“An educative series for children over 18 years old, Super Fuck Friends explores sexuality without taboos and in all its forms, including dicks and nipples. A positive sexuality, that is unrestrained and totally ignores prejudices… culminating into one single message: tolerance.” – Bobbypills
There was a time when suggesting Boku no Pico to someone looking for anime recommendations was considered comedy. Nowadays it’s hard to make anyone on the internet surprised by the depths of depravity that media can go to. The idea that Japan produces, shall we say, ‘questionable’ content is more or less common knowledge: streaming services like Crunchyroll have helped this further by listing popular (mostly-)safe-for-work anime alongside bizarre farces like Eromanga-sensei. But as much as the average person knows more about the existence of taboo pornography, when it comes to talking openly about it there’s been a lot less progress.
Some shows have tried to tackle the silence around sexual taboos: Shimoneta’s liberal stance on pornography, and its criticisms of what censorship can do to the knowledge of sex, made its comedy strong. But when people see the perversions of otaku – particularly those who choose to devote their lives to virtual characters, because they’ve lost hope in reality – there are far more judgements flung around than attempts to understand matters from the perspective of the ‘pervert’. That’s why the sixth episode of Peepoodo & the Super Fuck Friends, a French parody cartoon directed by comics artist and animator Yves ‘Balak’ Bigerel, is a breath of fresh air.
While the cartoon may not be well known, particularly to audiences outside of France, the people behind it are far from nobodies. Balak is one of the creators of Lastman, an acclaimed ‘French manga’, and he helped Marvel editor Joe Quesada set up Infinite Comics, a Marvel imprint for publishing stories specially designed for digital reading. Peepoodo, the titular protagonist, is voiced by Brigitte Lecordier, the French VA for Son Goku. On their twitter account, the creators describe themselves as “an animation studio in Paris full of depressive, beautiful, fucked up people making cartoons for depressive, beautiful, fucked up people”.
Every Super Fuck Friends story fits snugly in a few minutes of screen-time, and they tackle subjects ranging from understanding male and female bodies to appreciating the social issues that arise around sex. In one episode, a game of basketball turns from an exercise in letting go and enjoying yourself – even if you aren’t very good at something! – into a lesson on how to stimulate a vagina to orgasm, because the protagonist becomes accidentally trapped in one. Another sees the principal male characters transformed into penises after a woman they were ogling turns out to be a witch: they only break the spell once they accept how their treatment of women is toxic, though the episode also does a great job of quickly emphasizing that empowered women mustn’t reciprocate the culture that oppressed them.
The sixth episode – ‘Barubaru-chan’ – is my favourite. The episode begins with Peepoodo ignoring his friends playing basketball because he’s engrossed in a bishoujo dating simulator. Tuffalo, the most excessively masculine character in the cast, immediately worries that he’s become a ‘fucking otaku no-life’, but an open-minded Kevin assures him that it’s okay as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or spiral out of control. Of course, it does: Peepoodo quickly acquires a VR headset and a Fleshlight-like toy that syncs up with Barubaru-chan, allowing him to become a continuously-masturbating zombie until he’s orgasmically sucked into the game himself.
The solution to Peepoodo’s imprisonment doesn’t come from an outsider lamenting the woes of pornography. While the protagonist is technically Peepoodo, it’s Dr Pussycat who tends to save the day each episode. She’s a radically sex-positive medical professional: a body-positive embodiment of the idea that knowledge is power, and the main agent for educating the audience of Super Fuck Friends . To save Peepoodo, Dr Pussycat sends Tuffalo and Kevin into the game under her control, using them to beat up Barubaru-chan with the help of her experience playing at ‘SNK tournaments’. She downplays her expertise, but it’s clear that she’s a seasoned gamer, and her game of choice is a fanservice-heavy fighting game, not something as mainstream as Street Fighter or Tekken. As in every episode, she’s the example to follow: we can devote our lives to exploring and enjoying ‘otaku’ pleasures so long as we don’t endanger ourselves in the process. It’s even better if we use them to help each other out, instead of shutting ourselves away.
Super Fuck Friends is amazingly nuanced for such a short cartoon: when Dr Pussycat exclaims that it’s unhealthy to fall in love with fictional characters, the ‘camera’ snaps back to emphasize the male characters who ogle at her, comically stressing that no cartoon can feature an attractive character without normalizing and validating attraction to them. It’s clarified quickly that the danger of Barubaru-chan isn’t that she’s an eternally desirable bishoujo. When Peepoodo proclaims that his love is ‘real’ and calls the others ‘jealous’ that they don’t have a girlfriend as perfect as her, Barubaru-chan’s love-meter skyrockets. She’s heard him proclaim his love out loud, outside the game, and fully understood him. She isn’t limited to the game-world she’s coded into, which becomes even clearer once she sucks Peepoodo into her domain. Rather than outright condemn pornographic video games, Super Fuck Friends stresses that what really matters are boundaries. Because Barubaru-chan doesn’t actually have any, it’s too easy for Peepoodo to lose all of his too.
It’s important to note that Barubaru-chan is three-dimensional, modeled by Ciara Jackson (creator of the webcomic Gwendy & Ghost): Peepoodo sees her 3D-ness the same way many otaku see 2D as distinct from ‘reality’, but audiences have to be confronted with her being very ‘real’ as a 3D figure. Her name may even have been chosen because ‘baru’ (ばる) is a suffix that can be used to emphasize persistence for something, since she’s a parody of how media can take over an impressionable person’s life if they allow it to force itself beyond its boundaries. Peepoodo loses everything for Barubaru-chan: he shuts himself away from all his friends, names himself ‘Barubarufan68’ on Youtube, and doesn’t even use a toilet any more. While some otaku in Japan devote their lives to fictional characters because their experiences have disillusioned them towards the ‘real’ world, Peepoodo had no such stimulus. By completely rejecting his friends for a virtual woman, he hurt them while he was hurting himself.
Super Fuck Friends likes to comically undercut the ‘moral’ of each episode, but at the end of ‘Barubaru-chan’ the message is clear: feel free to have fun with weird shit, but know when to say ‘enough’. Mainstream media outlets love to scaremonger when it comes to pornographic media, as if every viewer of it is passive to its power of addiction, but all we have to do is take control of what we indulge in: remember that we’re playing the game, and not let it play with us instead.
With Tumblr’s pornography ban setting an alarming precedent for the future of social media, it’s important to highlight artists who are going above and beyond to be frank about sex and sexuality, and especially perverts and the media they love. Super Fuck Friends isn’t only open-minded about otaku: Peepoodo is shown to be bisexual in ‘Peepoodoo is in love’, and in a later episode Kevin transitions into Evelyn (which sticks for the rest of the series). It says a lot that this quick-fire cartoon treats the subjects it covers so well, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Sex is a bawdy thing, and farcical media will often understand it best.
Thank you once again to my Patrons – especially Dilbert, UEM!’s most recent supporter. We reached our first funding milestone recently, which has given the site a fresh new domain, and no more WordPress ads!