Itsuki Yuge's friend Mahiru Konatsuki announces she's pregnant, but what she REALLY has inside her turns out to be a badly-drawn demon, which Itsuki somehow defeats. He's then escorted to the magical world of Granvania by a leering, overbearingly lewd tanuki named Mana. It seems that Star Children are required to defeat a series of "Impurities" (monsters) in Granvania, and 12 virgins (including Mahiru; remember, she wasn't actually pregnant?), representing the 12 signs of the zodiac, have been recruited to create the required Star Children- with Itsuki's help...
"You making babies is a crucial act that will ensure this world's safety... you have a literal harem... you and the priestesses will be joined to give birth to a Star Child. Set the course for intercourse!"- Mana (with evil grin )
Well, I suppose it was inevitable. After Hybrid x Hearts Magias Academy Atraxia, in which the male lead was "forced" to have sex with a bevy of females in order to "recharge" them so the world could be saved, the next step in fanboy fantasy would have to be for the male lead to be "forced" to have children with a bevy of females to save the world. And it's not just with a DOZEN women, mind; it's technically 14- or, depending on how you count the last one, 15- before it's all over. (Because one counts twice; there's actually a 13th sign of the zodiac; and one is...well, I'd rather not go there. EVER!)
Now let's face it- the theme here is coerced sex (AKA rape), whether it's Itsuki's idea or not- though he's frequently cool with it, especially when egged on by Mana- but the show tries its best to sugarcoat this. For one thing, the women themselves seem to accept that it's their duty to do it with Itsuki (for Mahiru, it's the only way to go home), while on the other hand, there are at least token efforts by Itsuki to get to know the women better before they do the deed. These are written at about the level of superficiality of an episode of Sister Princess, though one, involving a girl named Collette who's a baker, includes all the sexual innuendo about food you could imagine. (Try imagining it; it's not difficult. And it's ALL there.) The ladies are mostly rather weak examples of common female anime stereotypes, so it hardly takes much effort for Itsuki to get to know them, anyway.
You might wonder how these children could go through standard gestation and growth in a short enough time to go into battle with Itsuki in Granvania's current crisis.(I'm resisting the urge to call this a Children's Crusade, but the restraint is proving difficult...) And that brings us to the weirdest part of all: at some point during Itsuki's lovemaking with the women (we see them start to get intimate in bed, but the show sanitizes things, again, by not showing where, or how far, this goes), the "Star Children" are "conceived" (more like, “simply materialize out of nowhere”) as matryoshka dolls, which then come to "life" with an apparent age of somewhere around 6 to 8 years old. (I'm not that good at judging the ages of anime children, sorry.) They can in fact revert to matryoshka doll form when endangered, and some of them never DO look completely human, though the show's character art is SO bad that it's hard to tell with some of them. (More on the art later, but this is the worst looking Gonzo show I'm familiar with.) I guess our never seeing any of the women actually pregnant, nor ever knowing exactly HOW intimate Itsuki has to get for this to occur, is another way the show tries to avoid the full implications of its theme of sexual coercion.
But Mana hammers the sexual theme, as crudely as possible, INCESSANTLY. As I said earlier, sometimes Itsuki is in synch with Mana's sentiments (Mana: "Don't you like sex?" Itsuki: "Who DOESN'T?"), but even he ends up literally throwing Mana away quite often. As for me, I found myself indulging in some "conceptions" of how this tanuki could be made to die in the most painful, prolonged manner possible, and I felt a strange lack of guilt about holding these sentiments. If you had to spend even five minutes with this creature, I'm sure you'd completely sympathize. Mana's wrists are chained for some reason, but a MUCH more useful restraint here would have been a muzzle.
I did mention the art earlier? For all their variety of hairstyles and hair colors, there's a certain sameness in the womens' facial designs that leapt out at me. It's especially obvious in scenes where all the females are shown at once. Itsuki's own design, not surprisingly, is as generic as they come.
And there were numerous other issues- they were more like pinpricks of irriation rather than sword cuts of offensiveness like some of the foregoing, but pain adds up, y'know:
-THE TINY HATS: Collette wears a tiny baker's hat; a character named "Narcisstes" wears a tiny top hat. How DO they keep these on their heads?
-THE JOKES: There are certain lines in this show that must be jokes because they're otherwise inexplicable. (A prime example is the Gemini girl('s)(s') outbursts in Ep. 7.) The show only actually made me laugh at one point: having apparently mated with all twelve conventional signs of the Zodiac, Itsuki can't figure out who the "other" maiden is he's supposed to "conceive" with (it's painfully obvious to the audience, though, who are all screaming advice at the screen at this point), so he begins to think about a Boy's Love scenario, which takes him to the edge of gay panic mode- but nevertheless it leads to one genuinely funny line (because it's also genuinely self-deprecating.) One funny line isn't very impressive- as I've said before, even Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-Chan managed to have TWO scenes I thought were funny. (Well, OK, I admit it, I did find one of Conception's ladies kind of amusing, but more as a CONCEPT than a character: her name is Yuzuha; she seems unsure of a lot of things ("I may be a maiden of Pisces"), and, while soon destined to die of a fatal illness, nevertheless doesn't want to trouble anyone about it, so she carries her coffin on her back to keep it ready. As I said, amusing as black humor, but I didn't really LAUGH.)
-THAT "TIMELESS" QUALITY: Granvania seems medieval in many ways (King, castles, some of the occupations and costumes); contemporary in others (some of our cast goes for a ride in an SUV on a coastal highway!), and finally futuristic (we actually have some mecha here, and invoked with the flimsiest of motivations, too.) Settle on an Age, people!
To call Conception ill-conceived would be an understatement, in spite of being as terrible a pun as the show deserves. Crunchyroll calls this "the most outrageous harem anime in years!." But being an outrage is not always a GOOD thing. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Nudity (not really that explicit, though), and sexual innuendo throughout; but five minutes of Mana running its mouth alone would make this movie R /TV-MA.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Conception © 2018 Gonzo, Spike Chunsoft Co.
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