What’s it about? As children, Enjo Retto and Hoshino Kirara were best friends, but five years ago, something happened that changed Kirara. Now she’s a full-on misandrist, and won’t even touch something a boy has touched! Retto worries about his old friend, but he has something else on his plate: he is a member of the organization HxEros, and must battle against malicious aliens that drain humans of their sexual energy and thus their will to live!
I’m not fooled, 57th Prime Minister of Japan Abe Shinzo. I can see you sneaking around in the background of this production, encouraging people to fuck and raise the birthrate. You can’t get past me.
SUPER HXEROES: “H”Eroes Save the World is the latest addition to a string of anime in the past few years that I’ve seen nicknamed “Abenime.” These stories assert that a sex drive is essential to the human experience, the sole driving force between all passion and interest and everything that makes life worthwhile. I gotta say, if you’ve seen one anime scientist banging a desk and hollering about how humans lose their will to live if they lose their interest in sex, you’ve seen them all.
Do I really have to unpack here why this is an issue? For one thing, it’s not even remotely true. I’d argue that humans’ ability to put sex aside and focus their energies on other pursuits is a major part of what separates us from other species. Freud is widely discredited; we don’t need to keep parroting his idea that everyone and everything is secretly motivated by sex.
And then there’s also the matter of how marginalizing this idea is to large swathes of the population. Asexual folks, people whose medication affects their libido, people for whom sex just isn’t a priority – narratives like this deny their humanity and validity, and contribute to the idea that there’s something wrong with them that must be cured.
That aside, I surprisingly didn’t hate this premiere. In fact… I kind of liked it.
On the shallowest side, it’s just a competent production. It’s well-directed, well-animated, and well-written, with some really strong storyboarding and clever dialogue. It’s an affectionate tokusatsu parody, which as we all know offers a rich vein for silliness. The Kiseichuu are a spot-on parody of just about every cackling toku villain, over-the-top speeches and all.
I know that equal-opportunity fan service isn’t possible in a society that routinely sexualizes women and girls just by the fact of their existence, while men are allowed to live freely without being treated as primarily decorative. But, SUPER HXEROES comes surprisingly close! When the HxEroes use their powers, their clothes explode off their body. It sounds like a thin excuse just for more female nudity, but the one we see it happen to most is Retto, much to his annoyance about having to carry around an extra set of clothes.
Likewise, in a series like this, one would expect the “professor” character who provides the toku team with their uniforms and technology to be one of two types: a pervy old man, or a sexy woman who is dressed completely inappropriately for her job. Instead of either it’s… a sexy young man dressed inappropriately! It’s a fun swerve, played mostly for goofs and to go against viewer expectations.
The appeal actually goes past “not as bad as it could be” and into some, shall we say, “feminist compatible” themes. The most powerful source of desire in the episode isn’t childish peeping or accidental boob grabs – although, to be honest, there is some of the latter – but physical and emotional connection. Kirara is prudish because of an experience that left her embarrassed and ashamed of her libido, rather than any sort of gender essentialist nonsense.
However, the episode does raise a few red flags as it draws to a close. Three more girls show up and introduce themselves as the rest of the HxEro squad, and explain that all five of them are going to be living together. Yep, it’s a harem show.
But it goes deeper than that. Tokusatsu tropes are fairly well-established, and the red ranger is usually the leader and always the protagonist. Normally, I would be thrilled to see a majority-female toku team, since it’s extraordinarily rare for there to be more than two out of five or six. However, at the end of the episode their colors are revealed and yep, Retto is the leader. It could be worse, because he’s a sweet boy and I’ve seen more than enough pervy harem leads in my lifetime, but it just solidifies the common bias that men are leaders by default, and the center of the narrative even when surrounded by women.
Finally, it’s worth a mention that while their ages are never explicitly stated, the episode does deal with libido in either pre-adolescent or early-adolescent children. I maintain that children develop… I’m really struggling to word this in a way that isn’t extremely creepy… a sense of their own sexuality and their own bodies earlier than most adults are comfortable reckoning with. It’s played both as comedy and a serious source of trauma but not fan service, but I’m certain it’ll be off-putting to some people, so consider yourself forewarned.
SUPER HXEROES: “H”EROES SAVE THE WORLD sounded like one of the least attractive series of the season for me. I took it on expecting to write it off, to be able to write a quick, mocking review and then move on to the next show. But here I am, days later, fighting through insomnia to write a full-length review in order to do this damned frivolous show some justice. I don’t know how long it can sustain my interest until the aforementioned red flags get to be too much, but you know what? I’ll give it another episode.