Master of Martial Hearts
While walking home from school with her best friend, Aya Iseshima gets involved in a fight between two participants of the Platonic Heart, a fighting competition for women, arranged in completely secrecy where the reward is apparently being granted a wish -- any wish.
I don't know what I expected from this show. Fresh off completing Ikkitousen, maybe I was jonesing for some more of the same. However, what Master of Martial Hearts offered wasn't even in the remote area. I'm not saying the Ikkitousen series is the smartest thing ever, but it takes some serious effort to be this goddamn stupid.
And you'll notice. You'll notice almost immediately when the show commences with the exposition overload. "Well, I need to pick lint off your shoulder because I'm your best friend. And that's what best friends do, right? Best friends do stuff like picking lint off each other's shoulders because they're best friends." Honma Natsume monologues. (I might be paraphrasing that a little excessively, but you get the point.) She's Aya's best friend, in case you missed that and live in a world where enemies usually walk home from school together while gushing over each other.
The fight they encounter is even dumber. The two best friends (you remember that, right) encounter a battle between a shrine maiden and a flight attendant. The fight is literally strewn with trash talking, and our dear flight attendant lady keeps spouting work-related dialogue that doesn't make a lick of sense during the battle. Things like "the captain is ready for liftoff, please prepare yourselves" or "as a guest aboard this flight, you're required to obey the stewardess". I realize this is supposed to lend itself to the whole cosplay thing they wanted for the anime, but that means they don't choose fighters out of their skill level (and also that being a stewardess in Japan is actually a very dangerous job) seeing as there's apparently only one woman from each... job... participating.
Yet for all the secrecy they profess, the fights are mostly taking place in broad (no pun intended) daylight, in places where it wouldn't be uncommon for the average crowd to visit, and with some pretty hard-to-ignore property damage, like the smashing of a car's windshield and lid. Hell, the fight Aya interrupts takes place in the pedestrian street of a busy intersection. Honma also spouts some curiously specific dialogue about the fighting tournament, then immediately dismisses it as "just a rumor or an urban legend or something like that". Hell, even random KIDS seem to know about this totally secretive fighting tournament that's totally not real.
And so, the tournament commences, with cosplay character after cosplay character fighting Aya. Actually, calling them cosplay character isn't entirely fair, because whatever they're dressing up in is also their work clothes. (Before they get shredded to the winds, of course.) Seriously, Aya is fighting an actual stewardess, not to mention a child idol, a teacher and lots more.
But don't think for a second that there's anything supernatural about this show. Oh, no, the truth is more along the "secret coverup" variety, and the plot twist is sure to make your head spin. (And not because it's particularly good.) There is also some subplot about Aya turning "evil" during fights, but don't expect THAT to be explained. Like... ever.
"BEST FRIENDS FOREVER! FOREVER, RIGHT?! FRIENDS?! FOREVER?!"
The art in this show is based on character art by a semi-famous artist who goes under the name of Jin Happōbi, and could probably be considered the main draw of the show. Unfortunately, they haven't transferred well to the anime itself, and the animation, while not terrible, is still rather lacking, particularly in the fight choreography department, which SHOULD be the main draw. (Well, that, and the fanservice.) It's... just... disappointing on so many levels.
And then, there's the final plot twist. WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO SPOIL THE ENDING OF THE SHOW, BECAUSE IT MAKES NO GODDAMN SENSE! IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW, TURN BACK NOW! AND DON'T WATCH THE SHOW! SO I GUESS IT DOESN'T MATTER WHETHER YOU READ THIS OR NOT! NEVER MIND, I GUESS!
As it turns out, Aya's best friend, Honma, plus Honma's brother which Aya has a crush on, and the Miko they met at the very beginning is in on the whole Platonic Heart tournament, and the reason why they hold it is to get revenge on Aya. Because... she's not involved in this... thing at all? How the hell does THAT make any sense? See, it's all about what her father did some years ago. (Which was actually disproven at the very end.) And Honma quite literally PLAYED her best friend for who knows how many years just for said revenge? Playing the best friend of someone they hated, just so she could feel extra betrayed when it was all revealed? And this was all revenge for their mother losing her voice in another, similar battle. Hell, her character literally pointed out how stupid that was at the end. (Well, she pointed out how stupid she had to be for not noticing, but it's all the same anyway.)
Of course, the women -- the ones who were defeated during said battle -- being sold away to slavery after being beaten into submission in every sense of the word is just a nice bonus, right? The extra hilarious part is how they honestly try to bully Aya into thinking it's HER fault that they take the defeated opponents and sell them as slaves... because she defeated them, and she actually BUYS IT!
At any rate, at the end, Aya's mother rushes in, kills the lot of them and drags her daughter out of it while burning the place to the ground. And then the show just... ends.
SPOILER OVER! RESUMING REGULAR CRITIQUE NOW!
You know, the Ikkitousen series was never a walk in the park regarding what some of the characters in it did to each other, but Master of Martial Hearts just comes across as being excessively mean-spirited. And the constant monologuing just makes the whole thing harder to digest. If the show manages to make sense for just a second, like when Aya constantly wonders why she keeps fighting in this obvious sham of a tournament, and then just goes on fighting anyway, because... she's got to see this through, right? For her disappearing friends?
With middling art and animation, a pretty simple and terrible story with a really awkward and dumb plot twist at the end, it's just impossible to recommend this show for anyone. It's not that I mind fanservice either, but this show kind of overdoes the "roving male gaze" camera work too much. And the fight scenes are all talk and no choreography whatsoever, most of which is just petty squabbling anyway. Master of Martial Hearts is a lesser version of better shows, so if you're up for the whole "sexy girls chopsocky" thing, Ikkitousen is a better choice. Hell, Queen's Blade is a better choice as well, amazing as that might sound to some of you. You can easily leave Master of Martial Hearts to fend for itself.
A show that just gets dumber and dumber as it goes, making its attempts at moralizing incredibly laughable. It's a terrible, malicious show, and if you want to see pleasant characters do mean things to each other, go watch When They Cry: Higurashi instead. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show is rated TV-MA, and for good reason. The violence, badly choreographed as it is, is fairly crass and direct, and the results for losing, as you'll learn at the end, are quite dark. It makes the nudity and fanservice a pithy complaint in comparison, significant as it is by itself.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (5/5)
Master of Martial Hearts © 2008 ARMS, Lantis, Master of Martial Hearts Committe.
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