Content Warning: Today we will be delving into topics of rape, sexual assault and harassment, and victim-blaming. This is because it’s literally impossible to review Peter Grill honestly without touching on these topics.
If you want my tl;dr summary: This show, and shows like it, are a poison that do actual harm to actual victims of sexual assault, either directly – through not properly warning its audience of its contents and triggering flashbacks and anxiety attacks in those with related trauma – or indirectly, through the way they influence and are influenced by the rhetoric around sexual assault in general, and male sexual assault specifically. Don’t watch it.
Instead, may I suggest: Sk8 the Infinity, a sports anime from Studio Bones about skateboarding, which is wholesome and delightful and, at time of writing, another feather in their already overladen cap of excellent series.
I am not the target audience for Peter Grill and the Philosopher’s Time.
I knew that going into it, of course; I don’t mind a good romance, and in fact find media geared towards it to be far more appealing than an actual romantic or sexual relationship. Romances were of great help to me when I was younger – as referenced in my review of My Next Life as a Villainess, dating sims in particular provided a way for me to explore the concepts of romance and sexuality in a safe, relatively impersonal but still ultimately enjoyable way. But harem anime – especially ones built around the idea of infidelity and the presumed sexual fantasy of straight cis men – don’t particularly appeal to me.
And after watching it, I was forced to consider who, exactly, this show was targeted towards.
Clearly it wasn’t to me, the snowflake millennial leftist. It certainly wasn’t to anyone I knew, and I doubt it’s the type of show that would appeal to anyone I would want to know.
Peter Grill and the Philosopher’s Time opens with the protagonist, Peter Grill, winning a tournament to be named The Strongest Man Alive. He entered this tournament in order to try and impress his fiancee’s father, a motivation he did not bother to hide. It then very quickly cuts to him running to meet his fiancee, and being waylaid by his guildmates, who try to pressure him into fucking them so they can get pregnant and have strong babies.
By the end, these two guildmates, a pair of ogre sisters, have manipulated him into letting them into his room at the inn, tried to seduce him by pointing out that his wife-to-be is painfully, unrealistically ignorant about the realities of child conception and birth, and then – when he has yet again refused them, and tried to turn them away by pointing out that he is engaged to a woman that he loves and wants to marry and have children with, the elder sister disrobes and forces her boob into his hand.
Then they have sex, an encounter that is repeatedly framed as an affair despite the fact Peter was physically and emotional pressured into having sex with two women he repeatedly told he did not want to have sex with, despite the two of them having, allegedly, been his friends and co-workers who knew why he wasn’t interested in having sex with them, and still put him in a position where his immediately apparent options were to either cause actual physical harm to two people he thought he could trust, or let them do what they want and have sex with him.
N ow, I understand why some people might be iffy on whether or not this classifies as rape. For one, Peter Grill is a cis man, and as we all know, cis men can’t be raped by cis women. The parts are in the wrong places for that to ever be a possibility. I mean, it’s not like two cis women could force themselves into a cis man’s room (twice)! It’s not like they could literally back him into a corner while he’s protesting and explaining, yet again, that he doesn’t want to have sex with them! It’s not like they could make him grab their boob and then use the resulting emotional and mental shock to force him to have sex with them, since at that point the only other option would be to cause actual, lasting physical harm to two women who he thought were his trusted friends and co-workers!
And it’s not like it’s really rape for those two women to then corner him the next day, tear his pants off, and use the previous dubiously-consensual sexual encounter to blackmail him into continuing to have sex with them, going so far as to give him a handjob under the table despite the fact he has continued to express nothing but disinterest in having sex with them, while he’s forced to pretend like nothing is happening because his fiancee’s father is a dangerously possessive, vaguely incestuous rage monster who would literally kill him for the slightest offense if his daughter wasn’t there to get in the way.
But the iffyness goes right out the window when an elven woman curses his dick so he’s forced to have sex with her. A scenario which is played mostly for laughs, as all of these scenarios are, because as we all know, cis men can’t be raped by cis women.
I’m going to make a brief detour here, to talk about something slightly more pleasant.
In my review of My Next Life as a Villainess, I brought up the secret hidden route, and mentioned how they really just dump the entire traumatic backstory and potentially traumatic events surrounding it into two and a half episodes at the very end of the first season. I brought this up because it’s a lot of very heavy topics, from ritual human sacrifice to attempted child murder and kidnapping, but there is one element of the hidden character’s backstory that just kind of slipped my mind, and didn’t get the mention it likely deserved at the time.
Raphael’s mother is repeatedly referred to as having had “an affair” with the Duke who impregnated her. It’s a small detail, and only relevant in that this affair, and Raphael’s conception, are the Duke’s wife’s stated motivations for hating them. In fact, the sacrifice of Raphael’s mother and the attempted murder and mind transfer done to Raphael are viewed, by the Duke’s wife, as being a fair payment for the privilege of having had this “affair.”
Normally, I wouldn’t question the idea that a Duke had an affair; rich people are shitty, especially rich people with power and influence and an interest in all of these things remaining true. And Raphael himself does refer to it as his mother having an affair with the Duke.
Except that that’s not what happened.
Raphael’s mother has a line, when the flashback to her tragic fate begins, about how she was only alone with the Duke once, because he ordered her to. Because she was working as his maid, and he was her very rich, powerful employer, and that meant he was allowed to order her to do as he wished.
I bring this up because this is painfully similar to how Peter Grill repeatedly frames his encounters with these women. He’s not being raped – he’s having affairs! He wants it, really. Of course he wants it. A bunch of beautiful young women throwing themselves at him? Forcing themselves into his rooms? Cursing him so he has to fuck them? It’s not that he doesn’t want to have sex with them, despite the fact that he repeatedly states he does not want to have sex with them, even going so far as to kick them out of his rooms when they appear; it’s just that he needs an excuse, so he won’t feel guilty after!
Of course, he does feel guilty after. The thing about rape, especially the rape of cis men, is that society tends to turn it around and pin all the responsibility for it on the person being raped, and not on the rapists.
She shouldn’t have let herself be alone with him! A rich, powerful duke – what was she thinking, getting carried away like that?
He shouldn’t have entered that tournament! What else did he expect after being named the Strongest Man Alive, that women wouldn’t be throwing themselves at him?
Obviously this is what they wanted. Don’t be naive.
The sad fact of the matter is that, if it weren’t for the disgusting, morally reprehensible use of sexual assault and victim-blaming as sources of comedy, there wouldn’t really be anything to say about Peter Grill and the Philosopher’s Time. It’s an ecchi anime; plot in ecchi anime is never really anything more than a vehicle for some shallow fanservice, and the plot of Peter Grill isn’t really treated any differently. That would be fine, if they would just let Peter Grill be either a bastard who cheats on his fiancée, or a polyamorous dude who has an agreement with said fiancée.
But they didn’t do that. They decided that the best route to go down for their otherwise boring show was the rape one, and the worst part is that a vast majority of their audience either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care.
And that’s where I intended for this review to end. Unfortunately, I watched three more episodes after writing the initial review, out of some misplaced idea of professional courtesy that, to be frank, no one involved in the production of this series is actually worthy of.
We should talk about Piglette.
Piglette is a servant in the employ of Babe Roastpork, an apparently high ranking member of orcish society in the country of orcs – to be honest, I could not bring myself to rewatch the episode to clarify what his position is, or what his country is actually called. When it becomes clear to the guildmaster and Babe Roastpork that Peter Grill will likely not be seduced by Piglette by her own abilities, they spike her dinner drink with an aphrodisiac so that she will be compelled to crawl into his bed and beg him to have sex with her, and she does. And after his repeated attempts to turn her down lead to her sobbing in his arms, because she’s recently been drugged and also has been abused her entire life for not being attractive by orcish standards, they do have sex.
This is another example of some questionable rape categorization, but I want to make it very clear:
This is still sexual assault.
It is a sexual assault of Peter, arranged by his guildmaster and future father-in-law, who slipped an aphrodisiac to a woman who then climbed into his bed, tried to seduce him, and then began weeping so that he would acquiesce to her desires out of guilt.
Just as importantly, this is a sexual assault of Piglette, a shy, nervous young woman who has been ordered by her rich and powerful employer to have a child by this man. Babe Roastpork and the guildmaster intentionally and maliciously compromised her ability to consent for their own twisted aims – Babe to get an orc sired by the most powerful man in the world, the guildmaster to have an excuse to be rid of a man who dared fall in love with the daughter he seemingly still holds to be the seven-year old girl who vowed to one day marry him.
And this situation is, once again, used as comedy when Peter tries to convince Piglette not to tell these two powerful, entitled men that they slept together, and later when she decides to do as he asked so she can use it as leverage to be sent to serve Peter in the guild and continue to try and have his children.
Repeatedly, the people who produce this series set up consensually-dubious, if not consensually-nonexistent – sexual encounters, only to use them as comedy to either shame Peter as being weak, or empower the women who would go on to assault him further. But rape isn’t funny. Anyone who says otherwise, regardless of who the victim is, or who the perpetrator is, is not worth the effort it would take you to give them the punch in the throat they rightly deserve.
No Patreon plug on this one. If you want to show some financial support, and you happen to live in the US, I recommend looking into organizations like RAINN that help provide services for victims of sexual assault and abuse, including 1in6, which deals more specifically with male victims. Stay safe out there, and I hope the universe treats you with all the kindness you deserve.