Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Sentai Filmworks
- MSRP: 49.98
- Running time: 300
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Samurai Harem: Asu No Yoichi
Samurai Harem: Asu No Yoichi Complete Collection
Samurai Harem: Asu No Yoichi Complete Collection DVD Review
By Chris Beveridge
April 28, 2010
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Samurai Harem: Asu No Yoichi Complete Collection
© Sentai Filmworks
When a samurai from the mountains comes down to the big city to train, he gets quite the education when he moves in with four sisters.
What They Say
His Skill with a Sword is Magnificent but - His SOCIAL Skills Still Need a LOT of Work! After many long years perfecting the art of fighting, 17 year old Yoichi Karasuma is sent down from the remote mountains where he has been raised thinking that he's going to study some new martial arts techniques' but what he's really going to learn about are some slightly more practical things, like electrical appliances, modern clothing and, most especially, how NOT to make girls to want to kill you! Unfortunately, that last lesson is one Yoichi may not survive, as his new Dojo is infested with the infernal creatures in the form of the Ikaruga sisters, and they don't really seem to understand how 'proper' girls are 'supposed' to behave! Will Yoichi's bushido blade be struck down by the fearsome charms of Ibuki, Ayame, Chihaya and Kagome? Or will the equally lethal girls from the rival Tsubame School be his undoing?
Samurai Harem has the standard soundtrack that Sentai uses on all of its stereo shows with a good encode at 224kbps for the single Japanese language track on it. The series has a rather straightforward approach with its audio design across the forward soundstage as it works either with a full feeling during the big action sequences or center channel based when it comes to the dialogue. The show has a good mix of both as it plays along and both sides of it come across pretty well, though it doesn't really stand out in any distinct way. This is the kind of soundtrack that's good and solid while being fairly unnoticeable. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show runs for twelve episodes and is split evenly across the two discs that are included. The show is an interesting mix as at times it feels like it's on a bit of a budget with how it's viewed because there's a fair amount of gradients visible throughout and you don't see those on many shows anymore. On the flip side, the animation itself is generally quite good with a fair bit of fluidity during the big scenes and lots of bright, vibrant colors. Detail is well handled, though it's not heavy on detail to begin with, and the overall look and feel of the show is that of a clean and appealing work. Outside of the visible gradients and background noise in several scenes that's hardly distracting at all, it's a decent looking transfer that captures the overall look and feel of the series.
With a name like Samurai Harem, you know what they have to do for the cover artwork and they don't disappoint. The front cover uses a lot of white space, which is a touch awkward with all of them wearing white in their outfits, but it's well played against by having the red there as well that they all have on. The core cast of characters are all together with the wind whipping around their heads as Yoichi is flung off into the background. The logo is decent though the choice of orange, which is also used for the banner below, is an interesting choice but it does seem to work well in drawing the eye. The back cover runs with the angled look for the text and the couple of strips of color there, including the small shots from the show that are included. The orange again works fairly well, though it clashes with Chihaya's green hair. Her general character piece here looks really awkward with a pose that doesn't work and an expression that feels very out of character. The main shots from the show are decent enough for their size and the summary covers the premise of the series rather well. The rest of the cover has the usual items with the technical grid and the production credits from Japan and the US. There is no reverse side cover artwork for this release nor are there any show related inserts included.
The menus for the release mirror the overall design of the package as we get a pair of main menus that have a fair bit of white space that uses orange for some of its design to tie it together with the navigation itself. The two menus feature different groupings of the characters using the same kind of look and detail that we get from the front cover but with a more vibrant look, particularly with the whites themselves. The episode numbers are lined through the middle going up to the artwork making individual episode selection a breeze while the only other thing listed are the special features, which on the first disc is just the credits and trailers as there are no real special features here. Submenus load quickly and without problem while access time overall is nice and smooth. Due to it being a monolingual release, there are no language selection options and it defaults to the subtitles being on.
The only extras included on this release are on the second volume with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga called Asu no Yoichi created by Yu Minamoto that's being released by TOKYOPOP in the US. The manga is still ongoing as of this writing with over eleven volumes worth of material, but it's not that much of an impact on a show like this. The whole point of series like this isn't that it has a story per se, but rather a series of situations that happen with a bit of an overall story hook to tie it together if you want. Some shows can work rather well as an episodic piece and Samurai Harem is definitely one of them. The larger storyline that plays into this set isn't bad but we certainly could have done without it and had just as much if not more fun. As it stands, what we do get serves as a decent first chapter kind of set of episodes.
The series revolves around the teenaged lead named Yoichi Karasuma who lives in the mountains with his father. He's been training his whole life up there to be a samurai and has a very old school style to him, from his personality and nature to his speech patterns. He's become quite the samurai through all of the dedication he puts into it and that's led him to being far, far better than his father who can't handle coming up with the things he has to train against. So, in order to ease things on himself a bit since he can't admit to his son that he's better than him, Yoichi's father sets it up for him to travel down from the mountains and to live in the big modern city of today.
When he heads to the city, he's going to live with the Ikaruga family who his father has known for some time. That family has its own dojo,though it's not one that's doing fantastically well. The main reason for that is that the parents of the Ikaruga family have gone off training themselves and have left their four kids there. The dojo and the household overall is being managed by the eldest child, Ibuki, as she plays the role of parent, student at school and instructor within the dojo. In addition to her, there's the second sister Ayame who is a year younger and is quite shy and really concerned about how she's not developing anywhere near the same as Ibuki and that keeps her from participating in a lot of things. A year younger than her, in junior high, is Chihaya, the artsy type who is actually a manga artist that's published and draws in some funds that way. She's the one with the sarcasm and tease to her voice and manners that throws off Yoichi regularly. Rounding out the family is Kagome, the elementary school student who serves as the Sasami of the series with her household and cooking chores as well as being the most earnest and honest of them all.
Samurai Harem is at its heart a straightforward situational comedy. Yoichi's arrival is the setup that we expect as he doesn't know how to handle the real world in the slightest and it leads him to getting into all kinds of trouble with people and the police. But we also see that he's very much the true noble, polite and kind person that thinks of others. That helps to balance things out for him in the long run. What causes him the most trouble is that he's so pure and innocent that much of what he sees of the modern world with women really throws him off. He can't help but to get nosebleeds regularly and ends up making passes at the sisters without realizing it. When he starts recognizing people by the size of their chests, well, it's obvious that Ibuki will be smacking him hard with her wooden sword.
While the core family is just that, there are other characters that come in as well. Almost at the start, Yoichi ends up in a fight with a local ruffian named Washizu, better known as Wassan. He's the local area badass and takes a dislike to Yoichi from the start, especially since Yoichi whips him easily. What makes it worse is that he learns that Yoichi is now living with Ibuki and is really close with her. Wassan is very interested in her and sees him as pure competition and tries to take him out, though he just ends up becoming a student at the dojo instead and forming and interesting bond between the two of them. Another semi-regular that arrives is Tsubasa, a young woman who comes to challenge Yoichi but instead becomes friends with everyone along with her compatriot from her martial arts school named Angelica. Tsubasa is amusing in that she goes at her martial arts with full skill only when pushed beyond the bounds of embarrassment, which is why she's forced to wear a bondage outfit under her regular clothes.
While a lot of the show focuses on Yoichi's awkard adventures in the real world or the various character configurations, there is a background storyline that comes into play in the final few episodes. Throughout a lot of it we see a pair of mysterious shadowed characters, a brother and sister, who are trying to destroy Yoichi by using various martial artists to accomplish the goal. They're invariably defeated, or they become friends with Yoichi, so the two have to get involved themselves which sets up the finale for the series. It's fairly straightforward stuff and nowhere near a surprise in a harem show but I liked how it was fairly well kept to the background through much of the show, outside of the occasional martial artists the actively attacked Yoichi, though even some of those were pretty mild.
The relationship side of the show is admittedly the most fun for me because it can go in a number of directions. Yoichi is fairly oblivious but it's obviosu that he likes Ibuki and that Ibuki likes him. We know that Wassan likes Ibuki and that's made complicated by the fact that Tsubasa really likes him a lot. It gets more amusing when we see that Ayame and Wassan would make for a good match as both of them are similar in a lot of ways but their personalities are focused on other things at the moment. Wassan is obvious and Ayame is just distressed that she's nowhere near as attractive as her sister in her eyes, which is obviously silly. Thankfully, Kagome and Chihaya are kept out of the equation for the most part so it's not like all four sisters are hot for Yoichi, though Chihaya does have a good spot of fun with him at one point.
Samurai Harem is the kind of show that is fairly predictable from the title alone and in a way it doesn't really do anything that sets itself apart. We've got the requisite girls of varying archetypes, we've got the clueless guy (who thankfully isn't a simpering wuss) and we've got a lot of misunderstandings and action scenes to help tie it all together. Yet in watching it, I continually found myself smiling and enjoying it. The execution is solid and I liked that they kept the girls interested in Yoichi to just a couple really, and if you really look at it, it's just one girl interested in him. There's certainly a harem of girls here, but it's more balanced than I expected. Samurai Harem is just a lot of fun and is well contained in these twelve episodes. I wouldn't mind more in the slightest, but if the show was twice as long it'd probably force more larger story elements into it and it would be unbalanced by it. This is good not so clean fun with amusing and fun fanservice, action and characters.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.