Guardian Ninja Mamoru! Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

Guardian Ninja Mamoru! Complete Collection Anime DVD Review An under the radar show – for good reason.

What They Say:
Like many high school students, Kagemori Mamoru is obsessed with a girl. Unlike most students, however, the main reason that Mamoru is so focused on Konnyaku Yuna is because his family has spent the last 400 years protecting her family from every kind of threat imaginable. (This is what happens when one of your ancestors swears a binding oath and you’re a family of ninjas.) Unfortunately, Mamoru’s job is made much more difficult by the fact that Yuna is incredibly clueless and accident prone, forcing him to work around the clock keeping his oblivious childhood friend from accidentally offing herself.

And it’s made doubly more difficult given that Mamoru has to perform his protecting duties in secret, so he has to pretend to be a lot less competent and skillful than he really is when not in full ninja garb. And just to make things absolutely impossible, the complexity level gets quintupled and escalates as the school inexplicably begins to fill with girls with various ninja and magical-type skills who seem to have their eyes on Mamoru himself!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only and done in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is a pretty basic action/comedy series so there’s not a lot going on here that really stretches the mix when you get down to it. Everything has a kind of flat feeling to the design so that it doesn’t really go big in any way when it comes to the action and there isn’t even a sense of much directionality for a lot of it. A good deal of the mix reminded me of older shows designed for the center channel presentation where it would have a full feeling spreading from that. The dialogue side is about the same where there’s not much in the way of placement or design, but it does come through in a clean and clear way with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Animated by Group TAC, it’s spread evenly across two discs with six episodes per disc. The show is one that has the very basic design of a low budget 90’s show combined with some of the simplicity of a mid 2000’s digital production. The low budget feeling doesn’t help the story much and the transfer is about as you’d expect in standard definition where it does the best that it can. Colors have a basic bit of noise to them and some of the usual background greens and blues have a little more noise and mild blocking, but nothing truly serious. There’s some minor line noise in a few panning sequences but the transfer mostly captures the look of the show, which in some ways doesn’t help either. Colors are decent and there’s some good pop from time to time with what’s brought out, but it’s not a strong visual design series.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized DVD case where we get the two discs held against the interior walls. The front cover artwork is certainly pleasant enough, but it also shows the character designs and animation style at its best – which is a bit more than what the show itself looks like. With the white background with some dashes of blue, it’s appealing with the color and overall pop of it all, but it’s also a standard layout of the main cast. The logo along the top is pretty cute though with its mixed font styles and colors as well as the kunai as the exclamation point. The back cover gives us a full length shot of Yuna on the right while the left and top has a number of decent sized shots from the show available. The premise is kept simple and the breakdown of the extras is pretty straightforward. The remainder is filled out with the usual production credits and solid technical grid that lists everything accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is traditional but it’s one that’s also done in a font that makes it difficult to read easily. The half and half split gives us the character artwork on the right with different pairings for each volume, nicely done with some color, while the left goes for the episode selection navigation as its primary function. This is done on white where we get episode numbers in yellow on top of red shurikens while the text is a calligraphy style black on yellow dropdown shadow. Combined with everything else it’s just too much and kind of feels oppressive when it loads up. Functionality is fine and navigation is a breeze, but you won’t want to revisit the menu often.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series from Achi Taro, Guardian Ninja Mamoru is a twelve episode TV series that aired back in 2006 from Group TAC. The original novel series is one that ran for twelve volumes between 2003 and 2008, and supposedly there’s a sequel novel series as well. And we had a five volume manga series that at one time was licensed by DrMaster. The work is originally known as Kage Kara Mamoru, but it’s one that seems to have flown under the radar for a lot of anime fans as few heard of it when it was licensed, which means you either get a diamond in the rough or something that you wonder why it was licensed. Having had no experience with it, I certainly went into it with an open mind as I try to do all shows.

The series revolves around the primary characters of Mamoru Kagemori and Yuna Konnyaku. Mamoru looks like your typical low rent 90’s Sailor Moon background character with his design but he’s actual a highly skilled ninja from the Kagemori clan. Their mission has been one where they’ve been assigned as the protectors of the Konnyaku family, which has gone on for about 400 years so far. Mamoru has grown up with this knowledge and has kept it secret from Yuna so that he can protect her from whatever threats there may be out there. This has meant undergoing a lot of difficult training by his parents as they spent many years essentially trying to take him out in order for him to excel. Within the context of this series, there really isn’t any threat to Yuna, though a few threats surface in the course of normal life. But there’s no grand scheme to off Yuna for the most part.

Yuna, having been a childhood friend of his since kindergarten, is your basic empty character. There’s almost nothing in the show that defines her as a person with interests, likes or abilities. What she is though is a series of accidents that happens, from getting kidnapped to tripping on banana’s and all sorts of the usual ditzy stuff that has her closing her eyes and sticking her tongue out so as to skate by on life by being absolutely cute and adorable. Which really doesn’t work well in real life and really doesn’t work well in most anime series either, but even more so in this one. Thankfully, even though she is mostly a central character, she’s not one that’s a constant with what’s going on as there are other characters that populate the series.

And none of them are male either, until an antagonist appears towards the end to replace Mamoru in his job of protecting Yuna. What we get with all the other characters that populate the series are a bunch of women of a similar age that are pretty much into Mamoru, more so once they realize the truth about him. The first is Airi Sawagashi, a classmate of theirs who is the completely out of touch wealthy type. She’s intent on keeping Yuna and Mamoru separate since she’s looking out for her friend but it’s more that she’s totally into Mamoru and is in denial at times and outright angry that he doesn’t realize it other times. She’s got a lot of issues. We also get the arrival of Tsubaki, a miko swordswoman who dresses thusly, who starts off by trying to kill Mamoru and then realizes she was duped into it and ends up forming a pretty good bond with him over their abilities. Naturally, it slowly grows into something more, but she also provides the fish out of water element since she’s totally old school. We also get a younger cousin of Mamoru’s that arrives with Yamame, and there’s a kind of weird tension there, and hotaru, a ninja that’s totally smitten with Mamoru but has the weakest role of any of the characters.

With this character setup, pretty much anyone who has watched a couple of seasons of anime series can imagine exactly how it plays out. Each character gets their own introduction piece for the most part and then it weaves in and out with what must be done. The first couple of episodes deals with a local group of low rent yakuza types known as the Gokuaku gang and the only reason they stick around is because they accidentally kidnap Yuna at first thinking she’s a threat to them. They’re dealt with after a few episodes and then we’re left with your really basic stories. This means terrible stories where we see the girls being duped somewhat into participating in an idol search contest or a really terrible one involving aliens that abduct Yuna where said aliens are basically little frog-like creatures. You have Yamame visiting and Mamoru getting caught up in accidentally seeing her naked, or not realizing who she is, and her wanting to be closer to him when all is said and done due to a younger childhood crush.

In Summary:
Guardian Ninja Mamoru isn’t bad, per se, but it’s pretty much the epitome of mundane and predictable while done with a low budget and no real passion to it. It’s serviceable and does the job it sets out to do, but I can’t even imagine that the fans of the light novels would like it. There’s a decent idea here, one that we’ve seen mined and mined well before, but the execution and quality of it here doesn’t do anyone any favors and leaves you trudging from episode to episode. At least if you attempt to marathon it. Fans of the show will certainly enjoy having it here and the release largely does things right with the materials at hand, but there’s only so far you can go with it. And that’s all I want to say about that.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 21st, 2015
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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