Kaze UK / Manga Entertainment
£34.99 DVD, £44.99 Blu-Ray
There is something about the “sexy fighting girl” anime genre which I can’t seem to get enough of. Maybe it’s the costumes, the glistening skin of the characters, the action, the jiggle physics, the constant double entendres and innuendo, or perhaps its just the fact that they appeal to the little pervert in me (I call him Gerald), but whenever one is offered up for me to write about I simply cannot resist. So, when the most recent offering from Kaze and Manga Entertainment, Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls, or just Samurai Girls to us normal western people, landed on my doormat, I simply could not resist.
As you can probably guess from the title, the series features sexy girls who just happen to be samurai, and they just happen to spend most of the series bouncing about, fighting foes and demonstrating physical abilities which are completely impossible outside of the realms of fiction. Pretty much normal fare then... or is it?
Samurai Girls is set in a present day alternate reality where the Tokugawa Shogunate (who relinquished power to Emperor Meiji in 1867), are still in charge of the country. In this alternate reality, the Shogunate retains their power by controlling the populus through the use of samurai and, in schools, through the student councils. Defying the whim of the Shogunate and the councils results in a single outcome - a brutal death.
Muneakira Yagyu, a new tutor at the militaristic Buou Academic School, arrives to find himself dragged into a conflict between the Student Council (lead by the head of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Yoshihiko Tokugawa, and his younger sister Sen Tokugawa) and the Toyotomi Faction led by the rather diminutive Sanada Yukimura. After arriving at the Academy, Muneakira is quickly forced to side with Sanada and her voluptuous servant Matabei Goto as they come under brutal attack by Sen’s French maid samurai Hattori Hanzo. As this initial fight progresses and as Sanada, Muneakira and Matabei are forced to retreat, a beautiful naked warrior falls from the sky and takes on the Tokugawa forces. This girl is Jubei Yagyu, the self proclaimed little sister to Muneakira - she is his master samurai, a person with astonishing fighting ability with her spirit reincarnated into the present day in order to free Japan and do her master’s, and her beloved’s, bidding. With a fighting power beyond all comprehension, she skillfully defeats the Tokugawa forces and saves the lives of the Toyotomi warriors.
However, Jubei turns out to be a bit of a mystery. Jubei is fractured and incomplete. She has both her true warrior personality, revealed only through a drawn out transformation started by a kiss from her master Muneakira, and her other amnesiac and child-like persona. Her contract with Muneakira, formed after their initial kiss, was also not unique as they both discover when almost by accident similar powers are awakened in Sen and Sanada after they both embraced Muneakira.
With these awakened powers the four of them, and the rest of the Toyotomi faction, fight to overthrow Sen’s brother Yoshihiko and forces that threaten the sovereignty of Japan.
Samurai Girls is not as serious as it sounds. Underneath this facade of violence and action lies a sticky and jiggly core of good old-fashioned harem style romantic comedy and fan service. Jubei, for instance, is a delightful mixture of Lucy from Elfen Lied and Musubi from Sekirei. Hanzo, Sen’s servant, is almost a reincarnation of Sanada from Ultramaiden Princess Valkyre. In fact, almost every character in the series fits the bill for some anime girl trope; for example Sen is your classical "tsundere" character and Sanada Yukimura is your typical breast-obsessed lolita.
The series itself is almost a trope in the way it uses the master-samurai contracts with Muneakira to put the female characters into a polygonal relationship, with him with each of the master samurai falling for Muneakira’s subtle charms in some way or another. As for the other female characters... well, let’s just say, they all have some kind of lesbian undertones to their personalities. The end result is a series which is at most one third over-the-top fighting anime, and two thirds pure fan service and innuendo.
However, Samurai Girls is an example of fan service done right. For starters the art quality and animation of the series is simply gorgeous, which is to be expected for a series also released on Blu-Ray (although we've only reviewed the DVD of the series here). From the fighting scenes, which are smoothly animated, to the characters themselves, who are well detailed and emotive, Samurai Girls clearly shows what a good bit of art direction can do to for a series. This excellent direction is even continued into the six two to three minute OVA shorts which are spread out across the discs.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the writing which, considering the series is based on light novels and a manga, is patchy to say the least. I found the story arc towards the end of the series extremely tedious, with the dialogue painful to both the eyes and ears - an issue thankfully not present in the first nine episodes which were purely focused on character development. This poor writing is present in all the languages which the series is presented, leading me to believe that this is not just the result of something being lost in translation. Then again, if you're being presented with beautiful girls with mammoth mammaries displaying masochistic lesbian tendencies, would you even care about the dialogue?
Samurai Girls, as I said at the beginning, is exactly what it says on the cover. It is a series featuring girls who are samurai. It is not a work of art, but it is titillating, very comedic, beautifully presented and it doesn’t even try to hide what it is. If you are looking for a bit of filthy fun presented in High Definition quality then Samurai Girls is your series. If you want intelligent relationships, dialogue or something to watch with your wife/girlfriend, then look elsewhere.