Kampfer – 01
「Schicksal ～選ばれし者～」 (Erabareshimono)
“Destiny ~The Chosen Ones~”
For a story about a healthy, hormone raging, 17 year old teenage boy with the ability to transform into a drop dead gorgeous girl, Kampfer sure manages to keep things pretty damn innocent. That’s my impression based on the manga thus far anyway, and this first episode sort of reaffirms it. Very cunningly, they manage to shift the focus from all the possibilities in the bedroom by concentrating on the fighting that fellow Kampfers have to engage in. Oh isn’t that convenient. I guess fighting really does solve everything, at least when it comes to anime.
Now before everyone says, “Here goes divine again with his SEKIREI-like anime”, I’ll go with the preemptive “Damn straight!”. Difference this time is, we don’t have to deal with one guy building up his harem of girls who need his love juices to get going. Instead, we have the ultimate trap a la Ranma 1/2 style in one Senou Natsuru. Played by Inoue Marina who’s known for her male roles, Natsuru can come off sounding like a guy when he’s supposed to and like a really soft-spoken girl when he transforms into his female Kampfer counterpart. To be honest, knowing that he’s played by a girl is probably the only reason I’m comfortable with checking out his female form. Sounds dumb huh? …or does it!? >_>
Having skimmed through the manga a few days earlier, I admittedly found the pacing of the story somewhat sluggish much like Omni did. That was a bit surprising because just like this first episode, we’re thrown into this wild premise of girls who are chosen by Moderators to become Kampfers, granted special powers via a type of weaponry (Zauber/magic, Gewehr/guns, Schwert/swords), and instructed to fight one another by their respective Messengers, who happen to take the form of stuffed animals with their innards/guts hanging out. (Yes, you did read that last part right.) Amidst all this, we actually have a sort of high school romance thing going on, with Natsuru interested in the out-of-his-league school beauty, Sakura Kaede (Nakajima Megumi of Ranka Lee Macross F fame).
Things get interesting in that department when Kaede falls for Natsuru’s female version after “she” saves her from a random attack by his soon-to-be-ally — the trigger happy, foul-mouthed, Mishima Akane (Horie Yui) who is actually the timid school librarian when she’s not busy busting heads as her red-headed other self. Over the course of the episode, we learn that Akane is actually on Natsuru’s side in this Kampfer fight since they both have blue bracelets and that they automatically transform when hostile red bracelet-wearing Kampfer are around. They’re both attacked by one of these Red Kampfers at the end of the episode, who appears to be Kaede but is expectantly none other than the student council president, Sangou Shizuku (Nazuka Kaori).
That’s quite a bit of stuff to have thrown in your face at once, so you would kind of expected things to pick up pretty quickly. However, the manga failed to show any indication of that and put my expectations of this anime adaptation in for a loop. Much to my surprise though, everything is like a million times better animated for Kampfer. The first ten minutes of this episode made me quickly realize that and I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I knew what was coming up. I mean the fan-service is one thing (including the struggles of being a girl), but Hocchan playing the foul-mouthed Akane is just priceless, especially at certain times. I really like the character designs in this adaptation as well. In fact, I think I prefer them over the manga ones. *gasp* The comedy was mildly humorous throughout (in a good way) and they even took cheap plugs with seiyuu references which were reminiscent of Hayate no Gotoku‘s style.
My only concern at this point is if they’ll have enough substance to prevent this from turning into another random high school fighting anime + trap. Seeing as the original work is a light novel that began almost three years ago, I’m hoping there’s more material from that than the one and a half year old manga has shown. If so, it should be a fun series to follow. Nomad has pleasantly surprised me with this first episode so I’ll be watching it either way, but it’s always nice when an anime is entertaining “and then some”. Things should get more interesting when Natsuru’s childhood friend Kondou Mikoto (Asumi Kana) shows up in person and when he makes his way to the girl’s side of their gender-divided school.
Seeing as there are quite a few naysayers with this series (*points at Patrik*), I might just have to see this series through blogging-wise to show it in a better light.