DVD Review: Samurai Bride

samurai-bride 2For those who missed it, Samurai Girls was a harem comedy set in an alternative Japan about a guy, name of Muneakira, who has the ability to turn hot girls into super-powered samurai vixens with a kiss. Actually, that’s the easy part. Getting them them to tow the line and work as a team … yeah, good luck with that, dude.

Having defeated the forces of evil in the first series, you’d expect things to look bright for the show’s ass-kicking heroines in this belated sequel, but instead some bad investments have left them seriously cash-strapped. Answer: turn their dojo into a maid cafe! Plus there’s the small matter of some reincarnated dark samurai who want to challenge the girls to a battle. Trouble is, their top warrior Jubei has temporarily lost her master samurai powers. Can she get her mojo back in time to save the dojo?

Not that there’s any great feeling of urgency in the first half of the series, which devotes itself to a series of whimsical plotlines – a competition to see who’s the No 1 maid, an early showdown with the dark samurai in a maid cafe challenge, a visit from a rowdy training instructor who teaches them to channel their ki, and an episode in which a panty-thieving monkey comes into contact with Muneakira’s lips and becomes the latest recruit to his team.

In the second half, though, the plot thickens and things become more action-orientated as the girls square up against a black, blobby evil spirit (to look at, a bit like No Face in Spirited Away) which is seeking a mystical stone vital for the protection of Japan. Cue a surprisingly hard-hitting and full-blooded denouement, with displays of suicidal heroism … and a few panty shots, of course.

Because there’s no doubt that the show’s raison d’etre is the fan service, with the samurai-bride 3scriptwriters forever taxing their brains for new reasons for the girls to take their clothes off (and uncensored nudity very much the order of the day). But to its credit, if there was ever a show that turned fan service into an art form, this is it. A lot of that is down to the quality of Studio Arms’ animation, which mixes grainy, grey pen-and-ink type backdrops with stained glass-style thick outlines and glowing colours to create visuals that are sumptuously rich and layered. The girls’ costumes may be barely there, but what there is of them is beautifully detailed, as is everything you see on screen. The show may be silly in concept, but it’s virtuoso in execution.

samurai-bride 1And the characters are genuinely funny, with brains of the team Yukimura and Sen shamelessly scheming, plotting and cheating their way through the maid cafe competition, and the hapless misfit Kanetsugu always there to throw a spanner in the best laid plans. Plus the dark samurai emerge as sympathetic characters in their own right as fractures appear between them and we learn more about their plight. Not the most politically correct of anime, but with its sharp one-liners and distinctive look, it’s sure to appeal to fans of the first series. 7/10

EXTRAS
Six 2 ½ minute-ish nicely animated comical shorts in which you get to see yet more of the main characters. There’s a swimsuit episode, a visit to the public baths, a piece in which Yukimura learns to use ki to expand her bust, another swimsuit episode … you get the idea. 6/10

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