So I Can’t Play H! is a fanservice anime. Or maybe the fanservice anime, given how shamelessly it’s calibrated to accommodate animated depictions of the naked female form. Here’s its premise: a slender Grim Reaper named Lisara (Aya Endo) strikes a deal with perverted high-schooler Ryosuke (Hiro Shimono), wherein he will supply her with ‘energy’ that he can generated through thinking ‘perverted thoughts.’
Thus, her motivation – in order to maximise her squire’s energy output – is to encourage Ryosuke’s libido, setting the stage for an unashamed display of flesh and associated lecherous behaviour. Where most such anime series have their fanservice incidental to the series – enabled through bathing scenes or ragged clothing – exploitative nudity is built into the very narrative fabric of So I Can’t Play H! This is exacerbated by the barely-explained monsters Lisara regularly encounters, monsters packing tentacles – naturally – and a consistent ability to erode the Grim Reaper’s already-skimpy clothing.
As a vehicle for fanservice – remember, basically an anime euphemism for ‘soft porn’ at this stage – I have some tolerance for this approach. If you’re going to pander to a target market that wants to see breasts and panty shots, why not attune the storyline to maximise this? It’s like the women-in-prison films where the cast are clad in gloriously impractical clothing (if at all); at least this approach is unapologetic in its exploitation.
But So I Can’t Play H! is more problematic than your typical fanservice anime, which – believe me – is saying something. It’s weirdly not even that fanservice heavy, comparatively; High School DxD, for example, eclipses it in frequency and debauchery within a similar premise (specifically: lecherous protagonist, red-haired devil love interest). Typically fanservice series balance their inherent sexism with, I dunno, empowered women and a sense of humour; So I Can’t Play H! does the opposite, amplifying the misogynistic undertones of the genre.
For example, Ryosuke’s lecherous nature is presented as admirably honesty, incidentally – or intentionally – implying that any man whose first – and only – reaction to a woman isn’t one of lustful appreciation is dishonest. Shortly into the series it introduces Iria (Misato Fukuen), a rival Grim Reaper in disguise as a buxom life insurance idol (because apparently that’s a thing in Japan?), then stages an action-packed climax where Ryosuke struggles to assist Lisara – remember, the girl he’s supposed to be in love with – because he’s distracted by Iria’s tits. If that wasn’t enough, he thrusts his ‘kingdom’ (his dick) into girls’ faces without consent on more than one occasion. This is supposed to be sweet. Ryosuke is portrayed as a Nice Guy. It’s all very fucking weird, and deeply disturbing.
Granted, the show shifts into a different, less troublesome direction into its back half; after a brief foray into the Grim Reaper world (impelled by some decidedly shaky lore), the series settles into a sedate, oddly-sentimental tone that, I suspect, is driven by a dwindling budget as much as anything else (the impressively-animated battle sequences of the series’ first half are nowhere to be found in the last few episodes). It’s not uncommon for anime to try to convert their loathsome male protagonists into good guys through acts of nobility as the series progresses, but I’ve never seen a show does it as unconvincingly as So I Can’t Play H!