What They Say:
Asuka and her friends may look like any other girls at Hanzo Academy, but they’re secretly studying the ancient art of Ninjutsu! While other students do their homework, Asuka and the gang push their beautiful bodies to the breaking point in pursuit of their perfect form. Life is one sexy sparring session after another until a deviously demented rival clan of evil ninjas ambushes the Hanzo hotties – and steals their sacred ninja scroll.
Faced with their toughest – and most well-rounded – enemies ever, Asuka and her fellow deadly divas will have to go further than they’ve ever gone before to prove they’ve mastered the art of full frontal combat!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty standard but serves the material well as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation, which doesn’t get the usual 5.1 bump but is in stereo as well. Both tracks are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series has a good mix of action and dialogue that keeps it moving while making sure both sides of it have some very good moments. With the action, it utilizes the forward soundstage well to jump about and provide some depth and placement where needed. We get some much bigger action scenes towards the end and those ramp things up well, making it fun and appropriate. The dialogue side is much the same as we get the usual standard sequences but also some big scenery chewing bits with the way the characters go at it, especially in the action sequences. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78: 1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Artland, we get a really well done show here with some great animation and character designs along with some very fluid scenes. And not just the groping and jiggly stuff but the action and more traditional areas as well. The show has a bright, colorful and vibrant look to it that really drives home a solid visual design that the transfer captures very well. The colors are solid throughout, the detail shines well in both the character animation and the backgrounds and there are a lot of scenes that just pop wonderfully. It’s a great looking title overall that definitely shows the fanservice material and the big action sequences – especially the last episode – in all its glory.
The packaging for this limited edition release is pretty solid all around as we get the standard heavy chipboard box that holds the two Blu-ray sized cases inside where each case holds either the DVD discs or the Blu-ray discs. The front panel for the box has a view that, while it works, always feels awkward as it has the girls looking down in a circle at the viewer. It’s done in an almost illustration style because of the color palette that’s used but we get a good look at the five main girls and their personalities through their expressions. The back panel has a more anime-style image of the five girls in action poses bursting out from the center which is nice, but again uses that soft and almost pastel palette to it. Within the box, the two cases have some good full color pose artwork of a few of the main characters from both the good ninja side and the evil ninja side while the logo occupies a little bit of space as well. This lets the characters look a bit more interesting since it doesn’t go with the pastel palette and that gives it a bit more of an edge. The back covers breakdown the episodes by number and title with what disc they’re on as well which which extras are where. The covers are fully reversible with more of the cast paired up on that side. No show related inserts are included with the release.
The menu design for this release is simple but effective as we get a cascade of clips from the show that plays up the fanservice, as you’d expect, as well as the silliness and some of the action. It does it through some filters to change up the color, which doesn’t always serve it well, but it’s certainly distinctive. The menu navigation is kept along the right with the white blocks that has the selections in large and clear text while also having a bit of a futomaki roll to the left of it. The logo is kept small and simple to the lower left so as to let the clips draw you in. Navigation is quick and easy and it looks decent as a pop-up menu as well. Submenu selections are easy to read and navigating them is a breeze as well.
The extras for this release are fairly standard but definitely welcome across the board. While we don’t get the OVA shorts that were accidentally solicited, we do get the clean opening and closings and a solid selection of promo videos and commercials from the Japanese side. On the English side, we get two cast commentary tracks for episodes four and ten that has a good bit of fun in talking about the characters and the silliness of the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the series of games by Tamsoft and Marvelous Entertainment, Senran Kagura is a twelve episode series that’s complemented by several spinoff manga series as well. The series is an interesting one as you don’t see Artland taking on main production chores too often these days, but it works out well because what they produce here is a very fun and slick looking series that hits all the right notes for those wanting fanservice and action. Senran Kagura doesn’t try to hide what it is, which is good, because it chooses to kind of revel in it. When it steps away from that, that’s when the show becomes a little bit of a chore. I haven’t played the games or dabbled in the manga and none of that is necessary here. What’s required is to go into it with a sense of fun and understanding that the breasts, well, they will be swaying. And regularly.
The series takes place in the present day where we’re introduced to Hanzo Academy, your standard somewhat elite academy that’s a girls only place. Within the academy, there’s a hidden secondary school that involves teaching the art of being a ninja. Not just any ninja, but good ninjas. With it being founded by Hanzo some time ago in an effort to continue that strain of ninja, it’s overseen by a man named Kiriya who keeps the classes small with just five students enrolled in it at the time. We get the seniors in Ikaruga and Katsuragi, our second year with Asuka – who is Hanzo’s granddaughter of course, and our first years with Hibari and Yagyu. The five all get along well, have their quirks and fall into the expected archetypes in ways that don’t surprise at all. The girls are moving along in their experience, they all have their share of minor back stories that give them motivation in the present.
A lot of the focus early on is with Asuka because of her close ties to the school through her grandfather. Hanzo actually comes to pay a visit to the school for awhile and we see how he’s pretty much everyone’s vision of a kindly old grandpa with how he presents himself and how he’s spent his years since being a ninja running a restaurant that he’s now got his son running. Asuka is your typical upbeat and always trying her best type and it’s fun to see her going through the expected plot points here with encouragement, training and minor missions and incidents that help her to grow and progress. Interestingly, it becomes more of an ensemble piece as it progresses and Asuka feels less important in a way, though you know she’ll be key towards the end with the big boss fight. But even that becomes more of a team thing that brings everyone together to deal with the big bad.
The bad in the series comes in the form of the Hebjio school, a pretty basic evil ninja academy that deals with a much larger number of students who find their way after going through all sorts of dark paths. The girls here are aiming to grab a scroll from the Hanzo academy that will help their boss essentially gain new powers to take them all to new heights. You can see how that’s going to play out just in that one sentence and you won’t be surprised. The fun comes in the various attacks the Hebijo goes go through on the Hanzo students who are going through some of the normal school routines, from special training camps to just being a part of the town and elsewhere. There’s all the familiar paths here, but there’s a certain light touch to it all that just makes it work. Essentially, I could plot the whole series by the first half of the first episode, but there’s simply an infectious fun to the project as it goes on that it was very easy to get sucked up in it all. The Hebijo girls don’t get as much depth as the Hanzo girls, but the banter, style and darker nature is all well represented and all the cues are there to make it work.
But honestly, one of the best things that makes this work is also what will make it either divisive or a title to simply be dismissed by many. It definitely plays up the fanservice with awkward angles, lots of girls groping girls (there’s barely any guys here at all), hot springs, chest examinations, clothing choices being displayed and more. The bounce… oh, there is bounce. But it’s all done with such a playful aspect to it that you can really just enjoy it, which you find yourself doing even more when you realize the quality of the animation that Artland has put into the project. It’s not just a quick riff done with simple design aspects. It may not be realistic either, but it provides the kind of fanservice that’s playful and fun instead of the disturbingly creepy and problematic. And I really just had a very, very fun time watching it.
While a lot of anime fans tend to “outgrow” fanservice shows, I do find a lot of them to be the kind of fun that’s needed amid all the other shows I watch. I went into Senran Kagura after a lengthy series I was watching and some generally dark tones in my life and it hit a pretty sweet spot. It stands out for some very appealing animation and character designs alone and that made it fun, but it also really just embraced what it was and had a whole lot of fun doing it. It’s predictable and the characters are all standard archetypes, but they play so well and with such a polish to it that it’s easy to get caught up in it all and simply have fun. The action is good, the comedy works well, the interactions are spot on and the fanservice is definitely very enjoyable without becoming cringe inducing because it plays to that fun side. I really enjoyed this show, light as it is, and came away with a very positive experience all around.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries (4, 10), Promotional Videos, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song, Japanese Commercials
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 29th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.