The Let's Play Archive

Conception Plus: Maidens of the Twelve Stars

by Psycho Knight

Part 59: If nothing else, I’m a glutton for punishment – Conception: The Anime (Episodes 7-9)

Special Update IV: If nothing else, I’m a glutton for punishment – Conception: The Anime (Episodes 7-9)

Yeah, we’re back again for another installment of this stupid show. I seriously considered just abandoning this little project. Unfortunately, in the end, the part of my brain responsible for all of my poor judgement won out. So… here we go, I guess.

If you somehow erased the memory of the previous Special Update from your mind, then first of all let me congratulate you on pulling that off. Hopefully you’ve mastered the process of doing so, because I’m about to give everyone a bit of a refresher.

On top of mangling the characterizations of Arie and Femiruna, the last 3 episodes included possibly the most tone deaf, poorly thought out, downright disgusting scene that this series could come up with. Yes, I realize that we’re only halfway through the series. No, I still don’t think I’m tempting fate by saying that. Itsuki was partially responsible for Femiruna getting a concussion and then he fucking kidnapped her from her own home and locked her up in a panic Mana-driven ploy to make her love him by causing her to think she was being held for ransom or other sinister reasons. She’ll likely suffer nightmares from the experience and probably won’t feel as safe at home anymore, also there’s a possibility the blow to the head caused her to forget her parents faces, but the production team expects us all to have a big hearty laugh about it and brush it off as silly anime hi-jinks.

This fucking show…

Anyway, possibly due to the fact that I’m 99% confident that this series can’t go any lower than trying to make Stockholm Syndrome look cute and romantic and funny, I’m pushing forward with the other episodes. We’ve hit bottom, so it can only go up from here, right?

However, despite my recommitment to this, I want to point out that I will not be going into as much detail on these next 6 episodes as I did for the past 6. Part of the reason why is because I don’t think the anime deserves that much effort anymore. Not after what it just pulled.

Which isn’t to say that it ever really deserved the effort to begin with, but… Well, let me put it this way: I was willing to go in depth at first because I thought it would be at least sort of interesting to see the differences between the source material and the adaption. The show quickly proved itself to be boring and strangely tame (compared to all its posturing and bluster through characters like Mana), so the only thing I could really do to make things entertaining was to focus on changes from the game and talk about whether I felt they were good (everything to do with Star Children) or bad (terrible character adaptions).

But even that isn’t entertaining anymore (assuming any of you found it entertaining in the first place that is). It’s like we were walking down a city street, looking at store signs and noticing little things happening around us. Not exciting, but it was at least something to do while we were going for a stroll.

Then episode 5/6 happened and we realize that we’ve entered “the bad part of town”, so our walk subtly changes to a jog and we stop making eye contact with everything, like we’re trying to pretend that we just now realized that we’re late for a meeting and need to hurry and that it’s totally not because we desperately want to remove ourselves from the area as quickly as possible without drawing too much attention for fear that we might get stabbed or robbed.

…Anyway, episode 7. It opens with Mana writing fanfiction, because that’s going to be a thing from now on I guess (this one is a murder mystery or something). At least this scene is limited by the 60 second timer that signals the writers lost interest and want to move on. The same thing that happens with every scene in this show.

This episode is the “School Festival”. God only knows what we’re in for with that, but Mana is rambling something about shared horror leading to eroticism or something (she’s planning on a Mansion of Horror for the festival). I guess that’s technically true, at least as far as media is concerned (i.e. “Glad to be alive sex”. Don’t go to TVTropes by the way. At least wait until the update is done).

We might not know what we’re in for in terms of the school festival, but you know what is immediately clear about this episode?

This is really all I need to post.

Yes, it’s Tarua’s turn for a focus episode. I should mention that that screenshot above is from Itsuki’s perspective looking down from atop the academy roof. Tarua proceeds to crash into him and knock him over. No, there is no scene in between these two. Tarua literally runs straight up the side of the school. I would find that a little funny/cute, if I hadn’t been made extremely jaded by this series. Anyway, Tarua delivers a letter to Itsuki from Collette.

I miss you little buggers. I wish the rest of this series was focused entirely on your exploits.

Alfie shows up as well, continuing her fight for relevance in an adaption that she was created especially for. Her Japanese Idol thing seems to be taken a step further in this, as she’s apparently putting on a concert for the school festival. The Star Children are helping to promote it, because they are good boys and girls.

Sue is doing a petting zoo. At this point I’m getting concerned because the anime is shoving a bunch of cute scenes/imagery in my face and that leads me to believe that something horrible is just around the corner.

After momentarily forgetting about Collette’s whole subplot, we’re back to figuring out how she’s going to save her bakery from the horrors of capitalism and free market. They seem to completely skip over that whole “former apprentice of Collette’s grandfather stealing the recipe book” thing from the game. Instead, Collette just gets right to the secret recipe part. Anime Collette refers to it as “Happy Bread” though (it’s “Ultimate Breadwinner” in the game), which honestly makes me even more suspect that the secret recipe is just bread laced with hallucinogenic drugs.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, Collette doesn’t say anything about her grandfather having Alzheimer’s or severe memory degradation or whatever it is in the game that’s causing him to forget who she is or even who he is. She just says that he’s very old and can’t remember the recipe.

The Alfie scene from earlier and a Lillith/Lillie scene from earlier plays again around this time. They just change the background. From the comments these kids are making, it seems like Lillith/Lillie are planning on doing a comedy routine for the school festival? A comedy routine that involves Lillith saying “You’ve got to be kidding!” and then hitting herself on the head to bring out Lillie, who poses… It’s a pointless waste of screentime. Plus, why the hell would they do a comedy routine? Just tell fortunes!

Yes, Collette is holding up bread dough that’s rolled to resemble a dick.

There is a tiny hint in the next Collette scene of her “I know more than I let on” personality that I previously ranted about being left out, but they still have her sounding really innocent about the whole thing (she’s asking Itsuki about a saying from his world, “I want a piece of her”, and asks him what piece of her he would want). It kind of sounds like Collette doing that thing from the game where she talks about Itsuki being lewd or perverted, but it’s not obvious so it’s possible that she’s asking it out of genuine innocent naivety. Itsuki also mentions that something about her is off, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see if she is matching up with her game counterpart or if this is just a big bait-and-switch setup to make Itsuki look like a creep.

Oh, and if you were hoping for more bread puns, then I’m sorry to say that there haven’t been any so far. Collette has made a few regular puns, but nothing specifically involving types of bread.

Forget it, never mind! They are totally doing impish-Collette or at the very least they are going to fanservice the ever-loving shit out of her. There was a very brief scene where Mana finishes building some kind of dorm room building or something (possibly for that Horror House thing she was planning) and Tarua runs headlong into it and destroys it. This is followed up by Collette presenting that bread you see in the screenshot.

But that’s not all! See how suggestive the bread is? They aren’t done with it. Collette proceeds to fellate the goddamn thing. I’m not exaggerating that. She fucking licks the end of it and then deepthroats it. If you somehow can’t take my word for it, then just track down Episode 7 online and go to roughly the 6-minute mark. I am not posting screenshots of it.

There’s more to this gag by the way, but I don’t want to give it any more attention. We flip-flop between Collette’s porn bread and Tarua/Mana (Mana ditches the Horror Mansion because Tarua destroyed it and does a fortune telling thing instead. Tarua asks her why her deliveries are so slow and this is where we get the “Because you run too fast” thing from the game).

Speaking of, Itsuki isn’t even in the vicinity of this Tarua event. She’s just delivering her backstory exposition to Mana because I guess the writers locked themselves into this whole “porn bread” bit with Collette and Itsuki can’t conceivably be in two places at once. They also can’t have him ditch Collette, since they already had him do that in Episode 6.

Oh yeah, speaking of Collette, let’s flip back to her again. That screenshot is from a flashback that Collette delivers about what her grandfather told her when she was a child. She looks only slightly younger than current Collette. She’s also wearing the exact same outfit. Just in case you needed further evidence that Collette most certainly is not an adult.

The porn bread bit finally leads up to another suggestive scene with Itsuki pushing a sausage into some Chikuwa that Collette is holding and they make it sound/look like sex. Apparently the legendary ultimate bread of Collette’s grandfather is “pigs in a blanket”. Absolutely mind blowing. At least the clover thing from the game was an idea that few people would have ever thought of.

Festival time then happens. Mahiru and Yuzuha then proceed to roll up with some kind of coffin cart/pop-up food stall and set up next to Collette’s stall. The two of them were asked to run the stall and sell Lunch Packs by Femiruna’s father because something shocking happened to her recently and she’s not well enough to run the stall herself this year. Good to know that Femiruna is confirmed to be suffering from lingering trauma. Yeah, yeah. I’m sure the anime would just say she’s been overtaken by infatuation with Itsuki or something, but they didn’t explicitly say that and so my belief remains that she’s suffering from associated nightmares and anxiety from the ordeal she went through.

Moving on from that, there’s more shots of Tarua running around and not being directly involved with the episode. Collette’s plot also wraps up (she sells out, but Mahiru and Yuzuha still vastly outsell her because Femiruna’s dad keeps sending in new truckloads of stock). She realizes that she can’t compete with mass production but Itsuki provides her with the realization that she doesn’t have to because she’s able to put her heart into each loaf of bread she makes, which is something that Lunch Packs can’t do. I don’t know, it’s some feel good bullshit that motivates Collette but doesn’t change the fact that she’ll likely be run out of business because she can’t sell enough bread to support her bakery.

Yes, they are dressed as a sausage and chikuwa. Whatever, at least it means that Collette isn’t shown partially naked.

Then we get the Love Ritual between Collette and Itsuki, which I guess officially marks the end of Collette’s screentime.

I… I don’t even know what the shit this scene is. Mahiru and Yuzuha sell out of Lunch Packs, then Femiruna and the two thugs show up. Femiruna tells them that if they’re sold out of bread, then “let them have panties.” User HerpicleOmnicron5 mentioned that this probably makes more sense in Japanese due to "pan" (Bread) and "pantsu" (Panties) being similar words. Granted, HerpicleOmnicron5 admits that this is still a weird scene even with that in mind.

Itsuki comes back to the festival to find that Mahiru and Yuzuha are selling panties now (there are some boxers in there as well), which is disturbing because they are all loose and of different styles/designs (why exactly are none of those underwear packaged?).

It was sort of funny to see Narc standing in line. He apparently just unknowingly wandered into the line; in case you were curious. He keeps muttering about “ancient texts”, so he must be lost in thought about that plot stuff.

…Wait, what?

Tarua also pops up for another split-second interaction with Itsuki. She delivers him a letter from… Canada…? I think? Canada should be "カナダ", which that writing sort of resembles... if you squint... I thought it might be a mistranslation, but both the Funimation dub and a separate fan sub both say the same thing. Maybe it just looks weird because it's Mana's terrible handwriting?

And how the hell does Mana even know what “Canada” is?

Addendum: I immediately thought that this "Love Letter from Canada" was a reference to the trope/meme "I have a girlfriend. She lives in Canada" excuse. However, user Polsy dug around and discovered that it may be a reference to a Japanese song from 1978 called "カナダからの手紙" (Letter from Canada) by Masaaki Hirao and Yoko Hatanaka. "Love letter from Canada" is the English refrain of the song. Polsy thinks that the musical note on the letter points to this being the intended reference. I'll side with Polsy on this over my own theory, because the "Girlfriend in Canada" thing is more of a North American/European trope. Makes more sense that someone on the production team of this show would be a lover of that song as opposed to knowing about a seldom used trope of Western media.

Then Itsuki goes to a rebuilt Mansion of Horror that is now called “Delivery Training” and there’s a montage of Itsuki delivering letters in increasingly insane ways (he skydives out of a plane at one point to dunk a letter in a mail box). Apparently Mana and Boss (Tarua’s master) are testing him to see if he’s worthy to be with Tarua… who has interacted with Itsuki for roughly 20 seconds since he arrived in this world.

And then Narcisstes is shown being totally on board with the “panty packing” thing after all and nobody finds that strange in the slightest. Then we’re back to Itsuki helping Tarua with the “I lost a letter” scene as well as the entirety of her bonding route in the span of a 20 second scene.

The Love Ritual happens and we get a very brief shot of the new additions to the team: a sorcerer and a ninja. Also, Itsuki seals the 9th and 10th Labyrinths (according to Mana), so he’s just ripping through those without breaking a sweat I guess.

That episode was a complete mess. More so than other episodes, it felt like we were changing scenes and subplots every few seconds. Not to mention that Tarua had barely any interaction with Itsuki and then her entire character route occurred within the span of a minute.

Oh sweet Jesus… Yeah, they aren’t even skirting around this. Episode 8 is just “The Bachelor”.

For some reason half of them are wearing dresses and the other half are in swimsuits. Also, we get a complete side-by-side shot of everyone here and none of the heights look even remotely close to the game. I know my height comparison was based on nothing but the character models in the game, but come on, Collette is nearly as tall as Reone here in that screenshot. There’s no way that’s a legit height adaption.

Although, to be fair to the studio, it’s not as though we get a definitive answer in the game that the writers just ignored. I won’t hold it against them.

Anyway, this “Bachelor” competition is similar to the show itself (I imagine. I’ve never actually watched an entire episode of that show). I’m not sure what the purpose of it is, though. Mana makes a point to mention that Sue and Mirei are the only two Star Maidens that haven’t Classmated with Itsuki yet and the next scene focuses on Sue’s entire character route. It’s no secret that Sue and Mirei will be winning this “competition”. Seems like a waste of screen time to fool around with this game show thing since we know exactly how this ends.

Yes, Itsuki summons a comically long stretch limo that has all of Sue’s animals inside.

Sue gets her character spotlight and we get a few moments of characters like Ruka/Mahiru and Yuzuha/Collette teasing each other/hanging out as part of the "show". These scenes are intercut with cut-ins that have the characters sitting in chairs and talking to the camera about stuff that’s going on ("confession cam", basically). They’re really going all out on “The Bachelor” look. I’m not necessarily against it, I—

Fuck! TCG! Censor! For the love of god, cover as much of that as you can!

Moving on, because “realistic naked woman body (with Mana’s head attached) covered in fruit” is something that will haunt my dreams for the next few weeks. There (surprisingly) isn’t much I can say about this. It’s just framed as an episode of “The Bachelor”. Other than that moment with Mana, there’s nothing particularly terrible or offensive about it. It just feels like something the writers did so that they would have something to constantly cut away to in order to sate their short attention spans.

Alfie also makes her minor guest appearance with Seiya this time, watching the Granvanian Bachelor show on TV and also seemingly acting as guest commentators (there’s a picture-in-picture thing with Mana during this scene).

I don’t know. It’s not bad, but I just don’t see the point to it. I know it’s supposed to be funny, or a gag, but I’m just watching and going “I don’t care. I see things happening, but it’s all just static.” Maybe it’s because they don't go all the way with the idea. We don’t get any of the "plots, betrayals, alliances" or any of that drama stuff that people watch reality shows for. This is just wondow dressing for a typical episode of this anime.

There’s a thing where they have to compete in a stair climb after Mana covers them in white lotion, which is typical for this show. Only Reone, Mirei, Femiruna, Lillie, Arie, and Farun are part of it for unexplained reasons. Reone slips first and ends up taking everyone except Mirei and Arie down with her. Then Arie loses her grip and goes sliding down, which leaves Mirei as the winner of a private hot-tub date with Itsuki.

This is the only game segment that happens by the way. Another way in which they half-ass this idea.

Mirei’s character route is then boiled down completely to “can’t see well without her glasses” and “is intrigued by her heightened senses while she can’t see well”. She also gives Itsuki what is very clearly a handjob in the hot-tub, but then Itsuki tries to tease what actually happened by telling people to leave it up to their imagination.

At least we kind of get to see some of “Mad Scientist” Mirei. Although, like Arie, it’s been twisted into being a fetish thing instead of a quirk or simple hobby.

Everything culminates in a Double Love Ritual with Sue and Mirei where Mirei uses hypnosis gas to make Sue not be embarrassed. This translates into making Sue act like a cat in heat (I mean that literally, by the way. She starts saying “Meow” and Mana wiggles a cat toy in front of her, which she pounces on and bats at). Mirei goes stupid, and by that I mean she becomes a drooling idiot only concerned with the Love Ritual.

And Mana gets gangbanged by Sue’s animals because she slipped some aphrodisiac into Mirei's hypno gas and Sue's animals ended up breathing it in.

Itsuki gives Archer and Thief pats on the head and they trot off smiling and laughing. The Star Children scenes will be the only unconditional praise I ever give this series.

The ending few minutes of the episode features another brief appearance of Alfie. Also we get to see the Star Children in their little kindergarten classroom.

The mysterious roar also happens and Itsuki rushes to the castle where all of the actual story kicks back in and the Ophiuchus Labyrinth/13th Phantom is explained to everyone.

You don’t have the balls, Conception: The Anime. We all know it.

They also tease the idea that the 13th Maiden could be Seiya, Shang, or Narc. Itsuki blushes and says “Maybe”, but then while Mana is going crazy with fantasizing we see Itsuki walking by her with a “Not a fucking chance” expression on his face. I think that means Mana was just imagining Itsuki being into that idea.

Let’s be honest here: We know Alfie is the 13th Maiden. That wasn’t even a secret in the lead up to this series (she was advertised as such). I don’t believe for a second that this show has the guts to show Itsuki doing the Love Ritual with Seiya, Narc, or Shang.

But who knows? Maybe they will show something like that and treat it seriously instead of turning it into a—

No, sorry. I can’t even finish that statement with a straight face. I fully expect them to make this an extended “ew, gay people HAHA” thing. After the trash fire that was episode 6, do you honestly think they are capable of treating something like that with nuance?

Oh yeah, and the episode ends with this ominous shot of Alfie. The credits sequence is then replaced by sepia-toned footage of Alfie and the Star Children from their appearances in the episodes so far.

This fucking show… All right let’s get this over with. Is everyone properly braced for what could be another train wreck? We already got a hint in Episode 5 that Seiya was secretly hot for Itsuki. We also know that the show is completely incapable of approaching something like this with respect. They also don’t have the comedy chops to make it funny.

Itsuki walks around looking at pretty dudes and buff sweaty dock workers, but doesn’t really react. Then he sees Seiya jogging and we get some close ups of his hamstrings and biceps and there’s bishi sparkles around him while Itsuki blushes a bit.

Itsuki continues to wander around places where dudes hang out, like the public baths. He’s clearly thinking it over in his head. I guess at the very least I will give the show a thumbs up for not making Itsuki act like Yusuke from Persona 4.

Seiya also keeps “coincidentally” turning up everywhere Itsuki goes. So I guess this is the plan that Mana came up with back during the beach episode. The 13th Maiden thing was just the excuse they needed I suppose.

Mana just starts breaking the fourth wall eventually and telling Itsuki about how they teased a boys' love thing last episode so they’ve got to deliver it, that it’s a plot twist to stimulate and shock the viewer, and that it’s not a stretch for episode 9 material. Sure, I guess just do that.

I will say that so far, I do like the fact that Itsuki has just been kind of spaced out about this whole idea. He’s thinking about it and he’s not sure how he feels about it. I fully expected this show to make him do the “Gross, get the gayness away from me!” deal.

I’m just predisposed to expect the worst from this show.

…For good reason. That’s Mana suggesting other ways that the 13th Maiden could be a “forbidden” love situation. She says that if it’s not boys' love, then maybe it’s sibling love, or stepmother love, or dominatrix love, or beastiality.

So glad I decided to do this side-series of updates. I could be grinding out RNG based quests right now. Yes, that prospect sounds far more enjoyable to me.

No, I am not misinterpreting that. That’s Sue looking at Itsuki in tears because Mana is talking about him fucking one of her horses and she thinks he might be on board with that idea (He most certainly is not, thankfully. He quickly tells Sue that he’s got nothing to do with what Mana is saying).

I do like this scene a little bit. Mana points out that Narc is totally a virgin because he spends all his time reading ancient texts and being a weirdo. Mana asserts that Seiya is because, as a playboy that looks like he has lots of experience with women, he would never let girls know that he actually has no experience (he would save himself for the perfect chance). Mana sidesteps the possibility of Shang by saying Itsuki will know if he can do it when the time comes (Itsuki can’t believe that Shang is a virgin).

Anyway, let’s not drag this out (like the episode is doing). We’re halfway into the episode and so far we’ve gotten nothing but scenes of Itsuki questioning whether or not he’s cool with grinding up on a man. Let’s cut to the chase.

Itsuki/Seiya is teased, but Itsuki bails on it before anything actually happens. Itsuki then goes to Narc, which Mana is excited about, but the two of them just talk about the 13th Labyrinth and Narc empathizes with Itsuki’s plight of having to shoulder the burden of the world on his shoulders. There’s no yaoi teasing going on here. Itsuki does get freaked out and bail when Narc asks him for help in deciphering an “ancient text” though (it’s basically a copy of the Kama Sutra).

Mana’s backstory is then randomly dumped out of nowhere.

Mana’s backstory somehow gives Itsuki the resolve to go through with doing the Love Ritual with another dude… somehow. I think it’s framed as Itsuki putting the needs of the world over his personal sexual preferences. He brings in both Narc and Seiya in order to try for the Double Love Ritual.

But no, of course they don’t actually go through with it. Just as Itsuki gives his big plea for Narc and Seiya to “have his child” for the sake of Granvania, the walls of the ritual chamber fall apart and reveal that everyone was just punking Itsuki about the whole “the 13th Maiden is a man” thing. Everyone was in on this and Mana laughs off the idea of the Love Ritual being possible between men.

Hilariously (in terms of poor animation), the “Maidens” are all in their stock/artwork poses. It’s like the show couldn’t afford to get the “actors” together for this scene and just decided to use promotional standees. It looks like someone photoshopped them into the background. Arie’s hair looks like it’s frozen in time. Not to mention, is that Ruka's hand? It's minuscule!

So yeah, everybody was trying to get Itsuki to think that he had to do the Love Ritual with men in order to… teach him a lesson? No… no, that’s not it. Mana suggests that they did it in order for Itsuki to overcome prejudices… or to make him realize that some things are more important than personal hangups… or to make him more open minded… or it was so that Itsuki could “love the thirteenth maiden with fresh feelings”?

I don’t know. I really don’t. They tried to make Itsuki think that he had to engage in a gay three-way against his personal preferences in order to save the world, then yelled “Psyche! Don’t be stupid.” Somehow that will make his Love Ritual with Alfie better.

I like the concept of “be more open-minded” and I’m glad they didn’t have Itsuki act like Yusuke or Sanji or someone at the suggestion that he had to do it with a dude. But I don’t feel as though they stuck the landing. It could have been worse. I was expecting worse. I think the fact that this was treated as a big prank that everyone else was in on is what ruins this. The justification that Mana gives is incredibly flimsy (“You were willing to fuck a dude! That means your feelings for the 13th Maiden will be stronger than ever!”). This entire episode would have been better spent focusing on Alfie and building her up.

Just before the credits, we get a slightly better delivered message that amounts to “It’s not about preferring men or women, it’s about having feelings for each other. Whether you like men or like women, there’s somebody out there for you. You’re someone’s personal ‘Visitor/Saviour’.”

And no, Alfie doesn’t show up in this episode. She doesn’t even get her usual guest appearance from what I recall. That was an entire episode where nothing happens and no story is advanced. It didn’t even advance Itsuki as a character. Itsuki is clearly not interested in men in that way. All this episode does is get him to admit that “Yeah, I’ll do whatever it takes to save the world.” He sort of already had that resolve. His own life is on the line as much as everyone else’s is after all.

So, there you go. Episodes 7-9. Not as bad as previous episodes, but that’s a low bar to clear so nobody should be applauding this show for doing it. Overall, these three episodes just felt like a lot of padding. Which is weird, because this series shouldn’t be able to afford padding. Like, looking at this from the perspective of the show being a marketing tool (which it specifically is), what aspect of the game was episode 9 advertising? Seiya has roughly 3 lines in the entire game (as part of Lillith’s route) and he never directly interacts with Itsuki. There’s also no “Classmanting” like there was in Conception II.


I don’t feel like ratings are appropriate for this anymore, at least not as far as I originally intended. The animation hasn’t gotten any worse or better. There’s still the problem of wonky character appearances in some scenes and an overall lack of fluidity in the animation. The longer the series goes on, the less it sticks to the game in terms of just about everything (characterizations, events, character interactions). Even the fanservice is all over the place.

As for episodes 7-9 on their own? They were boring and felt pointless at several moments (The Bachelor segment, the entirety of Episode 9), but I’m okay with that. After episodes 5 and 6, being able to zone out and just let this show flow over me was relieving. I’m already forgetting the details of each episode and I haven’t even finished the update.

That suits me just fine.