It’s been a full six years since the first season of Ikki Tousen arrived in the UK, and now the second season’s here to graces us with its violent and revealing charms. Which may be enough to make some people run for cover…
What They Say:
The “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” continues on in modern Japan, as the rival high schools involved in the retelling of the epic saga struggle to achieve dominance. The focus begins to shift to other high schools and the interaction of their frontrunners. In the backdrop, the dragons of the remaining two great leaders are awakening, leading to growing mayhem. As ancient artifacts are acquired and events unfold, the battles keep raging on with enough intensity to rend flesh and clothing.
Of course, this being Ikki Tousen, the emphasis is not so much on the plot as on the gratuitous sex and violence in what has to be the most outrageous, provocative, bruising, bone-crunching and underwear-flashing, fighting anime series ever. For the unbelievably well endowed female heroines of the series staying alive is merely a secondary concern to trying to keep their clothes intact during the numerous garment-shredding action sequences!
Audio comes in English and Japanese 2.0 versions. I listened to the Japanese track for this review, and it’s a fairly competent stereo mix. Fight scenes give it a decent workout, dialogue is clean & clear, and there are no obvious encoding issues.
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show likes its bright colours, despite the sometimes quite dark subject matter, but backgrounds and animation tend to be quite simple. This is not a show that’s had money lavished on it, but that also means that here’s not a lot in the way of detail for the encoding to trip up on, with nothing visible in the way of encoding issues.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Static menus are once again the order of the day, which always pleases me. A different character features on each of the three discs in the set – Kan’u and Ryuubi on disc 1, Ryoumou and Koumei on disc 2, and Hakufu on disc 3. Options are provided for Play All, Setup, Scenes and Extras, and with no transition animations it’s all quick and painless to use.
There’s a decent selection of extras split across the three discs, although the BBFC’s scissors have unfortunately been applied to one of them, as the first of the six ‘OVA’ shorts (2 on each disc) has been pretty much eliminated by mandatory cuts. In addition to these, disc 1 has creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences, a line art gallery and a 2:20 promotional clip for the series; while disc 2 has a collection of TV spots.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Ikki Tousen is easily done in a sentence or two: in the schools of the Kanto region of Japan, the top fighters are all reincarnations of the great fighters of Japan’s past who, hundreds of years on from their first encounters, as still battling for supremacy. In the first season, Nanyo Academy’s Hakufu Sonsaku rose to the top of the pile and, helped by the power of the dragon that sleeps inside her, toppled the then-leader of the fighters. Now, driven by a desire to help Hakufu control the dragon within her, Ryoumou has obtained the Dragon Crystal. But there are two other fighters who have dragons sleeping within them: the mild-mannered leader of Seito High School’s fighter, Gentoku Ryuubi; and the bloodthirsty leader of Kyousho Academy, Moutoku Sousou. And with the Dragon Crystal having the power to amplify a dragon’s power as well as control it, it’s not long before Ryoumou’s discovery becomes the focus for a new and bloody round of fighting…
With the first season having killed off most of its characters in the course of its battles, we get introduced to a whole new slew of them this time around. While Hakufu and the boys & girls from Nanyo will be familiar, the other two main schools are new to the show’s focus, and we helpfully get name-checks with the introduction of each new character – and there are a lot of them. Koihime+Muso has fewer characters to deal with, and that’s the previous winner in the “oh my god there are too many characters in this series” stakes. (Coincidentally, they’re both base on the same historical root, but you’ll find a lot of names cropping up in both shows.)
There are two main selling points to Ikki Tousen: the violence, which is brutal and bloody; and the fanservice, which is in-your-face and occasionally crosses the line into tasteless. In particular, there are too many scenes where we get close-ups of the girls wetting themselves, and that’s territory I could frankly do without going anywhere near. Away from that, though, if you take the show purely on the merits of the battles it shows, it’s not really that bad – I wouldn’t call it a classic, by any means, but there is some fun to be had with the characters and their battles – each fighter has their own particular styles and techniques, which helps keep things fres, and with the series only running 12 episodes it’s rare for a fight scene to last more than a few minutes. Sharp and to the point, often with sharp and pointy implements.
On the other hand, the best of the recurring characters were either killed off last season (Ryofu) or get criminally sidelined this time around (most notably Hafuku’s mother, Goei, who even comments on this in-show; while Hakufu herself doesn’t even appear until mid-season). There are one or two new characters introduced which show the promised of being equally good / twisted – gothic lolita archer Ten’i being a prime example – but they without fail make brief appearances and then disappear again. The ones that do get significant screentime are all the ones that have the least interesting personalities – and it’s the interesting personalities that you need to see to give fighting shows some sort of appeal beyond the core fight fans.
Ikki Tousen is clearly doing something right, as they keep making more of it. A testament to the lure of over-the-top fanservice, perhaps, although as mentioned Dragon Destiny doesn’t even manage to her that quite right. It does what it does well enough, but with the personalities not being as good as the first season’s, it’s missing that little extra bit of appeal that for me made the first season enjoyable. This time around, the characters have little about them to make you care what they’re doing or whether they’ll still be around next episode, and that’s not a good thing.
It’s clearly playing to a particular niche audience, who will (and do) love what it’s doing, but it’s got very limited appeal outside that niche. Only recommended for those who know what they’re letting themselves in for.
Japanese Langauge 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, OVA episodes, creditless opening and closing sequences, TV spots, line art gallery, promotional video.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Release Date: November 7thm 2011
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/p MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.