Samurai Harem Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:John Zakrzewski
Review Date: Friday, March 12, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A breast buffet, with some silly martial-arts nonsense on the side.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Yu Minamoto
Translation: Adrienne
Adaptation: Beck Hope Donovan

What They Say
Yoichi decides to leave his family's mountainside home after his father tells him there is nothing more he can learn in martial arts there. The teenaged boy ends up in a martial arts dojo in the city with four hot, busty girls.

The Review!

Technical
TOKYOPOP released Volume 1 of Samurai Harem: Asu no Yoichi during that unfortunate period when their manga was printed on horrendously cheap paper.  For the stiff price of US $12.99, one gets a product feeling much like a copy of TV Guide, with pages so thin they'll crumple or rip, if not mindful.
 
Awful production and TOKYOPOP's ubiquitous branding aside, a decent job was done replicating the Japanese edition by featuring the same front and back artwork.  Also, considering this book hit stores back in 2009, it's nice that the previously awkward front-cover marketing copy, "Inspiration for the hot anime," now makes more sense, since Sentai Filmworks has recently licensed the show for the US. 
 
Content
Samurai Harem: Asu no Yoichi is a series about breasts, and panty shots, and high school girls with Playboy bunny bodies, whose sex appeal is a million times more important than anything they say or do.  It's a manga full of simple character archetypes that rarely, if ever, rise above their base tendencies.  At best, the book is food for the insatiable appetites of fans that gorge upon shallow depictions of submissive fantasy women-and on this front, it succeeds quite admirably.
 
Amidst nubile femmes and fetishistic school outfits is the story of a samurai youth named Yoichi.  The whole of this lad's short life has been spent as a recluse in the mountains of Japan, constantly training to perfect his warrior skills.  Now, under his father's direction, Yoichi has left his rustic homestead to live in the city with the Ikaruga sisters, a family which like himself are practitioners of the Kamikaze style of swordsmanship.
 
With their parents currently overseas, the three Ikaruga teenagers, Ibuki, Ayame, and Chihaya, along with their little sister, Kagome, live alone in their family's compound that also serves as a martial arts dojo.  The impossibly buxom, and at times excessively violent, Ibuki is oldest of the four; being the only child to have continued her sword training, she maintains the dojo as the acting instructor of a small kendo school.  Second oldest is Ayame, a seemingly average adolescent and delectably flat-chested tsundere.  Next in line is the calm and also well-proportioned Chihaya; she happens to be a professional manga artist, as well.  Shy grade-schooler Kagome completes the familial harem and adds the requisite loli factor.
 
Having experienced nothing of the world beyond his Podunk mountain home, Yoichi is of course incapable of functioning normally in modern society.  His personality mixes an overly polite demeanor with general ignorance, both of which function to conveniently setup his rarely amusing antics; although, this bushi boy's bumbling ways are mainly here to provide the manga's bread and butter: showing the Ikaruga sisters and other members of the fairer sex alluringly posed and in various states of undress.   Not that the doltish samurai is an unlikable fellow; he's vanilla, at the very least.  But other than filling the role of a knight in shining arm, Yoichi's primary charge is to unwittingly grope his way through the manga's female cast. 
 
When it comes to pinup beauties, while the character designs aren't breaking any new ground, manga-ka Yu Minamoto's artistic chops more than get the job done.  Each of the girls is attractive and impeccably-if often unrealistically-rendered, with killer proportions and cute faces.  Noteworthy are Minamoto's fashion choices, which (besides the gratuitous underwear shots) are pretty sexy.  The school outfits clearly received special care, with their body-hugging fit and highlighted chest area; certainly not the average academic attire, these duds are more reminiscent of uniforms one might find in a Japanese eroge (adult video game).  
 
Summary
This first volume of Asu no Yoichi churns at a whirlwind pace, wasting no time in establishing the bulk of the main characters and story premise.  Once the basics are summarily polished off, Yoichi goes to school, fondles girls, and occasionally lets loose with his blade.  The manga is one big ball of clichés and stereotypes, wrapped in a decent presentation that would be better served if geared towards older audiences.  Instead, Asu no Yoichi is all steam-covered tease, rather than full frontal.


Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: F
Text/Translation Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 12.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1427816160
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Samurai Harem