4 Ecchi Series with Unexpectedly Engaging and/or Complex Plots

July 3, 2018

Introduction

What do you think of when you think an ecchi anime series? Your list probably includes pantsu, falling towels, unexpected exposures in the bath, and lots of bouncing breasts. What your list probably doesn't include is an engaging, complex plot, possibly with fascinating and/or deep social commentary, and genre-leading realism! 

Yes, I said fascinating and/or deep social commentary. And realism. 

For some reason, I see that ecchi series have a bad reputation in some circles. I think that's a shame, because there's a wide variety of series in this category. Chobits, for example, is a touching love story. Food Wars is a strong drama with great characters. Haganai is a complex character-driven examination of what it means to search for friends. This list goes on! It just goes to show that not all ecchi series focus on the elements that make them ecchi. In other words, they're not all like Rosario + Vampire

And no, I'm not trying to bad-mouth Rosario + Vampire, To LOVE Ru, High School DxD, or similar shows. Sometimes you just want to watch something fun and mindless. But sometimes, you want to watch something fun and engaging. Read on for four such suggestions!

Warning! There are spoilers beyond this point, so please be cautious!


The show starts in completely not the way you'd expect an ecchi/Rom Com to start: The Demon King's last stand against the heroes. The battle takes place on the slopes of an active volcano, and the evil army of skeletons, giants, and other beasts fall in droves before the might of our heroes. We quickly get two clues that this isn't a run of the mill fantasy romp. First, the armor of Airi Oltined, the lone woman among our heroes, consists chiefly of a material that looks like sheer black nylon. And second, after the heroes win the day, we get a shot of the heroes being disbanded (because why fund them if there's no enemy, what with the Demon King falling and all) before we see another of the heroes, Raul Chaser, working as a salesman at a magic shop called Leon (the series' world's equivalent of Best Buy). 

Fantasy elements? Check. Ecchi elements (man in plate armor, woman in nylon), check! Complex socio-political commentary? Huh? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Guess who joins him as a junior salesperson? Fino Bloodstone, the daughter of the late Demon King. Yes, hijinks ensue. 

Truth be told, I love the show asking the question of what comes after the destruction of the Demon King. It asks a logical question about heroes and their relation to society. And it doesn't stop there! Despite a more than generous quota of flipped skirts, accidental exposures and even a swimsuit episode (to sell product, of course!), the show veers into serious political commentary. 

Sure, it's easy to see what happens if there's no enemy. The government redirects the funds away from the heroes, their compensation, and their schools. If you're a hero, though, do you meekly accept this? Well, Raul, a true hero, does. No enemy, no need to fight! He's not happy about it, because he feels social pressure to be a hero. He's also not about to put anyone in danger just to satisfy his desires. But there are others who aren't so wholesome. They regret losing their time in the spotlight. And they set their sights on restoring Fino to her father's throne so they can restart the war and the bloodshed -- all so they can be heroes again.

What does a hero do after the war? Work as a sales clerk, of course! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The characters are a lot of fun, too! Seara August, the store's manager, turns out to be a lot more than she first appears. Even minor characters like Lamdimia Do Aximemor (and don't you share shorten it to Lam!) turn out to be important to the plot. Yes, there's a plot! The show's much more than it appears to be on the surface.

If you gave the show a pass because ecchi's not your thing, you might want to reconsider. 

It's available streaming on Crunchyroll.  Amazon also has it available for purchase: 


Chances are, if you hear the title High School of the Dead, three things come to mind (in this order):

  1. Breast physics
  2. Pantsu (and more pantsu)
  3. Zombies

Breast physics? Got 'em. Pantsu? Yep! But the show has a lot more going for it than that! Capture from the HIDIVE stream.

Yes, in this show that's about a zombie outbreak, zombies are nowhere near the first thing most folks remember about this show. And you know what? That's too bad. Because after watching such a diverse range of zombie movies from the original Night of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later to The Walking Dead (the comic was better), I think that this anime series has them beat when it comes to a realistic portrayal to how society would come apart in the event of a zombie infection. Cell phone coverage crumpling under the weight of emergency calls, the surge in hedonistic attacks by gangs, and even opportunistic despots staking their claims to power plays out in a very realistic way.

The show follows a group of friends who band together in an attempt to survive the outbreak. The group dynamics were fantastic! Takashi Komuro, Saeko Busujima, and Rei Miyamoto turned into the front line fighters. Saya Takagi became the strategist, Kouta Hirano turned into their weapons' expert (okay, he's a gun nut), and Shizuka Marikawa was their doctor. The team came together and organized itself in an organic and realistic way. 

The show goes beyond its ecchi roots and delivers some real drama, like Takashi having to kill his best friend -- right in front of Rei. Capture from the HIDIVE stream.

Some scenes that felt particularly authentic included a woman who kept insisting that the entire scenario was just attempt by unnamed authorities to control them. That same woman even rallied the adults against Takashi and his friends as the zombies attacked -- which led to consequences you can probably imagine. 

It's really too bad that the scene this show's most remembered for involves Takashi using Rei's breasts as a brace for an AK-47. The show's a lot more than that!

And by the way: The OPs were fantastic. You can buy the CD here from CDJapan (and if you've never purchased from them before and you live outside of Japan, here's a handy guide).

You can watch it streaming on HIDIVE. You can also buy it from Amazon:


This show and Demon King Daimao (see below) start with a similar idea: What if the people around the main character say that he's this thing of myth: a Demon King destined to challenge and destroy the world -- but the main character has no idea what that means or why he's it? In this show, that's the question facing Arata Kasuga, who, at the beginning of the first episode, is happily living with his cousin Hijiri Kasuga --  except she's not really his cousin and they're not really living together. 

It's complicated.


When we first see Lilith, we're not sure she's going to let Arata live. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The arrival of Lilith Asami from the Magic Academy introduces Arata to a new world of magic and mages. The magic system is the first of two things that sets this show apart from other similar shows. It's an elaborate and fascinating system based on the idea of a Thema. Built on the concept of the seven deadly sins, each mage selects the Thema that's farthest from their own personality type (and Arata seems endlessly delighted when he finds out that Lilith's Thema is Lust). When they practice magic, mages have to first have to switch to Magus Mode, and they can use the spells in their grimoires. Arata, being a Demon Lord candidate, is so powerful that he ends up with more than one grimoire. 

The second thing is Arata's camouflaged respect for the women around him. I say camouflaged because at first glance, he's more than open about his appreciation for them -- and I'm not talking platonic appreciation (though that's part of it, actually). I applaud his honesty! Several of them respond positively, like Arin Kannazuki, who claims to be his wife (and I think it's hilarious how he doesn't argue with her about it!). Others, though, take serious offense, like Mira Yamana, who tries to kill Arata on more than one occasion! But he shows his respect for her in an episode where he could easily have ogled her undressed, but he deferred so she wouldn't feel embarrassed or harassed. He was open with his feelings, but he tried to protect the feelings of those around him, too. 

Because of Arata's honesty and loyalty, even his most vocal critical (including Mira Yamana) eventually came to trust him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This is all interesting enough, but it gets even better. There's a fear in some circles that if all of the Trinity Seven (basically, the most powerful women in that Academy) align with Arata that he will become a Demon Lord. Worse, with their powers at his disposal, they fear that Arata will crush all of creation under his rule. There's a great shot of what things might look like if he succeeds, and I have to say it was pretty cool!

With this show, you might show up for the ecchi but stay for the characters and intricate, interesting magic system. And get a tiny bit of political commentary thrown in for fun.

You can watch Trinity Seven streaming on Crunchyroll. You can also buy it from Amazon:


This is the show that gave me the idea for this post. I watched it on a whim because I thought Junko Hattori looked stupidly attractive in the promo. On that front, I was not disappointed! But what kept me watching was the sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle social commentary! 

The story starts with Akuto Sai riding on a high-tech train to his first day at a new school. He's excited about becoming a Priest so he can help people, and his fervor and zeal attracts the attention of Hattori, who's from a prominent and powerful family. They hit it off until this show's equivalent of Harry Potter's Sorting Hat loudly proclaims that he's the next Demon Lord. 

Akuto couldn't get anyone to listen to him because they were all constrained by their assumptions. Even Hattori, at first, wanted to preemptively destroy him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Hattori immediately thinks he was lying to her; all his classmates think he's going to destroy or enslave them (or worse). Everything he tries to do to convince them he has no intention of becoming the Demon Lord backfires. They even misinterpret his agreeing to become the class janitor as some sort of power play and his plea that he wanted everyone to be free to make their own choices as a repeat of the previous Demon Lord's declaration of war!

What really caught my attention was that large corporations and even the government wanted him to play the role of Demon Lord -- some for the purpose of giving them a reason to use their huge military budget, some for their own gains. Various students had even been biding their time until the next Demon Lord was announced. Fujiko Etou, for example, had prepared an elaborate scheme to ensnare him and force him to do her bidding. Even the school nurse wanted him to die so she could bring him back and analyze him without the ethical considerations of experimenting on the living!

It doesn't help our hero when people like Fujiko Etou try to manipulate events for their own gain. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I really respect that kind of social commentary. I even liked how Akuto turned their expectations back on some of them -- and made alliances with others. Sure, there was an astoundingly high ratio of pantsu shots (rivaling even I Couldn't Become a Hero So I Reluctantly Decided to Got a Job!), but what stuck with me (well, mostly!) were its themes. 

You can watch the show streaming on Crunchyroll. You can also buy it from Amazon! 


Other Posts of Interest

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  • WeeaBroDerek says:

    I haven’t seen any of the others on this list, but I agree with you on HOTD. I think the actual zombie outbreak component of the narrative is realistic and suspenseful. The music and animation are also quite good. My issues with that series, stem from having read much of the manga first and finding that the anime adaptation didn’t quite hold up as well as I thought it would.

    Sadly, said manga will probably never even conclude because the creator died.

    • tcrow says:

      I hadn’t heard the creator died! That’s a real bummer. I agree with you about the manga. The parts that I read (where they met Rei’s mom?) were really well done. Reminded me a lot of the earlier Walking Dead!

  • Rose says:

    I haven’t seen any of these except for some of the ones you mentioned at top. Ecchi is not really a genre I watch but I like this topic. It’s always great when series has complexity to them. 😀

    • tcrow says:

      I think Demon King Daimao surprised me the most. Given how the first episode went, I wasn’t expecting the level of social commentary. Everyone from fellow students (like the student council) to the government refused to listen to him when he said he didn’t want to be the demon king — all because they needed a demon king to justify their existence or powers!

      Too many parallels to today!

      I think it says something about the quality of the writers and artists involved with anime with a genre seen as frivolous as ecchi can have such depth!

  • Highway says:

    Demon King Daimaou is definitely an underrated show, and very few people even seem to have heard of it. I only heard about it because a fellow blogger had assigned it to me in one of those “I’ll watch what you say if you watch what I say” kind of things for a post. But I really enjoyed it. As for the others in your post, I didn’t really care for Trinity Seven as much, too much difficult to follow “reasoning” for the magic, and too much of the characters I didn’t care for as much, although I really love Yumi Hara’s (as Lilith) repeated “arimasen!” lines in the show, she just does that so well. And “Couldn’t become a hero” was quite a fun show to watch, with so much of their ‘daily lives’ integrated into the show.

    (I’ve never seen Highschool of the Dead, so I can’t comment on it)

    And I would more put Highschool DxD in the category of the shows in this post, rather than mindless, although a lot of that is informed by my having read the books, due to TNK’s big quality slide through the three series they did (and that Passione reversed fairly well with this recent 4th series). Unfortunately that leaves a lot of big story hole in the anime series, but I still find it very engaging with the overall story of the world of devils, the efforts toward peace between devils, fallen angels, and heaven, the coordinated fight against a loosely affiliated terrorist group, and the very involved romance between Issei and Rias, where both of them act like teenagers, for all good and ill. Plus I think that Issei’s a great protagonist, motivated by love for others and wanting to do the right thing for those he cares about, and even those he fights.

    • tcrow says:

      “And I would more put Highschool DxD in the category of the shows in this post, rather than mindless…”

      That’s a really good point. I considered including it in this post, but I had it stuck in my mind with “Heaven’s Lost Property” as an ecchi series that was utterly dedicated to executing its premise — to the exclusion of other categories it’s a part of! I focused so much on Issei’s relationship to oppai that I lost sight of just what you said:

      “with the overall story of the world of devils, the efforts toward peace between devils, fallen angels, and heaven, the coordinated fight against a loosely affiliated terrorist group, and the very involved romance between Issei and Rias,”

      My creative process betrayed me!

      I may have to write another post on this topic!

      Thanks for your comment, and glad you visited!

      • Highway says:

        Actually, since you mention Heaven’s Lost Property, and I thought about it for a day, it’s actually a show that sets up a very complex world, and very interesting characters… and then just absolutely throws it away with super-deformed Tomoki and panties and sneaking into the girls locker room with gender changes. Eishirou spends the whole two series and a movie trying to drag the show back to something that actually resembles a plot, but ultimately it’s hopeless against the power of Tomoki being a perv.

        • tcrow says:

          Thinking back, I think I disqualified Heaven’s Lost Property, at least in part, because of the flock of migratory flying panties.

          Hard to take a show seriously after that! I mean, I can respect its dedication to its perversion, but wow…

          And in spite of that, I would have loved to have learned more about Daedalus. I would have loved to have seem more about Alpha — I think she borders on awe-inspiring when she uses Aegis and Artemis. So much fascinating complexity!

          “Eishirou spends the whole two series and a movie trying to drag the show back to something that actually resembles a plot, but ultimately it’s hopeless against the power of Tomoki being a perv.”

          Beta tried to help him a now and again, but even together, they were powerless!

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