Seton Academy: Join the Pack! – Episode 1

By: Chiaki Hirai January 7, 20200 Comments
A classroom scene, animals horse around. A lone human looks perturbed.

What’s it about? A young Mazama Jin once helped a wolf girl being bullied by a gang of bears. The resultant scuffle made him hate animals ever since, but he later enrolls in Seton Academy, a co-ed private school attended by a menagerie of different species from the animal kingdom. On the first day of school, Mazama reunites with Ookami Ranka, the girl he once saved. Can he get over the fact he hates animals to become friends with Ranka and all his other classmates?

Content Warnings: Manhandling, racist undertones, comedic violence, fanservice, and sexual harassment.

You’d think an anime about a bunch of animal people would be what my garbage-loving kitten heart desires, but Seton Academy suffers from the central character’s ABSOLUTE DISDAIN for animals.

Why you even going to this high school, bro? This is a private school. You choose to be here. What is wrong with you?

A closeup of an angry boy. Subtitle: He hates animals with a passion.

Mazama is right to feel frustration attending what can literally be described as a zoo for a high school. He faces rowdy classmates, the lack of edible food, and a cast of dangerous predatory animals ready to beat him down. But his open and consistent disdain for everyone he encounters grates on the central theme of a show about being friends with a bunch of cute anthropomorphic animal girls.

The issue is further compounded by the fact that Mazama is not only irate toward characters horsing around, but outright abusive toward Ranka, who is desperate for a place to belong at school. He inadvertently hits her with a pineapple in the cold open, and the opening theme itself features repeated instances where he hits or smacks her for being too clingy. He simply does not let up and berates the poor girl for much of the episode before coming around to accept her offer to join her pack because: “I don’t hate her… that much.”

Four girls surround a boy smashing a fifth girl into the ground. The ground is cracked.
That’s it, that’s the show.

With a protagonist lacking any sensible reason why he should have anything to do with anyone else on the cast (save for Hino Hitomi, the single other human at school), his eventual heel-turn display of empathy is both expected and undeserved. It seems to happen solely because “that’s just how the story needs to progress.”

Likewise, Ranka’s doe-eyed reverence for a man who clearly hates her is ripe for codependency. She is all too eager to make Mazama and Hino a member of her pack and, without them, she quickly finds herself in another abusive relationship with a zebra-girl who treats her like a packhorse. This treatment is potentially even encouraged, as Seton Academy proudly prescribes to the motto of “survival of the fittest.”

A girl (Ranka) wears a horse head prop while crumpled on the floor of a school hallway. Another girl holds a whip as a gallery of animals watches on. Two humans stand at the center of the screen.Subtitle: Don't hit her anymore!

Seton Academy—a nod to Ernest Thompson Seton, an early 20th century wildlife artist who is still popular in Japan today—is a series that constantly reminds you that the school is a chaotic mess. Baboons screech from the side; beast gangs roam the schoolyard ready to throw down; the lunch-lady is an honest-to-God photo of a gorilla. It’s sort of a miracle that the show’s setting is actually kinda good, given how much is going on in every scene.

I thought it was pretty clever that the faculty are all dinosaurs, with the principal being a now extinct lobster-like invertebrate. I also appreciated the actual Zoobooks trivia about how zebras are closer to donkeys than horses, or the strength of Kodiak bears. I’m learning a little more about animals than I did while watching Kemono Friends, and also pointing at the screen going: “Ah yes, I know that reference!”

A group of giant and ferocious looking dinosaurs wearing shirts and ties stand before a half destroyed school.
It’s 2020 and I’m here for these wildly inaccurate depictions of dinosaurs.

Also worth mentioning: the show’s opening features what appears to be a gender-bending character whom I assume is a hyena. Hyena are known to be able to change sexes based on pack needs and, at first glance, this character may be non-binary or genderqueer. However, as much as I would welcome some trans or non-binary rep, I’m more than a little wary of how this character will be brought up later and what sort of gender essentialism will come into play.

And speaking of gender, I’ve also observed that the female animals are anthropomorphic kemonomimi girls while all the male animals more closely resemble their animal base. The artistic direction was most likely done to appease a cishet male audience. I can’t say this was the smartest visual direction, given it constantly highlights how the girls in this show are present for the male gaze, especially when you have a moe sloth girl as part of your entourage.

A crowded lunchroom full of animals and girls with animal ears
Where would you be sitting?

All that aside, Seton Academy also suffers from a total lack of personal space afforded to its characters. Ranka constantly pounces and slobbers over the rest of the cast, but the men are the more egregious culprits for manhandling in Seton Academy.

In an effort to prove how zebras are closer to donkeys than horses, Mazama takes a break from trying to slap away Ranka to hoist a zebra girl on his shoulders to reveal to the entire school her butt and tail. Later, a trio of bears grab Hino, the human girl, intent on sexually molesting her. I suspect this show will only go downhill from here.

A wolf girl licks a boy's face. His mouth is drenched. Subtitle: and it expresses the highest level of affection and submission.

All of this, combined with subpar production quality and a paper-thin story, makes for a weak series that could have shown promise if it did literally anything better. With other anthropomorphic cute anime girls coming down the pipeline this season, Seton will likely fall behind the pack.

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