meme value. As Gigguk (another anime YouTuber) said in his Winter Anime 2020 video, Interspecies Reviewers is bringing a close to the old era of “I can’t believe it’s not hentai” and bringing forth a new era of “I believe it’s hentai”. (not his exact words but pretty much)

    • Irina says:

      I don’t follow anitube at all for some reason

      • K.A.L.T says:

        If you want to start, I think Gigguk would be a fun start XD
        He just recently uploaded a video about Interspecies Reviewers too ^^

        • Irina says:

          I’ve tried a few times but for some reason I don’t have the attention span for it. I just prefer my anime commentary written down I guess

          • K.A.L.T says:

            As in you’ve tried AniTube or tried Gigguk? Tbh, Gigguk is the only AniTuber I actively keep up with. If you haven’t given him a try specifically, I think you should. To me, his videos feel a lot more entertaining and easier the sit through than most others. This is just my personal opinion though.

  13. Pete Davison says:

    A little bit of context that you’re missing here is that the high MAL ratings were due to brigading by an Anituber and their audience, so the show was effectively “review-bombed” as a protest against Funi, only with high ratings rather than the usual zeroes. MAL took steps to ensure that (theoretically) wouldn’t/couldn’t happen again, which explains the sudden drop.

    I haven’t watched the show despite the fact I was quite looking forward to it, as I’ve been reading the manga (and writing about it), and the things I hear about the show make it sound as if it pushes things just a *little* bit too far in terms of explicitness. The manga has some saucy scenes and obviously the whole premise is pretty lewd, but the fun of it is in when it deliberately holds back and leaves a bit to your imagination; actual sex scenes are very rare.

    One great example of them being used effectively in the manga is an absolutely wonderful scene in one of the volumes where Crim the angel gets sexed into absolute oblivion by a succubus, and because the scene was “not family-friendly” (the manga’s words), they decided to replace Crim with a bottle of mayonnaise in the scene. The result is both hilarious and far filthier than it would have ever been had it been depicted literally.

    The snippets I’ve seen of the anime, meanwhile, seem to take things a bit too literally, which is where the various arguments over it being a hentai or not come from. And that, to me, misses the point of the whole thing a bit. Not judging or casting aspersions on anyone who has enjoyed it to date, mind you.

    The anime also seems to either be really rushing through the manga’s various chapters or doing them in a weird order; there are only three volumes of the manga available in English right now, and within three episodes they were doing scenes from the second volume in the series.

    I’ll almost certainly still watch it as I love the manga, the concept still appeals and I’m interested to compare and contrast — but this might be one I end up getting a Blu-Ray for when all this palaver has died down rather than jumping through the hoops required to watch it online at present!

    • Yomu says:

      I always believed that the “line” between ecchi and hentai was intercourse. The anime can have all sorts of lewd situations. nudity, and even elude to intercourse having occured off screen, but never display it or insinuate it’s happening on screen. Ishuzoku really seems to push that, and while it doesn’t explicitly show it (at least, on the censored versions I’ve seen) it’s directly eluding to the fact that “this is happening right now” with scenes of naked girls and naked guys together, on top of each other.

      Considering I thought To Love Ru: Darkness was one of the most ecchi series I’ve seen, Ishuzoku goes ever further than that as TLR:D never insinuated sex like this from what I remember. And Shinmai Maou no Testament as another example has the protag “pass out” whenever he gets off, in order to shy away from things getting too close to sex.

      So I believe that Funimation and whoever else did so was justified in shutting it down, but at the same time, they never should have accepted the contract or whatever to air it in the first place, and should have vetted properly.

    • Irina says:

      I’m not sure about the timeline. I remember checking MAL out right after the first episode and it was already pretty high. But I dont follow anitube at all so that may have already been skewed.

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