[Review] A Centaur’s Life – episode 1

Follows the school life of a teenage centaur named Himeno, and her friends, who happen to be mermaids, angels, and other mystical creatures.

Source: Anime News Network

Over the course of both watching this show and writing this review, I was assured from multiple sources that lots of people really like the manga, and that it improves drastically after its first chapter. I cannot judge this future potential, because it is not here in front of my eyes. And if it is indeed true, this premiere does the single worst job of selling that promise I’ve ever seen.

A close-up of a girl touching her lips

Y’know that moment where Charlie Brown runs toward the football and Lucy pulls it away, like a boot stomping on a human face forever? This episode was that for me.

The show opens with a kiss between two of the female protagonists… and focuses the camera on their very shiny, sexualized lips. Then we learn they’re just rehearsing a play, and the part of the prince was supposed to go to a boy originally, and he wrote the kiss into the centaur girl’s script to trick her into kissing him. Whomp.

Then it turns out that maybe centaur girl Hime and demon girl Nozomi really do have feelings for each other… but the student council president forbids them from kissing because it’s “weird.” WHOMP.

Hime, blushing, says "I thought it'd be fine if it was with you, Nozomi-chan"

The play they’re putting on ends with a cute cheek kiss and the audience loves it!…but it’s preceded by multiple fat jokes at the expense of Hime and one of her classmates. W H O M P.

The opening theme has shots of several couples, including two girls… and also the main trio in lingerie and battle bikinis. WHOMP WHOMP.

Over and over the show would do something to pique my interest and then slam me into the dirt. By the end of the first short (the episode is comprised of two stories), I was thoroughly annoyed at the squandered potential. Not only were the rather likable protagonists squashed under all this interfering garbage, but the crush between Hime and Nozomi doesn’t come up once in the second act, so I have no way of knowing if it’s genuine or a one-off baiting joke.

And then.

A N D T H E N.

The second half opens with a world-building lecture on the evolution of the various subspecies of monster people. Sure, fine (and, point in its favor, male and female versions of monsters are basically equitable). During that lecture, the episode makes a sharp tonal shift into talking about the atrocities of discrimination perpetuated between the races throughout history, complete with sepia-toned image plates that are genuinely horrific. Forget the Made in Abyss manga; why’d nobody warn me about this?

Sepia-toned portrait of an angel-being riding an enslaved centaur with a black mask over its head

The teacher caps off the lecture by positing that if humans had grown up to “only” have differences in skin and hair color, there probably wouldn’t have been much discrimination. I think this was the show trying to include some kind of (very ineptly delivered) social commentary, but I couldn’t articulate that for you because my jaw was busy hitting the floor.

Picture of a white blond person facing a dark-skinned, dark-haired person. Narration: but serious discrimination would have been unlikely

Then, as I knelt to pick up said jaw, the teacher comments that “equality is more important than civil rights or life itself” while shadowy government agents watch her from the doorway and nod approvingly, and what are you even trying to say, show? Why have you separated “equality” from the struggle for civil rights, as though they are oppositional forces rather than the latter striving to achieve a state of the former?

“Ah,” I thought to myself, already knowing I was deep within a well of willful deceit, “perhaps this is meant to be a narrative about how the most privileged group holds all others to their standard without acknowledging the baked-in societal prejudices and hardships faced by oppressed minorities.”

Then the show cuts to the trio going on a school run.

Satyr girl Kyoko can’t keep up with her friends, y’see. Worried they won’t be back in time for their next class, Hime offers to carry her. This is when we find out that centaurs were previously oppressed and used as slave mounts, and modern laws were conceived in order to prevent that from ever occurring again. How does the episode spin this?

The girls on their run. Kyoko: "I'd be accused of discrimination and sent to a correctional clinic"

Kyoko says she can’t ride on Hime because she’d be accused of discrimination and taken to a “correctional clinic.” Yes. This poor innocent member of an oppressed group just offered to help her friend, totally fine with being a mount, and the mean ol’ law stands in the way of the interaction. IT IS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAAAAAAAAAAAD, READERS. THERE ARE LITERAL PC POLICE.

(And, again, if the manga’s intent was to foreshadow the continued existence of discrimination that’s being wallpapered over or outlawed in discussion, then the anime is completely failing to convey that by focusing on anti-discrimination laws as the silencing force.)

I had difficulty absorbing things after that point. This is like the anti-Interviews with Monster Girls. Sure, that turned into kind of a creepy harem show at points, but at least it attempted to talk about discrimination and disability in a meaningful way. This is some borderline Red Pill shit, here, and it puts an indelible black mark on what seems like a potentially sweet series.

I.

I just don’t see the appeal at all.

Read the ANN Preview Review Guide.

 

Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they. what. how. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, listen to them podcasting on Soundcloud, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.

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  • AsteriskCGY

    So as a reader, my read on the manga was a monster girl slice of life, especially when I can contrast it with another series that was inspired by it, Monster Musume. But it’s also been a good while since I read this first volume, and looking back it has all that, then another weird thing that I had completely forgotten that someone else brought up as a deal breaker. Then again none of this really happens again. It’s all in bits and pieces, which then kind of sets a much different tone than what it appears to be.
    Re-reading volume 2 though that PC Police thing comes up again. And more queer bait kissing.
    I did follow the series more for it’s day to day slice of life stories though, and I’m also a fan of the odd so the chapters that decide to go really off the rails are a bonus to me. But with all that I guess there isn’t much focus compared to either Monster Musume or Interviews, which at least stick to a single theme and tone.
    I’m now at the OP and this does not feel like what I’m expecting from this adaptation. Feels too cheery from what I read.

  • Dyram

    I was really disappointed in this show. I think you hit every single issue I had with the episode. Watching it just made me feel…dirty. Like, the content didn’t at all match the coating. This could have been a really thoughtful show about living with people who have different life experiences and situations than you, but instead it devolves into, like you said, queer baiting, ecchi shots, and red pill/political correctness gone wild territory. I’ll try the second episode but will probably drop it if it doesn’t get any better. I’m honestly not too thrilled with Crunchy’s lineup this season.

  • alecksis

    Dang it. Come for the cute monster girls, leave with the sad bitter taste of the red pill. Anime was a mistake.

  • 0utf0xZer0

    Are there particular EU speech laws you would draw analogies to? I’m not particularly familiar with them.

    I personally did not read the anime as a “red pill” screed. While I would not expect a slice of life show to be as in your face with its political themes as say, Mahouka or Gate, I would still expect the political messaging to be more straightforward if that was the intent.

  • Moke

    This is the thing. ‘free speech’ is a term that is used a lot, but no-one has it as an absolute anywhere. Y’all can’t threaten to kill the president, for example. And no-where is it legal to go out into the street, walk up to someone and say ‘give me all your money or I’ll slit your throat’. There are limits on free speech everywhere, it’s just more of a talking point in the US I think. Over here it’s pretty normal to have slightly wider limits for the public good.

  • Ashen

    And here I was genuinely looking forward to this adaptation based on what little I’d read of the manga. The latter left me happily surprised at the worldbuilding and, while a bit odd at times, its characters’ interactions were generally sweet and enjoyable. I’ll have to delve deeper into the manga to see if it too loses its mind and bombs like a Zeppelin painted in rocket fuel.