For 1800 years, great warriors have fought for supremacy over the feudal land of Eastern Japan. Now, the endless battle continues with seven high schools vying for supremacy over the land. Fighters from these schools wear "Magatama" which are soulstones that contain the souls of fighter from the Three Kingdoms Era.
In the midst of this chaos we find Sonsaku Hakufu, a rather air-headed girl who some believe is destined to rule over the land. Is the destiny of the Fighters ordained to follow that of their namesakes, or are they able to change their future? How will Hakufu fit into this all? Haven't we seen enough panty shots already?
Never before in my *entire life* has an anime plot amused me to such a great extent : a feudal warrior system set in modern Japan, with high school students carrying out street fights under their respective schools' banners (and in the name of feudal duelling). They receive Imperial decrees with cellphones, send and receive e-mail to coordinate attacks and kill without a single incident from the police (which I assume exists here).
I have to admit the plot is quite different from the usual fighting title (not that fighting titles have much variety anyway) - Ikki Tousen requires you to have some knowledge of Chinese history, namely the Three Kingdoms Era (remember Romance of the Three Kingdoms?). In addition to that, you'll have to be familiar with the *Japanese* versions of the Chinese names. The reason is that most of the characters in Ikki Tousen take their names from the heroes of that era, and as the plot develops it is revealed that the characters seem to follow the destiny of their namesakes (like General so-and-so killed Lieutenant so-and-so). Eventually some characters become obsessed with changing the fate associated with their name, while others revel in this destiny. The show does a good job of explaining all this as you go along, so you can know nothing about Chinese history and still watch but it would help if you do.
All this sounds pretty run-of-the-mill until you meet the main character, Sonsaku Hakufu. She is a total airhead, and what she lacks in common sense she makes up for in brute force. Having been trained to fight from a really young age by her ... mother, she can take on most Fighters with ease. She fears only two things : getting spanked by her mother and getting called an idiot, because as she says, "If you call someone an idiot, you're an idiot too". She eventually ends up at the house of her childhood friend, Koukin, who swears to protect her.
And here is where Ikki Tousen manages to snatch some points from my stingy hands : the characters manage to stay in the roles expected of fighting anime characters and yet they have interesting sides to their personalities (and also some really gross ones too). For example, Koukin is a competent Fighter, but he usually ends up having to chase after the impulsive Hakufu and deal patiently with her childishness. Hakufu's mother has the "wise trainer" role, but also has a thing for younger men and tries to get Koukin and Hakufu together in more ways than one. Even the burly fighter Gakushuu has a soft spot for sweet food, and even sets up a meeting with Koukin in a dessert shop and draws giggles from the patrons when he eats cake neatly with a fork.
The dialogue and interaction between the main cast is also great fun during the lighter scenes - Hakufu usually gets annoyed when people call her stupid, but you can't help doing that since ... well, she *is*. One scene has her confronting a student who says he has received an order for her execution - she strains to think, then finally asks what "execution" means. Or take the times when she tells off her mother for chasing young men, and this usually escalates to a war of words like "totally uncute" and "old woman", ending with Hakufu getting spanked.
Unfortunately, some of the fight scenes leave a bit more to be desired. Most of them are quite entertaining, but they are usually quite short and filled with speed lines and repetitive moves. As with all fighting titles, there's also the prerogatory pre-battle chat where the opponents explain why they are fighting, who they are fighting for, what the big plan is, who is going to kill who in the end, etc. etc.
The art is up to the standard of contemporary titles, but the animation looks a bit cheap during the fights. This really shouldn't happen for an *action* title, but unfortunately it does.
Many people will now be wondering how I got through half the review without mentioning the main selling point for Ikki Tousen : fan service. That's simple, really - while the fan service is a integral part of the anime, Ikki Tousen is actually a capable fighting title on its own if you can push aside the panties and bras for a short moment. Okay, so you can't - let's go on then.
All of the fighting scenes here are what I call "Panty-Fights". No, they don't toss lingerie all over the place, but it's more like : Panty! Fight. Panty! Fight. Panty! Fight (lather, rinse, repeat). Wherever the director could have inserted a panty shot, it's there. Each fighting move by the female characters is designed to show off the most underwear possible, and hits to the chest *always* manage to tear the front of the girls' dresses to expose their bras. By the 3rd fight you'd have seen enough pink and white to work as a salesperson for Victoria's Secret.
However, it doesn't stop there. Some more objectionable things also happen, like breast-groping, stripping and licking. In fact, it gets as close as it can to a hentai title without actually *showing* stuff, since we are shown a lot of foreplay (with lots of heavy breathing). Some characters are also obsessed with sex and there's even a girl who sleeps with guys then also gets down with her female bodyguard after that. There's also an implied rape scene along with ... well, you get the idea. It's amazing how Ikki Tousen made it to broadcast television in Japan, but I doubt it would be broadcast anywhere else without heavy censoring (no more Panty Fights then).
An interesting thing that happened is that while I was watching the intro, I thought I was watching Initial D all over again, since it had a nice beat, had a girl singing and some guy rapping in the background. Guess what? That wasn't far from the truth since the intro song turned out to be another dance number by move. I like most of their songs, but believe me, if you've heard one move song, you've heard 'em all. The ending theme is a ballad, and is one of the better ED songs I've heard in a while. Even the insert song in one of the episodes is quite good, so if you're looking for some new singles to order from CDJapan (lucky you) then you could check these out.
So what does this incredibly long and tiring review say in conclusion? If not for material bordering on hentai territory and the excessive fan service, I would have recommended this title for DBZ and Naruto fans. But since many of those people are under 18, the scope is now for a narrower audience like, say, people who watch Lime-Iro Senkitan (and I know that Jennifer feels very sorry for you). There's also lots of street-fighting violence, blood, gore and all the stuff you'd expect from watching Fist of the North Star.
Ikki Tousen is an PANTY SHOT!! entertaining fighting title if PANTY SHOT!! you can tolerate the PANTY SHOT!! fan service, the icky scenes, and are (of course) over 18. PANTY SHOT!!.
I'm about as surprised about this rating as you would be. I don't care for fan service in anime, but Ikkitousen is rather interesting for a title in this genre and that was enough for me to reach the end without much brain damage. Add a star if you like fan service, or subtract two if you don't. Subtract another if you don't like hentai scenes as well. — Enoch Lau
Recommended Audience: There's enough sexual stuff to put it out of the range of most teenage viewers, but it's not a hentai title. Only for fighting title fans who enjoy fan service or those looking for something other than DBZ or Naruto. If you don't like fan service but are still interested in the rest of it, you *could* give it a try, but please consult your physician first.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Ikki Tousen © 2003 Yuki Shiozaki / Wani Books / Ikkitousen Partners
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