…it’s something, that’s for sure.
What They Say:
Things seemed to be going so well for Muneakira Yagyu. On top of dealing with Jubei, the immortal samurai warrior who fell out of the sky and into his arms and lips, he used his ability to awaken the latent power of a female samurai with a kiss to successfully juggle a handful of very powerful, very female master samurai, AND led them all to victory against the minion of a great evil. So was it too much to ask for a little break in the routine of saving Japan?
Set up in 2.0 English and Japanese in a Stereo and Mono format, the release is a decent standard of an acceptable format in both languages – there weren’t any problems with the audio in coalition with the video, and whilst I did have to adjust the sound a little to a higher volume from my default settings, it wasn’t a major issue. Bonus points for actually doing English audio for the extras as well, which is surprisingly rare for the mini episodes that occasionally occur for this type of series, most of them are in Japanese only so it does get points for putting more efforts overall. Nothing majorly special but it is all working and at an acceptable level.
Set on a standard 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio which is the standard for most UK releases, I set it up in a full-screen environment to optimise the colour throughout. With a series like Samurai Bride which is heavy on the fanservice, there is a lot of colour and a lot of action as well, which for better or worse (depending how much you are into the fanservice) really comes through the screen vibrant and in your face. I didn’t see any problems with the transition with the video and the audio along with the subtitles combined with the vibrancy in the colour scheme combined with the many effects used for action, transformation, it almost seems wasted on this type of this show – very good.
Both menus are set very similar – members of the cast (Maeda and Gisen on disc one, Yukimura, Kanetsugu and Jubei on disc two) in the background in a pose (more sultry in the first disc, more action orientated in the second) whilst a scroll shows below them with Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on disc 2, Extras. Pretty basic and easy to select and navigate from the menu or sub menus, as well as to return to it from the main show though did notice it was a bit slower than some other releases when returning.
A few extras on the second disc – the basic ones are a few Japanese trailers and previews for the show, a trailer and two very short promos for the Blu-Ray/DVD in Japanese only, as well as the standard textless opening and ending.
The more interesting extra is some short episodes about 2 to 3 minutes long which come in between the main series…which are really an excuse to somehow turn the high fanservice up even further. As mentioned, these types of extras normally are in Japanese only so was surprised that there was an English track, and considering the dub I found to be quite good (Hilary Haag back in a dub makes me very happy) this was a pleasant surprise…which I can’t say the same for the episodes ^^
In 2.5, Sasuke, Musashi and Jubei are in a public bath, 4.5 we have Kojiro in maid training to perhaps impress Musashi, 5.5 is a swimsuit short with Mataemon ‘helping’ Sen and Kanetsugu with their swimsuits for the Grand Prix, 7.5 is called Project Big Boobs for crying out loud – basically Yukimara getting ‘trained’ by Maeda to make her chest bigger, 10.5 is D’Artagnan reporting on the girls actions…which makes it look like she is perving on them and 12.5…is actually quite sweet – all the girls of both factions are together, having a day at the beach (still fanservicy but not as overally blatant as the other episodes) and gives the series more closure when Inko visits right at the end. So it wasn’t all bad…and the fact they are on here at least gives more content and closure to the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Samurai Bride is the sequel to Samurai Girls, originally released in the UK in 2012 – it was a show similar in theme to Sengoku Basara and Koihime Musou by doing alternate versions of previous eras of history (Basara of Japan and Musou with China) with unique spins of the historical characters involved. The Samurai Series, known also as Hyakka Ryōran did this in a similar fashion to Koihime, in turning most of the figures in question female, set in the Sengoku/Edo period of Japan, with Samurai Bride returning figures including Jubei Yagyu and Sen Tokugawa, and adding as protagonists this season female equivalents of Musashi Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki. Except it is set in a temple which becomes a maid café for most of the original arc because of needing money.
So yeah, this is a…interesting series. First of all, it is again much better to have watched Samurai Girls first to get a grasp of most of the main characters, but there is enough to follow through the series even if you haven’t due to a) the antagonist characters being different and b) for most of the series the show not having a huge plot and instead focus-ing on hijinks and fanservice.
The introduction is of the Dark Samurai who which establish themselves by defeating D’Artagnan one of the council members from the original series (again, this is where watching the original series is better because you won’t have a clue who this is initially) quite easily…and then we cut to our heroes – our lead male Muneakira has returned after saving the world in the first season to seeing the temple turn into a maid café because they need the money for the dojo otherwise gets repossessed. So this is the side plot for the first half of the series…which I call ‘how to get away with the fanservice 101’. Granted, the Dark Samurai do arrive on the dojo (no thanks to personal favourite character Kanetsugu who suffers so badly but always amused me). The idea is the Dark Samurai overpower them all as Muneakira’s powers to turn the girls into Master Samurai have been sealed and they give him and the girls a month to get to fighting speed or else. This leads early to wonder why the Dark Samurai are after them which actually does develop later on…but then the next day Musashi actually returns as a customer to the café, wanting to see Jubei as she is the one she wants to fight…and Jubei being Jubei, despite the ordeal is super friendly and the two are like old friends.
Yeah, this is a bit of a yin/yang series. For the first half, it is mostly about trying to keep in business and also gaining more master samurai. We are introduced to Yukimura’s pet monkey Sasuke…who had been stealing panties, causing damage and potential more costs…but when Sasuke accidentally kisses Muneakira, she turns into a very cute human girl master samurai…and her girl/monkey forms drive in more profits. Then we get the girls in a maid competition devised by Kanetsugu who is jealous of Sasuke…and she is bottom of the rankings but after Sasuke saves her from a dark samurai attack, Kanetsugu also becomes a master samurai. Then there is the return of Gisen (Jubei’s sister) who sur-vived the last series attack and this is where the term Samurai Bride comes from and only one from a Master Samurai can have this power so looks like the plot is beginning…but it is just an excuse for Gisen to tease the other girls in doing ridiculous rituals to try and be-come a Samurai Bride (though there is some minor plot with Gisens’ powers when a dark Sasaki tries to kill Jubei – the Dark Samurai parts only seem to be included briefly…) And of course we have a maid café competition which outside of one small part when Jubei is able to unleash her true power when Muneakira is in trouble, is pretty much as you suspect a fanservice episode.
Finally the debts pay off, and a new woman appears who has challenged the Dark Samu-rai and escapes…this is Maeda, a perverted woman who hates men and disguised herself as Kanetsugu to see if they can handle the samurai, and she begins to train the girls…in her own way. There are some decent parts mixed in with the fanservice where Jubei can’t revert to her normal form, the samurai having some nobility in fighting weakened oppo-nents, and a rather sweet friendship blossoming between Jubei and the quiet Dark Samu-rai Inshun. It leads to Sen and Yukimara’s personal staff Hanzo and Matabei also getting the kiss treatment to become masters so they can protect their girls, and with a mystery assailant around and dissension in the Dark Samurai even fighting each other, the plot actually slowly comes together. Yukimara is researching about the Samurai Bride, and discovers the Dark Samurai maybe in control to destroy Great Japan, and the background of the Guardian Stone, something that has protected Great Japan but its barrier is getting weaker. The Dark Samurai have been resurrected to bring about war against the Toku-gawa leading to parts of the first season getting referenced about Jubei defeating the big bad from previous Amakusa, however Musashi was more gung ho about her fight with Jubei instead of the plan and it is revealed each of the Dark Samurai has some sort of flaw – Musashi has artificial ears, Sasaki’s eyes are all confused, Mateamon has artificial body parts and Inshun has no voice so her voice is artificial as well. This leads to dissen-sion in the samurai of trying to destroy the stone or each other, whilst the Samurai Bride conditions are revealed…the general Muneakira would have to possess 7 samurai, bond the energy into one master samurai and everyone’s energy passed through her…which could lead to everyone’s’ death whose energy is used.
So the final act is trying to create the Samurai Bride without the negatives, Muneakira learning to unseal himself (which he does in a really bad deus ex machina way), the Samurai fight amongst each other, Gisen returns to showcase her true power, Inshun be-ing possessed and all the masters fighting these enemies and yes, even getting killed. It leads to Jubei and Muneakira being the catalysts, Jubei becoming a Samurai Bride and a battle between them, the remaining Samurai and the protection of the Guardian Stone.
So I am definitely in two minds of this series. I do believe you could watch it without watching the original though some of the characters relationships you’d need to establish, however the show at first doesn’t have that much plot to work with outside of the girls being fanservicy. There are the parts where the other girls become master samurai which does lead to being needed for the Samurai Bride at the end, but at the time we didn’t know that. The catalysts were there with brief moments for the Dark Samurai, and at least with Musashi and Inshun there was some nice character development in their ri-valry/friendships with Jubei. A lot of characters are involved though so again, it is rec-ommended to watch the initial series to figure out all of them, but their interactions are just enough so you can understand them.
At first, I really didn’t think I would like this series. I am not a huge fan of fanservice over plot series and for the most part, Samurai Bride did feel like this. Muneakira barely is in the series and is just there to make sure the other girls become Master Samurai, gets a restriction to make sure he doesn’t end the series early, and then becomes important in the last episode for the final battle. The focus as tends to be with these series, is with the attractive girls. There is plenty of fanservice (some standard, some very strange) and the idea of course is the temple is a maid café really is a stretch despite the whole financial needs. The character of Sasuke again, is only important for the episode introduced and right at the very end after the end credits and was an easy option to get the idea of 7 Master Samurai needed. I think I even did the dreaded look at the timer during the competition episode because felt it was so pointless until right at the end with Jubei actually attacking.
However, I think some part after Jubei and Inshun become friends, the series actually grew on me a bit. The plot was actually intriguing, the link with the past characters was decent, the concept of the Samurai Bride was whilst coincidental with the characters in-volved, actually well thought out and quite problematic for the group, and the fact that the final battle did have some tragedy really surprised me. Of course, the fact the ‘good guys’ all brought back to life was predictable, but the likeable antagonists was more of a shock as especially Musashi/Inshun were very likeable and had good standing with Jubei, it did make me surprisingly upset. It surprisingly grabbed me, and I realised I actually didn’t mind this series when the plot finally came through.
So the first half for me is mostly meh – mostly excuses for fanservice scenes, and aside from some funny moments with Kanetsugu and the occasional good line from Yukimura, nothing that really made me keep my attention. However, whilst the fanservice still ex-isted, it was much more toned down when the plot actually came into play, and here, the series made up for the previous hijinks. Hijinks can be fun, but it was way over the top – when Yukimura becomes serious, Inshun is in tears wanting Jubei to kill her when she is possessed, and the deaths of master and servant happen even if you know they’ll be fine in the end, it had some surprising heart, and just enough even if you haven’t seen the original series you might give it a shot – you might be pleasantly surprised.
And of course, if you are a fan of the fanservice, then bonus.
Samurai Bride, whilst recommended you see Samurai Girls for the characters, may just have enough for anyone to follow even without. Granted, the first half that isn’t difficult as it is maid café silliness with the occasional Dark Samurai bits. However, it surprisingly actually holds its own right at the end, the plot actually is told gradually with little bits from other characters helping, and ties in shockingly well. At first, I thought I’d hate this, but it did grow on me. Just some of the fanservice scenes are a tad cringe worthy and the odd cop out in getting the male lead involved is a bit annoying, and it is also quite predictable but there are some tender moments, some good action and tie in plot, and even some decent development especially in such a short series. Not quite a guilty pleasure, but I certainly would see it one more time.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 6th, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.