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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: Hyakka Ryōran Samurai Girls, 百花繚乱 サムライガールズ (Japanese)
Genre: Supernatural Cheesecake Samurai Action
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks
Content Rating: TV MA (Violence, fanservice, nudity.)
Related Series: Samurai Bride (Sequel)
Also Recommended: Ikkitousen, Tenjou Tenge, Koihime Musou (or Samurai Harem if you're a fan of lame harem comedy.)
Notes: Based on the light novel series by Akira Suzuki (with art by Niθ.) There's also an online comic serialized on Hobby Japan's website Hobby Channel.

This series is unrelated to Maikoi Oh! Samurai Girls (which is reviewed elsewhere), in spite of the similar titles.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Samurai Girls

Synopsis

Upon his return to his dojo, samurai general Muneakira Yagyu finds it beset with intruders. After the initial comedic misunderstandings, the student council arrive to arrest the two of them, and while Yagyu puts himself in danger to find out what's going on, a girl falls from the sky. She lands straight into Yagyu's arms, wakes up and immediately kisses him, turning into a master samurai.


Review

And from there, the show explodes into a collection of samurai action and harem comedy tropes. Apparently, Samurai Girls takes its challenges VERY seriously. I guess the show is a samurai where it counts. Sorta.

In an attempt to at least look somewhat special, though, Samurai Girls takes a somewhat different approach to background art and then proceeds to add ink blotches and brush strokes as if it was the game Okami. It gives the show a dark, blotchy look, which belies its fanservice that is also used with wild abandon. Given the content of the show itself, it's somewhat laughable for it to try to come across as high-brow, but at least it's not an ugly show.

Of course, it's already hard to take this show seriously when it starts with a group of supernatural samurai girls jumping from plane to plane and slicing them up in hilariously exaggerated fashion, and the show continues to undermine itself by throwing naked girls at you en masse. The character designs are an odd mix between modern "fashion" and totally authentic samurai comic getup, like Yubei's parkas with gigantic rope knot at the back. And of course there are also kimonos, maid uniforms and that weird samurai underwear thing that Matabei wears, whatever the hell that is called. Yagyu seems to be wearing a trenchcoat of sorts, and Princess Sen's evil brother seems to go for the bodysuit fashion, and one so tight that you could probably see if he's been circumsized or not.

Well, enough about that. On with the plot.

So, we have a "general" returning to his dojo. He's, of course, represented by the male figure. Hilariously enough, despite his title, he doesn't have any official power, and is generally bossed around by the girls most of the time. As for the "master samurai"... the show never outright state this, but I'm assuming that only girls can become a "master samurai", mostly due to the fact that the powers of a "master samurai" is unlocked through a kiss. And if you think that sounds familiar, then you are not far from the truth. Unfortunately, the comedy is a chore to get through, mostly because it revolves too much around the poor guy getting flustered about all the ridiculous events taking place around him and him getting blamed for things that are not his fault and out of his control anyway. There is some mercy sometimes in that the girls also inconvenience each others without getting the poor slob involved. Still, it's annoying to once again have to bear witness to the girls in the show abusing their innate default audience sympathy card for all its worth.

There is also the problem of some character inconsistencies, or rather, the show pulling our leg on this. Sen is first introduced as a character who will abuse the hell out of her powers and treat her subjects poorly, but the show sure turns her around quickly, only occasionally later having her revert to her "bossy Princess" personality to remind us that she's supposed to be a bitch with an S&M streak a mile wide. And then, there's Yagyuu, who comes across as a proper demon on her first appearance, but soon after is adjusted into a honorable woman, and the one to cause our male lead the least amount of grief. (Well, not intentionally anyway.) And as it turns out, her personality in her "mode of mass destruction" is vastly different from when she's... well, not, wherein she adapts a ludicrously innocent and childish personality. And if you think that sounds familiar, then... well, you know....

I'm all for some cheesecake-y fun -- after all, I liked the Ikkitousen series more than I probably have the right to, and the Koihime Musou series turned out to be more fun than I initially expected. Samurai Girls, however, can't resist playing up annoying comedy character tropes for the girls; the bossy princess, the perverted maid, the innocent girl and the flat-chested loli. (And hey, take a wild guess who's providing the voice of said flat-chested loli.) The dialogue seems so pre-written in advance that it hurts, as if it came straight out of the big book of lazy harem show scripts. Just fill in the blanks, and you're ready to go. In fairness, occasional comments did earn themselves a chuckle, but I don't necessarily think it's right for me to applaud a show for taking the shotgun approach, because shotguns are only nice if you desperately want to score a hit and don't really care about the collateral damage.

Hell, even the second half, once the main plot starts moving, is kind of annoying. Bad comedy dialogue gets replaced with verbal fellatio of samurai might and samurai honor. It so wants to be cool and awesome, and while I have to give credit to decently animated battle sequences -- even if they rely too much on CG -- they still rely too much on pre-battle conversations and posturing. And don't even get me started on the lectures. There's also the matter of the largely unsatisfying conclusion. A great evil lurks in Great Japan, but while Samurai Girls have a great big ultimate showdown, we do not get to see said great evil in the flesh, instead having to settle for the battle of his minion. Again, it's a generally visually impressive battle, even if it completely lacks form, but you're still going to end up saying "that's it? That's all I get?"

It's a shame too, because Samurai Girls is not a truly awful show. It kind of sits there in almost-competence, perfectly satisfied in entertaining people looking for some T&A and harem shenanigans. It might not be as tedious as Battle Girls - Time Paradox was, nor does it meander around as much as Sekirei's first season did, but it'll still fall a little short for those looking for a little more. It should have played up its warring element more like Ikkitousen, or maybe gone for the "Saturday Morning cartoon flair" like Koihime Musou. Both of those would actually make the show feel less divided than it is, and therefore go down more smoothly.

Even small failings, when applied to every aspect of the show, can make it fall behind the border of acceptable. And God damn it, I wanted this one to be good.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Violence falls within the borders of general action shows, and never really gets too bloody or severe. There's quite a lot of fanservice and nudity, though, but thankfully little to no sexual violence to go with it.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Samurai Girls © 2010 ARMS, Lantis, Media Factory.
 
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