Region: 2 - UK
Length: 300 minutes
English 2.0 Stereo
The story takes place in Japan in the early 21st century, in an alternate reality where the Tokugawa Shogunate has remained in power. In this reality, student councils are tasked with oppressing schools. Yagyuu Muneakira is a high school student who rebels against his student council with the help of girls who've had the names of famous samurai heroes passed onto them.
The series is based on a light novel series that were written to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the mega publisher, Hobby Japan. The books are lavishly illustrated by the artists Niθ (perhaps best known in the west for the design work of the game Deus Ex Machina Demonbane). When I heard that the anime version was due for a DVD release in the UK I was excited and intrigued (especially as the characters hold special meaning for myself both as a figure collector and a cosplayer).
The beautifully crisp design work of Niθ has played a great part in the appeal of the associated merchandise for the franchise. Given the high standards of the existing Samurai Girls visual works and figures I was not convinced that an animated adaptation would be able emulate such excellence. From the first episode, however, I was astounded to see how masterfully the animators at studio ARMS had brought the characters to life. Not only do the girls resemble every inch the Niθ style, they also move with incredible dynamic grace and beauty in combat. Another delightful aspect of Samurai Girls is the unique visual style. The line work of the character designs is distinctive and bold. The strong outlines are beautifully balanced against a muted colour scheme that is used for the characters and settings. It is like watching woodblock prints come to life. Even amidst the fanservice, nothing is visually gaudy or garish. Samurai Girls features a mix of modern moe trends with Edo artistry and aesthetics.
The Japanese voice cast is fantastic and many famous seiyuu (such as Aki Toyosaki and Rie Kugimiya to name but a few) do great justice to the striking beauties. This all adds to the energy of the series.
The series is reminiscent of Ikki Tousen. Itís full of fanservice, combat and complex character relationships that are born from a pre-existing historical/literary context. It interchanges comedy and crisis to form a high impact viewing experience that is full of energy.
Despite the similarity of these two series, Samurai Girls far outshines and totally outclasses the Ikki Tousen franchise. While it may never acquire the same following that the original battle babes series commands, the production values and unique visual style alone make sets Samurai Girls apart from many that have come before it.
The characters, perhaps, are more appealing and engaging than the narrative but the mystery and mix of myth, mastery and intrigue is more than enough to be entertaining. In places it is even sincere and moving. While it may take some liberties with the principles of bushido with regards to the intimate and complex connection of master and samurai, as a fantasy it has an abundance of appeal.
For fans of foxy fighting females, Samurai Girls is an essential addition to your collection.