Welcome to StarStruck, my new personal column where I talk about all sorts of things related to anime, manga, and other Japanese media. This time, I will be taking a look at monster girls, which have become quite popular recently. While I could not watch more than one episode of Monster Musume due to the high sexual fanservice, thankfully the current season provides some much more conservative options for getting your monster girl fill. Obviously there’s Interviews with Monster Girls(Japanese: Demi-chan wa Kataritai), which we already have two blog posts on here; there’s also Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid(Japanese: Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon), which specifically features dragon girls, as well as bucks trends slightly by making the normal human lead a female office worker. Both of these shows have established themselves as my favorite shows of the season, not just because of how fun they are but also because of how they sneak in more emotional moments and just overall make the characters more relatable and likable.
What makes monster girls (and guys) such a fun subject? I think it’s because of their nature as half-human hybrids. On the one hand, their non-human sides make them exotic and interesting, but on the other hand, their human sides make them relatable. This allows for various approaches that can either highlight the comedic disparity between the character’s human and monster sides, or provide more dramatic or heartfelt moments by showing how monster girls struggle with similar things that humans do, albeit perhaps in a different form.
In particular, monster girl stories touch upon the very human struggle of being different. One thing that almost every fictional monster girl (or guy) has to deal with is how, while she is human enough that she can live as a member of human society, her monster side makes her different from other humans. While in reality we might not have actual half-monster humans, many people struggle with various aspects of themselves that make them different from others, whether it be their race, gender (in groups that heavily lean toward/favor one gender), interests, or religious beliefs. In addition, we also have to figure out how to interact with people that are different from us.
When people in general meet someone different from them, they can react with fascination or fear, oftentimes both. On the one hand, anything that is new and different stands out to us, so someone that is different will naturally draw out a certain amount of fascination, especially for someone that has gotten too used to the people around them. On the other hand, for better or for worse, people are naturally afraid of people that are significantly different from them; while we can predict when people similar to ourselves will do something to harm us, those who are different act from a different set of core values, which in turn makes them more unpredictable, and thus possibly threatening.
The fear reaction in particular has become the focus of much of the current sociopolitical scene, as discrimination issues based on gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, and more get plenty of attention. Fear drives discrimination: demeaning a group of people different from us as “inferior” helps us feel safe from them, usually because we hope they fear us instead. This is made especially clear in one scene fromDragon Maid, where Kobayashi tells the dragon girls what might happen if people find out they are dragons: they get recognized as “different”, which can lead to them being “eliminated”.
Fear may be a “natural” reaction to people who are different from us, but for Christians, who are called to love all others, fear is a reaction we must fight. Not only should we push out fear of others from our own hearts (because as followers of God we need not fear man), but also drive out others’ fear of us as much as we can. 1 John 4:18 in particular talks about how fear has no place in love, and how “perfect love casts out fear”. This verse specifically refers to how Christ’s sacrifice pushes out the fear of God’s judgment from believers, which should be reflected in how we love others. Ideally, we would create an atmosphere where those who are different from us can still open up to us without fear, though that is difficult and not always possible depending on the other person’s heart, among other things. (Note that “not fearing” someone does not mean we always have to trust them.) At the very least, though, we can refrain from saying or doing things with the intention of making others fear us.
Compared to fear, fascination seems like a better (though not mutually exclusive) reaction. However, fascination can definitely be taken too far. There’s a difference between a healthy interest in those who are different from you and an obsession that turns those who are different into circus exhibits, only to be admired for their unique traits. In Interviews, Himari, the younger twin sister of the vampire Hikari (and herself a normal human because monster-ness in this universe is more like a mutation) starts off suspicious of the teacher and monster-girl interviewer Takahashi because he seems to be interested in the monster girls (a.k.a. “demis”) solely as academic subjects, ignoring their human sides.
When she brings this up with him in episode 4, though, Takahashi responds by saying that both recognition of common humanity and interest in the demis’ uniqueness are important. Denying the latter is denying an important part of their identity, and makes it harder to address their concerns that are specifically brought about by their demi nature. By learning both their unique demi attributes and their more human sides, Takahashi-sensei has been able to get to know these girls in a more complete way, allowing him to address their demi-related worries.
These two shows provide a good example for how Christians (and people in general) can approach those who are different from us. Create an environment that casts out fear as much as possible. Connect with others through things we share in common. At the same time, show interest in the things that make them different, and where those differences cause them problems, consider ways to help them out. We can learn a lot from people who are different from us, so in the spirit of our favorite monster girl stories, go and approach those people with less fear and just the right amount of fascination.