What’s it about? Kagaya Shuichi desperately wants to blend in, if only to hide the fact that he’s suddenly found himself transforming into a giant mascot dog monster without knowing why or how. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of Aoki Clair, who talks about other monsters like him and demands his help—or else.
Content Warning: Sexual assault, heavy fanservice, body horror, attempted suicide, animal death; NSFW screenshots.
Y’know, I’ve always said that the quickest way for a story to communicate how mature it will be is to put a big ol’ flash of crotch in my face. Bonus points if I’ve seen every female character’s nether bits by episode’s end. Some sprinkles of sexual menace on top really go the extra mile to seal the deal.
Wait, I’m sorry, I’ve mixed up my notes. I was looking for the word “juvenile.” Pardon the interruption.
Gleipnir is a show counting on two things. First, that a bunch of 14-year-olds will stumble on it and, unjaded by the edgelord king Battle Royale and its many descendants, will mistake it for something groundbreaking. And second, that its fairly solid production values will give it a leg up in a genre where dark color palettes and darker locations often leave it difficult to determine what’s happening onscreen.
For some, that will be enough. Longtime readers may know that I, a one-time teenage edgelord who sincerely enjoyed Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, have a certain soft spot for ridiculous gorefests with over-inflated estimations of their philosophies. Gleipnir, unfortunately, also comes right out of the gate smelling of the genre’s most sour opinions on women.
Folks, we need to talk about Clair.
This first episode doesn’t actually get around to telling us Clair’s motivations, beyond the knowledge that she is somehow aware of these monsters and needs protection. It alludes to the idea that she has motivations, but its primary concern is painting her as an insidious temptress. We meet Clair as she’s preparing her own suicide, boobs-out, and her first action after inviting Shuichi over to her house is to change clothes in front of him.
It doesn’t help that the copious amounts of fanservice are accompanied by what seems to be genuine disdain for the character in the script. We’re supposed to find her decision to threaten Shuichi loathsome despite the fact that he (in mascot form, because somebody read “Abandoned by Disney” a few too many times) has to stop himself from assaulting her unconscious body after he saves her from her attempted death-by-immolation.
This was, incidentally, the point at which any charity I might have extended to the monster designs stopped, because “potentially campy mix of cute and grotesque” doesn’t get to live in the same house as “shock value sexual menace.”
The metaphor of Shuichi’s beast form as “uncontrolled animal instinct” is paper-thin and tired, but more to the point, it provides a perfectly good reason for Clair to treat him as a threat wearing a pleasant human mask. He’s shown that’s exactly what he is.
But no, she’s shot from below to make her look intimidating, her face hidden, as she’s given dialogue about how his Manly Bestial Form is much cuter than his restrained human one. It’s the kind of dialogue that leaves the ears ringing with unpleasant sentiments about the kind of male behavior women “really” want.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find Clair a little bit charming—she gets some pretty stellar troll faces—but I suspect the show doesn’t want me to. Maybe that was just the scene where Shuichi describes her name as “trampy”-sounding giving me ideas.
Then again, she appears to be fighting alongside Shuichi as a team in the opening theme, so it’s also possible that the show intends to dig into her tragic backstory. Perhaps we’ll learn why her Aberrant Sexual Behavior is the result of her tragic past, a writing choice that in this genre is less an improvement and more a different kind of exploitative. That’s an uncharitable reading, but let me tell you: from the number of show like these that I’ve watched, it’s also about a 60% likely one.
But hey, maybe I’m a cynic and the show will shift toward treating Shuichi and Clair as equals. Maybe they’ll stop slapping me in the face with underage titties and the underlying threat that our gentle-hearted protagonist could lose control of his Burning Male Lust and rape another human being.
Maybe the decision to use edgy theme park mascots of all things will push it into the same delightfully nonsensical realm as The Future Diary, the reigning Trash King of Dipshit Mountain. But I would urge folks to proceed with extreme caution, because even if Gleipnir makes the shift to “gloriously stupid,” it will likely do so on the back of a mountain of content warnings.