Championing Diversity in Demi-chan

“There are people called ‘demi-humans’ who possess special qualities…the demi-humans who have been used as motifs in myths and fairy tales. They have also endured persecution in the past. But discrimination has been less common in recent years, and there’s even a welfare system for demi-humans who live with any sort of disadvantage. Now, being a demi-human is seen as just another aspect of one’s identity.” (Unknown, “Tetsuo Takahashi Wants an Interview,” Demi-chan)

There is no other show more surprising to me this winter season than Demi-chan wa Kataritai, a series I assumed would be a straightforward high school fantasy harem along the lines of Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou. Yes, there is a harem set up with our male protagonist and the female demi-humans, including three students and one teacher. Yes, they all look to be crushing on Takahashi-sensei. But, it isn’t the romance or comedy that shines in this series. Takahashi Tetsuo asserts himself from the very beginning as a man who not only wants to study demi-humans, but also respects them. Demi-chan wa Kataritai is a story that champions equality and appreciation for the precious and necessary diversity among communities.

“I hope you’re aware that getting together to discuss things like this is important.” (Takahashi Tetsuo)

Four distinct types of demi-humans present themselves early on in the series, including a succubus, vampire, dullahan, and snow woman. The succubus is the sole adult among the group. Satou Sakie approaches her daily life with countless restrictions on herself so as to mitigate aphrodisiac side effects on humans. For example, she takes the first train early in the morning and the last train late at night to avoid likely bodily contact in a crowd. She dresses conservatively to avert attention from herself. She keeps a sharp check on her mental awareness and lives in a standalone home since a sleeping succubus fills the dreams of surrounding humans with sexual encounters. In the beginning, Satou-sensei avoids Takahashi-sensei out of a misunderstanding of his intent. She mistakes his friendly introduction as ignorant curiosity. Her reaction is understandable given the consequences she might face even in the most innocent of accidents, but the daily restrictions she places upon herself to maintain normalcy robs her of the freedoms many people take for granted.

Three high school students provide us with three unique demi-human types: Takanashi Hikari the vampire, Machi Kyouko the dullahan, and Kusakabe Yuki the snow woman. While I find it somewhat discomforting that all three girls are well on their ways to falling for Takahashi-sensei, I commend him for maintaining the required barrier of teacher and student without hesitation. Whether that’s done knowingly or due to being extraordinarily dense, I do not know, but I appreciate the drawn line.

Each one of the students experiences school life with various degrees of difficulty. Kyouko’s detached head requires her to constantly carry it (someone tell me why she can’t just strap it onto her neck, or to her chest like when she studies?). Issues like crowds and motion sickness make it preferable for Kyouko to carry her head with both hands, which isn’t always possible. Yuki’s emotions influence the surrounding environment; when she feels upset, the temperature drops significantly. She also has a strong fear of discrimination, assuming that the harsh words of others stem from her demi-human status. Hikari is the most confident of the trio, which I think is due in large part to her human sister. Despite her resilience and strong convictions, it’s hinted that her parents may need Takahashi-sensei’s input on Hikari’s identity as both a vampire and a teenage girl.

No background has yet been shown of Takahashi Tetsuo’s personal life, but what we do know is that he presently holds not just an inquisitive view of demi-humans, but also a compassionate one. In episode four, “Tetsuo Takahashi Wants to Protect,” he clearly explains his understanding of demi nature, which is a culmination of both their demi and human sides.

“It isn’t how you’re born that makes you ‘like’ something. It’s how you live with what you are. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to neglect an understanding of a demi’s nature. The concerns unique to demis are caused by their natures. You can’t look at things in only one way. You should look from both angles. If you just see traits unique to demis, you’ll miss their individuality. If you only see the human side, you won’t understand their troubles. Both are precious. What’s important is balance.”

This viewpoint stands out not only because of its rationality as it pertains to Demi-chan, but as it can apply to any matter of difference between people, such as nationalities and spiritual beliefs. I’m particularly struck by Takahashi’s words because of the current political climate in the U.S. Each day, I look at the news and despair at the ever present fear and anger that looks to be tearing apart the country I hold dear. While fear and anger are understandable, even necessary, emotions, they should also be tempered with confidence, empathy, and intelligence.

I hope that as Takahashi Tetsuo furthers his studies, so, too, do the demi and humans of his school further their understanding and appreciation for one another. Ideally, I would like to see the romantic interest currently aimed at Takahashi-sensei by his students re-directed to others their own ages. Direct blood intake by vampires and puberty is a topic that has already been raised a couple of times during Hikari’s interviews, opening the door for these girls to experience first loves. Satou-sensei, on the other hand, remains a mystery. While I would love to see her relax, I can also see disastrous results depending on the environment. I can still definitely see the anime wrapping up with her happy ending. Whatever the outcome may be of these demi interviews, I hope the anime continues discussing social rights so that we as viewers can turn and study our own surroundings and means of participation.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” (Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems)

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14 thoughts on “Championing Diversity in Demi-chan

  1. ->There is no other show more surprising to me this winter season than Demi-chan wa Kataritai, a series I assumed would be a straightforward high school fantasy harem along the lines of Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou.

    You’re reaction is fairly close to mine, though I didn’t get the impression it would be as bad as Monster Musume (which I didn’t even finish the first episode of).

    Right now I’m cautiously optimistic about it, and would like to hope there is a chance for Satou and Tetsuo to get together. However, I wouldn’t be bent if Tetsuo and Machi got closer, though I do understand that would bother some. Also like you, I’m curious if the story will pull in other students to interact with the central characters. For instance, it’s possible that one boy may continue to show an interest in Kusakabe. And there is no doubt in my mind that there is some ‘stress’ in Hikari and Himari’s home.

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    • Perhaps it was just the similar titles with “Monster Girls” in the title that drew my quick conclusion about what Demi-chan would be about. The two really are almost nothing alike from what I can tell (I only saw one episode of Monster Musume).

      It would be fun to see Sakie and Tatsuo together, though I have a hard time imagining that result with their current attitudes. I do have a feeling, however, that he will probably see her in more relaxed, revealing clothing at some point in the show. Perhaps that will open the door to Sakie allowing him more into her personal life.

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  2. I didn’t think it would be like Monster Musume, but I didn’t have any idea that Demi-chan would be THIS good at all the things its doing. I really like the messaging that it has, and like that it’s continuing to present “how to be a good person” as well as how to get along with your own circumstances.

    I’m a huge fan of the idea of Sakie being able to approach Tetsuo as an adult. I loved her explanation of adulting: “We act like adults because we want other people to think that we’re cool, and it’s pretty much a facade.” And I think in her case, she’s spent so much effort in isolating herself that she has more of an adult facade than most people. Not that 22-24 is a super adult age, but she just doesn’t have the internalization of the behaviors of the adult image she’s projecting. That’s why she is so quick to get flustered around Tetsuo, while others like Macchi think that she’s the example of a calm, collected, mature woman.

    I think that the crushes that the other girls have on Tetsuo are actually pretty well done. None of them have the blind obsession with him that those school girl / teacher crushes frequently have. I described it last week as ranging between Macchi’s “He’s so dreamy!” crush and Hikari’s “I like him cause everyone else does and I don’t want to be left out. Plus, he listens to me!”

    I also think that Macchi leaves the frame at home because it’s embarrassing. Even if she’s not the type to get too embarrassed about pragmatic things, I think that it’s still a nod to vanity that she carries her head, rather than trussing it up in a big frame. Practicality only goes so far. And someone made the point that maybe she can’t put her head on top of her neck for the same reason that she got all uncomfortable when Tetsuo stuck his hand in the flame.

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    • I liked Demi-chan from the start, and it grew on my quickly from the second episode and onward.

      That whole conversation between Sakie and Machi worked really well both on its own and in context with the overarching theme of diversity. Her description feels pretty spot on to me at 30 years!

      And you’re absolutely right about Machi and her frame. I can’t believe I forgot so quickly how easily embarrassed I was at her age with even the slightest difference from other girls. I remember my grandmother in the Philippines making me corduroy pants since they were popular at the time, but the cords on mine were wound much thicker than the usual style. The pants I had were also yellow. I wanted to cry when my mom told me to wear it!

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      • Sakie’s description works no matter how old you are, with the added change of actually trying to act a little immature to appeal to younger kids. A lot of the things you do as you get older are things you get used to and don’t think about, but it’s still significantly an act.

        I even got a little more support for that idea about Machi and the harness for her head in episode 5: She’s using it to eat lunch with the other girls, but as soon as she doesn’t need it anymore, it’s gone. I don’t think it’s a continuity error, I think it’s showing that she’s willing to use it for practicality, but doesn’t really want to be seen much with it. I was wrong about her leaving it home, but right in that she would rather go with vanity than practicality (and it may not be that practical anyway).

        (and I never wore the parachute pants I got when I was young, because come on, by the time I got them, they were so last week)

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  3. For me I was a bit nervous before it aired because I have followed the manga from the first chapter for some time now and quite enjoy it. (I knew it was very different from Monster Musume, in other words.)

    That being said I have really appreciated the adaptation that A-1 has been able to pull off thus far. It’s quite good and pretty darn close to the source, while the anime only choices (usually choices involving transitioning from one scene or arc to another – larger based on the different medium, I’d guess) have felt like they fit nicely.

    To b e honest what has surprised me thus far has been the reaction of the anime viewing community. When the manga chapters were being released all the talk and reference and hullaballoo about “*sigh * … another harem story” were … barely present as far as I can remember. The only two clearly interested in Takahashi are the succubus and the dullahan. Romantic interest on the part of the vampire and the yuki onna was not part of their equation. They like him for sure – he is, as you have pointed out, rather proffesional, draws a line, and is “normal” (especially in the world of anime teachers in past years) … well, he’s weird in some ways, but he’s weird in normal ways to me. Weirdly normal? Normally weird? Wait ….

    ANYhoo yes … all those sorts of things honestly never entered into my head. And even the dullahan’s romantic interest somehow never felt “serious” in a way … not that she herself was not sincere or serious about it or any such thing, mind you. The only one with any kind of a possibility in my guess would be the succubus – though I am really not sure if Takahashi is really interested in a relationship at the moment with … well … anyone.

    Could be wrong, of course, and possibly just dense! As usual. XD

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    • I think that Macchi’s crush on Tetsuo is pretty much perfectly handled. She’s not gaga over him, just kind of looking at him as an ideal, and he’s not interested at all, just nice to her like he is to every student. There’s no hint of impropriety on his part, and he wouldn’t get to that.

      I would love to see Sakie and Tetsuo able to bridge the gap that’s been created by both the stereotypes and their initial relationship. Not that they don’t like each other, but now Tetsuo has it in his head that Sakie is off limits, and he has to actively resist any feelings of attraction he would have toward her. I really loved Sakie starting to consider what it would mean if she was attracted to another person, and whether it would be different from someone being attracted to her.

      I think what they really need to do is have a frank conversation where Sakie essentially confesses to Tetsuo, because that’s what it would take for him to see her as someone he could be interested in. But she’ll have to grow up to do that, and not be embarrassed schoolgirl mode.

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      • Sakie really is worthy of her own blog post and perhaps I’ll get to doing that further down the line if she matures past her current state. I enjoyed listening to her contemplate the differences between a relationship unaffected by any succubus aphrodisiac and one with it.

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    • Part of me wonders if there’s any similarities to be found among the readers of the manga who didn’t focus on the harem aspects of the work versus the viewers of the anime who find it difficult to overlook it.

      I’m glad that your nervousness regarding the transition from manga was instead rewarded with this anime. Since I haven’t read the original work, I have no idea how well the spirit has been maintained, but I am really enjoying the season so far.

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      • I’ve been reading some of the manga (specifically only the things that have already been in the TV show) and the show is, imo, leaps and bounds ahead of how the manga is done. The characters movement improves the presentation immeasurably, and they’ve conveyed a lot of subtlety and emotion in the TV presentation.

        I kind of think the harem thing is just anime viewers doing exactly what Sakie talks about in episode 4: Assuming everything based on their filtered worldview. “It’s an anime with one guy and 4 girls in the picture, so it must be a harem.”

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