Natsuru suddenly finds himself in the midst of a deadly game which is bad enough, but being turned into a woman only makes it worse.
What They Say:
Waking up transformed into a beautiful girl might be the stuff of some guys’ fantasies, but when the suddenly effeminatized Natsuru is informed by a stuffed tiger that he’s now a Kampfer, a mystical fighter who has to fight other Kampfers in female form, his life becomes a living nightmare! Putting aside the obvious “plumbing” issues, Natusru’s best childhood friend turns out to swing the other way and SHE has a crush on his new female body. Not complex enough? Natsuru’s school has separate sections for boys and girls, so he and she are now double enrolled. The rumor-mill has it that he’s dating herself. And there are other Kampfers attending the school who want to take her out, and he’s not sure which ones mean “on a date” and which ones mean “permanently.” Oh, and did we mention that some Kampfers use SWORDS and GUNS?! Hormones, fists and other body parts will fly as the daring, new gender-blender defender must become a contender or die in KAMPFER! – The Complete Series!
Kampfer has only a single Japanese stereo language track to it encoded at 192kbps. The show has a good balance between the action and dialogue with neither one overly dominating the other. The music is where things have the best full feeling, but overall the mix here is pretty good with the action having some good placement to it and in some instances some good depth. Dialogue is similar as it comes across very clear throughout both in the quieter segments and the louder ones when everyone is overreacting to things and yelling a lot. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode series is spread across two discs evenly with six episodes to a disc while the minor extras are on the first disc. Animated by studio Nomad, the show has a very vibrant and fluid look to it with some wonderful colors that really leap off the screen. Kampfer deals with some good real world backgrounds that have a richly detailed look which complements the character artwork really well. There’s some good detail visible here and the animation is strong which the encoding captures well. There’s no cross coloration to be found and very little in the form of line noise during panning sequences. This transfer left me feeling very happy with it through and through.
Kampfer is a two disc set inside a standard sized keepcase with a hinge to hold one of the discs. The front cover is certainly eye-catching as it uses colors well here with the background being white on both sides with a blue strip through the middle with a hint of pink and red alongside it. What really draws your attention though is the main cast of characters that populates it here with five of the characters in their school uniforms, weapons out if applicable, looking quite stylish. They’re all wearing the same uniform which is welcome and it’s the hair and faces that really sets them apart, but it all looks very good and definitely appealing. The back cover uses a lot of the same colors but adds a large chunk of black in the middle which is where the summary goes as well as a block of small shots from the show. The batch of character artwork here is good as it featuers the same characters in Bowel Familiar form wearing bathing suits which makes them really adorable. The summary covers things well and there’s a couple of good taglines here as well. The production information and technical grid are all cleanly listed with accurate information that’s easily read. No show related inserts are included nor are there any show related inserts.
The menus for this release uses the same color schemes as the packaging but it also uses a good chunk of the black from the back cover as well. The majority of it uses the whites and blues with the off kilter logo to the right while the left has a different piece of character artwork with one of the girls in their school uniform. The bottom portion, off to the right a touch no less, is where we get the black segment that’s laid out in a quirky fashion which has the episode selection using pinks and blues with the episodes alternating between the male and female symbols. The first disc has the extra menu tab to go to the extras but beyond that the menus are straightforward and simple to use. With it being a monolingual release, there’s no language submenus and player presets are just something amusing to think about.
The extras for this release are on the first disc and we get a little more than the norm. The clean opening and closing sequences are here which is always welcome, especially as they look so good. The added extra here is an eleven minute picture drama that involves the Bowel Familiar characters who basically do a talk show hosting gig here going on about things while bringing in Akane briefly. It’s not bad, but it wasn’t the kind of humor that I liked and it left me feeling rather bland about it.
Based on the light novel series of the same name which ran for fifteen volumes and a manga by the same author that started up before the anime which has a few volumes to its name, Kampfer is a twelve episode series that plays with familiar story ideas yet decides that it wants to be dirty and runs with it. That change, rather than being cutely playful, gives the show a bit of an edge since it’s not entirely safe. Even more unusual is that the series really does end on the eleventh episode and instead of doing the twelfth as a straight on OVA style piece, it ties into things a bit. The eleventh episode doesn’t really give you a sense of closure which makes the last episode feel even more surreal in a way.
Kamper introduces us to your average decent guy of Natsuru, a high school student who doesn’t stand out in a good or bad way. He’s got quite the crush on a friend of his, a girl named Sakura who is definitely cute but not an excessive beauty. He definitely wants to get closer to her but hasn’t figured out the right way to do it. And as pretty as she is, she hasn’t shown any interest in him beyond a good friend, but she hasn’t been dating anyone else either, which gives him a little hope. What’s throwing him for a loop right now is a dream he had about being a woman. That dream becomes reality when he’s at the bus stop with Sakura as he realizes the blue bracelet he had on in the dream is really on his wrist and he can feel his body changing.
It turns out that Natsuru has been chosen as something called a Kampfer, one who has been set to fight against others of the same nature who wear a different color bracelet. He’s got the blue one and we learn that there are red ones out there as well. How he learns of this is through the stuffed animals called Bowel Familiars, one that he has which was given to him by Sakura. He comes across another Kampfer quickly, though she’s on his side after they go through some back and forth fighting. As a Kampfer, Natsuru turns into a girl. For Akane, she turns into a much angrier and rawer personality that uses a gun compared to Natsuru’s new flame ability. And his chest size is a weapon as well. Naturally, rather than confide in Sakura, he hides it and that leads to the main problem here.
When Sakura does see him as a girl, she’s instantly in love with that Natsuru as she has an absolute disdain for men in a romantic sense. And Natsuru’s saving of Sakura from Akane when they first meet gives her a hero complex for her even more. Adding to the complication is that Akane’s regular personality has a very strong interest in the male Natsuru (not that there’s any real difference personality-wise) but it gets conflicted when she transforms into Kampfer mode. It can’t be just that complicated though as the student body president, the darkly alluring Shizuku, is actually a red bracelet Kampfer who has a goal of her own in addition to the battle they’re supposed to fight as organized by these mysterious Moderators that are never shown. Natsuru certainly can be interested in her, but she’s far more interested in him. Natsuru, regardless of form, really only has an interest in Sakura but he wants her to like him as a him.
Kampfer finds a surprisingly good balance between the school material with its campy fun and the action sequences themselves. The interpersonal relationships that develop among the Kampfer aware and Sakura works quite well, since she’s kept out of the loop but school must go on. The school is interesting in that it’s segregated by gender, so Natsuru gets forced by Shizuku to transfer into the girls side for awhile which adds a lot more fun since she’s the hot new transfer student all the girls have an idolized crush on. And several of them monetize it pretty well since Natsuru can bring in a good chunk of change with pictures and so forth. When the show goes to the beauty pageant angle, it’s a bit forced and overlong, but they still manage to find a lot of really good humor with it.
On the flip side, the action is really very attractive here. Animation studio Nomad really gives this a very fluid feeling to it with a lot of detail and some great choreography. The animation has a wonderful flow throughout it, accented by such strong character designs that work the stereotypes well, and it feels like far more of a top tier production than you would expect for this kind of story. One of the best aspects is that the transformation sequences are kept very minimal with Natsuru only going through it around three times or so at most, something that could be easily abused. It’s comical when it happens since he gets the girls body and school uniform, but it’s also the kind of thing you hesitate to find titillating because she’s a he. The animators and designers do a strong job here in making you want to forget that though with the production quality behind it all.
While the show doesn’t exactly give you anything resembling a conclusive ending, or any kind of ending really, the final episode does play things up in an OVA style sense of fun. The focus for this is more on the Bowel Familiars, which are very amusingly designed, as they get their minds swapped into their respective owners bodies. So we get the girls as normal, sans Sakura of course, with some of their Familiar aspects like ears and tails thrown on them as they experience life in a way they couldn’t otherwise. It’s the kind of simple gag that does work, and works well if done right, and basically fires on all cylinders here as it made me laugh regularly in seeing them experiencing food and more. They do deal with the girls in the Familiar’s bodies to some extent, but they know to rightly focus on the fanservice side.
And that’s what this show does so well. It plays up the fanservice just right but it also makes things decidedly dirty along the way. Sakura falls strong for female Natsuru and does a lot of naughty things to get closer to her, be it in street clothes, school uniform or the bathing suit. There’s a strong sexual component here throughout the show which reaches some very fun levels during a sleepover segment, which introduces more Kampfer’s and a larger look at the show, but elsewhere as well. When Natsuru as a guy is ordered to sleep with Shizuku, and through the power of command he tries, we almost get that follow through that could have been really strong in showing how far they’d go. A lot of shows don’t go as far as this to begin with, so I appreciated the fact that the whole thing decided to act like teenagers actually would.
I had no expectations going into Kampfer other than figuring it was another harem show based on the cover artwork. What I got was a show that lays out a concept and plays with it well, but focuses on other areas. And it does it with a huge dose of very sexual fanservice rather than the “let’s pretend it’s all innocent” style fanservice. I liked seeing the aggressive women who know what they want. I liked seeing Natsuru going through the challenges he in trying to win overr Sakura as a guy and not giving in to doing it as a woman. The production values are strong, the animation solid and there’s a really great sense of fun about it. It was a continual surprised that made for a very fun and engaging viewing that left me wanting another season easily.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean opening, Clean closing, Picture dramas
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 18th, 2011
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.