What They Say:
Muneakiru Yagyu is a gifted student of the samurai way, but until he arrived at his dojo, he never knew just how gifted he truly was. There, beautiful girl Jubei falls naked from the sky and right into his arms, and when they kiss, he magically transforms her into a powerful master samurai. So, naturally, every beautiful girl at the dojo can’t wait to kiss him now! And some, like the sexy Gisen, want to do even more… It’s a tale of power and lust, filled with beautiful, scantily clad swordfighters who will do anything to please their master and attain even greater power!
The release of this television series contains two language options, English and Japanese. Both tracks are limited to only a stereo mix, in the case of the English track it likely is due to the materials only being available to Sentai in that manner. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is a solid representation of stereo tracks as splits the dialogue and other sounds nicely in such a way as to give a decent illusion of depth. The track also works well to provide directionality and it covers the low sounding effects, the more quiet ones as well as the higher pitched ones in a way that provides a nice balance. On top of this the dialogue is presented clearly and there were no dropouts or distortions noticed during playback.
Originally airing late in the 2010 television season in Japan, Samurai Girls is presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio and is presented with an anamorphic widescreen encode. The series is one that uses some rather bold strokes and as such it has a wide range in hue. Luckily most of the colors come out well with some exceptions on strong reds but the blacks are very solid. The presentation is not without flaw including some noise, ghosting, dot crawl, odd colorations, aliasing, and banding but it still manages to be slightly above average in terms of overall quality and certain things are less noticeable if one isn’t looking for them.
For the release of this title Sentai Filmworks split the 12 episodes across two discs and then included a third disc for the extras. The discs are released in a standard sized DVD Amaray case that has a white flipper insert which has hubs on either side that when added to the standard hub on the DVD case means that none of the three discs overlap. Each of the three discs features a pair of characters from the series against a white background with the series logo near the bottom of the disc.
The cover for the release has an image of the three main girls from the series highlighting both the action to be found inside as well as the heavy amounts of fanservice. Behind the girls is a mostly white background with a very large black ink swath at the top of the cover which is a key ingredient in the style of the show and it also has the series logo present over it. The spine has Sen at the top with the logo for the series between her and Yukimura who is present at the bottom against a black background. The back of the cover features a pair of the secondary characters on the left and one of the antagonists on the right alongside the series copy. Between them is a black strip listing the discs and episodes as well as seven stills from the series while the bottom of the cover has the production credits and series technical specs listed.
The first disc uses a static image that has Jubei standing on the left side of the screen and facing forward as Muneakira stands behind her on the left as he is facing the opposite direction and looking over his shoulder at her while Sen is in a jumping action pose on her right. The right side of the screen has a black swath of ink used and the episodes are listed in a stacked fashion in a pinkish red with the episode numbers listed to their left inside a diamond shape with the Language option at the bottom of the screen. The language screen uses an image of a character that appears later in the series as the options are listed in the same pinkish color bellow her in a black box.
Disc two uses the same set up but has a picture of Yukimura and two other characters from the series while the language section features another character appearing later in the series. For both discs the main menu uses part of the opening for background and the language screen uses the closing music. The currently selected option has a bright red slash through the number on the main menu and through the entire option on the language screen. The menu is quick to respond to changes in selection and to load options when selected. The extras menu uses a more basic approach with the majority of the screen being black and the options being listed in white with pink outline as the open plays behind it.
There is an incredible treasure trove of extras to be found on the bonus disc. These extras include Narrated Comics, Blushing Maidens of the Past, Japanese Promo Videos, Uncensored Production Sketches and clean opening and closings. Unfortunately (though probably not surprisingly) for dub fans the extras exist as subtitled only entities and lack an English dub. The two real gems here, Narrated Comics and Blushing Maidens are bits that allow the staff to do some elements they either couldn’t get away with on TV or fit into the plot or to poke some fun at the work. The Narrated Comics extra largely is the one that pokes fun while the Blushing Maidens extras are short little animated pieces that take the ecchi nature of the series to the next level in most cases. Also of note the sound for the second Blushing Maiden feature is slightly off which is a bit distracting to the presentation…though the images and dialogue itself are probably pretty distracting for many of those watching to begin with.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Samurai Girls is an anime series that is based off a line of light novels that in Japan have a number of volumes to their credit already as well as a couple of different spin off manga. The premise of the series is that it takes place in an alternate world where Japan is instead known as Great Japan. This is far from the only change though as the technology present is a mix of steam powered, modern and Feudal and the characters and their environment are (very loosely) based off the late Sengoku to early Edo periods (late 1500 to early 1600s) in Japan’s history. By loosely based that means some names appear and a few real incidents may be mentioned but the real Japanese warlords weren’t young women or showing off quite as much skin (in all likelihood anyway).
The story introduces the world with a short open that shows off the power that the titular Samurai Girls have as well as their ability to defend Japan before throwing out a brief tease of the first episode where the lead two characters meet for the first time. With this tease (certainly not the only one the series will use) out of the way the story begins in full. Muneakira Yagyu is a young samurai who arrives at Buou Academic School, a place where members of the warrior clan send their children to train to be the future leaders of the country. He arrives early as he was scheduled to be met by someone and he kills time by going to the dojo he is going to be staying. He arrives there to find himself stepping into a large pitfall which turns out to be mostly naked and rather revolutionary orientated in nature.
Inside the dojo he encounters two changing (and mostly naked) young women, Yukimura Sanada and her bodyguard Matabei Goto. The introductions they attempt to make after they all cool down are interrupted by the arrival of a student council squad looking to capture the two trespassing women. The two women Muneakira has just become acquainted with are from the Toyotomi and are looking to overthrow the current student council as well as the Tokugawa shogunate that rules Greater Japan. With the odds stacked so high against the women and a misunderstanding from the squad leader not helping Muneakira joins with the two and helps them escape the dojo. During their escape the group winds up on a bridge and when Muneakira mentions his name is Yagyu after showing off his skill when the group is confronted a rift opens in the sky and a very beautiful, very naked, redhead slowly descends into his arms. After a kiss awakens her powers she introduces herself as Yagyu Jubei
They say that things come in threes and the final piece to Muneakira’s newest troubles when it comes to women is complete when he meets up with his childhood Sen Tokugawa who is in charge of the school in her older brother’s absence. That her old friend has allied himself with two known revolutionaries and this new girl from nowhere doesn’t sit particularly well with her but she has a soft spot for him and he finds that she is willing to spare him because of it. As Muneakira and the three girls wait their fate Muneakira learns that Yukimura and Matabei are in trouble because they did a fortune reading that prophesizes a shadow falling over the land. At the same time Sen is troubled by the reaction from her brother when she contacts him for his decision on what to do with this motley group that has appeared on the school’s doorstep.
Sen decides to join tentatively with the group when a mark showing Jubei to be a Master Samurai is discovered on her body, a powerful type of person whose presence has been dying out in Japan over the centuries. With the mystery of the Master Samurai in front of her as well as the odd behavior of her brother worrying her (and perhaps more than a little desire to get Muneakira to herself) Sen throws her lot in completely with the group and they attempt to discover what is going on. Things heat up though when more Master Samurai start appearing but the real danger comes when some mysterious plans start to pay off in a very dark way- but what if the danger they are uncovering isn’t related to the shadow that Yukimura saw in her divination and a power beyond their imagination presents itself and turns against them?
Samurai Girls is a series that fully embraces the advantages of its original late night time slot and throws its lot in to attempt to out fanservice Queen’s Blade. And try it will as the female cast will be showing off copious amounts of flesh at an amazing speed as they go through their paces. In some ways it feels like the plot of the series is really secondary to trying to accomplish that goal and it is more than a little annoying as at times events seem to revolve more around that idea then the fanservice being made to serve the story.
Watching through the episodes it is clear there that a good deal of care had been taken to set up the world that the characters inhabit, even if some of the particulars (Feudal times mixed with the present) are a bit incredible. In fact this is probably where my biggest issue with the series lies as it feels the need to rush through to the next point while occasionally not taking the time to fully establish what is going on. Watching through I got the impression that the show’s writers were either trying to cram a large number of novels into a twelve episode series or they were afraid to take real chances with the characters. Some episodes feel slow and almost uninspired where others feel far too rushed. When some events are built on making characters important and menacing having not developed them to that point is a disappointment and undercuts any sense of tension that the story might have otherwise had.
It is a shame as there is certainly a lot of potential that seems to be just beyond what is presented here. Even if one were to discard the story the art style used here is simply amazing. At times the use of color, design as well as the creative application of the ink blots create a series that feels as creative and fresh as anything I have ever seen and then at times the fanservice becomes so routine it actually bores me. What also doesn’t help as the action scenes aren’t always consistent as some are really spectacular and some are rather pedestrian, especially in comparison to there more flashy brethren.
Samurai Girls is a series that seems to have decided that its light night time slot dictated what it was going to do and how much fanservice it would pack rather than let the story develop to that point more organically. There are definitely some high points here with the art style that is often bold and occasionally daring and a very up tempo open and close but the series seems to have nearly as many minuses as positives. It is a decent enough piece with some great actors but it isn’t the best story out on the market, and it’s not even the best fanservice fighting show either. With some lowered expectations and an eye towards the candy like focus of the series it can be enjoyed but too much attention to its plot and the development of it isn’t a key in its favor.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Comics, Production Materials, Original Promo
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: C+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 23rd, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.