In my apparent anime ignorance, I was quite unaware of the fact that there was an unofficial genre devoted entirely to the idea of sexual tension through use of panty shots and an endless succession of near-nude scenes. Enter Ikki Tousen from Funimation, my first foray into this category of animation (yes, I hear Shuffle is the undisputed top dog of the group).
Coming in at a total runtime of 325 minutes, Ikki Tousen consists of 13 episodes stretched out across two discs (which Funimation packages in a standard sized DVD case). The show wears a very appropriate TV MA (17+) rating due to its language, onscreen violence and aforementioned underwear obsession.
Language options are typical dub and sub goodness: English and original Japanese dialog tracks (stereo) and English subtitles should the mood strike.
If one were to judge this program entirely on advertising promos and trailer clips, it would appear a mindless hormone-induced romp with more panties on display than the latest Victoria Secret catalog and enough jiggling breasts to cause a rush on the nation's supply of Jello.
Fortunately the reality is that this simply isn't the case. In fact the story presented, though a bit zany at times, does serve as more than just a catalyst to string together the various upskirt camera angles and endless slap-fests. The core of the story is actually a pretty clever rivalry among Asian area high schools whereby any individual in possession of a "sacred bead" (a little jewel that is in fact the essence of an ancient warrior), may at any time engage in combat with other such "Fighters". I apologize for the abundance of quotations; these are their words, not mine. What it all boils down to is brawl after brawl involving both sexes, occasional weapons, and very, very short skirts.
I don't pretend to be a member of the fashion police but considering that the female combatants involved show a particular love for throwing high kicks, maybe shorts under the skirt or better yet a pair of bloomers would be the way to go? But then I suppose sales of this collection based entirely upon the raging hormones of teenagers around the globe would immediately suffer so disregard that idea.
Without giving too much away (as is my custom in these reviews), let's just say that the whole "spirits of warriors past" plays a far more pivotal role to the juvenile brawls as the story progresses. In a true display of poetic irony, the lead character, a ditsy yet perfectly sculpted teenage girl named Hakufu, is actually battling for control of her body with a force that is pretty much an ancient badass incarnate. When she loses her grip on this struggle (usually during, you guessed it- a fight), her attacks become particularly savage and all memory of the events is lost on her once she's back in the proverbial driver's seat. Unfortunately all of this internal struggling seems to have wrecked havoc on her ability to think clearly (although her grades don't seem to suffer too badly come to think of it).
The show balances her home life, where she stays with her male classmate and cousin (another Fighter I should add) and the altercations that follow them in the school yard, on the streets, in dark alleys, and just about anywhere else they go.
The art is pretty darn spectacular with a very "Moe" style to it both in terms of the character models and background detail. It is fairly reminiscent of the type of texturing and wide-glassy eyed innocence of shows like Air and Kanon. In fact, come to think it, the story is actually pretty similarly structured to said entries. If not for the abundance of action sequences and tight underpants, this could pretty easily be passed off as Moe drama. As it stands, however, rather than tugging at one's heartstrings, Ikki Tousen prefers to tug at the strings of fabric that modern society classifies as the line between being clothed and indecent exposure.
The show's pacing is pretty consistent if even a bit formulaic in its presentation. Very little time is spent worrying the viewer about back-story or deep character relationships. Instead the focus here is on the fighting with just enough details presented at a time to fill in the obvious blanks. Take comfort in knowing that there is a grander tale being slowly developed amidst the seemingly random events occurring throughout the show (especially early on).
In all this is but another series that Funimation is reintroducing to the masses that would likely have faded into oblivion along with the Geneon brand (that released it originally). The action and sexual tension will be enough to keep short-attention spanned teens enthralled while the semi unique story line assures the interest of those not obsessed with the curves of the female form in their animation needs. In closing Ikki Tousen displays some pretty decent action and presents a very strong case for the fact that it's a good thing triple bean burritos aren't very popular in Japan.
What did you think of this review?