What They Say:
In a world where history took a different path, Japan has been isolated from the outside world by steam-powered robots that repel all invaders. Inside Japan, however, the people are divided into feuding and fighting feudal factions. Feisty Keiichiro Tokugawa dreams of changing this and unifying Japan, and he just may be the one man who can use the legendary giant robot Susanoo. Unfortunately, just touching a woman makes him break out in hives, and the Susanoo ALSO requires a female copilot. In VERY close quarters. And just to twist the katana, while there seem to be plenty of women who might covet the copilot’s seat, not all of them have his best interests at heart! Who can he trust? Kiriko the Ninja? Chiharu the fox-demon? Or will Keiichiro’s rash ambitions be thwarted by rashes and a totally rational phobia of the female form? It’s a giant robot show like no other as the birds, the bees, and the giant robots take flight in DAI SHOGUN!
The Japanese 2.0 audio is encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. Most of the dialog is clear. The sound stage remains active due to the action scenes, and most of the sound effects work well. The background music sounds appropriate to the scene in most situations, but at times, it becomes the dominant.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. Due to the type of animation the bitrate often falls low without a loss of color or clarity. Colors remain vibrant and rich throughout the series. I saw no distracting artifacts from a normal viewing distance, and the clean transfer looks good for a standard definition disc.
The standard size keepcase holds two discs with hubs on the inside of the front and back covers. The front cover has the image of the three female protagonists grouped together, nude, with an onigami behind them. The spine has the title on the top half and a picture of the nude Chiharu kneeling on the bottom half. The top two-thirds of the back cover has small images from the show and a cheesecake pose of a topless Kiriko holding a sword. The untransformed onigami makes up her background. All nudity is censored by streaks of light.
Disc 1 is printed with an image of a nude Kiriko with her back turned, looking over her shoulder as she holds a sword half out of its sheath. Her breasts have a slash of light over them. A transformed onigami head is in the background. Disc 2 has a nude image of the three Shinsengumi pressed together with a transformed onigami in the background. A flash of light covers any details.
The cheesecake image of Kiriko repeated from the back cover is on the left side of disc 1, and episodes 1 through 6 can be selected in a vertical column on the right. Disc 2 has episodes 7 through 12 and special features in a vertical column on the left. On the right, a nude Chiharu kneels with nunchaku in front of a transformed onigami.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending.
Some anime walk the line between different genres or styles. They can move back and forth between romance and action, fantasy and school life, or ecchi and religion. While Dai-Shogun dips its toes in these different pools, it seems to be unsure where the water is just right.
Dai-Shogun’s basic premise is that Keiichiro, a teenager, should be the next ruler of Japan. Japan’s ruling class have isolated the country from the rest of the world. Now, after a 20 year period of isolationist rule, the leadership seems to be willing to open their borders by trading an onigami, a giant robot with a soul that destroyed the last foreign attack. Keiichiro’s blood allows him to pilot another onigami, Susanoo. He must learn to work with this semi-sentient weapon if he will make his way to Edo as ruler.
The cover screams “ecchi!” Nude girls with a streak of light censoring vitals does prepare the viewers for what they will see. Keiichiro works in a bath house for an old woman who raised him. We often see groups of female bathers or male bathers ranging from adults to elderly. While some of the nudity is eroticized, none is explicit. Most of the sexual content occurs between characters wearing clothes. This includes cleavage, groping, and off screen digital penetration. Even though the character designs seem well done for this type of anime, and voice acting seemed appropriate, the erotic parts tended to make my skin crawl.
The robot angle seems to be divided between a few. First there is Susanoo who must be piloted by a virgin male of the Tokugawa family. It originally appears like a horseshoe crab with two legs and arms. Even though it responds to Keiichiro, it requires a virgin female to pilot it. Keiichiro has missions with three different women, and each time, Susanoo transforms into a different battle god in response. While that idea seems logical, the different transformations are not decisions made to be the most effective in a battle. For whatever reason, it seems that element was either destiny or had no meaning. Susanoo has a soul, but there are other mecha called “puppets” that act as steam powered mecha. While they seem to be referenced frequently in the dialog, they have very little screen time. We only see them in action when piloted by the Shinsengumi, three murderous women who work for Shigeyoshi, the pilot of the rival onigami. One other giant robot fights Keiichiro. It is piloted by a woman who seems to interpret her situation as a series of erotic encounters.
Keiichiro meets three women with whom he might have a romance. First is Kiriko, a ninja who came to help Keiichiro pilot Susanoo. She seems demanding, and with a larger profile than many of the females and with spectacles on her nose, she has an air of maturity. Still, she remained a virgin and can help pilot Susanoo. Then we meet Chiharu. She looks like a flat-chested girl, but with her bushy tail and transforming features, she has lived 200 years as the offspring of a human and fox. She falls for Keiichiro when he confronts her for her life choices. Then we meet a man who turns out to be a woman, Hyougo, who dresses as a man because she wants to avoid unwanted male attention and derision while she seeks vengeance for her murdered father. While each seems to have a spark for Keiichiro, romance just seems out of place in their interactions.
If anything really brought me out of the experience it was the animation style that swung from banner ad quality to believable motion. Most of the series has very limited animation, often with two dimensional faces where only mouths move. Some motions, like an arm sweep, have an unnatural, mechanical rigidity that pulled me right out of the experience. Even though the character designs worked to create a cohesive world, they often had the realism of a sock puppet.
When I watch a mecha show, I want to feel that little burst of adrenaline when the heroes and villains meet. That is where this series surprised me. I did feel that emotional and physical motivation more than once.
I really wanted to like this anime. When the giant robots take the stage, the action and production rises. Much of the interaction between characters seems more like a visual novel than an anime because of the limited animation. Character designs work well, relationships work well, and some of the images have amazing depth or emotional impact. Still, the story seems thin as it moves between ecchi/harem comedy tropes, fantasy world-building, and action. After watching all twelve episodes of Dai-Shogun Complete Collection, I felt like it was only a dress rehearsal for something bigger.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Clean Opening and Ending, Sentai Trailers.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.