Shelf Life
Fists of Fury

by Bamboo Dong, Oct 5th 2009

If you've been twiddling your thumbs, muttering about the lack of new anime to watch, then you should be reading ANN's fall preview guide. It's filled with round-the-clock reviews of this season's newest titles, many of which are available to stream from places like Crunchyroll and Hulu, so head on over and check it out.

Welcome to Shelf Life.

There's something deeply ironic about watching a girl throw a guy into a tree, screaming, “Eew! A perv!,” while her panties fill up a third of the screen. Then again, the show is called He Is My Master, which is Japanese for, “Please spank to this.” Made by the folks over at Gainax, this show is beloved by hordes of anime fans, all of whom will defend this series to its grave, and will also pile into our forums to tell me that I kick puppies.

Very simply, this show is about three girls who become the maids/fetish objects of a snotty rich kid. His parents died when he was young and left him with piles of money, so now he lives by himself in a giant mansion. Before you feel sorry for him, though, know that he is a colossal douchebag, and relishes that his parents are dead. That way, he can spend all his time forcing his maids into skimpy outfits, and breathing heavily into his DV camera. And before you feel sorry for the girls, let it be known that the only reason the sisters ran away from home is because their folks wouldn't let them keep a pet alligator, and the other girl is just as much of a pervert as the boy. Oh, and the alligator tries to rape girls all the time.

So witty! So cute! I sure do love it when girls are being chased around a house, getting their clothes ripped off while some boy just leers at them.

Now, I'm not one to hate on fanservice for the sake of it, but there are some limits. If girls want to rip off their own clothes, that's their prerogative, but I draw the line at being forced into skimpy cosplay outfits for the visual pleasure of a teenage boy… and also the countless number of older men who are watching this show, and gloating over how “kawaii” Izumi-chan is, with her giant teenage breasts. And aside from how demeaning this show is, it's also completely pointless. Every plot point is merely another excuse to stumble into more jokes, which usually involve some girl being humiliated because she's dressed as a tart, or having her clothes torn off. Surely, comedy has evolved to the point where we can craft more sophisticated jokes than that.

It's true that comedy is subjective, but He Is My Master is not at the top of the bell curve. I enjoy potty humor as much as the next Will Ferrell fan, but I found the yuks in this series to be tasteless—and repetitive. If you've seen one episode, you've essentially seen the entire series. Nothing changes. There are just new ways of achieving the same result. If this show was able to match its high energy levels with a fresh serving of new gags every episode, I'd be more sympathetic towards it, but it gets so old, so fast. Deviant behavior aside, the pet alligator was by far the best part of the show, and that's kind of sad.

For the record, the sisters are 13 and 14. So the next time you're watching Izumi's breasts bobble around and you reach for a tissue, think about your kid sister.[TOP]

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there's also the other kind of fanservice—the blood-dripping, limb-ripping kind that makes you want to punch trucks and listen to Pantera. If you're in the mood for that, Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story will satisfy your craving. If you've seen Fist of the North Star, you know that Kenshiro is arguably one of the deadliest and manliest men to have ever lived. Legends of the Dark King is about his older brother, Raoh, who's even manlier. Proof—he forces his minions to call him the King of Fist.

He doesn't waste any time getting that title, either. By the end of the first episode, he's already laid waste to the Demon King, after marching into his castle and destroying piles of men with his fists. His technique is so efficient that even when he's totally outnumbered, he just needs to punch once, and everyone's heads explode. Then he starts spreading his kingdom, conquering one neighboring king after another, until he's taken over every last acre of land. So basically, it's just one excuse after another to rain terror and bloodshed on every corner of the world.

Most of what makes Legends of the Dark King so pleasurable is that it is completely, 100% over the top. Not only are the action scenes ludicrous, but the dialogue is incredibly cheesy. Lines like, “Cheap tricks will not work against my fists!” liberally dot the script, and that's one of the tamer ones. Visually, this show is just as slathered in machismo. Every frame is filled with bulging muscles, and everyone looks like they're always constipated.

I'm a little sad there's no dub for this, because I'd love to hear someone growl, “My fists stand in your way!,” but I'm just glad this show is being released. To be honest, it's really not that good of a show. It really isn't. But it's so much fun, that I couldn't stop watching. If you enjoy excessive violence and endless chest-thumping, then Legends of the Dark King will satisfy every last craving.[TOP]

Then again, maybe you just want to see some fighting, without the buckets of blood and the exploding heads. In that case, you can always try KenIchi the Mightiest Disciple on for size. Part comedy, part coming-of-age tale, it has almost as many muscles as Dark King, but it's all done for laughs. Although this series isn't my top choice for a bored night, the characters are growing on me quite a bit, and I can see why it's one of Funimation's top selling titles. It has a lot of energy, a lot of goofy characters, and nonstop slapstick humor.

While the first 13 episodes largely focused on Kenichi's transformation from a wimp into a determined martial arts student, this set of episodes works on developing his fighting ability. After he moves into the dojo, he learns to develop his confidence and how to channel his strength training into actual techniques. I found this preferable to the first half because it's not as formulaic as the train-fight-win pattern that the series toyed with. Kenichi still faces his fair share of opponents, but those conflicts are paced more naturally throughout the show.

Notably, I find the female fanservice to be at appropriate levels, too. Yes, there are also leering men and bouncing breasts, but Miu can really hold her own—and not just because she's a martial arts master. In spite of her figure, which makes her a target for gawkers (both male and female), she's a great female protagonist, and a good role model. She doesn't take crap from any of the men in the dojo, and she's kind to everyone around her. On top of that, she's also a great cook, which goes to show that it is indeed possible to be good at household duties without being a desperate doormat, as so many anime series are wont to suggest.

For all those who prefer to watch their anime dubbed, this series definitely delivers. The characters are mostly well cast, especially Kenichi, who's played by Josh Grelle. He has Kenichi's panic attacks down to a science, and his exhausted pleas for mercy work well for comic effect.

KenIchi the Mightiest Disciple is a great choice for people who devour shows like Naruto and Bleach. They're not my cup of tea, but they're well-matched in terms of action and fast-paced storytelling. The fighting in this series is slightly more grounded in reality, too, so it's easier to relate to than throwing fireballs. If you enjoy Shonen Jump-type shows, you should definitely check this out.[TOP]

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Amelia, who writes the following:

"Hello, my name is Amelia! I like to keep my room well packed, but with a clear functional pathway around my bed so I can get to my goodies easily. I've been collecting for about 4 years with my allowance overtime, starting from back when I was near the end of Middle School. My favorite anime series is "Cowboy Bebop", and my favorite manga series is "GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka".

And on a side note, bonus points to whoever can correctly identify the girl on my dakimakura *blushes*, and the fine art photograph framed in silver of an anime figurine!"





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