Takehito KoyasuKen NaritaKae ArakiMichiko Neya
Fencer of Minerva
Also known as: Minerva no Kenshi
Medium: OVA, series
Year: 1994
Director: Osamu Sekita, Takahiro Okao
Writer: Sukehiro Tomita, Yuji Kishino
Actor: Arisa Andou, Hiroshi Naka, Hitoshi Aoi, Hochu Ohtsuka, Isshin Chiba, Jun Mizusawa, Junichi Sugawara, Kae Araki, Ken Narita, Kenichi Sakaguchi, Kumiko Nishihara, Maya Okamoto, Michiko Neya, Miho Yoshida, Mika Kanai, Nobuhiko Ida, Shigeru Nakahara, Takashi Nagasako, Takehito Koyasu, Yasunori Matsumoto, Yuichi Nagashima, Yumi Takada, Yuri Kojima
Keywords: anime, hentai, boobs, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Five 45-minute episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=17
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 8 April 2024
Minerva no Kenshi
It's impressive, but terrifying. My skin crawled off my body and is now shivering under the sofa.
As far as I can tell (not having actually read the books), it's an anime pseudo-adaptation of John Norman's Chronicles of Gor. (Those books used to be everywhere in the 1980s and they're still going today, with a 92-year-old John Norman releasing the 38th Gor novel this month. Apparently the first two are reasonable Burroughs/Robert E. Howard pastiche, but the series charges off into "unreadable" from book 3 onwards.) This is an unofficial adaptation and they didn't buy the rights, but it sounds like a far more faithful adaptation than the two official late-eighties live-action movies. Gor and this series are both:
1. They're set on a Counter-Earth (a planet in Earth's orbit that we haven't discovered because it's always on the other side of the sun) that's like Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars except with a society built on sex slavery. Women are property and they won't be happy until they're a man's slave, begging to be "used". (Apparently, there are people who take this seriously and have created a subculture called the Gorean lifestyle, by which they live their creepy lives.)
2. Otherwise, it's all fully realised and wholehearted. The worldbuilding's quite good. Warriors ride bipedal horse-birds and fly on dragon-like steeds, etc.
In all non-sexual respects, this is an impressive fantasy epic. Five double-length episodes is nearly a modern TV season and it trumped my plot predictions for the whole series within its first two episodes. It's certainly far more ambitious than almost any modern anime fantasy series I can think of. No sodding isekai. No gaming tropes, e.g. skill levels or pop-up stat screens. Nothing that's been cut-and-pasted from modern Japan. The wildlife, the settings and the politics have all been devised from scratch. I love this show's animals, even the ones in the background like those guinea pig blob things.
The storyline's solid too. There's political intrigue, assassinations and kings being overthrown and/or committing suicide. Two major kingdoms. A couple who were separated in childhood and find love on encountering each other. Also, the female characters are by no means ciphers, with Diana being a slave/princess who ends up out-fighting soldiers and out-thinking kings. Even the baddies can surprise you by being more imaginatively horrible than you'd expected.
Theoretically, the sex slavery thing didn't have to be a deal-breaker. That's how this culture works. These characters live in that world and can't escape from its rules. Given that premise, do their actions make sense? Besides, there are real-world societies (both current and historical) almost as sexist as this.
Also, this is only borderline hentai. Lots of nudity and sex, but nothing hardcore.
But, but, but. Bloody hell. You'll tear at your eyes and scream.
For these women, sex slavery is an aspiration... but it's not just that. It's the way the show links that to true romance. Diana's in love with Sho, so she refuses to be granted her freedom and prefers to be a slave in a stripper outfit. (When her minimal top flaps open in front of a crowd, she's proud because it shows her status.) Furthermore, the show's taking its fetish seriously. There's a much-bashed fashion in modern anime for male protagonists to own their love interests as slaves... but those are always, always, always depicted in a non-slavey way. Those modern "slaves" get treated with the utmost respect. Not here. No way. Slaves are property. They have no rights. They can be gambled away, or traded in part payment for a debt. They can be kidnapped and sold. They have to talk deferentially and can't resist their master's wishes, for fear of perhaps getting killed and discarded. The word for having sex with one is "to use". Here's an example of correct language:
"Address me correctly. Well?"
"M... Master. Would you please accept my obedience? Please, Master, use me."
...and that's a romance's happy ending. Diana at one point feels guilty about having conflicted feelings when Sho shagging's another girl in the next room. In this society, such thoughts are wrong. She's a slave. She doesn't own her master. She soon gets over this, though, and starts encouraging (and even participating in) his en passant polygamy. Then, finally, this is how it ends:
"Of her own free will, Queen Diana took back her status as a slave. Diana chose a new way of life and became idolised among all women. The legend tells us that she was called 'Diana the Slave-Queen' and was admired long after."
Had it merely been abusive, this show would have stopped at "horrible". Hah. No, the mind-melting bit is this show's idea of romantic plots and dialogue. It's just wrong, despite being well made, well written and softcore-only. It's insane to think that a human actually wrote this. They got their jollies from it... and yet it's genuinely strong. It has impressive ambition, storyline, characterisation, worldbuilding, action and production values. Its heroes are cool and its villains can be terrifying. It's taking itself seriously in everything and giving 100%. But it made my brain explode.