Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School (2001)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/27/12
Cast: Ikue Kimura

Contains 13 episodes

A marginally entertaining action/comedy/drama/romance/supernatural/swordplay series that revolves around a high school girl named Ryoko Mitsurugi (Ikue Kimura), who is an excellent fighter and a samurai drama otaku. At Daimon High School, disputes between clubs and students are settled by the K-Fight system, which pits the two parties against each other in armed combat. Ryoko is the undefeated K-Fight champion, and is constantly being challenged by people who want to take her down. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she is randomly whisked off to a world called Solvania and has to slay the demonic beasts that attack her. Then the second third of the series shifts gears to a more light-hearted tone and focuses on adolescent hi-jinks, involving a hilarious magical girl parody and the traditional beach trip and ghost story episodes. The final third of the series takes on a more serious tone as the annual school fair gets underway and Ryoko's spirit is crushed by the sweet sting of love. The demon sword from Solvania finally makes its appearance, and it's Ryoko's destiny to destroy it.

The schizophrenic and uneven nature of the series makes it hard to enjoy, and it's difficult to identify with the characters and follow what's going on. Storylines are started and abandoned at a furious pace, and as a result the series lacks a sense of continuity and cohesion. It's as if the director kept changing the genre and tone every 2-3 episodes to try and gauge the audience's reaction as to what direction the series should go in. The character design is good and the girls are cute, but there tends to be a little too much gratuitous panty-flashing for my tastes. The fight scenes are interesting and energetic, with the highlight being a showdown between Ryoko and her naginata wielding rival, Azumi. Their rematch in the middle of the series is even more entertaining, as they compete to deliver a bento box to their mutual love interest. This episode is utterly hilarious and easily the best of the bunch. The episode where Ryoko dresses up as Magical Waitress Oyster Lulu is also very amusing, and voice actress Ikue Kimura does a fantastic job of purposely acting bad. Speaking of Ms. Kimura, she is adorable and is an extremely talented actress (she also has gorgeous hair). Her energetic portrayal of Ryoko is deeply inspired and emotional, and covers a huge dramatic range. Very impressive. The soundtrack is also extremely good. The series has its highs and lows, and while some of it is entertaining, it never seems to gel as a whole, and the main story arc is uninteresting. It's unusual that the one-off sit-com episodes stand out as the best that the series has to offer, as that's something I rarely see.