“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)