It might be the most notoriously sleazy anime ever. Theoretically this is surprising, since it's a straight sword-and-sorcery series with no sex, men, harem content or even romance. The storyline's quite good, actually.
What it has instead, of course, is clothing damage battles, nudity a-go-go and a franchise that I'm pretty sure was built around challenging a bunch of famous artists to go crazy with the sleazy character designs. You can watch this show on two levels. There's the plot, characterisation, etc. which is good... but no one's here for that.
The other way of watching is to laugh at the fanservice. The show's main job is showing big naked breasts in every episode. The end credits are pornographic. Storyline quality is secondary, i.e. basically a happy accident. The show isn't actually as sexy as you'd think, mind you, since sword fights are inherently not erotic, but the brazenness can be funny. I laughed out loud in ep.8 at Tomoe's secret attack that disintegrated her opponent's clothing, for instance, or at the transparent body armour in ep.10.
1. PLOT, CHARACTERISATION, ETC.
It's a female-dominated world. (Men exist, but you won't notice them.) A tournament every four years decides who'll be the next queen, with angels magically broadcasting the battles live throughout the kingdom (queendom?). Fighters include elves, dwarves, lightning-summoners, pseudo-Egyptian queens and liquid shapeshifters with acid-spraying nipples.
The character work is quite good. The show's even marathonable, although it takes a couple of episodes to get going. The main heroine (Leina) is initially bland, but she gets so much screentime that she grows a fair bit. There's particularly strong material in her relationships with her sisters. Claudette-Leina is the season's emotional core, with more than one key confrontation and a startling exchange in ep.11. There are untrustworthy criminals (Risty, Echidna), outright villains (Melona, Menace, Airi), icons of honour and nobility (Claudette, Tomoe) and even the odd lady who's gentle and lovely (Nowa, Cattleya). Tomoe has the ability to stay calm and wise under the most annoying provocation, but on top of that she can fight without flashing her norks. She's modest, you see.
Ymir's a laughable comedy idiot. She's haughty, arrogant and talks to everyone as if she's God-Emperor, but she's also incompetent, stupid and goofy. Meanwhile Nanael the angel is also a lazy, cheating scumbag who at one point performs so badly that she gets an ultimatum from her boss in Heaven. (All angels are female, by the way.) Fail and she'll get sent to the underworld. She's appalling, so she's good fun too.
Almost all the characters have something to them, though, from Cattleya's tragedy (husband missing but she's stuck with their young son) to Menace's vow to rebuild her fallen empire even if it means being a villain. The slippery characters are genuinely unpredictable and are capable of betrayal. Don't expect the tournament storyline to be resolved here, though. I'm expecting that in Season 2.
As an aside, some of the names are interesting. Ymir is from Norse mythology, Menace is from an Ancient Egyptian ruler called Menes and Claudette was named after the Roman Emperor Claudius. There's also a thief called Wristy and buxom girls called Melona and Cattleya. (Yes, cows in Japan can represent huge boobs.) However Claudette's Thunderclap sword in a Japanese accent becomes Thundercrap.
2. THE SLEAZE
That's what you'll be watching half the time, of course. It's Queen's Blade. Sleaze is such a deafeningly loud element of the show that it would be weird to ignore it. It gives the show a lot of personality. It can be entertaining even if you're just trash-diving, or watching ironically, or if you just think it's funny.
I'll also cite the main characters' designers and, uh, spotlight episodes. Going in "holy shit" order, obviously we start with...
F.S., who towers above his peers as the franchise's key creator. Without him, the show would have just seemed rather tawdry and pathetic. With him, it's incredible. He's turning sleaze into an art form. ECHIDNA (10) is the least memorable of his three creations, despite wearing only a live snake on her lower half. MELONA (1,7,12) is an adorable pink bunny girl shapeshifter who also happens to be evil and, at times, flat-out terrifying. Instead of wearing a top, she's cupping her boobs with prehensile slime-tentacles that grow from her hair.
Mightiest of all, though, is MENACE (5,7), the undead Egyptian queen. She owns what could generously be called a top, but it would be an exaggeration to say that she wears it. "Drapes" would be a better word. It's a Egyptian-style armoured panel of metal slats, only fastened at the collar and flapping loose everywhere else. She looks more indecent when dressed than naked. It's disappointing when she strips for a hot spring in ep.7, because nudity is way less sexy than her normal appearance.
(Astonishingly, though, the animators haven't realised that she'd surely be exposing herself whenever she took a step, or indeed breathed. Well, it's still only Season 1. Give them time.)
Hiraku Kaneko created CATTLEYA (9), whose boobs make even other Queen's Blade characters say "holy shit". They'd be absurd even in hentai. That's like being nine months pregnant with triplets, but at chest level. She could kill you by rolling over in bed and at one point I was afraid for her son's life. (He hugs her. He's seven years old. Doesn't he need oxygen?)
Eiwa created RISTY (11) and SHIZUKA (2,5,8), whose stripper cleavage would have been more attention-grabbing in a different show. TOMOE (2-3,8,12) is more memorable, because she's a noble, modestly dressed priestess who tries to keep her clothes on.
Katsuzo Hirata created NOWA (6,12) to demonstrate that forest elves don't wear knickers.
...but Kuchuyosai created NANAEL (7) to demonstrate that angels definitely do. All the time. Nanael wears a dress, so that we can keep seeing up it. (She spends most of her time hovering in mid-air, incidentally, just to make you wonder even harder about her wardrobe choices.)
Kazuhiro Takamura created AIRI (6-7,12), a villainous flying ghost maid with self-repairing clothing. She also manages not to be overshadowed in an evil trio with Menace and Melona, which takes some doing.
Hirokazu Hisayuki created the Vance family: LEINA (1,3-6,9-12), ELINA (8) and CLAUDETTE (4,11-12). They're important. They're absolutely central to the story. However they're also comparatively normal, with Claudette being the only memorable one of the three. That's a problem in a show like this, with Leina (the show's heroine!) especially being kinda vanilla. She also spends so much time blandly topless in ep.1 alone that you'll forget that that's supposedly sexy. She kept growing on me as a character as time went on, while sleaze-wise she gets naked ridiculously often, but I'd still call her the season's weakest link.
Zundarepon created MELPHA, who might almost rival Cattleya if she got any nudity or significant screen time.
Natsuki Mibu created YMIR, who's... yeeesh. Why, Japan, why? Fortunately Ymir never gets any nudity (except in the title sequence), but her mere presence is problematic since she looks, sounds and dresses exactly like a ten-year-old human girl. Technically she's a seventy-year-old dwarf, but that doesn't excuse the panty shots. (She's quite effective as a comedy idiot, though, and on that level she improves the show.)
I think it's a good show. It's just that superhuman effort is required to take it seriously. It's got lesbian vampiric energy-sucking and a girl who wants to sleep with her sister. It's got a giant topless kaijuu goddess. It's got brainwashing. It's also got surprisingly strong writing. I bet this show would be a mega-hit with small children who just think nudity is funny. (Kenny Everett's character Cupid Stunt was outrageously popular with everyone I knew when I was young.) I'm looking forward to Season 2.