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by Caitlin Moore,

Who Says Warriors Can't Be Babes?

GN 1

Who Says Warriors Can't Be Babes? GN 1
Years ago, a handsome hero saved a young girl from certain death. She fell instantly in love with him, and swore she would do whatever she needed in order to get closer to him. Now, she is Warrior Woman, and has achieved her dream… kind of. He doesn't seem to notice her femininity at all, and she's so strong that every time she tries to get close to him, she ends up horribly wounding him. It seems she has made a terrible mistake in becoming a Warrior, and she'll do anything to rectify it!

You would think, in a post-Xena world, the answer to the question in the title of Who Says Warriors Can't be Babes? would be, “No one.” Pulpy fantasy is rife with bikini armor-clad babes who can swing a sword with gusto, despite having arms that look like they've never lifted anything over ten pounds. Beauty, feminine or otherwise, hasn't been mutually exclusive with strength for a long time, in neither fiction nor real life. And so, Who Says Warriors Can't be Babes? feels like a throwback, but not remotely in a fun way.

Off the bat, the cover art reminded me of two mainstays of my early anime fandom: the goofy parody Dragon Half, the DVD of which is about five feet away from me as I write this review; and the various works of Johji Manabe, published by Dark Horse as flipped floppies, which lined the shelves of the various dimly-lit comic book shops I visited. I never actually read those books, but busty, scantily-clad, big-haired Warrior Woman pulled those images up from deep in my mind. It spoke to me of a silly romp that played with fantasy tropes with a physically powerful female lead, i.e. exactly the kind of story I'm attracted to. When a slime slips into Warrior Woman's underwear and gets her off against her will as she rolls around and drools on the floor within the first twenty pages, however, my hopes were thoroughly dashed.

In her efforts to become a strong enough party member to adventure in a party with Hero, the man she's idolized since she was small, Warrior Woman neglected to learn how to be a woman. Now that she realizes he doesn't think of her as a girl at all, she tries to figure out the trappings of femininity, and does it badly. That's it. That's the single joke. There is no plot. There is no character development. It's just tired, mean-spirited humor all the way down.

I'm not opposed to parody or screwball comedies, but the humor is entirely predicated on cruel gender-based jokes that often dip into essentialism. Warrior Woman is so strong and muscular, she gets mistaken for a man routinely, despite her long hair, feminine features, and huge knockers that she has right on display. She's a terrible cook, which is a joke in anime old enough to be receiving its own pension. She's just so beefy, and no woman could possibly have so much muscle mass!

Of course, she's ashamed and embarrassed about her perceived lack of femininity, despite all the work she has put into getting strong, and why wouldn't she be? She's shamed for it at every turn, by everyone around her. She's powerful and competent, but longs to be small and frail because that's what girls should be, and that's what she assumes Hero wants in a girl. It's sad to see a girl try to reduce herself in order to be appealing to men, and taints even the rare funny jokes.

There are few men out there less worth it than Hero, too. I get it, the characters are meant to be thin archetypes — they don't even have names outside of their classes — but there has to be something appealing about him to make her hope to become more desirable to him. He's not even a potato; he's a soggy peel, completely devoid of flavor or potential and not even slightly worth her time and attention.

The art makes up for some of the script's failings, but that just makes it all the more frustrating. Warrior Woman is cute as a button, and even if her cleavage and midriff-baring armor is impractically skimpy, it's the kind of thing I could see cosplayers having fun with. Some of the faces she makes are genuinely funny; I guess her supposed lack of femininity makes it okay for the artist to not draw her cute all the time. The slapstick and the rare action scenes have a nice physicality to them too, and Taijiro has real skill in balancing line weight, shading with tones, and solid black areas to give each panel the most impact.

Then again, even if he didn't admit at the end that he got a lot of artistic inspiration from “erotica”, it wouldn't be a stretch at all to guess. Especially in the early chapters, Warrior Woman spends a lot of time red-faced and drooling, with expressions straight out of a hentai manga. Luckily, the sexual humiliation humor is short-lived, so I guess I'll count my very short list of blessings.

In the immortal words of Spike Spiegel, “I love a woman who can kick my ass.” I desperately wanted to pull Warrior Woman out of this and instead introduce her to Dorohedoro's Noi, who would actually give her the appreciation she deserves. But outside the realm of fanfiction, I can't do anything to help her. Instead, I'm forced to stand back and watch as she is humiliated for not sufficiently checking off boxes on the list of traits considered “feminine”. The only people saying warrior women can't be babes are the characters in this manga, and they are dead wrong.

Overall : D
Story : D
Art : B+

+ Cute heroine; technically solid art
Chock full of gender essentialism; characters are the thinnest of archetypes; most humor is about humiliating Warrior Woman

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Taijiro
Licensed by: Seven Seas Entertainment

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Who Says Warriors Can't be Babes? (manga)

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