OP: 「運命」 (Unmei) by AiRI
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「千房 離反す」 (Chifusa Rihansu)
If I’m not going to give this anime an impartial and unbiased first look, is there anyone else out there who will? Chances are no, so if you’re still interested in hearing me out, bear with me for a moment before jumping to any predetermined conclusions. Strap yourself in. This is a long post.
First up, this series doesn’t shy away from the fact that it uses breasts as a central part of the story. I know that, you know that, the producers know that, and heck, even your mom probably knows that, so let’s kick that obvious observation wayside and have a better look at what Hood’s Entertainment and director Kaneko Hirako (Seikon no Qwaser) have taken on this season. The short answer is a challenging adaptation of an adult-themed anime that not only uses a plot device that will lead to a lot of fan-service, but does so in a setting that doesn’t involve high school romance in any way whatsoever. In terms of the actual fan-service you’ll see, it’s not a whole lot on the normal televised broadcast, as Hood’s Entertainment has taken it upon themselves to provide a censored version, much like in Seikon no Qwaser II last season, where all the nudity is covered by blinding white lights and any suggestive sounds from the characters are completed muted, often in favor of louder background music. The benefit of this approach is that we’re able to see enough to realize what’s going on (without seeing it all), which can’t be said about excessive zooming or complete black screens that broadcasters resort to. The end result is still fairly watchable.
In terms of animation production, Hood’s Entertainment isn’t a bad studio by any means and their work here speaks for itself. Next to feel, they’re probably the only other studio who dares take on an adaptation of this nature, specializing in it and generally producing something relatively good. From the character designs, voice acting, soundtrack, fast-paced action, and overall screenplay, it’s as if the producers all unanimously thought, “Hey look, we know we have a controversial series, so let’s ignore all those weird looks that we’re bound to get and make the best adaptation we can.” To that end, they went straight for the seiyuu who have experience in this risqué roles and even the samurai setting itself, casting Kotobuki Minako in the lead role as Manyuu Chifusa, Toyosaki Aki as her faithful attendant Kaede, and Mizuhara Kaori as her sadistic older sister Kagefusa — all of whom starred in the not-too-different Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls last fall.
Add in Noto Mamiko who starred in Queen’s Blade, and some other well-versed seiyuu, Takagaki Ayahi (Mikako in Sora no Otoshimono) and Fukuen Misato (Yami in To LOVE-Ru), and we have a full-fledged female cast that’s on par with any “normal” series out there. They even went out of their way to get Hikasa Youko (Mio in K-ON) to voice a minor character in this first episode, Oume (though that’s likely due to her “masochistic experience” as Hana in Seikon no Qwaser). So from purely a production standpoint, it’s worth noting that Manyuu Hikenchou isn’t a poorly made series that is completely banking on the “breast factor” to sell Blu-rays to random buyers. It’s actually a surprisingly well-made series that is intended for viewers who are looking for an adaptation of this kind. Because let’s be honest, if anyone really wanted straight-up sex and nudity, they wouldn’t waste their time with occasional uncensored fan-service and go for the real deal, either animated or otherwise. (Anime BDs also cost 5,000 yen (~$50) on average.)
With that in mind, this isn’t a “don’t knock it until you try it” type of message, as everyone should already have a pretty good idea as to whether they’re mentally and/or morally okay with watching a series of this subgenre. All I’m trying to get across is that it doesn’t seem fair to have such a narrow-minded point of view and quickly call this series “trash” without even understanding what it entails. After all, we have people from all walks of life who are arguably absolute drains on society and I can say we should just get rid of them all since they’re less productive than the people who created this manga and anime, but it wouldn’t really be fair to cast judgement on them so swiftly. Nobody likes double-standards, so I try to give every type of anime a fair chance and see it for what it is. If nothing else, it makes for better blogging that some readers will appreciate.
So what do I think about Manyuu Hikenchou? Well back in the Summer 2011 Preview, I said the premise about a fictional Taihei Edo Period where breast size is a status symbol and there exists a secret Manyuu Clan manipulating the Tokugawa shogunate from the shadows using their breast “cutting” techniques is completely absurd, even by Seikon no Qwaser’s breastfeeding standard of absurdity, and that sentiment hasn’t really changed after this first episode. However, I was better prepared for the ridiculousness, having read the early parts of the manga that were covered here. Because of that, I was able to take in the animation production, character personalities (i.e. voice acting), and overall feel of the series much better, and I have to admit that it has all the elements of something that I would immediately watch, even if something other than breasts were used to drive the main story. At the same time, it’s pretty unsettling to see poor helpless women tied down and in tears have their breasts mercilessly “stolen” (reduced in size) by the likes of Chifusa’s father Munenori (Ono Atsushi) and the self-proclaimed “breast hunter”, Kagefusa.
The depiction of cruelty is quite powerful, even if the form of it is completely far-fetched, and really hit home when Kaede was subjected to the same treatment after trying to flee the village to help Chifusa in her quest to overturn the twisted influence that her clan has on the world. I dare say it was unnerving enough to make me take some pleasure in seeing (and hearing) Kagefusa have her breasts reduced in return. That feeling of satisfaction helped offset the fact that Chifusa’s breasts grew as a result — another ludicrous yet relevant development that reaffirmed she has a higher level of Manyuu Arts hidden within her. Adding to the absurdity was Chifusa revealing some of the secrets written in the Manyuu scroll, which includes regaining bust size by having a loved one massage them. I make no claim to try and defend the outlandish storyline, but if they’re going to use this wacky premise, I can’t really blame them for going all out.
If you’ve read this far, be rest assured that I don’t really have a stance toward this type of show one way or the other. I think they fill a niche, bridging the gap between fan-service-filled anime and straight-up hentai, and they’re ultimately something that you have to decide for yourself if you’re adventurous enough to watch. If you’re on the fence about it, I do have one recommendation though. Don’t watch it. This isn’t for you. Personally, I had no problems sitting through both seasons of Queen’s Blade and Seikon no Qwaser because of the cast involved, so I really don’t have any problem doing the same thing with Manyuu Hikenchou. In addition to some surprisingly good visuals, I really like how we have some key cast members from Hyakka Ryouran in the lead roles, who are also the seiyuu of two K-ON characters, Mugi and Yui. There’s no typecasting Minako and Aki that’s for sure. Good opening and ending themes by AiRI, who sang the 30-Sai no Hoken Taiiku ending theme, are pluses as well.
Update (07/17): In case anyone’s wondering, AT-X’s broadcast eight days later is mostly uncensored but not completely uncensored.
ED: 「二つの足跡」 (Futatsu no Ashiato) by AiRI
Watch the ED!: Streaming ▼