A Centaur’s Life
People have been asking me to watch A Centaur’s Life since it first came out in July of 2017, due to how it handles evolution, and I can safely say that this show is going to be the gift that keeps on giving with how it handles biology. Before I get to that though, I wanted to take the time to give you guys some of my own thoughts on the series itself. A Centaur’s Life is effectively a slice of life comedy that takes place in a world very much like our own except instead of normal everyday homo sapiens, we have centaurs, satyrs, mermaids, cat people, angels, dragonoids, amphibian-like humans, and even snake people from Antarctica. This does make it a bit more interesting, but it is still just a slice of life show about high school girls. Just to be clear this isn’t a knock against the show, I’m just not the biggest fan of slice of life shows and A Centaur’s Life doesn’t hold up next to the greats like Azu Manga Diaoh.
Warning: there will be spoilers
Like most slice of life shows the cast is both very small and at the same time very large. There is a large number of side characters, but the only ones we spend any significant amount of time with is Himeno and her friends. Coincidentally each of Himeno’s friends just so happens to be from one of the different species/biological subgroups of humans.
Of all the main characters I liked Himeno, the lead female character, the least. I know that I am supposed to find all of her moments of immaturity and insecurity on various issues endearing, but I find myself wanting to give her a Gibbs slap upside the head most of the time. I can handle the lead character being immature from time to time, but in every situation she is faced with she ends up backing down and needing help. Even Himeno’s parents talk about her needing to grow a little, and after a while it becomes frustrating to watch.
Manami on the other hand needs to lighten up, but I like her a lot more because we are given a clear reason as to why she acts the way that she does. Essentially, she had to take care of her father and little sisters after her mother died because her dad is a bit of an absentee parent for various reasons. He is another character I would love to reach into the screen and slap upside the head, but I digress. Her younger sisters often steal the scene with their cuteness so I can’t really complain too much about them. To be perfectly honest I feel like the show should have been called An Angel Girl’s Life, as Manami has the most interesting characterization and plot elements and it would have made for a much more interesting show.
Nozomi is likable enough as the tomboy of the group, and I don’t have any real complaints about her character. Her close friend Kyouko on the other hand needs to open her eyes for once as they are closed all the time and it looks more than a little creepy.
Quetzalcoatl on the other hand just makes no sense half the time, but then again, a snake girl from Antarctica makes no sense either. She’s not a bad character, but the show just didn’t give me enough to make me really care about her either.
Like most slice of life shows A Centaur’s Life really doesn’t have much of a plot and the episodes do not necessarily need to be watched sequentially. As with most slice of life shows the plot elements can be random, and some are better than others. However, I found most of them to be severely lacking. Overall the show seemed to jump back and forth between fun slice of life bits, and episodes heavily focused on extraneous world building.
For example, in the first episode we meet the main characters and the plot focuses on Himeno (a centaur), her friends, and their roles in a class play. The main point is that Himeno is lamenting the fact that in all of the previous plays she has had to play the role of the prince, because none of her classmates can carry a centaur. This is nice because we learn about the characters and the issues a centaur might face when interacting with objects in the real world including a collapsing stage due to her weight. Thus it has a nice balance between telling a story, and giving us a clue as to what the world is like.
Episode 4 starts off in a similar fashion with a boy trying to give Himeno a love letter, which is a staple of many anime, including slice of life anime. I had no problem with this, or with Himeno freaking out over the experience. What I take issue with is the rest of the episode, which involves discussing body parts that I won’t be covering on Anime Science 101. (Nothing explicit is shown or mentioned in the anime, just heavily alluded to.) It really was out of place and was a complete WTF moment for me, not to mention handled in a ham-fisted manner. I still can’t figure out why the anime felt the need to go there.
We then have episodes 8 and 9, which don’t even have the main cast in them for the most part and really come out of left field. The goal of these episodes is to further build up the world that A Centaur’s Life takes place in, but they are boring and weird at best, out of place and confusing at worst. This is because we leave the cute monster girl angle behind, and all of a sudden we are looking at this world’s version of WW2 and slave labor camps. I realize this is trying to give a reason for some of the rules and regulations mentioned in the show, but it comes out of left field. I know some people praise the show for all of its world building, but I don’t watch a show for its world building, I watch a show for the stories that it tells, not the world it builds.
Episode 10 is just as bad, even though it brings back the main characters, because even though it was an episode revolving around two different couples going on a date at the art museum, it was less about them and more about the art. If I want to learn about modern art and art theory, I can read a text book. I’m watching A Centaur’s Life for the antics of monster girls, not a visual essay on art theory.
The artwork isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s not bad either. The backgrounds are detailed and the animation is fluid. As a person with no background in animation, I can’t find anything to complain about.
I am not a fan of the opening theme to A Centaur’s Life. It’s the right fit for a slice of life show, but I just don’t enjoy it very much. Some of that might have to do with the visuals for the opening, which seem to jump around from action adventure stuff, to daily life stuff, and to not slice of life material. The ending, on the other hand, is very good, and I rather enjoy listening to it as background music. The visuals are a bit more coherent and it seems to try to tell a story about Manami and makes me think even more that she should have been the female lead.
To summarize things, I would say that A Centaur’s Life is an interesting idea with terrible execution. It was trying to use an alternate world filled with interesting monster girls to tell stories about a variety of issues from tolerance, self-esteem, and family life, which is great in theory. The problem is that A Centaur’s Life has an unlikable main character and a lack of a consistent narrative. In the end those good ideas manage to give A Centaur’s Life a barely passing grade of 6 out of 10. In spite of my own dislike of the show, I will be delving into the science of the show in my usual unbiased scientific manner in future posts.