The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Senran Kagura Shinovi Master
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Senran Kagura Shinovi Master ?
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How was the first episode?
Senran Kagura Shinovi Master is already playing on Hard Mode with me, debuting with a Christmas episode in a month that isn't December. Forget censoring the ninja nipples in the broadcast, this is the sort of content there ought to be a law against. And yet it might be appropriate; Shinovi Master really puts the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas, in that I was yelling 'Christ!' multiple times through the episode as it steadfastly refused to have anything happen. Maybe if you're fond of these bouncy bishoujo from the games or previous season, you'll be entertained by watching them wander around, talk about their daily lives, and try on cute costumes while nothing happens, but mostly I found myself amazed that a show dedicated to ninjas and boobs could be so willfully boring. Things finally pick up fifteen minutes in when some actual ninja fights break out, but even then there are caveats. We actually cut away from the first big fight before it starts, leaving with the implications that the original group of main characters are dead. (I'm sure they'll be revived just in time to market a new line of dakimakura.) And then the fight between the middle-school twins and Asuka becomes a surprising beat-down with a hilariously distracting butt or panty shot every thirty seconds. We actually get lovingly-rendered animation of Asuka's breasts bursting forth from her bra as she delivers what should otherwise be a dramatic finishing blow, and then the episode wraps with our plucky heroine collapsed at death's door in the snow. Merry Christmas!
Honestly, any jokes as I could make about 'Tits the season!' or something would be needless in the face of the enjoyment Funimation's Simuldub is trying to wring out of this pile of dirty laundry. The script seems to stick faithfully to the rote ninja descriptions and general cutesy conversations, but it suddenly drops in great gag lines anywhere they feel the original dialogue might be too dry. So it might be worth keeping up with this version of the show just to see how they top gems like “juggle your jingle-bells” or a gleeful use of the term ‘shinoboobs’. There's also a great line about the Evil Ninja characters sarcastically saying they ‘love wearing skimpy Santa suits in snowy weather’. A little self-awareness goes a long way for a production like this. On the other hand, more directly translating a line about ‘work’ and ‘play’ being similar words doesn't really work in English, regardless of how instrumental to the series' philosophy that line seems to be. At any rate, the performances for all the girls are surprisingly enjoyable. They appear to have been recast from previous Senran Kagura dubs and aren't nearly as high-pitched as I often fear from these kinds of shows. The performances are overall restrained, with Maya Maxwell's Asuka carrying this first episode with some surprisingly solid emotional work, especially at the end. Mallorie Rodak as Yumi supports her well enough in a more reserved role, while villains Gekkou and Senkou get appreciably contrasting voices from Sara Ragsdale and Julie Shields, respectively. The acting from Homura's voice actress gives her an appreciable harsh edge, but it also comes off sounding a bit stilted. Everyone in general is doing a strong job with what little they've been given, so I hope Funimation's dub efforts keep trying to make lemonade out of these bouncy lemons. Imagine if this show was worth watching for both the boobs and the dialogue!
Five and a half years is a very long time between installments for a fanservice-focused franchise, so this series showing up when it did was quite a surprise. This first episode reminds me both why the first series got any attention in the first place and why it wasn't missed much.
Though the first series, Ninja Flash!, did eventually manifest a plot and develop some of its characters, it was first and foremost a rabid fanservice fest. It was squarely cut from the Ikki Tousen mold, which means clothing being destroyed in martial arts battles on a regular basis, lots of panty flashes and skimpy outfits worn by mostly-busty girls, and even some outright nudity. At first, this series looked like it was trying to follow the last part of the first series, where the character development and plot mattered more. Things seemed downright peaceable and relatively restrained, even through a series of cosplay-like costume changes, until the new troublemakers came on the scene. Then the transformation scenes start popping up, and things get much sexier. We also get one substantial action scene when Asuka is confronted by the two newcomers – or at least it's an action scene until she gets brutally beaten down by their overwhelmingly greater skill. Since these newcomers are fellow good ninjas who regard Asuka's group as disgraces worthy of elimination, we're even getting an actual plot from the outset this time.
All of this would make for a fine start to the second season if not for one thing: the animation effort is awful. More than 30 seconds passed at the beginning of the episode before a single moving image appeared, and hefty use of still shots throughout the rest of the episode strongly suggests that this was done on a minimal budget. Neither the background art nor the character designs are too sharp, either. The nudity is at least somewhat alluring, but I expect better than this for the non-fanservice visuals, and many other series of this type have shown that it can be done. At least Crunchyroll is offering the episode both censored AND uncensored, so that the parts most viewers care about can be seen unobstructed.
If you're not expecting anything more from this installment than exposed breasts and shots of lingerie, then this episode won't disappoint, but it's not worth checking out otherwise.
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