ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 28th February 2016, by NEO Staff

Samurai Harem Collection

Beckoned by his overbearing father to hone his smarts and sword skills, 17-year-old Yoichi Karasuma swaps his simple mountain life for the hustle bustle of modern Japan instead. There he joins the Ukiha Divine Wind Style Swordplay school of martial arts, overseen by the titular harem – the four Ikaruga sisters – whose archetypes are a tick-list of fetishes.

The ‘harem’ in the title might inspire a degree of subversion, but from the opening scene – the improbably busty Ibuki pouring water over her, um, assets – you know it’s a series to take at face value. So when the sisters in turn fall for Yoichi in one way or another, it comes as no more of a surprise than his recurring bloody nose.

His traditional apparel, trusty bokken and old-timey speech patterns mark Yoichi as the classic kid out of time. It’s a conceit used more to justify the frequent fanservice than his wanderlust with modern living. And like Yoichi himself, the animation style looks curiously passé.

Little does Yoichi know that masked figures watch the Ikaruga family from the shadows, their intentions as enigmatic as their faces. After sending in umpteen assassins, who are either side-stepped or end up as latecomers to the harem, these antagonists decide instead to take the fight to the dojo. As the series moves towards its conclusion, the revelations are nothing short of petty.

It is secondary character Ryo Washizu who winds up as the series’ most empathetic player. Had his struggle with masculinity and isolation been the focal point, Samurai Harem would have been an altogether stronger effort.

As with Yu Minamoto’s source material, the series has a fundamental understanding of manga tropes, with much of the humour attesting as much. However, the lack of substantial plot and the objectionable sexual scenarios make Samurai Harem another dud in Studio AIC’s growing catalogue.

Some quality comic timing help undercut the fanservice bombardment in this otherwise unremarkable rom-com.
SCORE: 2.5/5
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