Back when I had a lot more time to try and sample shows as they aired, one that caught my attention was Astarotte’s Toy. Known originally as Lotte no Omocha!, the series was based on the seinen manga by Yui Haga. It ran in Dengeki Comics, starting in 2007 and wrapping up in 2013 with nine volumes. The anime came out in the middle of that by landing in 2011 when there were five compiled volumes out, so the anime is just a segment of the original work itself. The show definitely put together a solid production as it was animated by Diomedea with Fumitoshi Oizaki (Welcome to the NHK, Romeo x Juliet) taking on the directing duties. Oizaki had largely worked as a chief animation director and an episode director here and there, but he’s had some varied works he’s been involved in over the years that have been largely clean and simple. Astarotte’s Toy is a change from that as it wants to play the fanservice angle pretty hard at times.
The series focuses on Astarotte, a succubus in the world Álfheimr of who has the unwelcome reality of needing a harem in order to survive as she gets older. The parallel is made to vampires that need to suck blood to survive and what a succubus needs is lots of male attendants in order to thrive. Astarotte’s main problem though is that she really, really, doesn’t like guys. So she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place since she’d rather not die, but she also feels like she might die if she spends too much time with a man. Astarotte’s the type that plays up the really heavy Lolita type, complete with blond pigtails, so there are some mild cringe moments where she talks about her distaste for having to suck out a man’s life-seed in order to fulfill her needs as a succubus. On the plus side, since the barrier between the two worlds is currently sealed, she figures she’s pretty safe from having to deal with any of it for some time.
Of course, you know that won’t last and a surprising event occurs that allows the Tree of Life gate to open, complete with Astarotte getting dropped inside of it, but it’s her servant Judit who takes the real fall and disappears. What Judit finds there though is a young man named Naoya who she realizes would be ideal for Astarotte and she proceeds to make him very much interested in the job she has for him with a huge monthly salary. Of course, he doesn’t realize the downsides to it at first, namely that it’s back in the world where Astarotte resides as well as the condition that she has, and what she has to draw from him. It’s definitely an amusing first encounter between the two and definitely welcome that it doesn’t happen until the very end of the episode, allowing for some very relaxed periods to introduce the characters and the settings without making it a hyper event.
Astarotte’s Toy had a very unusual feeling right from the start in how it presented itself since it was being rather proactive in a way. It may seem odd to say it, but it reminded me of Chu-bra in how it’s trying to deal with a fantasy situation in a somewhat realistic way. With Astarotte going to mature in the next few years into a full-fledged succubus, she has to learn how to manage things with the whole drinking the seed of man in order to survive. Of course, we’re not completely clear on what’s involved in drinking said seed, but it obviously is intended to titillate and unnerve us. But for Astarotte, it’s a fact of life she has to deal with – and earlier than other girls because of the fear of men that was pretty much beaten into her.
The negotiations that go on between Judit and Naoya are mild but cute as they talk about the portal passage event and how it felt and a bit about what’s involved. Mostly it’s just setup for the meeting between Naoya and Astarotte for the first formal time, considering how poorly his arrival went. Astarotte’s pretty cute in all of this as she’s nervous about meeting him but makes quite the proclamation when she does enter the room, all princessed up. Simply stating she wants his presence this night, it sets the stage for something that can be easily misconstrued, but you get the feeling that they’ll go in a different direction with it. Getting Naoya used to what this life is like, and this world, is part of the fun though, and seeing how he reacts to her and her actions is potentially the make or break aspect of the show.
The show introduces a few other complications along the way because Naoya has a young daughter in Asuha, a ten-year-old girl that has a deeper connection to things that they don’t try to hide all that much early on, which I appreciate. But the nature of things with how Asuha came out, AStarotte’s own lineage, and the bonds of it all, it can definitely make you feel uncomfortable just because of some of the narrative and style of it all. But at the same time, there’s a charm to it that works because it is a complicated family dynamic and one that has Naoya really doing his best to navigate not just for Asuha but for Astarotte as well. I really like the way some of this unfolds because it deals with the complex emotions of discovering the life your parents had before you were born, which can mess up your life in some big ways, all while Astarotte herself is going through her growing up phase and has to learn all about the right things she needs to achieve in order to survive.
The show wasn’t well-received when it came out because of the ages, fanservice, and some elements that just lean too hard into the creepy even if you can see some of the paths it could go down that aren’t creepy. One of the things I enjoy about anime is that we do get series that will walk the line, dangerously so at times, and find ways to make it work. Or, sometimes, just to mess with people. Astarotte’s Toy has a lot of things going on but it was a series that got me invested in it because she’s dealing with a father-figure, who has his own daughter, and it’s still very rare to have anime projects that involved parents in general, never mind like this. Yes, it’s high on fanservice, but that just adds to some of the realism in a way as a father will have to deal with a very problematic world that’s soaked in these kinds of elements while raising a daughter. Sadly, while Crunchyroll simulcast the TV series, it never saw a license or home video release and nobody ever tackled the OVA, so that’s one of those missing pieces to it.