Is that a radish in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
So, Shimoseka. If you’ve managed to miss having heard about it, Shimoseka takes place in a future in which Japan has banned obscene language as well as “pornographic” materials entirely. In order to enforce the laws governing these bans, all citizens are fitted with a device that reports in if they swear or even if they draw a picture that is deemed pornographic. The story follows a boy named Okuma who is determined to be an impressively pure young man despite his father having been jailed years before for being an erotic terrorist. His pristine aspirations are, however, slowly eroded away over the course of the show after he becomes entangled with Kajo, a girl who is secretly the erotic terrorist Blue Snow.
Have you ever heard of the girl with the curl? When she was good, she was very good, but when she was bad, she was wicked. Shimoseka is that girl in anime form, as when it’s locked on target properly, it is both quite funny and its critique sharp. When it isn’t on its form, though, it’s pretty terrible, and, given the subject matter, some of its missteps are fairly off-putting (the first episode features a woman attempting to blackmail a boy by falsely claiming he groped her on the train as she claims you can make a lot of money from a person if they’re convicted in what is a disturbing conflation of sexual assault and consensually-consumed pornography; a later arc does somewhat rectify the misstep, but one wishes that J.C. Staff had simply excised the material in the first place). The shows is weakest when the production staff are doing original material as opposed to adapting light novel material, and the final episode, unfortunately, is one of these – just stop at episode eleven if you do watch this, as that is where the series truly ends.
I’ve seen Shimoseka described as a trashy show, but that isn’t it, exactly. Its subject matter is one often associated with trash (i.e. sex), and it certainly enjoys cracking ‘dirty’ jokes, but it isn’t a stupid show. It presents a pretty solid critique of censorship, and makes the compelling argument that trying to embalm children into hermetically-sealed purity-boxes ultimately warps them and the surrounding society. For all its seeming cheerfulness, Shimoseka paints a pretty bleak dystopia in which the government literally tracks all movements of its citizens and punishes them for slights such as masturbation or uttering the word “shit”. Shimoseka’s world is quite creepy.
I want to touch on the cast as I really liked them. Okuma doesn’t stray too far from his standard type, but its nevertheless enjoyable to watch his evolution across the show as he slowly realizes that he, too, loves dirty jokes. Fuwa, a classmate of Okuma’s who loves science and who herself spends the show trying to figure out the mystery of sex after noticing the multiplication of flies in her lab, is a scream whenever she shows up with her deadpan delivery. Also worth noting is Saotome, who learns how to draw with her mouth in an effort to avoid detection when she begins drawing obscene doujinshi.
But, the best of all is undoubtedly Kajo, who graced the widely-shared promo image with a gleeful and defiant look on her face. Kajo is often over-the-top, but her sincerity and, ultimately, her seriousness about her cause prevent her from becoming pure caricature. Without her, there wouldn’t be a show, and she’s truly my favorite single character from an anime this year.
…aaaand then there’s Anna. Anna is the head of the student council, and she’s wholly dedicated to the cause of purity. She’s also completely screwed up, having been raised in a household where both of her politician parents were big proponents of the efforts to outlaw obscenity in all its forms. Anna is the source of the biggest problem with the show, as it turns out, as she develops a taste for attempting to sexually assault Okuma. The first time this happens, it works to undergird the idea that it isn’t healthy to prevent teenagers from having any knowledge about sex and sexuality. However, after that, the show instead tries to play each recurrence as comedy, which also has the effect of undermining its original usage. I began to feel simply relieved when she didn’t show up much in an episode.
This was the only area, though, in which Shimoseka seemed to get worse as it went on as opposed to better. Some of my early worries were allayed by developments as the show progressed and finer-tuned it’s satire. It also avoided the common pitfall for shows with heavier female casts in that it never went for the harem route (thank fuck!).
So, worth a watch if sex comedies are up your alley (hurr hurr hurr), with the caveat that you’ll probably cringe a few times during the course of the show.