The latest anime season started up a few weeks ago, unleashing a bunch of new titles. I haven’t screened all of them just yet, per my one-episode rule, but I’ve made some headway and, by and large, I have not been hooked by them. But there is one particular exception. I won’t say it’s “great” just yet, but it hooked me with the first episode, it’s the only one I’ve been following each week, and I will be seeing where it goes.
I’m not reviewing the show just yet. That will come at a later date. I am merely commenting on something that struck me within the first two or three episodes.
The premise is, it’s an isekai – meaning “transported to another world” – story, with a little twist. For one thing, it’s not some teleport or gateway between worlds (like most isekai)), though that has apparently happened to others in the story, or a game that becomes real (Log Horizon). It’s also lethal: the protagonist dies and gets reincarnated in the first episode, but not as part of some cosmic-level dare (Saga of Tanya the Evil). Also, though they come to lead creatures like goblins and wolves, the usual villains of most fantasy stories, they are not a villain (Overlord). Oh, and they’re not a human anymore. Nor an elf nor a dragon nor an undead skeleton nor any of the usual fantasy creatures. They’re a slime.
Seriously? All the monsters in the realm of fantastic imagination, and they go with a slime?
Slimes are low-level monsters, always. They’re annoying, sometimes surprisingly frustrating to deal with, but low level and hardly ever held in any great regard. They’re literally made of slime, the type of disgusting muck that one doesn’t even want to step in! Ugh! Disgusting! Get it away! Dissolve it!
That’s the usual sort of reaction, I think. 😉
So, to suddenly have a story with a slime as the main character, and quite powerful, is most unusual. It comes straight out of left field.
…or does it?
As I was pondering the novelty of a slime protagonist, I mentally browsed my memory for other slime characters I’ve seen in other stories across various media, and it suddenly struck me.
And they’re much more powerful than I realized.
Slimes can be downright dangerous! You want to talk about adaptability? Versatility? Flexibility? Resilience? Special, unusual abilities? Even strength and speed? It’s not unusual for slimes to have all of that and more!
Even more, isn’t it a much-vaunted trope, having a protagonist or other character or even a villain who hails from a weaker people, and is looked down on by everyone, but rises and overcomes and becomes a force to be reckoned with? In that sense, a slime is practically perfect as a protagonist.
Why has no one thought of this before?
It’s not even like we’re short on examples here. Remember, this realization came to me when I was mentally cataloging slimes and slime-like creatures and characters, from various media. None of them have been the main character of the story, but they’ve served as primary and secondary characters, and as background characters, as well as villains, monsters, and other antagonists. And this is across several media, including anime, other cartoons, televisions shows, movies, novels, comics (including superhero stories), webcomics, games.
Seriously, how did I never notice this before? And how did I never notice just how often they’re not just mindless blobs but formidable characters?
A few examples to show you what I mean:
First and foremost, Suu, one of the more famous slimes in anime fandom right now, hailing from the manga and anime franchise of Monster Musume or Everyday Life With Monster Girls. As part of the central harem, Suu is a rather sexualized slime, being clearly depicted as female in her humanoid form, alternating between cute and young or exceedingly busty and mature. I have to say, though, she is at her most adorable when she’s sleeping in her little tub, with her antenna bobbing around.
As a slime, Suu can change a number of things about her appearance, but her personality can change as well. She’s usually quiet, softly caring, and exceptionally innocent. But, depending on what she ingests, which can include anything, she can become suddenly very intelligent and businesslike, or sassy and dominating, and more. Her antenna lets her listen in on people’s thoughts when she attaches it to their head, which is useful both for ferreting out lying schemers and for taking care of sick people; she can fit into very confining spaces, or she can take on gigantic proportions; she can propel part of the fluid the makes up her body outward at velocity, which is dangerous on it’s own, but it can also be poisoned if she’s been eating toxic materials recently; she can mimic others as well, both in appearance and behavior.
Basically, she’s a little cutie who packs a surprising punch, with a variety of techniques at her disposal.
Next up, we go back a ways to the Cthulu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, the grandfather of modern horror and monsters. I can’t claim to be any sort of expert here, but the shoggoth, or shaggoth, is a huge, amorphous blob, like an amoeba made of tar, with an abundance of eyes “floating” within it. It is massive, it consumes everything, it seems to have some measure of intelligence, it is exceptionally versatile and resilient, and it terrifies some formidable people merely by existing on the same planet as them.
Myself, I’ve only briefly encountered a shoggoth like this in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters series. (I am too much of a wimp to read Lovecraft) But in that brief span, it was clearly a very dangerous beast.
There’s also a shoggoth in humanlike form in the manga and anime of Overlord. While I don’t really know what Solution Epsilon, as she’s called, can do, she can evidentally take a human man straight into her body completely and devour them while they’re still alive. So! I think I’d prefer to keep a good distance away from any such creature, thank you very much!
More modern, and perhaps taking some cues straight from the shoggoth, is the titular character of Howard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary. Now, I do say he’s the titular character, not the main character. The cast is too big and centers on too many people in turn for their to be a single main character. That said, this alien amorph who looks like a moving, talking pile of crap is not to be discounted!
Schlock is strong, fast, and especially durable in the extreme. His body has been shattered to pieces multiple times, and he’s literally pulled himself together again. His eyes don’t do that, but he can always get more from a specific tree designed to produce them. He can fit through all sorts of tiny spaces, making almost nowhere truly safe from his reach. He is clearly intelligent, though in an aggressive, mercenary way, and he fights fiercely to protect himself and his comrades, leaving devastation in his wake. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (I don’t want to spoil this one with a list of everything he can do)
Schlock is, in short, a one-man army and not easily stopped. And that’s without including his really big guns and penchant for explosions.
But, as powerful as he is, he is not exactly a genius, so, someone more intelligent now, eh?
Dejah is recurring character and a wizard who just happens to be a slime. These slimes are apperently just another race in a fantastical world, so it’s only natural for them to have wizard. Dejah doesn’t seem to have much in the way of physical power, as most other entries on this list do, but I like how the other characters simply accept his as their equal and as a friend. Though he’s also used in an ongoing joke about how he always gets a particular character coated in slime, he’s a perfectly competent wizard and aids the heroes time and again to the best of his abilities.
As for Fred, Persephone, and the other Physarics, they are a star-faring alien race. They’re generally small, but quick and clever. They’re perfectly intelligent, and they have the ability to share that intelligence among their population. Indeed, this neural connectivity allows them to latch onto more fleshy creatures’ spines and control them. That last speaks to a recurring trend thus far including Suu and Schlock, but it certainly doesn’t end with them.
Moving back towards the literary corner of things, we have the sentient inkblots of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall-based saga, the darkings. Introduced late in the Immortals quartet, we actually see the creation of their race.
The darkings were originally crafted by mystical means as espionage agents. They’re small, they can hide in any shadow, creep through and crevice, blend into any surroundings, etc. They have an insatiable thirst for new things, for experiences and excitement, and they learn quickly. Most of all, anything that one darking knows, all the darkings know. It’s the ultimate tool in intelligence gathering!
The list keeps going on, and certain patterns emerge, including shape-shifting, uncommon strength, speed, and durability, and the sharing of knowledge. That is what made Odo and the changelings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine so formidable.
The changelings actually founded a vast empire, one wherein they rule absolutely as if they were gods. For much of the time following their introduction to the Star Trek universe, they seemed all but unstoppable. A handful of them slip onto Earth, and reek such chaos that the Federation itself all but collapses in on itself; another hides close to the center of the Klingon empire, and nearly undoes it; Odo himself proved a most capable and clever constable in a most chaotic and dangerous setting, and he usually operated in the open.
From Doctor Who, we had the Flesh, whose very existence, their human appearance and their shared intelligence with the humans, makes for a riveting discussion of humanity itself.
Also from Doctor Who, the character of Heather, who is possessed by some liquid artificial intelligence (albeit more like water than slime), and quickly achieves the power to cross space and time almost effortlessly; she can shape-shift as needed and almost without limit; she can even take a Dalek beam fired directly into her and not even be phased by it.
Clayface, one of Batman’s classic enemies, capable of shape-shifting, hardening, slipping through anything mud might squeeze through… and did anyone else notice that when he fought the freaking Justice League alongside the Secret Society, he was the last enemy standing?
And the list has barely begun!
There’s various characters from One Piece: Magellan, whose body is made entirely of poison; Caribou the swamp-man; Katakuri, I have no idea what mochi is, but it’s apparently something gooey.
One can argue the inclusion Aku from Samurai Jack, seeing as his body is evidentally made of tar and it displays fluidlike properties a number of times.
Ivan Ooze from Power Rangers the Movie.
Various bosses in games, like Morpha in the Water Temple of Ocarina of Time.
Zac, from League of Legends.
Maji Kayo, a one-off slime warrior in Dragonball Super, who nonetheless displays stealth, speed, resilience, and strength, including making his fist gigantic.
Morph, the mischievous little critter in Treasure Planet.
The kandra from Brian Sanderson’s Mistborn series, which are able to mimic any physical form… after eating it first.
Inque, a recurring and highly dangerous enemy in Batman Beyond, with, again, speed, strength, shape-changing, hardening and sharp tendrils, etc. I put Clayface above her mostly because her shape-shifting is much more limited than his, but shoving her body into Batman’s lungs to drown him certainly left an impression!
I hear that these extraterrestrial blobs have recently been given a proper name, some sort of backstory, including their own god and whatnot. I also understand that the recent Venom movie casts the titular symbiote as its lead character. That being said, Venom was first conceived as one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies, rather than as a lead character or even as its own independent character, and certainly not as a heroic character.
The symbiotes, from what I understand, bond with people, at least for a time, spreading from their original blobby form across the skin, granting them greater abilities than they had alone, including increased strength, instantaenous disguises, an arsenal of melee weapons, etc. Independently, they have their own will, yet seem to retain something of their previous host’s psyche as well. Additionally, Venom and his offspring can all mimic abilities like Spider-Man’s, not to mention countering such things as Spidey’s spider-sense. And though they have certain weaknesses like extreme heat, cold, and powerful sonic waves, they can clearly take a hit and get back up.
This speaks to me of several of the abilities slimes have generally displayed in the preceding list, including: resilience, adaptability, shape-shifting, mental communication, mimicry, passing knowledge between themselves, an affinity for special abilities, and overwhelming strength.
On that note, take a look at Carnage’s appearance in Death Battle, and then try and tell me the symbiotes are pushovers. 😉
And I could probably keep going on, if I wanted to. I actually had to stop myself from thinking of more examples! 😉
So, to wrap this up, I present the slime which inspired all of this in the first place: Rimuru Tempest.
Malleable body, of course, check.
Durable, regenerating body, check. Though, lacking the ability to feel pain seems like a glaring weakness. How is Rimuru to know the severity of received injuries without feeling them? But I digress.
Speed, check. Especially when propelled by expelling water.
Ability to consume anything, check. Indeed, also possessing the ability of nigh limitless storage of material within a small body, and analyzing said material. Speaking of…
Mimicry, check. Including both the physical form of consumed prey and duplicating their special abilities. Can even duplicate entire consumed items, if possessing the necessary material.
Mental capacity, check.
Mental communication, check. Though vocal communication is obtained soon enough.
Overwhelming power, check. Capable of annihilating far more imposing monsters.
Fortunately, Rimuru seems to be generally benevolent. Which brings me back to my original question: why did no one think of this before, a heroic slime protagonist?
We clearly share an image of slimes as something which can be quite powerful. Fitting, as slime, being without form, can be anything, so why not strong? But, then again, why not “heroic” as well? Or “main character?”
Maybe that lack of form is just too foreign for us? Perhaps it’s such an alien concept to us that we couldn’t help but see them mostly as villains, especially if they could be so dangerous.
Or maybe we’re just humanizing our monsters so much, like we’ve done to vampires, werewolves, witches, and demons, and slimes just had to wait their turn. 😉
What do you think?