Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Girls Episode 1 – Trash as an Art Form

Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Girls Episode 1 – Trash as an Art Form

Fanservice and exploitation of the 2D girl typically comes in one of three levels. There are shows that are relatively normal, but are aware they have some very attractively drawn characters and occasionally call attention to the fact. There are shows which make the sure the girls are regularly exposed or otherwise flaunt their assets to the main character and/or the camera, but keep this in the context of a real story. And then there are the shows where the entire point is to have the girls paraded about in a series of compromising events, and any hint of the plot, interesting characters, or other value is tossed out the window.

The first episode of Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Girls seems to fall very firmly into the third category, which is exactly what I was expecting when I first sat down to watch it. Despite that, I still found elements of the show far better than a mere female flesh fest would offer—and given the extraordinarily low expectations I went into the show with, that is certainly a point in its favor. Albeit an extremely small point.

The first indication that this show might offer more than mere pandering was in the opening sequence, but I'm left wondering why the cast has exact counterparts fighting in World War II

My second thoughts about the quality of the series are not inspired by the plot, which is far too abbreviated and rushed to deserve extensive comment. Basically, this is an alternative history Japan where the Meiji Restoration never occurred and Japan is protected from the ravages of war by super powerful samurai, who nearly always take the form of scantily-clad busty girls. The Tokagawas still rule as the Shogunate, but various factions within Japan such as the Toyotomis are seeking to replace them.

This gives the animators an excuse, in the style of Strike Witches or Shin Koihime Musou, to recast key historical figures of a certain period in the roles of beautiful female fighters. (For anyone who has been watching Sengoku Basara, adjusting to this show’s version of Yukimura Sanada may take a bit of effort.) There’s something about this re-imagining that seems to appeal to the otaku mind, but I’ve yet to figure out why.

I think this is the first time Yukimura Sanada has been depicted as an flat chested high school girl, but with otaku you can never know. The ink blotches are used for censorship as often as for artistic effect

The plot follows Muneakira Yagyuu, a transfer student and assistant instructor at a special school on Mount Fuji, meant to train the new generation of warriors. Although his family are direct retainers to the Tokugawas, he meets and promptly sides with the Toyotomi supporter Yukimura against the student council, which has sent ninja maid Hanzou Hattori to arrest her.

No particular reason is provided for his actions; everyone notes that he is acting against his supposed loyalties, and Yukimura was in the process of threatening him with death (for the second time that day) when Hattori arrived. As he berates Hattori for acting dishonorably and declares that samurai are to follow their principles, his words attract the attention of a girl suspended in another dimension (or something), who enters into the world, descends naked from the sky into Yagyuu’s arms, and kisses him straight on the lips. Massive amount of light explodes from them both. Thus ends the episode.

If ninjas are cool, and maids are cool, then ninja maids must be really cool. Right?

So, the plot is equal parts cliche and non sequitur—scant comfort there. What keeps me from dismissing the show entirely is the lovely and unique art style. While what little action sequences we see in this episode are clean and proficient, it’s the normal scenes where the static and stylized backgrounds really stand out. This is a great looking show, and the artistic effort seems to imply a greater degree of care and craftsmanship than the lackluster story would indicate.

There’s also the fact that the male protagonist is not a weak-willed, clueless, posterboard-like character, made that way to better allow the otaku audience to identify with him. While I have no idea what his motivations are or why he took the actions he did, he is shown to be brave, skilled, and (perhaps a little too) honorable. He’s someone, in short, that ordinary people could find attractive as a lead character, which instantly places him above 96.133 (repeating) percent of all harem protagonists.

The art style not only emphasizes the drawn nature of the backgrounds, but also makes the show feel earlier in history than it is

None of this changes the fact that the show is comprised almost entirely of scantily-clad teenage girls whose body types, outfits, and personalities are all made entirely to appeal to the various perversions of the anticipated audience. It’s not a coincidence that Yagyuu’s first introduction to three of the four girls he meets this episode has the ladies in the nude; it’s also not a coincidence that a fifth, whom he has yet to meet, appears to be a childhood friend. Even with the action elements and the decent excuse for a hero, this show hits all the boxes on the classic  “harem” cliche checklist.

Well-drawn shows with tolerable protagonists don’t guarantee the end result will fall on the acceptable side of the line: Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou is this show with more plot and worse art, and it wound up being far more trashy and pointless than would justify the time spent watching it. Samurai Girls is already sending some clear signals that it won’t settle for mundane forms of fanservice, so the path of this show’s fall is easy to predict.

Fortunately, this scene is cut mercifully short. I doubt we can count on such discretion in the future

Of course, my co-blogger actually liked Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, so for those of you capable of tolerating such things, maybe this show will be just good enough to justify watching. It won’t find a home in my viewing schedule, however, and for anyone who insists on having female characters portrayed as more than sex objects, Samurai Girls is a show to keep far clear of.

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