The Han Empire of China is on the verge of crumbling into civil war, as powerful warlords fight over the bones of a dying dynasty. Bandits roam the land free to plunder whomever they like. Into this maelstrom walks Kan'u Unchou, a beautiful dark-haired warrior wielding a mighty blade. I don't quite remember Guan Yu being a girl…
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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sometimes the old tales are best, and the story of the period of the Three Kingdoms, when the Han Dynasty of China came to an end and the country was temporarily divided into three independent kingdoms, Wei, Wu and Shu, each with aspirations of reuniting the country, was so dramatic that even though the events and personalities were historical, the history became embroidered with myth and legend over time. In the 14th century, a historical novel, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms was written, and became one of the classic novels of Chinese literature. A fictionalized account of the real persons and events, the story has remained so popular that derivative works continue to be made to this day. Long before Dynasty Warriors existed, I remember playing the original PC version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms by the Japanese game company Koei back in the 1980s (I think I threw the 5 1/4" floppy disk away at some point in the late 1990s).
Enough background. As we all know, the Japanese love cute things, including cute girls. So why not re-imagine the great heroes of the Three Kingdoms period as cute girls? And that is exactly what Japanese game company BaseSon did, creating an adult visual novel set during the time period, but changing all the generals of the kingdoms into cute girls.
And that's not even original. As anyone who has watched Ikki-Tousen knows, this concept has been tried before. Though this time, the characters are going to be living in the real time period they are from. Thus we have this 2008 anime version, based upon the game.
Anyway…So, we begin with a hooded figure walking through the mountains alone. We can tell that the figure is a woman, but we don't get a good look at her yet. Suddenly, she stops, sensing danger around her. Calling out to her would-be waylayers, a group of bandits appear. At this point, the woman reveals herself to be the Dark Haired Bandit Hunter, as there have been reports recently of a beautiful woman attacking and killing bandits in the area. The bandit chief is not impressed, but soon he and his men are made quick work of by the woman and her large polearm (she wields what is called a guan dao in Chinese, it's a long pole weapon with a curved blade fixed at the top). Thus we are introduced to Kan'u Unchou (the Japanese version of Guan Yu's name, for those familiar with the original novel or other derivative works. I will regularly mention the original names where they might matter).
Kan'u then makes her way to the nearest town, which seems to be plagued by another group of bandits. Except that this bandit gang is really just a group of village children, led by the orphan Rin Rin, whose parents had been killed by bandits. The local village head has finally had enough of Rin Rin's antics, and intends to send his soldiers to arrest her, but Kan'u, who had seen Rin Rin's antics earlier, volunteers to take care of the matter for them. So off she goes into the woods and mountains, first defeating the other members of the gang (they are all just mischievous children, so she mainly gives them noogies and rope burns, nothing permanently harmful). When she comes upon Rin Rin, however, she meets a worthier opponent. Rin Rin, who says that her name is Chouhi Yokutoku (Zhang Fei), is very physically strong, and Kan'u realizes that she cannot win by strength alone. They fight all day and night, until Chouhi finally breaks down and cries after Kan'u talks to her about having lost her own family to bandits long ago.
Time for a bath, obviously. Yes, we soon get a bath scene where Chouhi admires Kan'u's quite outrageously large chest (how does she fight without them getting in the way?). So, it's not all cute woman battling. It's also cute women bathing.
Retelling old stories in a new way is an old trick of entertainment. Here, we have famous historical characters, the great heroes and villains of the Three Kingdoms period of China, transformed into an all-female fighting troupe. At the moment, we've only met two of them, but the opening and ending animation promise that we will soon be meeting many, many more. In terms of historical accuracy, or even faithfulness to the fictional source material…did you really expect that this would be a good way of getting closer to either of those? (If you did, you may want to adjust your expectations). Of course, I have little doubt that most of you will not be viewing this with either in mind. You will want to see cute girls doing cute things and occasionally beating on each other with heavy weaponry. If that is what you want, based upon this first episode, this show will serve your needs very well.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Apple Mac Mini with 1GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard