Source: Monster Musume Episode 1
At Comic Market 88 last summer, Japanese book publisher Tokuma Shoten brought with them an astounding seven-meter long hugging pillow. Featuring a character named Miia from the series Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls, it sold out in under an hour despite its whopping 100,000 yen ($850) tag. Given this success, why hadn’t any other company tried something like this before? The reason, I believe, is that Monster Musume boldly goes where other similar series do not dare to tread, and thus garnered a loyal fanbase because of its earnestness.
Warning: NSFW image at the bottom of this article
Source: Monster Musume on Crunchyroll
Monster Musume is a harem series about a man who ends up living with half-human/half-monster girls, and throughout the series it delves into a variety of details about these women. It shows the kind of underwear a creature with no legs would wear. It explores the cultural meaning of riding a big-breasted centaur. If topics such as these are a red flag, then Monster Musume is probably not for you. However, for the curious, Monster Musume is special. I say this not to promote the series, but to argue that it is Monster Musume’s willingness to give “too much information” that gives it strength.
Monster Musume does more than just appeal to a fetish for otherworldly creatures that toe the line between human and inhuman. In fact, the series goes where others simply do not. Monster Musume doesn’t limit itself to restricting the monstrous qualities of its girls to only their general thematic makeup. This means that the series invites discussion and therefore enthusiasm in ways that other similar works don’t.
Bizarre harems are nothing new to Japanese media. Tenchi Muyo!, which is often considered the first true harem series, features girls that mix a Japanese cultural aesthetic with a science fiction theme. The light novel Is This a Zombie? (これはゾンビですか？) is similar to Monster Musume in that its girls are based on creatures of horror. Depending on your point of view, the ship girls of Kantai Collection might be seen as a harem as well. However, none of them quite push for the questions that everybody/nobody wants to ask, and that’s where Monster Musume flexes its muscles. (Right image source: FUNimation)
In Is This a Zombie?, the main girl, Eucliwood Hellscythe, is a necromancer who does not speak, but otherwise looks entirely human and can easily be thought of as such. In contrast, Monster Musume’s main heroine, Miia, is a Lamia, whose upper half is human and lower half is gigantic snake creature. Her tail is so long that the harem lead Kimihito Kurusu has to expand the rooms in his house to compensate, and the now-enormous bathroom is a common site of risqué scenes throughout the series. Moreover, the series takes place in a world where monsters and humans are undergoing intercultural exchange. The series provides encyclopedic descriptions of these monster girls at the same time they actively try to bed Kurusu.
So when it comes to the question of the Miia hugging pillow and why no one had attempted to sell such an item before, I believe that it’s because no series prior had built up the desire for such merchandise to its fan base. Monster Musume takes the extra step to both accurately portray the inner workings of its girls and to endear them to the reader by encouraging them to contemplate those forbidden thoughts.
Update 1/14: This article previously mistakenly labeled Eucliwood from Is This a Zombie? as a Dullahan.