Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 8th 2007
Ramen Fighter Miki
Sub.DVD 2 - Tonkatsu Tactics
Miki's life has settled into a comfortable routine: beat up Kankuro for challenging her, beat up Megumi for being sneaky or for no reason at all, beat up the local pitbull because he's super-strong, and then get beat up by her mom. Any excuse for a fight will do. Megumi posting slanderous truths? Fight! Want a stuffed piggy that someone is buying? Fight! Kankuro in the vicinity being loud? Fight! Stuck in a hole closed off on all sides by buildings? Fight! Playing Star Rangers with the local kiddies? Fight! Going to a hospital to support a little boy preparing for surgery? Fight! Nothing solves problems such as an unhealthy obsession with voluptuous television villains or misguided romantic advisors (Kankuro+Miki?) like a combination of well-intentioned meddling and blunt-force trauma. And who better to deliver it than the Onimaru Restaurant's resident poster girl/martial-arts monster?
They say that too much a good thing can be bad, but sometimes more of a good thing is just good. Ramen Fighter Miki gambles on the truth of that statement by providing eight more half-episodes of the same discontinuous violent humor that made the first volume a brainless blast. And wins.
Depending solely on humor can be dangerous; Miki only succeeds largely by being one of the most consistently funny series in some time. It doesn't reach the heights of hilarity that more inconsistent series like Galaxy Angel occasionally do, but neither does it share their sometimes stunning comic failures—amusement levels vary from episode to episode, but not drastically. Though many of the gags are repetitive, playing on recurring jokes like Akihiko's role as collateral damage (he is pummeled, stabbed and poisoned throughout the volume) and Ms. Kayahara's evil eye, the series doesn't make the mistake of allowing itself to stagnate. Some comic situations are built around new and novel combinations of characters, as when Kankuro and Toshiyuki the pitbull try to carry on a life-or-death battle behind the back of innocent little Wakana, while others build on the characters' lives, as when Megumi's infiltration of the Onimaru "demon's den" reveals the real reason that the restaurant does so well. Sight gags are sprinkled liberally throughout (Akihiko's evil conscience dresses in a cabaret bunny-girl costume) and parodies are used sparingly, the series preferring to invent its own comedy rather than borrow from others.
With all the laughing it's easy to overlook another of the series' strengths: the fights. Their intent is definitely comical. Miki's cackling, fanged glee during mortal combat is a recurrent joke, and her ability to escalate any situation into a bare-knuckle brawl provides the volume with many of its most hilarious moments. Who but Miki could transform an argument over a Piggy doll into an epic battle or turn a trapped-in-a-hole scenario into a battle royale with the sole purpose of stacking up enough bodies to reach the hole's only exit? And yet the martial-arts sparring is surprisingly exciting. Like the rest of the show, the fighting spurns outright fantasy (though it revels in massive exaggeration); the fights are all bone-crunching fist-to-fist violence, choreographed with care unusual in a comedy and animated with enough skill to actually be cool. More than the boring character designs or even the superior background artistry (that shopping arcade really does look like a nice place to live) it's the high-impact composition of the fights (along with Miki's various SD forms) that gives the series its visual hook. And somehow, perhaps through the telling of cohesive plots within each episode or some manner of sneaky character building, you can't help sympathizing with Miki to the point where you actually care whether she wins—most obviously when she goes head-to-head at the hospital with two actors from Akihiko's favorite sentai show.
Other than the hard and fast opening theme and its thoroughly misrepresentative visuals, Miki's music keeps quiet and to the back, supporting the jokes and moods (all two of them) of the show, never overextending itself or growing the least bit noticeable. When it isn't invisible, it's relaxed—effective and forgettable.
All of the gut-kicking, face-crunching, and head-bashing is kind of cool in its own way, but that shouldn't be misconstrued as ascribing any seriousness to it. The violence has all the dramatic tension of a Tom and Jerry scuffle and shares the exact same purpose. Ramen Fighter Miki is all about mindless, bracingly mean-spirited fun, obliterating all thought the way only the broadest slapstick can. That it doesn't make you feel like a lumbering simpleton for enjoying it is just icing on the cake.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Broad physical comedy with both a mean streak and a soft underbelly; not quite as stupid as it seems.
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