Megumi ToyoguchiSayuri YahagiAyano YamamotoSenran Kagura
Senran Kagura Shinovi Master
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2018: S
Also known as: Senran Kagura Shinovi Master: Tokyo Youma-hen
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2018
Director: Tetsuya Yanagisawa
Writer: Yukinori Kitajima
Original creator: Kenichiro Takaki
Actor: Ai Kayano, Akane Fujita, Asami Imai, Ayano Yamamoto, Chiwa Saito, Eri Kitamura, Hiromi Hirata, Hiromi Igarashi, Hisako Kanemoto, Hitomi Harada, Kana Asumi, Kaori Ishihara, Kaori Mizuhashi, Mako, Megumi Toyoguchi, Minami Tsuda, Nozomi Yamamoto, Riko Kohara, Ryoko Shiraishi, Saori Goto, Sayuri Yahagi, Shiori Izawa, Sora Tokui, Yoko Hikasa, Yu Kobayashi, Yuka Iguchi, Yuki Matsuoka, Yuko Kaida, Yumi Hara
Keywords: Senran Kagura, boobs, anime, ninja
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2018
Review date: 26 March 2020
senran kagura
It's good. It's genuinely, properly good. Despite being an outrageous boob show.
It's a sequel to Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! (2013) and its boobier 2015 OVA sequel, but also more importantly the anime's just a spin-off from the larger Senran Kagura video game franchise. That might be part of my only real problem with this series. The show's building up to a finale of death and tragedy... and then there's not enough death. It's as if the franchise owners wanted all their toys put back in the box afterwards.
I'm not saying I wanted a bloodbath, but the story was clearly heading somewhere darker than it was allowed to go. SPOILER's survival is a blatant handwave, for instance.
At the same time, though, it's also a boobs-and-nipples riot. Forget the self-censored 2013 series. This is picking up where the anime left off in 2015 and going apeshit. We have nude ninja transformation sequences, more topless boob rock-scissors-paper, yet more Katsugari groping, clothes-exploding attacks and a kick to the stomach so hard that your bikini top falls off. Ep.4 has almost disturbing camera angles, then ep.5 has shots of almost the entire cast standing perfectly still while their boobs bounce vigorously.
"If you fall into the water, your swimsuit will become transparent."
"What, again?" (No, really. Something like that is in both ep.2 and ep.5.)
The series is ostensibly about a Ninja Tournament, although against all expectations that only lasts only one episode and is concluded before the halfway point. The tournament's battles include Naked Dodgeball, Naked Cavalry and Naked Pole Toppling. This is being streamed live online. One wonders if the streaming sites aren't the ones our heroines are imagining.
It's outrageous. It's an assault on taste and decency. This is funny. Mind you, I'd have been happier if they'd toned down Katsuragi's groping of her fellow ninja.
At the same time, though, we also have strong writing. It's about good vs. bad, with a startling number of family-unfriendly opinions and morals being voiced. It's easy to pay no attention in a booby show and let the more extreme dialogue slip past you, but seriously. The debates on the meaning of justice. "There are more important things in life than your beliefs." The lengths to which the characters take that old "light needs darkness" argument. "If justice goes too far, it becomes evil." "Eliminating evil is evil."
If you're paying attention to those debates, you might decide that they're either confused or disturbing. There's an argument to be made for both sides.
There are good and bad ninja, but by now they all get on quite well and are cool with the whole "evil" thing. There are puritan ninja, who can't tolerate any of all that. There are youma, who are spectral monsters from another dimension that everyone agrees should be exterminated on sight. Then, finally, there's Fubuki, who takes murderously conflicted loyalties to another level.
There's tragic backstory. This can be powerful, e.g. the scene of Yumi and her grandfather as her parents' funeral goes past. That said, though, I thought the flashback scene of Fubuki's parents in ep.11 was missing something in the production. It still packs a punch, but less glibness and more intense acting from the animated characters could have made it devastating.
Ep.1 lulls you into expecting the usual anime nonsense, although with hindsight its tonal journey reflects the series as a whole. (First half: good-natured fluff. Second half: moral debates, elimination and possible murder.) A ninja tournament, eh? The show then pulls its 2013 heroine into suicidal despair and has evil characters pushing everyone into the tournament while a good character orders everyone not to participate. Ep.5 feels like a season finale... and then the plot keeps getting more intense. Every villain has deep-rooted reasons for their actions. They're messed up. This is a series with multiple suicide pacts, in different forms. (Some are aborted, but not all.)
It ends strongly. The lack of death is a cop-out, but Fubuki makes it worth it. (Later episodes even tone down the nudity. Outrageous sleaze is funny, but there's a time and a place.)
The show's a keeper. But only if you're not offended by boobs.