Tuesday, April 19, 2011

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: Astarotte's Toy

We continue our look at the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with Astarotte's Toy! (Asutarotte no Omocha), a Diomedea animation based on the comedy manga from Yui Haga.

Storyline: 0

Borrowing from the same Norse mythology that fortified Oh My Goddess!, Astarotte's Toy (Asutarotte no Omocha!) tells the story of Princess Astarotte, ruler of the country of Ygvarland in the Creature Realm. Since she's a succubus, it is her mission in the future to gather a harem of males, but that also means that she must feed off of their "life-seed" for survival. Of course, the show doesn't hide what "life-seed" we mean—Astarotte's hugging an inflatable banana in the hot springs when the matter of "sucking life-seed" is discussed by her head lady-in-waiting Judit.

There are a few things that stand in the way of creating a harem—Astarotte's only ten, and she completely hates boys for some reason. Since there are no humans in the Creature Realm, Astarotte confidently says she'll accept a male human into her harem. However, when Yggdrasil, the tree that once linked the dimensional worlds, is finally activated, Judit finds herself in the Human World. Therefore, the first candidate sent to the Creature Realm for Astarotte's harem is Naoya, a plain-suited member of Japanese society who gets accidentally tackled by Astarotte upon arrival.

Although it's hawked as a harmless show, there are a few things that are bothersome. This might be the more trivial one, but why are the "creatures" painted in such pretty colors? You'd swear that you were watching My Little Pony, not a show about succubi. The really disturbing part is that we're talking about suggested sexual tension between a ten-year-old female character and a male character that could be as old as a college graduate. It sounded creepy on paper (Naoya is 23 in the manga!), and it sounds creepy here.

Animation: 3

Animation is painted with all of the crayons of the moe spectrum, everything kept rather pastel and candy-coated in appearance. Considering that Studio Diomedea's last hit Shinryaku! Ika Musume was submerged in cuteness, they pretty much aimed for the same target on Astarotte's Toy. Unfortunately, the show is almost too cute for its subject matter—where's the creepiness that comes from talk about monsters?

Characters: 1

The original manga designs by Yui Haga and the anime designs by Mai Ôtsuka sadly sugarcoat the subject matter of the show. In the land of Ygvarland, apparently age ain't nuthin' but a number, since it's hard to button down how old everyone is (except for the noble Olav, who is thankfully one of the more entertaining characters). Everyone else could qualify as kids, which makes a show that jokes about sex all the more dangerous.

Track: 1

The background music is chock-full of calliopes, music boxes, and flutes, good for a kid's show, but out of place here. The opening and closing themes are okay, but only filler. The bigger gripes are with the acting, as Rie Kugimiya is, once again, put in the role of the long-haired underdeveloped main character, while Naoya's voice actress (Rina Satô) sounds too feminine for the role.

"Hype": 2

There's plenty of hype behind this show to sell it to viewers, even if most of it feels negative. Notably, the original manga is called Lotte no Omocha!, but the change of the title for the anime indicates that candy conglomerate Lotte likely had a say in the matter. This could be a trademark issue or an issue with the company being associated with a sexually-tinges show like this one, but either way there was some notable press. Director Fumitoshi Oizaki (Romeo x Juliet) has had some sporadic work, as far as fame within the staff goes.

Overall: 7/25
Astarotte's Toy would be an adorable kids' show with its sense of adventure and jellybean designs, but too much nudity is the least of the problems with this show. This is the first show of the season where I feel the roles were mistakenly assigned, and other than Astarotte's fear of males, there's really nothing to pilot the show. Worst of all, what is with the subject matter of some of the shows this season? The Qwaser of Stigmata, in its second season, is all about warriors who get strength from breast milk, while Astarotte's Toy here obviously harps on oral-sex innuendoes, both visually and metaphorically. It's like perverts are going all out this season before Tokyo's censorship laws kick in for the summer.

Warning: Astarotte's Toy is a toy unfit for kids and cultured anime fans. Proceed with caution.

(Astarotte's Toy is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Sunday at 12 PM EDT.)

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