Fluffy Paradise – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore January 3, 20240 Comments
Nema being picked up by a giant white tiger

What’s it about? When Midori, an average 27-year-old office worker, collapses as she walks in her front door, she realizes that karoshi has come to claim her. Her biggest regret? Not getting to pet her parents’ fluffy kitty one last time. As she passes on, God offers her a second chance: to live in another world, observe how humans there discriminate against other races, and decide whether humanity is redeemable. He even offers her a cheat skill: to be loved by all animals, great and small, in her new life as Nema.

Fluffy Paradise is… fluffy. Yes, in the sense that there are a lot of furry creatures, large and small, for three-year-old Nema to pet, but also in the sense that it really feels like it’s here to kick back, play with some cute critters, and have a good time. This isn’t even remotely uncommon in isekai, but generally that subtype doesn’t start with God giving the protagonist the mission to determine whether humanity is unsalvageably racist.

midori exlaiming she wants to be able to pet silky (cat) fur all day long

There’s a weightiness to the conditions of Midori/Nema’s reincarnation that stands in dissonance against pretty much everything else about the episode. It’s written and drawn like something aimed at a young shoujo audience, with soft colors and a general pleasantness permeating throughout. Nema is three years old, and despite having Midori’s memories, acts very much like a young child, complete with poor impulse control, a tendency to wander off, and a lack of understanding of the consequences of her actions. I actually kind of like this – even if she has 30 years of life experience, if she’s physically three that means she has the brain development of a three-year-old as well. But I have doubts that the audience who can connect with the 27-year-old Midori, weeping on the floor of her entryway as her body shuts down, and the audience that can connect to Nema, have a significant overlap.

But then again, I’m not sure if I’ve ever related to a reincarnation-type isekai protagonist as much as I have to Midori in her conversation with God. Wanting to have a special bond with all animals sounds like a wonderful power to me, a person who takes it as a personal slight when an animal doesn’t like them. And boy, when it was time to come back home after Christmas, was I sad about leaving behind my mother-in-law’s papillon, Peanut. I love animals more than most, but can’t have pets in my apartment, so it was nice to see an isekai protagonist with a motivation so similar to my own.

a papillon sleeping on the couch and on a pillow

So… let’s talk about that racism thing. There’s just so much to unpack, even without digging into the problems at the root of the entire concept of fantasy racism.

The idea is for Nema to decide whether or not humans are too racist against anthropomorphic animal people and should be eliminated. So, naturally, she’s born into a noble human family that adores her and doesn’t even have contact with any non-humans for her earliest years. Children develop racial bias in infancy, and counteracting it takes active effort. If Nema is never exposed to non-human races, then she’s going to develop a heavy bias toward human culture without developing an understanding of the other side. Nema does, at least, have Midori’s knowledge that racial discrimination is a thing and wrong, even if it’s operating on the hefty assumption that Midori doesn’t have her own bias to examine and overcome. 

If she were tasked with taking part in a racial justice movement, this would be one thing. After all, privileged people must step up to the task of reducing and eliminating the injustice created by their own groups. But that’s not the position she’s in – she’s supposed to observe and judge and decide whether or not… humans should be genocided?? Oh my god, this is such a mess. Anyway, her being born not just as a human but as an extremely privileged human buys into the idea that the privileged group is somehow more impartial than the marginalized group that is fighting for their own rights. If she had been born as an animal-person, her justifiable anger at the discrimination she faced would mean she couldn’t make a fair decision. But as a human who benefits from the system, she’s much more fit to judge, right?

But then, there may be a benefit to this kind of approach. In the episode, Nema looks around and wonders if all these people, who are so kind to her, could possibly be racist. Presumably the majority of Fluffy Paradise’s audience comes from a majority group like Nema herself. The possibility that people can be generally kind and love their family, but still discriminate against marginalized groups, is a hard lesson, but an important one. Nema’s reflection could lead to similar ones in the audience, consciously or unconsciously. 

Perhaps that’s optimistic. After all, people rarely come to isekai for hard life lessons these days; it’s almost entirely about power fantasies and wish fulfillment. Although Fluffy Paradise does fulfill one of my own dearest wishes, the messiness of its racial politics makes it a potential minefield, no matter how much it tries to act like it’s just here for a chill time.

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