Conception Breaks the Fourth Wall of Comedy

Making Star Children is not the weirdest thing here

Throughout the course of its run, Conception has shown that it loves to tear down and smash the fourth wall as much as possible while going above and beyond for some of its longer jokes. There’s nothing else in the series so far that captures those two as much as episode 8 has where the show becomes The Bachelor. Thanks to Conception, it’s time to enter a new era of anime with anime reality shows. Okay, that might not happen exactly, but after this episode, that idea doesn’t seem as ridiculous. It’s further proof that Conception can make the most absurd idea imaginable work.


Most shows might give you a parody of a reality show, but as a gag that lasts only a few minutes. It’s clear the team behind Conception has studied reality shows because they hit pretty much every checkmark you’d expect from one of those shows. From the initial joke of Mana—the mascot character that follows and attempts to help the protagonist Itsuki—introducing the show as literally The Bachelor to also utilizing confession cams with lower-third graphics, Conception absolutely nails the foundation of reality shows. Conception surprises the viewer here with their level of commitment, because it would be easy to make this a one-segment joke or a throwaway bit, but it goes all the way.  Just like Itsuki does with the ladies of this episode.


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If you’ve seen The Bachelor or its counterpart The Bachelorette, those shows have a pretty set-in-stone formula each season. The titular bachelor or bachelorette has a number of potential romantic partners that they choose to go on dates with and who stays through the show. Conception does this too, with Itsuki taking Sue and Mirei on different dates that are full of ridiculous premises, such as Itsuki being able to summon a thirty-foot stretch limousine by snapping his fingers. Conception’s version also includes a traditional trope of reality shows in a physical competition, one that you might have seen before where people try and climb lubricated stairs for the added slapstick challenge.


What makes this show within a show even more bizarre is that it’s just a thing that can happen for Itsuki and those who have came before him. Granvania becomes captivated by this new reality show that hits the airwaves. There’s even a point where Seiya and Alfie are watching it and go live via satellite to Mana while he’s hosting the show, mimicking recap shows that have become popular in the genre of reality TV. Everything about this entire episode is so absurd that you’d think it wouldn’t work. Yet, that’s Conception as a whole. A show that you feel like shouldn’t be able to make these types of inane joke work, but it does in ways you wouldn’t have imagined.


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For other shows, mimicking a famous overseas reality show probably isn’t going to fit the story they’re trying to tell, but Conception apparently didn’t get that memo. Here is a show that from the outset has completely shattered the fourth wall and loves to talk directly to its viewers. The first few episodes include Mana telling viewers to visit the show’s website to learn more about the story and characters directly in the episode. Of course, for those of us that don’t speak Japanese, we’re still going to be a bit lost, but that’s what Wikipedia is for. Even outside of the plot, you immediately know that this show is going to be wild.


In recent episodes, Mana has gone even further by discussing tropes of other genres in Japanese media, and how episode 9 was the perfect time to introduce a plot twist to attract female viewers. It goes even further in the next episode when Mana and Itsuki discuss a portion of the opening credits telling the viewer who the 13th Maiden was going to be. Itsuki though still doesn’t know who the viewers are, which makes for a whole different discussion about the levels of meta this show has. Conception has no issues with being this ludicrous with how meta it becomes. This can be a risky proposition for shows, but once again, with how preposterous Conception already is, it works.


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A show whose main focus is about making babies to fight in dungeons is going to be a bit more risqué with its fanservice and humor. If you’re a fan of double entendres, then Conception is the show for you with how many there are throughout each episode. There are some that are more overt, such as when Itsuki and Collette place a sausage into some bread with a hole in it to make a form of pigs in a blanket (or whatever your local term is for it). Some of the other jokes are a tad more subtle such as when Itsuki has to feed Femiruna bread while the dialogue insinuates another oral activity. The truest surprise of this show is going to be when they don’t include a sex joke in an episode.


With the show’s premise, it might be easy to expect Itsuki to be gung-ho about having his own harem, but he’s surprisingly subdued and awkward about having to ask all these women to have his kids. Instead, it’s usually Mana who is the one that makes the double entendres, perverted innuendos, and attempts to narrate what Itsuki should be thinking. This usually leads to Mana being thrown off-screen, agitating Itsuki. It’s a subversion of expectations for Itsuki, but with the recent trend of mascot characters in Japanese-developed games such as Persona and Danganronpa, it’s not as surprising to see a character like this act in a brash, outgoing manner. Mana is the type of character that’d be banned from Tumblr now.


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Conception is not going to be a show for everyone, but the way it can surprise you with its humor and absurdity might make it worth checking out to see just how far the show will go in its pursuit of ridiculousness. Episode 8 is easily the most absurd episode of anime I’ve seen this year, and that’s saying something. Each episode I watch, I’m left laughing at a situation that's nonsensical, which Conception excels at. What’s been your favorite moment of the show thus far? Let us know down in the comments below! Also, tell us if there are other anime that parody reality shows, because I need to see those.

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Jared Clemons is a writer and podcaster for Seasonal Anime Checkup. He can be found on Twitter @ragbag.

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