Back in the day, when H.C.Staff was an anime blog, I lamented that the first glimpse America had of the wonderful art of the moe illustrator Goto-P was largely a waste of time.
Fortunately, Kantoku, one of the greatest moe illustrators of all time, makes his US debut with a series of much higher quality: The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat. With the anime already showing and the translated manga already in print, it is one of two titles (the other being Daily Lives of High School Boys) that I am looking forward to buying for the first time in forever.
To tell the truth, I hadn’t been paying much attention to new anime for years now, missing out on now-legendary series such as Madoka. I stumbled upon The Hentai Prince only because my friend recommended I watch a series from back in the day called Saki.
Me: But isn’t that like a series about mahjong, much like Hikaru no Go was about Go?
Friend: It’s only about mahjong on the surface. Saki is really an excuse to put a lot of moe girls on screen unleashing superpowers on each other. I think you’ll like it.
Unfortunately, after one episode of Saki, I didn’t quite get it. So the main character has some kind of supernatural probability-warping power that allows her to get a score of zero whenever she wants? The moe was quite obvious, but not really my kind of moe.
But the whole Saki experiment had me poking around for new series for the first time in forever. That’s when I found a series with character designs by Kantoku.
This series has the best catgirl since K-On‘s Azusa Nakano, and the best Azusa since, well, Azusa Nakano (beating Idolmaster Azusa and Magic the Gathering Azusa).
I checked on what anime authority Jason Miao had to say. He had tagged it HAREM, SWITCHEROO, PERVERT, LOLICON. Now that in itself wouldn’t get me to watch a series, but I also noticed it was by J.C.Staff. And you know how I feel about J.C.Staff.
From this one screenshot in the first episode alone, you can tell that it’s by J.C.Staff – even if you ignore the green text that says “J.C.STAFF” in the credits.
The titular gimmick of the series is the “Stony Cat”, a magical cat statue that can remove an unwanted aspect of your personality and transfer it to someone who needs it. The male lead, Yoto, asks the Stony Cat to take away his “facade” – his tendency to lie and hide his true feelings. The female lead, Tsukiko, asks the Stony Cat to take away the transparency of her emotions, so she doesn’t seem so childish.
But you know how you have to be careful what you wish for? Tsukiko loses the ability to show emotion, becoming able to speak only in a quiet monotone with her face unchanging. When Yoto loses his ability to lie, he ends up speaking his mind at inappropriate times.
“I LIKE FLAT CHESTS AND I CANNOT LIE”
And you know how the cat gives your unwanted personality trait to someone who needs it? Yoto’s dishonesty transfers to a girl named Azusa, which turns her into J.C.Staff Flat-Chested Tsundere Princess Heroine #9 (or something like that, I’ve lost count).
Regretting what has happened to both himself and Azusa, Yoto becomes Azusa’s “dog” in order to convince her to help him return both their personalities to normal. Tsukiko, who has liked Yoto since Significant Childhood Friendship Moment #272, then becomes jealous of him spending time with Azusa.
You know what this means.
It’s the dreaded Double-DFC Love Triangle! Run away!
From the description so far, there is nothing that separates The Hentai Prince from anything you’ve seen so far. In Jason’s thin slicing, he complains how the Stony Cat changed the main characters’ personalities to be more stereotypical than they were to begin with. Who wants to see yet another tsundere love triangle (besides me, that is)?
But if you watch The Hentai Prince, you will see that it handles those stereotypes in a very creative way. Sure, Yoto may have lost his ability to lie, but you don’t need to lie to be able to manipulate others. Azusa has been cursed with the inability to be true to herself, but that only means that she had a reason to hide her true feelings and pretend to be a princess in the first place. And Tsukiko may have lost the ability to show feelings with her face and voice, but she hasn’t lost her actions, and actions speak louder than words.
Most creatively of all, by the fourth episode Yoto has come clean with his true intentions for being around Azusa, and they go back to the Stony Cat and get the curse lifted. That’s right. No more inability to lie, and no more tsundere. The story doesn’t drag the gimmick out for longer than it has to. Yoto decides to become more honest on his own, and Azusa has to deal with her problems without hiding behind the dishonesty that she borrowed from Yoto.
And it makes sense that they would come to that decision. The moral of the story, as put by Yoto in that significant childhood scene, is that there is a time to wear a mask and a time to show your real face – and sometimes you need a better mask.
And speaking of masks, despite Yoto and Azusa freeing themselves from the curse, Tsukiko has chosen to keep her curse. Why is that? Does she want (what she thinks is) the appearance of maturity, to not be a burden to her elder sister? Does she want to remain “stony” in the face of Yoto sister-zoning her and seeming to prefer Azusa? Either way, I want to see how this is all resolved.
Oh, and if Tsukiko no longer has her transparency of emotions, who has it now, and why does he/she need it?
There’s no getting around the fact that The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat is a shameless pander-fest in true J.C.Staff fashion. But hidden in the fanservice are some surprisingly thought-provoking lessons about relationships. It’s the kind of story I would write if I could just drop the “family-friendly” facade that I’ve kept on wearing years after quitting the religious life.
I wonder if they have Stony Cats over at Tsubaki Shrine…