An alternate timeline story setting in high school where the Tokugawa Shogunate retains power? Count us in.
What They Say
In an alternate 21st century, the ancient Tokugawa Shogunate is at the seat of power. High School Student Councils act as enforcement squads, terrorizing the student body at every turn. One student reaches his boiling point, and with the help of a group of girls named after samurai heroes of the past, he opposes his student council. Join the fight this Fall as a group of sexy, sword wielding Samurai girls slice, cut, and slash their way through anyone who dare oppose them!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Alternate timeline stories can almost always be fun since they take the familiar and play with it. Often with these kinds of shows in the anime realm, it's more a focus on the past and events there in another setting, such as feudal Japan with monsters or something in World War II where aliens invade and the like. Samurai Girls wants to play it differently by bringing us more into the present, the 21st century in fact, where the Tokugawa Shogunate did not fall and is still very much in power. High school life is very different in this kind of world, though there's a lot of familiar where it's got an interesting mix of steam engines and digital cameras along with a lot of very distinct architecture carried from the past.
Samurai Girls takes us to the Buou Academic high school in which there are several women who all have names that are certainly familiar to people of history. The central focus is on a young man who goes nameless for quite a lot of it as he's been invited there by the student council to take over the dojo and get things rolling there again. In the time that the dojo has been masterless though, others have moved in and are planning their own rise to power as they're frustrated by the way their world is run and controlled by the Tokugawa. Which is amusing as the school is funded and created by the Tokugawa Shogunate for the express purpose of bringing out people that are molded to their needs.
Much of the episode plays out as a move towards a first kiss that we see early on so it's a semi-flashback as we get a feel for the school and introduce several of the girls alongside the nameless young man who has a greater role in things. It's a nicely done episode in that it shows off the cast, provides a good bit of action and establishes some of the setting without revealing a whole lot. There's enough of a mystery here to the nature of the world that that alone would intrigue me, and it has the potential to explore it better than some other recent alternate timeline series like Strike Witches did. It's also really interesting in that the lead character is not a simpering wimp in front of all these women but rather someone confident and capable himself who stands up against them when they attempt to pile on him verbally and physically. The clarity of the story at large may not be truly realized at this point, but with the mixture of the past and the present played with here, it's certainly intriguing.
Owing to the alternate reality, Samurai Girls works with a different kind of visual look that's really quite neat. It's much heavier on the line work to give it definition while also using a soft color palette for a lot of it that gives it a very naturalistic flow. There are some vibrant moments throughout the show, but a lot of it has a feeling that evokes something old yet has a slick appeal to it. A lot of that appeal also comes through the mixture of architecture in which we get a very classic feel blended with the present. The in-harmony aspect of the society allows it to blend the two in a way that works nicely. Where the show is a bit off is in the amount of fanservice as they use black splotches to cover up the nudity or shots they don't want to show. It's comical at first, but it can wear thin after awhile and you have to hope that the home video version is clean of that.
Samurai Girls is saddled with a very unfortunate name that will play against its potential fans. There's certainly samurai girls here, there's a good deal of fanservice and some comedy, but it looks to play a far more interesting game because of the animation style and the way the lead isn't an utter wimp. The alternate timeline story adds a whole lot of allure to it that could give this a real draw and set it apart, but a lot of that comes from the visual design of it. Blending past and present can work well, though we've also seen series where it's gone horribly wrong. So far this one has me really interested in seeing what it's true goals are as the first episode only scratches the surface a bit with the political side as the focus is on the character introductions, some action and a solid helping of fanservice.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.