Project Haruhi
8Apr/1117

First Impressions – Battle Girls: Time Paradox

These boobs be mad historical.

I've noticed recently that quite a few anime critics, myself included, have been using the term "generic" as if it's some sort of foul sacrilege. We seem to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything that contains tropes we perceive to be common or overused. But that's not really fair, is it? After all, trope by themselves are not bad. Even if a show uses the most well-worn cliches in existence, it can still be entertaining if they are properly executed.

Take, for example, Battle Girls, also known as Sengoku Otome. The plot is a mishmash of elements gleaned from InuYasha, Sailor Moon and Samurai Girls, but still manages to be engaging. The characters are archetypes we've seen a dozen times, but they're forceful enough to be memorable. The animation is limited and cuts corners, but still delivers where it counts. This show is profusely derivative, containing absolutely nothing original. But despite this ostensible shortcoming, a whole lot of fun to watch.

The story revolves around Toyoomi Hideyoshino, who (thanks to her unusual name) is called Hideyoshi by her classmates. She's a recidivist slacker who prefers to spend her time reading celebrity blogs and texting, despite her plummeting grades. After a particularly stern lecture from her teacher, she decides to stop by a shrine in the hope that divine intervention will help her next test score. She happens upon a strange shadowy woman casting a magical circle in the shrine, and clumsily interferes causing the spell to go haywire. The resultant magical discharge knocks her cold, and she awakens in the fedual era near a town in flames. To her disbelief, Hideyoshi is saved by two Sengoku-era war generals, Nobunaga Oda and Mitsuhide Akechi... except, for some reason, these famous historical figures have been transformed into busty women with magical powers.

More after the break.

I-It's not like I'm conquering Japan because I want to or anything...

What I Liked

Beyond the Boobs: Okay, so the premise of this show is basically "famous Sengoku warriors as sexy women." Sounds a lot like Samurai Girls, doesn't it? The difference is, Battle Girls actually keeps its fanservice rather restrained and makes up for it with forceful and memorable characters. Nobunaga easily steals the show with her commanding presence, helped along by a great performance by perrenial badass voice actress Megumi Toyoguchi (who also played Revy, Klan Klan and Winry.) The protagonist Hideyoshi also makes a good impression, due in no small part to her stark similarity to Usagi from Sailor Moon. Although I found her clueless persona endearing, I admit it can be a polarizing character type. If you thought Usagi was grating, then Hideyoshi will probably get on your nerves as well.

The character designs are also fantastic. Once again, Nobunaga was the highlight... both comely and commanding, a warrior who can kick your ass in ten seconds flat while you're busy drooling over her boobs. Mitsuhide's design, on the other hand, evokes the aura of a disdainful yet intelligent and reliable advisor. Even Hideyoshi's familiar dumpling style mini-twintails add to her sense of innocence. Judging by the OP, the other character designs are similarly distinctive and memorable, which goes a long way towards establishing their personalities before they've even said a word. With most other shows these days content to resort to bog-standard and utterly forgettable character designs, it's nice to see a show that does something different.

These memorable characters go a long way towards breathing life into the admittedly cliche plot. Take, for example, the early episodes of Lucky Star. They were rife with bad pacing, boring conversations and terrible comedic timing. Despite these flaws, they managed to leave a positive impression because of Kagami and Konata, a dynamic duo whose chemistry managed to rise above the mundane material they were given. In a similar fashion, Battle Girls' likeable characters drive the show forward, making it much greater than the sum of its parts.

Definitely not a campfire.

Simple, Yet Serious: It's hard to stop comparing Battle Girls to Sailor Moon as it really feels like a classic 90s show. The story is told in a straightforward and convincing fashion. The characters are clearly defined and well established. The animation, although limited, offers spectacular set pieces that conjure a vivid historical atmosphere. Even the directing is firmly grounded in basic principals, using a variety of simple yet effective camera movements and shots. Everything about this episode felt very down-to-earth, almost retro... like watching an old episode of InuYasha on Adult Swim.

Thematic complexity and extravagant filmmaking are nice, but I much prefer shows that stick to the basics of storytelling with a good, old-fashioned tale of heroes, villians and magical swordfights. Perhaps it's that comic strip simplicity that I find so appealing about this show. It may be a silly conceit on my part, but I can't help enjoying it nonetheless.

What I Hated

Battle Scene Blues: There's only one brief fight scene in the whole episode, where Nobunaga shows up to splatter some mooks and establish her badassery. Strangely, during this scene the camera started gyrating about wildly. It seemed as if the directer wanted to add some fancy fly-by shots to Nobunaga's magical swordplay, but the end result was just confused and chaotic. This is especially odd considering how well-staged every other scene was. I can only hope that this pitfall can be avoided in future episodes when the action is more substantial.

Develop, Develop, Develop! I mentioned earlier that Hideyoshi has a rather polarizing character type. Although this kind of cutesy/clumsy girl can be endearing at first, she also runs the risk of getting stuck in a moe rut and becoming entirely extraneous. This episode seemed to portray Hideyoshi's extreme self-absorption and obsession with modern conveniences as a character flaw, which means she's going to need some serious development in the upcoming episodes. If the writers fail to do this, however, she'll wind up as a Yui Hirasawa expy, and become much more annoying even to those of us who like that archetype. That was one of Samurai Girls' major problems, and I hope Battle Girls can avoid the same pitfall.

Overall Impressions

This isn't a show for everyone. Those who don't like simple, slick stories or clumsy moe characters will likely find Battle Girls a tad too bitter for their tastes. On the other hand, if you enjoy a straightforward swords and sorcery fantasy adventure with moderate fanservice, you won't be disappointed. A lot depends on how they develop the story and characters from here on out, but the first episode certainly lays a solid foundation.

Rating

About Jon

Jon is a Japanese culture enthusiast, professional pervert and roleplaying fanatic who appreciates flexible gender identities. He enjoys science fiction, Gunpla, classical music and Red Stripe.

  • Anonymous

    This season has surprised me a fair bit so far, I was expecting this to be another samurai girls but it certainly didn’t turn out that way, I hope it gets a bit more interesting in the future and of course I hope for more battle scenes. Another show that surprised me was Tiger&Bunny which was much more entertaining than I thought it would be but then again I’m big on super heroes so I might be a tad biased.

  • Ryu

    Jesus christ it’s fine to have an attractive character design but this is ridiculous. Is it really that hard to give the ladies some equivalency in clothing to the guys? Like protective armour or you know, pants which dudes wear and no one bats an eyelid. It’s getting really god damn annoying!

    • Jon

      Sure, and while we’re at it all the guys in Star Driver can start wearing normal clothes too, instead of those garish kaleidoscopic outfits!

      Oh, wait. That would defeat the entire purpose of having such ludicrous clothes in the first place. Silly me.

    • Ryu

      Uh no that’s different duder, I’m fine with ridiculous outfits, not a third of one!

    • Jon

      Oh, I see. Ridiculous outfits are fine only when they cater to your tastes. If not, they’re annoying and stupid!

    • Ryu

      Uh… it’s literally a chain mail bikini which is p lazy to be honest. But then again they are looking for the rest of her outfit so maybe she’ll be rocking that sweet red suit at the end which would be awesome.

    • Gotta agree with Ryu on this. It is kinda lazy. I mean if they were going for ridiculousness, they have to top Queens Blade which had extremely impractical armor that always broke, slime arms that covered breasts (not to mention the acid milk), a live snake for a thong, and a knife cod piece, just to name a few.

    • Jon

      Actually, I’m very glad this show is NOT like Sengoku Basara. The over-the-top manly GAR style of storytelling just doesn’t appeal to me, and I find this show’s more subdued approach refreshing. It’s trying to find it’s own voice instead of being simply a rehash of Basara with boobs.

      Also, chainmail bikinis are awesome and you know it.

    • My problem with Queens Blade was the first episode was ridiculous with acidic breast milk and such, and then none of the other episodes really live up to that level of ridiculousness.

    • Ryu

      Its name is Sengoku Otome, it’s pretty obvious what it is trying to be.

      Also chainmail bikinis are pretty overdone and lazy, gimme the kickin rad suit of armour you showed me not ten minutes ago over that awful outfit any day.

    • Narcogen

      Equivalency to what guys? After Hideyoshi travels back in time, I don’t think there are guys anymore. Even the henchmen are actually henchwomen, and by Episode 4 there are some of them wearing much less revealing outfits.

      I think the only male cast member is the dog, and he’s naked except for a helmet. Isn’t that equivalent enough?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t mind the outfits, really. They wouldn’t protect very well, but meh, it’s Japan. What really bothers me is how slow the MC is about what era she’s in.

    • Ryu

      Don’t forget that she must tell us the audience this lest their be any doubt in our minds that, yes this is indeed quite a predicament she is in fact, in.

  • Project Haruhi, were we discuss the the finer points of women in scantly clad clothing.

  • Did Hideyoshi really go to the lavatory twice in one evening? I mean, just before and right after meeting Nobunaga in her chamber?
    As for the battle suits, if men used to wear just undies and a cape if they felt like it in the battlefield, then women who wear breast plates is at least feasible in a fantasy setting.

  • Geysid

    I gotta admit I was watching Date-sensei,along with Hidyoshi, more since apparently Date was the one who brought Hidyoshi to the different timezone/world. But it seems as though Date is trying to turn Mistuhide against her. 

    • Geysid

      *against Hidyoshi