Demi-chan wa Kataritai Ep.4 Review: A Lesson in Empathy for our Dark Times

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Demi-chan wa Kataritai (Interviews with Monster Girls) strikes another strong episode this week, tackling issues of compassion and inclusiveness with superb tact.

jan-28-2017-13-39-55“I just heard people saying mean things about me,” Yuki says. Takahashi starts to reply with the teacherly and rote anti-bullying response to match her benign complaint, but then Yuki adds “because I’m a demi,” and the gravity of her concern is multiplied. It’s multiplied because of the well-constructed ideals within the anime, and multiplied by the timely crises facing humanity in our real world.

Unlike the other demis, we know nothing about how Snow Women’s bodies function, but we don’t need that understanding to feel the emotional punch of Yuki’s tears freezing as they fall to the ground, clacking on the floor like marbles.

jan-28-2017-13-40-51Following Yuki’s tearful talk with Takahashi, the newly trusting Satou decides to help him, having seen the way he treats his students. And after a considered conflict resolution discussion between teachers (with some fun jokes at the expense of Satou and Takahashi’s proximity — I can’t say I recommend drinking form a horizontal tetra pack while squeezing it) we see Hikari stomping her way to the badmouthing bathroom dwellers with Yuki in tow.

Hikari’s strength as a character is solidified further here

The brash and frontal reproach she delivers to them is fantastic, in character, and — contrary to what her stomping might make you expect — extremely thoughtful. She speaks to the hurt their words can cause and she states that she’ll seek kindness from anyone she meets gossiping. She goes there to call them out, but then apologizes at one point for her delivery. She tears up herself after no provocation.

The scene felt extremely poignant as it was ajan-28-2017-13-45-20 genuine conversation between the three girls, rather than just a student whining one-sidedly and then running away. Hikari’s strength as a character is solidified further here.

If only everyone could be as considerate of the feelings of others as these high school students. Perhaps then we wouldn’t be have to watch vile World leaders disseminate their xenophobia as if it was a compulsory flu-shot.

The first half of this episode is so straightforward in its ideals that its refreshing. It presents a series of conversations that should be commonplace, but they don’t happen without brave speakers. Ands its far easier to succumb to cowardice than to speak freely about injustices we see around us.

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The second half of this week’s Demi-chan brings all its cast together to recognize the strength they can share when unified. It begins well, Takahashi lets the students know that he and Satou can be approached whenever their in distress and he gives them the “it get’s better message,” but then Hikari’s brazen nature gets the awkward snowball rolling once again.

She openly asks for a hug from Takahashi as a gesture of support. Like the vampire fangs poking out of Hikari’s lips, the potential taboos of Demi-chan bare themselves again.

Jan-28-2017 13-49-23.gifThe scene devolves into a stiff gag sequence where each student steals a hug form Takahashi and Satou mopes on the side, left out. It ends with Machi’s embarrassed dullahan torso flaring up because of the heat she and her teacher share in the embrace. The reactions are animated well, and the punchlines in the dialogue are timed smartly, but the nagging uneasiness of the situation leaves it feeling more awkward than funny.

And then, we get a voice of dissent!

On their way out the school gates heading home, Himari, Hikari’s human twin sister, openly voices what I’ve been shoving to the back of my mind since episode one: She doesn’t trust him. Even though he’s done nothing explicitly wrong to warrant aggressive suspicion. Himari’s protective nature incites an inquisition towards Takahashi that brings out Demi-chan’s definitive artistic statement in the form of his response.

Are you just interested in my sister as a vampire? Do you care about her human side? Himari asks.

screenshot-2017-01-28-13-52-06“Her human side is what makes her like a vampire,” Takahashi quickly responds. “It isn’t how your born that makes you like something, it’s how you live.” It’s a succinct nature versus nurture argument, applied to the fantasy elements of Demi-chan’s world. This may be where the show’s greatest success lies.

Within its casts, it plants abnormalities so extreme that we can only think of them as fiction and entertainment. But it plants them within our everyday and normally functioning world. I see little difference between visiting a country’s immigration office seeking refuge and calling the centralized bureau for demi-human aid in Demi-chan’s world.

These broader social commentaries are always underneath Demi-chan’s presentation, and that it’s toed some awkward lines and smashed through emotional barriers to tell its quaint story that can be generalized to a broader audience, is a huge success. The pluralistic way Takahashi views people’s live is as sincere a lesson as any you’ll get on empathy and how to be a good human.

As sincere a lesson as any on how to be a good human

Watching these ideologies conveyed here feels appropriate, given the shaky romantic ground the show has walked up to this point. Hearing it from Takahashi is especially apt since he’s supposed to be the most mature character who’s taught hundreds of students with these ideals he’s honed over the years.

screenshot-2017-01-28-13-47-14It makes me wonder where the show goes now, though. It would make sense to see more natural examples of the daily considerations demis make to get by, but now that every member of the main cast has been thoroughly introduced, it will be a test to see how deep these scenarios can go.

Demi-chan presents some forward thinking this week. When Hikari ends her lecture to the students in the bathroom, she says she did it because she promised her sister. We don’t know what that promise is or why it was made, but i’m certain a more reflective look back at the Takanashi sisters’ past is in Demi-chan’s future. And if it continues to resonate with the human condition as well as these first four episodes have, we could be looking at a gem on our hands.

Demi-chan wa Kataritai (Interviews with Monster Girlsis streaming on Crunchyroll. Funimation is streaming a simuldub of the show.

3 comments on “Demi-chan wa Kataritai Ep.4 Review: A Lesson in Empathy for our Dark Times

  1. Karandi says:

    It’s nice to see this show touching on some deeper issues. I’m still on the fence with whether I like this show or not but at the moment I’m still watching and hoping it ends up being something more than a highschool harem comedy.

    • Laimon says:

      I’m going to save you some time and tell you that unfortunately it’s going to stay that way… minus the harem part. It never was and never will (unless we get that as an anime-original ending, ughhhh). The series is going to keep touching on interesting subjects, but at its core it’s still a comedy SoL.

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