Senran Kagura defines a new rock-bottom for anime.
The ecchi anime genre is a peculiar beast. Not quite porn, not quite a legitimate story, it lives in an awkward middle ground where it whatever kind of story its trying to tell has to make room for lewd sequences that are often intrusive and detract from the show as a whole. An ecchi anime needs to be able to blend its sexy elements with the larger style of the show so it doesn’t exist as just a cheap way to sell uncensored DVDs. “High School of the Dead” is able to unite sexy with action through its gory and provocative fighting sequences, while “A Sister’s All You Need” is able to incorporate sex into its core plot, since its about the life of an erotica writer. It’s no surprise, then, that a good ecchi anime needs a unique and creative angle to make it worth watching, and its doubly unsurprising that most shows completely drop the ball in this way. Enter Senran Kagura Shinobi Masters, the sequel to “Senran Kagura”, an adaptation of the strangely popular ecchi video game of the same name. This show seemingly has an interesting angle of approach to its story, since its primarily action-oriented, but screws the pooch in virtually every way imaginable. From its ridiculous story to its stiff, unappetizing animation, even down to its stinted and forced voice acting, Shinobi Masters is a miserable experience that offers nothing to no one, except for those desperate to watch yet another series where busty anime girls get naked.
The plot initially appears straightforward, but becomes confusing really damn quick. Essentially, there are schools in Japan that train female ninjas, each with a different idea about what a ninja should do, (IE Good, evil, or “Rogue” ninjas) with the exception that all of them train their students to defeat “Youma”, demonic spirits that threaten the safety of Japan. This particular season follows the needlessly large cast from the first show as they face a new opponent, a malevolent woman named Fubuki, as she forces them to compete with each other in the “Shinobi Masters” tournament. It’s a simple setup, but it quickly gets bogged down in the show’s ridiculous sense of moral theming, that insists on shoving awkward speeches about “Justice” and “Good vs. Evil” down your throat.
I don’t expect the world from Shinobi Masters, at best I expected something mildly entertaining, or at least funny and cute enough to be enjoyable week by week. Yet, its insistence on trying to have a story is what shoots itself in the foot. It has the trappings of a fighting anime, but doesn’t do any of the work to make it watchable. Its boring, cardboard cast of characters makes me embarrassed to watch anime as a whole, and its god-awful animation has forced me to consider the virtue of tossing my PC out the window. Literally nothing works here. Not a single character is compelling, not a single fight encourages any kind of emotional response. All that’s left is what the people came here for: big anime knockers, and boy are there plenty. But the nudity in this show exists entirely in its own world, without any cause or reason to exist other than the show finding increasingly contrived ways to get the cast’s clothes off. My favorite would be when the girls get into a water war with each other where the water “Magically” makes their clothes invisible. This, combined with the show’s insane melodrama and lack of self-awareness makes certain episodes almost completely unwatchable.
All this leads me to one conclusion: this show is just porn. Pornography, plain and simple, meant to get people off within the context of a half-built story. I cannot see any other way for this show to be enjoyed, and would be astounded if this series has anyone who would defend its existence as more than just a way to get people off. This is the kind of bad that doesn’t even try to be good. Senran Kagura Shinobi Masters is cheap, ridiculous softcore pornography, and if I was Funimation, I would seriously re-evaluate what shows get the green light on dubs. I don’t care how popular the video game is, perpetuating this kind of schlock is an insult to you, me, and the American anime community at large.