This show will never get an English-language release. It's unbroadcastable. It's the kind of 'disturbing' that makes you dream of taking a flamethrower to the anime industry. The only reassurance is that the anime industry itself has no love for the show either and has no intention of following in its footsteps, since it was a massive flop even in Japan. The manga author (Haga Yui) has posted that she wished she could have compensated everyone who'd lost money by investing in it.
Paradoxically, though, the show's also sweet. I'm far more negative about it than most reviewers... and the yay-sayers aren't actually wrong. General opinion seems to be that it's charming and innocent after a dodgy first two episodes, if you can stomach the premise. This is true. There are some lovely episodes in here. It can be heartwarming. Ep.4, for instance, ends up being about children being reunited with parents they didn't think they'd be able to meet. The last two episodes I think are genuinely strong.
However I think episodes 1-10 must have killed a few careers. Let's set the scene, shall we?
Princess Astarotte (aka. Lotte) is a man-hating succubus. Unfortunately this is a life-threatening issue, since succubi die if they don't regularly drink semen. It's like vampires and blood. Lotte's attendants are begging her to build a harem like her mother's (which contains over 3000 men), but Lotte so loathes the idea that she's demanded that her prospective harem's first member be human. This is like demanding phoenix feathers, since this is the magical realm of Alfheimr and no one's seen a human for a thousand years.
Lotte's head of staff, Judit, then visits Midgard and returns with Naoya. Hurrah! Lotte has her first semen donor!
WARNING: BAD BIT COMING
Lotte is 10 years old. (That's why she's still alive, since she hasn't yet acquired her adult body and its needs. She's expected to quite soon, though.) Meanwhile Naoya is 23.
EVERYONE JUST STOPPED READING MY REVIEWS FOR EVER
The good news is that nothing happens. The show was broadcast on Japanese TV and a simple-minded assessment might even call it family-friendly. Lotte never performs any act on anyone. No one has carnal relations at all, in fact, except for Lotte's mother, Queen Mercelida Ygvar I and that's all offscreen. (She's very comfortable with being a succubus. She has a harem. Do the maths.) Furthermore, as it happens, Naoya himself has a daughter and sees Lotte for what she is, i.e. a lonely child who's estranged from her family and can't make friends. That's why people have called the show sweet. Lotte's unhappy, underneath her high-handed attitude, and what she needs is simply someone to talk to.
I've even seen discussion of whether or not the show's a cut-and-paste of the popular and uncontroversial Hayate the Combat Butler. In short, this show can be cute and it's easy to see why it has fans.
That's the sunlit, happy side of Astarotte's Toy. There's also a dark side. I'll be going into spoilers, by the way. This show needs dissecting.
KILLER #1: the tone. What's the show trying to do? What's the point of it? What's the intended audience? Answer: it's sexualising pre-pubescent girls. I don't just mean the presence of panty shots, for instance, but the intent behind them. This is a show where... okay, look at the premise. The thing exists to give paedophiles a stiffy. There are also two buxom adults, yes, but this is a show with quite a lot of fanservice and it's mostly from ten-year-old girls.
KILLER #2: Naoya's daughter, Asuha. She's ten too. (Yes, I'll address her father's age soon.) Asuha likes wearing a dress and no underwear. Did we really need to know that? Obviously the show would still have been bad without Asuha, but you could at least have argued that the characters in-universe were doing the right thing. If you accept these rules of succubus biology, then Lotte's retainers are correct. Their mistress is a succubus. She'll die if they don't do something. However Asuha's supposedly a normal ten-year-old human girl, and yet her father:
(a) accepts Judit's job offer,
(b) takes Asuha with him to an environment where ten-year-old girls are expected to suck off adult men. Sure enough, within an episode Asuha's using the word "harem" and by the end of the series will be celebrating the expected performance of an act that in the real world would rightly earn you a long jail term.
(c) sends Asuha to Succubus School. Even leaving aside the, um, cultural differences, this is surely terrible on an educational level. That's not Japanese on those blackboards. It's either squiggle-writing, Norse runes or Scandinavian-looking words in the Latin alphabet. (The anime can't make up its mind.) Admittedly in real life there are plenty of Japanese children in a similar position when their fathers' companies post them abroad for five years, but that doesn't make it good.
(In fairness, though, maybe it's not just Succubus School? We meet a vampire too.)
Asuha gave me a bigger jolt than Lotte, actually. I'd known about Lotte. However Asuha comes to Alfheimr and all this becomes an issue just when other viewers have seemed to think the show gets harmless and fluffy. This puzzles me. Personally at that point I was ready to give Naoya a jail sentence. In fairness, there was a twist coming. SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT... Asuha is half-succubus. Her mother was Queen Mercelida Ygvar I on an accidental visit to Earth, which is how a thirteen-year-old boy came to father a child. This could explain Asuha's fondness for going commando and blithe acceptance of succubus mores. Naoya hadn't realised any of this, but even after learning about it...
(d) he never wonders about the biological implications of his daughter's parentage. Will she have to spend the rest of her life gulping semen to stay alive? Do succubi have any other physiological quirks (life-threatening or otherwise) that no one's mentioned because to them it's common knowledge? Any normal parent would be asking those questions.
(e) he never tells Lotte that Asuha is her half-sister. Unbelievable. How can you not tell Lotte that? Family-starved Lotte, of all people! There isn't even a proper discussion about it. They just keep it secret for handwaved plot convenience, as badly written fictional characters have been doing for centuries.
These people can piss right off. Seriously.
This even creates a plot hole. Asuha lived with her mother until she was seven, then got dumped on Naoya. (This is a rare example of responsible parenting in this show, with Naoya not being forced into a parental role until he was twenty.) However it means that Lotte and Asuha are the same age and were presumably brought up in the same household by the same mother... but don't recognise each other. Admittedly it would be easy to explain that away, but the anime doesn't even try.
OTHER BAD THINGS:
"Your mother had already begun sucking when she was your age."
Panty shots (lots throughout), sexy outfits and fanservice shots (e.g. ep.8) from those ten-year-olds.
Asuha repeatedly telling us that she's wearing no knickers, at one point adding that it's about feeling "release and freedom".
Lotte boasting (untruthfully) about her sexual experience to a friend/rival at school.
A succubus having seduced a thirteen-year-old boy is something that Naoya gets a bit indignant about. Ten-year-old girls, on the other hand, get no such verbal defence.
"I can't wait to see you in future." Brrrrr, shudder.
Naoha's being taken to see Queen Mercelida Ygvar I and everyone's under the impression that this is to be serviced. However he's brought his daughter. "Is it okay if I bring Asuha?" Of course, yes, no problem.
There's a children's television show called Striped Pants Man. "Wear my face!"
Lotte wetting herself in the haunted house. That's while she's on a date with Naoya, by the way. I don't think that story beat was aimed at omorashi fetishists, for what it's worth, but what it is doing is underlining how young she is.
Half the cast are Lotte-aged girls, or younger. Ini is seven and particularly tiny... and yet we see her kiss Naoya and call herself his lover. This is heading for paedo harem territory.
Ep.8 stars a womanising adult prince who's introduced with a bevy of buxom beauties. However on meeting Lotte, he falls loudly in love with her and vows to make her his bride. "Did I just meet an angel?" We're not meant to like or sympathise with the guy, but he's another example of the show trying to normalise something that really, really shouldn't be normalised.
Ep.9: Judit orders Naoya to force Lotte to service him before her body is mature. Even by Judit's standards, that's disturbing.
Lotte falling in love with Naoya... okay. Naoya showing signs of reciprocating her feelings... no no no no no.
THAT'S ENOUGH OF THAT
Like I said, unbroadcastable. I've flicked through the manga, incidentally, but that's even more ecchi. The anime toned things down a bit, although seeing it animated somehow makes it ten times worse again.
At the same time, though, it genuinely is a nice show. It's dealing with all kinds of love, including mother-daughter (quite movingly, in fact), father-daughter, siblings (even though one of them doesn't know) and the love between friends. Ep.11 is excellent and ep.12 is very good too, assuming you weren't too wedded to the idea that Lotte and Naoya had no more than a surrogate father-daughter relationship. One yearns to know what the production staff thought as they were making this show. Were they taking the money through gritted teeth, or did any of them think they were making a gentle, emotionally warm love story that the general public would embrace? There probably were some people like that. The show genuinely is all those good things. It's just that it's doing bad things too.
The OVA episode even manages to find a tasteful, Disney's Fantasia way to do the story of Queen Mercelida Ygvar I getting pregnant by a thirteen-year-old Naoya, which is something you'd never expect to be on the same planet as "watchable". There's also a simple, natural explanation for the show's 95% female cast, which is something a lot of anime shows expect us to take for granted. Lotte hates men, so all her hiring choices have been female. It took me a while to spot that, but it's quite clever.
For the most part, this show is on a scale from "warm" to "charming". It's so nice, in fact, that against all the odds it manages to avoid being slimy and sinister. (It's clearly abhorrent on a moral level, but it's also so open and sincere in everything it does that there's no "Creepy Old Man In A Raincoat" factor.) It genuinely thinks it's being romantic. A lot of people have managed to enjoy it, saying things like "this was one of my favorite anime to watch during the spring season", "it was so cute and relaxing" or "in her world age doesnt matter you just have to watch the anime thinking of that rule."
You might react like that. Who knows? It's possible. However it might also make you never want to watch anything ever again.