Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, May 26th 2011
Battle Girls - Time Paradox
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Call a spade a spade: Yoshino Hide is a ditz. Her grades are abysmal. She's an incurable klutz. And she's slower than a frozen snail on the uptake. Her friends may call her Hideyoshi (an amalgam of her first and last names), but she's a universe away from the wily medieval lord who is her namesake. Ironic, then, that through her blundering she should end up transported to an all-female version of Japan's Warring States Period where she takes on the role of that very lord. Not that that changes her in any way. She's still a dippy, food-obsessed weakling with a squeaky hamster wheel for a brain. She's just lucky that she's immediately put under the protection of violence-loving, nigh-invulnerable conqueror Nobunaga Oda. Who for reasons unfathomable to all but the great anime-cliché gods believes that Hideyoshi is the key to bringing together the scattered parts of a mystical suit of armor said to grant the wearer the power to rule the world.
If you think Battle Girls is just another dumb series about a teen transported to an alternate reality, then you are absolutely right. A few glimmers of hope aside there isn't a thing here that's worth spending your time on, unless you really need something to impair your brain function. Which sometimes you do. In which case, Battle Girls will do as well as anything.
It's certainly mindless enough. There are moments when it seems it might have a brain, but they tend to be brief and after a while they stop showing up. There was a bloody battle upon Hideyoshi's arrival that put a little darkness into the silliness, giving the series enough edge that it seemed not entirely frivolous, which might be taken as a minor sign of intelligence. Not so. It becomes increasingly obvious that Hideyoshi's influence on Nobunaga precludes a repeat performance, thoroughly defanging its portrait of medieval life. Likewise the specter of historical tragedy initially casts a pall over Hideyoshi's dopey adventures, only to disappear in a puff of fluff when it is made explicitly clear that the history of Hideyoshi's world does not necessarily apply to Nobunaga's. What remains is a Disneyfied caricature of history, a terrible waste when you consider the dramatic opportunities offered by real history. Nobunaga's smitten assistant Mitsuhide, for instance, was doomed to kill Nobunaga in real history. And Hideyoshi was destined to avenge Nobunaga's death by forcing Mitsuhide to commit seppuku. Wouldn't you like to see how that played out in Battle Girls' candy-colored, yuri-flavored world? Instead the show flushes all that potential down a sticky-sweet toilet. What do you call that if not brainless?
What remains after any potential depth or weight has been systematically hunted down and killed is a procession of exceedingly slight standalone adventures, the kind where barely-funny hijinks and feel-good happenstance are the order of the day and scary things like real feelings and, well, anything real really, are roundly shunned. This is a show where what passes for villainy is a cute girl with Iago ambitions and Team Rocket skills. Where Nobunaga Oda, widely considered the most vicious man in Japanese history, is a fun-loving tomboy with a bit of a temper. Where deadly historical rivalries are they-fight-but-they-get-along friendships. Where adventures consist of telling scary stories to spirits and wandering through Indian Jones-ish secret passages in Nobunaga's castle. Where no one ever dies, hate doesn't exist, and suffering can be washed away with a little music and capering. There's actually something to be said for that. True, the series is insubstantial enough that ghosts would be excused for doubting its existence, but that's exactly why it can serve as a painless, effortless oasis for viewers in need of uncouple-your-mind escapism. You can watch Battle Girls without any fear that your mind will be engaged, your gut punched, your expectations betrayed or your emotions manipulated. Hideyoshi's unrepentant idiocy helps keep things mildly amusing, if never truly funny, the pace is brisk without being frantic and most importantly it is without a mean, cynical or even truly exploitative bone in its body. And that's no mean feat for a series based on a pachinko game.
Of course, being a thoughtless oasis also means the series is constitutionally incapable of wowing anyone. It's only truly inspired choice is to make its one male character a tiny, samurai-helmeted dog with the personality of a particularly dirty old man. Oh, and making Nobunaga's world all-female wasn't an entirely stupid move either. Hard-up yuri fans may be mildly wowed by the sight of Battle Girls' extensive and reasonably attractive (if cheaply animated) cast getting cozy with one another (not too cozy; that might be offensive), especially during episode seven, which documents a play that can best be described as a 16th-century yuri doujinshi. The rest of the series, on the other hand, may as well have been designed for zero impact. Its fights are bloodless and full of all of the pointless DBZ energy-blasts one expects, as well as all of the cheap shortcuts, enemies obscured by clouds of dust, and preordained conclusions. Their one distinguishing feature is their complete lack of action sense. Director Hideki Okamoto's choreography is at best barely cogent, and he has no clue how to frame an action or a shot so that it strikes the "cool" chord. It isn't too hard to guess that his filmography is heavier on harems than hand-to-hand combat. If you get excited watching Battle Girls, it's probably because you're thinking about a different show.
And it isn't just action that suffers from avoid-your-memory syndrome. Medieval Japan has never looked so forgettable, and not once does Okamoto combine image and sound so as to fire enough synapses to create a lasting mental impression. He has the sense to confine Eishi Segawa's score to a strict supporting role, but also compounds its blandness with his own bland usage of it.
If you put your ear to the ground hard enough it's possible to hear the rumblings of an actual plot in Battle Girls' later episodes. Pretty purple-haired schemer Ieyasu Tokugawa is obviously planning something unpleasant for Nobunaga, and there's an unutterably unsurprising revelation about Hideyoshi's trip to the past that indicates that there's more to her dimension-tripping than meets the eye. Of course, if previous experience is anything to go by, the rumblings will soon smooth themselves into a reassuring melody of mindless sameness. Unless that's exactly what you're looking for, keep away. And even if it is, you might want to check out, say, K-on! instead.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : C
+ A painless, brainless tonic for fans looking to rest for a piece.
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