Last week I said this was Judgement Day. Instead, it became Disappointment Day.
(The above scene is not shown in the anime)
Amazingly, the show made it all the way through chapter 31 with nearly half an episode to spare, and yet DIDN’T show the big onsen scene from chapter 32 anyway. All that rushing through the material to set this up, only to turn away when arriving for no reason. Unfortunately, this bad news is overshadowed by even worse news…
In the Summer of 2018, we had a really good ecchi manga get a respectable anime in Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san. About roughly two years after that, we’ll get a similarly great ecchi manga with hopefully a good anime in Dokyuu Hentai Eguzerosu. In that two year gap between those headliners, Val x Love is easily the best ecchi manga to get a full 23-minute, 12-episode run.
Sure, the art style is a little strange, and the MC is a putz, but the harem is full of cute girls in extraordinarily lewd situations. And it’s just my opinion, but for whatever reason the ecchi scenes in the Val x Love manga tend to feel less stale than in many other To Love-Ru inspired ecchi manga. Maybe it’s the unique art style or that the ecchi scenes rival Shinmai Maou no Testament for their boldness. But suffice to say, I love the manga and was hyped for this anime dating back to it’s announcement in the Spring.
And that anticipation only seemed to grow when a mostly terrible 2019 made it feel like Val x Love could help save a particularly bad year. Of course, this all depended on Hoods, AT-X, and Avex Entertainment not dropping the ball worse than any ecchi show had ever done before…
By the numbers, there shouldn’t have been much to worry about. AT-X obviously doesn’t have anything against smutty anime. Hoods has a mostly strong record, including two of the most legendary ecchi anime ever produced (Seikon no Qwaser and Manyuu Hikenchou), as well as what now appears to be the top ecchi anime of 2019 in (Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!?). Avex has been involved in a various production roles for each of the first three seasons of To Love-Ru, as well as Muv-Luv Alternative and School Days. All had nudity. They were even a co-producer on a hentai named Cream Lemon.
But even if they were prudes, anyone with a functioning brain would have known what they were getting into with this series. Val x Love was not some compelling drama or funny comedy for which nudity was a side dish. Sexual gratification though explicit nude imagery was clearly the entire point of the manga.
So even when there were some early warning signs with the anime; such as there being no nude promotional materials, no hints at conventions or on social media that nudity would be coming later, and only vague hints at redraws on the BD product description, it still felt like there was a 99% chance they wouldn’t fuck this up just based on the strength of precedent. There had never been a full length anime this ecchi to fuck things up this badly ever before, and the track record of the companies didn’t appear to be a concern.
And to be fair there were some mildly positive signs as well. The product description on the BD listed bullet points for added content/features, and the first such point was “Visualize flashy and sexy battle actions!” Vague as hell, but seemingly hinting those sexy battle actions being “more visualized” in some way. A couple weeks ago, a promo for the first BD used this image, seemingly hinting at redraws to come. And two days before the first BD released, Avex published this “PV” made up almost exclusively of ecchi scenes that would be prime candidates for redraw on BD. They basically promise us something to look forward to without actually saying it. And usually, these signals are sent with honest intentions.
All of this had me feeling cautiously optimistic. But when December 20th (the date of the first BD) came and went in Japan, no blogs posted BD comparisons, no mentions were made on twitter that could be found… nothing. This is highly out of character for a blu-ray which added nudity. And the longer nothing was reported, the higher the odds were that Hoods/Avex did the unthinkable.
Finally there was a clue offered when the blu-ray product page on Amazon.jp logged its first user review post release. It was succinct and to the point (keep in mind that it’s translated from Japanese and ‘lifting’ in this context roughly translates as ‘lifting the ban’ aka uncensoring):
And here is what nylon66 added a few hours ago in his own Val x Love post:
First attempt at optimism (denial is the first stage of grief):
We still haven’t seen the actual BD yet. Maybe that one reviewer was trolling or was simply wrong. And maybe nylon66 is simply referring to that one reviewer. With that said, the burden of proof is on the BD changes existing at this point, and the more time that passes the more slim those odds become. And the fact that the one testimonial we have says they don’t exist isn’t a great start…
Second attempt at optimism:
There wasn’t actually a lot of nude material from the manga in those first three episodes. Maybe they are choosing to redraw some but not others, which you may remember was the case with the Nobunaga-sensei no Osanazuma. I think this is somewhat unlikely though as there were some easy redraws for nudity in volume one that they missed, assuming the ‘no changes’ rumor is true. That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence that later volumes will reverse course.
Your best bet here is that there is a big enough outrage that sales projections drop precipitously on volumes two, three and four. That might cause them to rethink things. Would I bet on it? Nope.
Third attempt at optimism:
Maybe they have some kind of weird plan to uncensor it in a future re-release? Bikini Warriors initially released an unexpectedly non-nude BD back in 2015 in similar circumstances. This upset some, including those involved in production. Ultimately the production committee decided to release a bonus episode with nudity, and when that met their sales goals, they went on to produce several more OVA’s with nudity, which even included bonus nude scenes to the original non-nude content.
Of course, Bikini Warriors was a very different circumstance. It was their own IP to use as they wanted, the episodes were way shorter so it was way easier to produce, and the production company possessed forward thinking qualities that Avex may not possess. If Avex is the real culprit here (as nylon66 has speculated), then the outlook does not look good at all.
Fourth attempt at optimism:
Maybe they have a plan to bundle the uncensored bits in future manga volumes? Both Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? and Domestic na Kanojo did exactly this. The latter case is especially relevant, as there aren’t even any uncensored BDs to buy for Domekano. This is probably the most compelling optimistic argument, but I still think it’s unlikely for the simple reason that if it were going to happen we’d probably know about it by now.
Fifth attempt at optimism:
Maybe they come to their senses in a second season. This is sort of what happened with Senran Kagura. It’s rare but sometimes you will have a non-nude first season that gives way to nudity in a sequel down the road. This assumes though that Avex isn’t completely committed to cockblocking, which they might be, and it also assumes the show is getting a sequel.
Sequels are very rare for ecchi anime, particularly one that now seems destined to be the most disappointing of all time. With that said, sales projections for Val x Love are surprisingly non-horrible, and just recently we saw Tsugumomo get a second season even though the first bombed.
Sixth attempt at optimism:
The ending to episode 12 left things wide open for a fanservicey OVA. Remember how I talked all series long about the show pacing itself to reach that huge bath scene? Well they made it to that part of the story in time, but didn’t show it. That is honestly a little suspicious (in a good way). It could well be that they did this on purpose to set up a bonus episode later. This is exactly the kind of thing ecchi shows used to do in the 90s and 00s, shows like Sorcerer Hunters or Amaenaideyo!! to name just a few. Those shows were fully censored on DVD, but the bonus episodes were nipple-fests.
And while a full second season seems somewhat unlikely, if the sales are good but not sequel good, that might still be enough to greenlight a few OVAs.
So are we completely and utterly fucked? Probably, but there are still a few slivers of hope left.
If this does end up being the worst case scenario, then I’ll never trust a production by either Hoods or Avex ever again. Not just because they just delivered possibly the biggest ecchi anime screw up ever, but because they were at least somewhat dishonest about how they went about it. If you want to do a non-nude ecchi anime fine, don’t use a hardcore ecchi anime as your source then. All it will do is lead to false expectations and leave fans feeling gut-punched at the end.
I hope at the very least to find out how this happened. Did Avex sign up for this not knowing what they were getting into? Or did they know perfectly well and felt it was okay to deceive everyone while making a farce of an ecchi anime? Or maybe they did come into this with good intentions, but simply ran out of money and couldn’t afford the redraws? Or maybe it wasn’t them all but Hoods who got cold feet (less likely). I’m just all so confused how this could have ever happened. At the very least, it would be nice some day to understand why.