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Kampfer Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read
>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.

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:
Natsuru used to dream of being a lady killer. Instead, he got turned into a Kampfer – a lady who’s supposed to fight and kill other girls in mortal combat! That would cause enough problems all on its own, but it turns out that his best childhood friend swings the other way and she has a crush on her new body. Not to mention, his school has separate sections for boys and girls, and now he’s enrolled in BOTH of them. And the rumor-mill has it that he’s dating herself. Then there are those other pesky Kampfers who want to “take her out.” He’s just not sure which ones mean “on a date” and which ones mean “permanently”!

Things get even trickier when Natsuru allows himself to be convinced that it’s a good idea to move in with three other Kampfers for their “mutual defense.” Getting in touch with your feminine side’s a full-contact, no-holds-barred, Amazon action-fest as Natsuru must become a full-fledged wonder woman or die trying!

Contains episodes 1-12 plus OVA episodes 1-2 (Fur die Liebe).

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and now an English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA codec. It still feels weird to have a dub for this out of the blue but it’s such a solid fanservice show that a wider audience for it in this form is welcome. And it’s a solid dub that follows the style of the original with a cast that handles all the breathless moments and silly moments well. 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.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With the original twelve episodes and the two episode OVA series, the show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and five on the second. 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. The high definition transfer definitely gives all of it a very good bump as the colors are even more solid here and the vibrancy goes up a couple of notches as well. 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.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both of the discs against the interior walls. The front cover changes things up from the previous edition as it almost has a bit of an action-pose style element to it. While previous covers have been focused on white backgrounds, this one goes dark and that does change the tone a lot, unfortunately. The character artwork is good but it doesn’t quite sell it as strongly as a fanservice comedy project. 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 features 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.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works well as it uses a lot of the tones and colors from the front and back cover in a good way. The layout has the artwork dominating the right two thirds where it uses the white background along with shades of blue and pink across it that adds some good color and pop. The first disc has the cast in their school uniforms bouncing around while the second disc gives us a few of them in their swimsuits. The left third is given over to the navigation, which has a black background with a few angles to it that works nicely. the text is done in blue and pink, tying to the gender side of the show, with the symbols alongside them that have the episode numbers in them. It’s easy to navigate and works nicely in the way it moves during both playback and as the top level menu.

Extras:
The extras for this release are on the second 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series of the same name which ran for fifteen volumes and manga by the same author that started up before the anime which has a few volumes to its name, We’d seen the show released on DVD previously from Sentai and then a Blu-ray edition in 2014. With the need for more content on streaming services likely in the background of their minds, a dub for this show was a no-brainer because it comes down to something appealing: 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. After the series ended, a pair of OVAs were created which weren’t part of the previous DVD release but are included here.

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 TV 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.

While the TV series ran in 2009, a pair of OVAs ended up coming out in 2011, which was a bit of a surprise all things considered. Kampfer didn’t light the world on fire, but it was fun. And it’s also very welcome to see Sentai going and grabbing these, making for an even more worthwhile upgrade for fans since it’s about the content. But like the last episode of the TV series, these are all about the fun and fanservice and little to do with the story. Kaede is still a threat in her other form, but Natsuru’s real problem is simply all the girls as they’re constantly trying to one-up each other with getting closer to him. With Shizuku essentially straddling him naked, which confused him significantly, to others getting their first kisses or butt touching, it’s familiar simplicity done with a cuteness that manages to work after seeing the main series. The first OVA has them all staying together to try and protect each other after the recent battle, but it’s just a lot of silliness and sexuality, though no outright full nudity. The second episode is more “everyday life” in a way as we get Natsuru realizing he needs a better bra but being unable to afford it. So he takes a temp job hosting at a club in his female form while also discovering that he’s supposed to go on a group date there as well to support one of his male friends. There’s a lot of sitcom material here to be sure, but it’s also fun to see how Natsuru is really getting more comfortable with his female form.

In Summary:
During my original viewing I had no idea what to expect and what I got was a show that lays out a concept and plays with it well, but focuses on other areas that you wouldn’t expect. 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 and I liked seeing Natsuru going through the challenges he in trying to win over Sakura as a guy and not giving in to doing it as a woman. That’s also handled well in the dub here as the cast does a great job with it as Sabrina Owen does a great job of capturing some of the male elements of their other self while the rest of the main cast hit their roles just right, especially Avery Smithhart as Kaede. And I’ll always admit a real delight at listening to Katelyn Barr in these kinds of roles as she just hits the best notes with it, even with a character like Shizuku. And getting all of this plus some dirty OVAs that takes it a step further? Oh, that’s perfect.

The production values are strong, the animation solid and there’s a really great sense of fun about it. Revisiting now a couple of years later reaffirms the kind of fun I had with it and that hasn’t diminished. I had a good time with the new dub aspect of it as our primary viewing and even more so with the OVAs. It’s not revolutionary or anything, but it’s the kind of goofy action/fanservice fun that I crave between other shows. It also makes out pretty well with the high definition upgrade as the whole thing just feels like it stands out more in a cleaner way.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, “Fantastic Bowels,” Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 28th, 2019
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.


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