Master of Martial Hearts Complete Set (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, July 22, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When these women compete in hand to hand combat, they execute punches that literally cause their opponents bras to fly off. Woosh.

What They Say
Aya Iseshima's carefree existence takes a bone-crushingly violent turn when she wanders into the midst of a sadistic, girl-on-girl martial arts tournament. Her freshly pressed school uniform doesn't stand a chance of surviving this pugilistic peep show, but Aya's out to prove that she can take a pounding just as well as the other knock-outs in this clandestine competition.

If she manages to survive a series of fabric-shredding fights with titillating teachers, sultry stewardesses, and mesmerizing maidens of the moe variety, Aya's every wish will be granted by a mysterious jewel known as the Platonic Heart. But if she goes down for the count, she'll join the growing ranks of brutally bruised yet resiliently buxom beauties that are never heard from again!

Contains episodes 1-5.

The Review!
Audio:
FUNimation's release of the Master of Martial Hearts has a pretty decent if predictable audio mix with the Japanese track in its original stereo (though some solicitations list it as 5.1) encoded at 192kbps while the English mix gets the 5.1 mix at 448kbps. The Japanese track has no real surprises about it while the English mix adds a bit more impact and oomph to it with the fights but not all that much beyond that. Both tracks work well and are without issue, but they're both primarily forward soundstage pieces without all that much directionality and only some minimal placement as it's often just a single character on screen talking without all that much else going on outside of the fights.

Video:
Originally released from late 2008 into 2009, the transfer for this five episode OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is kept to one disc and it looks pretty good, though it's not a high end OVA in terms of animation quality so the look is rather TV quality at best. The animation is straightforward with its real world design but there's a lack of vibrancy with the color palette that's a bit surprising. Colors in general look good though there's a fair bit of noise throughout it when it comes to some of the backgrounds and colors. Cross coloration is absent though and line noise during panning sequences is rather minimal, so it has a fairly smooth look in that regard.

Packaging:
No packaging was available with this review copy.

Menu:
FUNimation has a nice stylish menu that works really well here as it uses a simple black background and a whole lot of large text to play up the fighting aspect of the series to make it sound like a series of boxing matches. There's additional text with the navigation that talks about those specific selections and it all has a nice image of Aya along the right that gives it a bit of color. I definitely liked the way they personalized it rather than just using basic artwork or a shot from the show along with standard navigation text. As expected, the show did not read our players' language presets as it defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
There's an interesting extra with this release that will delight fans of the Japanese cast. What we get is a video commentary of the first episode with several of them sitting around talking about it as the episode plays out in a smaller window. It's got a good bit of fun as the actresses talk about their experience on the show and the differences in seeing it in full rather than in the recording room. This kind of extra is rather rare so it's a welcome treat.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally called Zettai Shougeki: Platonic Heart in its original Japanese release, Master of Martial Hearts is a five episode OVA series that combines sex and violence. So right from the start we're not exactly getting something original, though it does have some snarky little moments throughout and it has a certain amount of fun with what it's doing before it decides to finish itself off with a massive info dump and then kill off most of the characters. This series is rather interesting to watch in one sitting as it has a strange sort of pacing about it, such as when it gets to the final match and does the majority of it off screen, letting the viewer pick up as it ends with the lead character on the verge of defeat.

The series takes place in the relative present day where we're introduced to the average girls of Aya and Natsume, two high school kids who are just making their way home of a normal day. Aya's a recent arrival to the area so she hasn't made many friends yet but Natsume is her best friend right off the bat. The two end up running into a really strange situation on their way home though when they see a young woman in a shinto priestess outfit battling it out with an airline stewardess who has loaded up her oversized purse with lead so she can smack the crap out of the priestess. Aya can't let this sit and she gets fairly aggressive rather quickly and manages to break up the situation before it gets much worse.

As it turns out, the two were fighting in something called the Platonic Heart event, something from twenty years ago that has started again where the winner of the competition that only women can enter end up getting their wish fulfilled. Miko's wish was to make friends, and she ends up excused from the competition early because she makes her first friends in Aya and Natsume. That causes Aya to get a mysterious invite into it and she begins her reluctant journey to fight various women who all have their own wishes they want to have fulfilled. Aya has a hard time figuring out what's going on and she doesn't want to participate, but one of the things that happens is that the losers of the matches seem to disappear, so her new friend in Miko has vanished without a trace. Her wish to bring Miko back gives her the incentive to win, though she's very reluctant to fight some of the opponents that come into play.

Master of Martial Hearts plays out in an expected way where there is a new fight in each episode, though it changes it up at the end of the fourth episode. Some surprises come into play as we see that the Platonic Heart competition may be organized by someone she knows and likes, but much of the focus is on the competitions, Aya's reluctance and dealing with the small mysteries that are cropping up. The animation for the show feels rather basic, no better than your average TV show even though it's an OVA, and the extra couple of minutes allotted to each each episode gives the pacing a slightly different feeling to it that allows it a little more space to deal with things. I also love that the snarky stuff feels right, such as eating at a place called Moe Burger and having it all about cosplay fighting to an extent. It's up front about what it wants to be, but it doesn't have the animation quality to really back it up.

Watching through the show, it's a series that you come to feel that maybe it needed more episodes to be able to flesh things out a bit more. Some twelve episode series feel too long, some OVAs need more material. Watching the Master of Martial Arts, I was in the camp that it needed more time to set up things well as I went into the fifth episode. That last episode though, it's like they performed one massive info dump and upended a lot of what the show seemed like it was going to be about. The twists make a certain amount of sense, but it's executed in a way where you feel someone wrote a fanfic with the ending in mind and then just had it all be exposition with some quick bits of 'action' to tie up the loose ends. It's all very... amateurish at best.

In Summary:
Going into this show, I didn't have high expectations but I was riding the wave of one of the best anime trailers out there that isn't just an opening sequence. The show has an awkward sense of pacing and storytelling, but it follows a fairly formulaic route for most of it. Once it hits that last episode, it really does feel like a spectacular train wreck in how it wants to finish out with its various revelations and idea of closure. The show doesn't have anything that really stands out as the fighting is alright at best, the character designs average and the sexuality of it feels rather cartoonish compared to how other shows do it. When all is said and done, you kind of just look at what you saw and you really aren't sure if there's anything to say.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Video Commentary with Japanese Voice Actresses

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: NA
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 34.99
Running time: 110
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Master of Martial Hearts