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[Kage kara Mamoru!]
AKA: 陰からマモル!, Mamoru the Shadow Protector
Genre: Ninja action harem comedy
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: 13+ (animated blood, violence of both the slapstick and realistic variety)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Naruto, Ranma 1/2, Yu Yu Hakusho
Notes: Based on a concept by Taro Achi (Dokkoida?!). Mamoru is the Japanese word meaning "to protect", which is what the main character spends most of the series doing.

One of the sponsors of the series, incidentally, is Taito, who published a ninja video game back in arcades in 1985 called Legend of Kage (Kage no Densetsu). It later saw ports on the NES (Famicom) and Commodore 64, but is generally considered to be a horrible game among most video gamers.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Kage kara Mamoru!

Synopsis

Dorky-looking high schooler Kagemori Mamoru, the only son (and child) of the Kagemori family, is actually a skilled ninja who has been given a lifelong mission since he was a toddler; to protect Konnyaku Yuna, his childhood friend. The reason for his protection of her goes back to a promise his family made generations ago to protect the Konnyaku clan. While Mamoru looks after Yuna, his mother looks after Yuna's mother, and his father Yuna's father. Since Yuna is klutzy, oblivious, and accident-prone, protecting her is a full-time job for Mamoru, especially when even more ninjas and bad guys start showing up around his town. Some are familiar to him, while others are new faces in his life.


Review

Kage Kara Mamoru! is an odd series. In only three episodes it turns from a cute ninja hero series into a cliched harem series with ninjas thrown in (hmm, wonder if the recent Himawari! is like this as well?). That's not to say it's a bad series (the ninja genre, to be frank, has been beaten with a stick at this point thanks to the popularity of Naruto and the numerous ninja anime that came out as a result), but it's definitely not something you're looking for if you're looking for new ideas and concepts in your anime.

Mamoru, our hero, is a geeky dude by day, and a kick-ass ninja at night. In fact, his mother and father are also both ninjas; even his dog is a ninja (and one of the best characters in the series, as well: he's just so cute!). Mamoru is actually a decent character because he isn't perverted (like most harem leads are), isn't incompetent in his ninja abilities, and treats everyone around him nicely. His childhood friend, Yuna, is a bit of an airhead, and her voice does get grating after a while (Nakahara Mai isn't the greatest seiyuu), but she's genuinely nice, and I'd rather much watch a series with a klutzy lead than one who beats up men and thinks she's the best at everything.

Unfortunately, Yuna's best friend, Airi, is such as character. She likes to beat up Mamoru for no good reason but for getting in the way of her friend Yuna (even though Mamoru and Yuna knew each other look before she arrived), calls him "Ahoru", and is never hesitant to beat him up when he one-ups what insults she gives him first. Much like Tendou Akane and Narusegawa Naru, this girl needs to take some anger therapy sessions, because these kinds of girls in anime annoy the hell out of me (and is the main reason I avoid most harem series like the plague; there's almost always a character like this). At least Mamoru tries to stand up against her; most harem leads take the verbal and physical abuse like it's the right thing to do (I'm looking at you, Girls Bravo!).

Not like the other characters are much varied. We have Tsubaki, a katana-wielding girl who bears more than a little resemblance to Love Hina's Aoyama Motoko (with the same nasty attitude at first, but eventually develops as a cute love interest instead), as well as Yamame, a girl who's more or less a conglomerate of every little sister figure in a harem anime, with the exception of her being a ninja. But best of all is Hotaru, a ninja girl who is so cliched it's hilarious. I will now spend a whole paragraph explaining how cliched she is!

She left her village for reasons "unknown", and ends up in the same high school as Mamoru. The reason she left in the first place was so she can defend her family's fallen "honor". Her overprotective brother came looking for her (who hates Mamoru and wants to kill him. They eventually fight, and Mamoru wins). She tells Mamoru at the end of her debut episode they'll never meet again, and then she ends up showing up at his house the next day, because she found a place near him to stay at. Unsurprisingly, she falls in love with him.

She's so cliched it's hilarious, more so than most of the attempts at humor in the series which, for the most part, relies on slapstick from Airi hurting Mamoru, or Mamoru protecting Yuna from people because she's a big ditz, which would be funny if it wasn't so damn contrived and run-of-the-mill. The ninja battles involving Mamoru and the other ninjas in this series are fun (especially when his ninja dog is involved), but they're too short, and considering the ninja hero shtick is the only remotely original thing about this series, you'll be wanting more ninja battles in no time.

One thing the anime producers didn't entirely slack off on is the art and animation, which are passable but nothing special. It's very consistent, though; I don't recall a time where the art or animation truly got below mediocre. Thankfully, despite being part of the harem genre, the character designs are clean and have girls with accurate proportions (no 90cm busts like in Girls Bravo). But, like the rest of the series, the character designs are uninspired looking (Mamoru himself looks a LOT like Umino from Sailor Moon); like I mentioned before, one of the girls more than just a little resembles Aoyama Motoko. The background music is entirely forgettable (the eye catches have better music than the anime itself!), and the opening and ending themes are worthy of the title "fast forward through this J-POP stuff". Voice acting ranges from decent to almost intolerable, but as a whole, it's average.

And average is the word that perfectly describes this series. Despite bashing it for its blatant disregard for originality, I still enjoyed Kage Kara Mamoru! as amusing camp. At only 12 episodes, it's a short, fun trip that thankfully doesn't overstay its welcome. It's also more enjoyable than practically all other harem series out there. I haven't seen the last 5 episodes yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are at the same level as the rest of the series: average.

Average rating for an average show that doesn't show you anything you haven't seen before. You may or may not add a star if you like ninjas. Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: Surprisingly little fanservice for a harem series, but some violence (both slapstick and realistic) and the occasional bloodshed prevent this series from being watched by the littlest of kids. If you can watch Naruto, you can watch this series.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (7/12)
Kage kara Mamoru! © 2006 Taro Achi / Media Factory / KageMamo! Production Team
 
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