Sunday, May 6, 2012

Brave 10 (anime TV series), via Crunchyroll

This series is 12 episodes long, with each episode running approximately 23 minutes.

Synopsis:

Isanami, an innocent and energetic girl, was raised by monks at a shrine. Then one day the monks were all slaughtered, and Isanami found herself on the run, protecting both her life and the Kushimitama, her hairpin, which those who killed the monks seem to want. She comes across Saizo, a guy who is either a samurai or a ninja (I think he gets called both during the course of the series). Although he finds her to be annoying, he still protects her from her pursuers.

Isanami comes under the protection of a lord whose goal is to gather up 10 brave warriors. He names Isanami one of his braves and calls the unwilling Saizo another one of them. Rokuro, his extremely loyal servant, is another. As the series progresses, he gathers more of his braves together, although it's not until nearly the end of the series that he states what his purpose was in gathering them all together. The braves face various enemies who all serve a flamboyant lord who wants the power Isanami's Kushimitama could give him.

Review:

You have no idea how happy I am that I finally managed to finish this series and can now remove it from my queue. That'll teach me to start watching a show for purely shallow reasons. Or not. This isn't the first time I've made that mistake (see my review for Hakuoki).

Okay, I admit it, I started watching Brave 10 because I saw a preview that indicated it would be about a bunch of bishounen ninjas. I figured it would at least have some good-looking fight scenes. Hakuoki, for all its problems, managed that much. This show, not so much. I wish I had never even started watching it. It took way more effort for me to slog through than it should have.

Part of the reason this show was nearly unbearable to watch was Isanami. I saw lots of comments from fans of the show along the lines of “Why do you haters hate Isanami so much? She's innocent and cute, not annoying.” That's one perspective, I guess, and I know that's what the show was going for. Unfortunately, it didn't work on me. I hated her. I hated her so much. Without her, the show would have simply been mediocre. With her, I found myself wishing someone would finally kill her and then just take the stupid hairpin from her. There was no logical reason why their enemies avoided killing her, although, later in the series, it was revealed that there was a story-related reason for her continued existence.

After watching episode 9, I thought the show might finally go from something that made me alternately want to weep from boredom and tear my hair out in aggravation to something that was actually slightly worthwhile. In that episode, the series started to break the rules that govern series like these. Instead of forming the super awesome group of loyal servants who gripe about their lord but, in the end, get the job done, as I had expected, the series began stomping them all into a bloody mess. One of the characters maimed himself. Everyone got involved in battles it didn't look like they'd be able to win, and there were indications that they were all going to die. Unfortunately, there were so many characters, all fighting lengthy battles, that the next few episodes felt like an eternity, and I started to get bored again. It didn't help that the final episode managed to pull a completely unbelievable happy ending out of thin air.

So, I mentioned that the story got mildly better around episode 9. What, besides a foolish desire to finish almost everything I start watching, prompted me to watch the previous 8 episodes, even after I started to realize that the show sucked? The answer: the red-haired masochist. I know he has a name, but I can't remember it at the moment and don't care to look it up. (I use the pronoun “he” when referring to him, because I think that's probably what he'd prefer, but it was a topic of some debate in both the show and viewer comments as to whether he was male or female.) I found his desire to battle Saizo amusing. His obsession with Saizo was so intense that it at times resembled a crush, and part of me hoped that he would, in a fit of jealousy, kill Isanami. Sadly, he did not. In fact, for the most part he turned out to be a disappointingly weak fighter, more bark than bite.

In general, the characters in this series were cardboard. I could barely work up the effort to remember even a few of their names, much less all of them. Saizo's name was the first one I remembered, simply because Isanami had a habit of whining it while begging to be with him or crying out for his help. I also remembered Isanami's name (it only took me a few episodes – I called her “Main Girl” in my earliest notes), but I'll admit I looked up Rokuro's name just for this review. The braves each had one or two defining personality traits or abilities, which was pretty much the only thing that kept them all from blending together in my mind. There was Rokuro and his not-very-manly clothing and magical eye, a super-strong, less-than-intelligent monk, a kid who was good with explosives, the red-haired masochist, the conservative guy who fought with a gun, Saizo and his magical sword, Ana the chesty blonde, the perverted pirate, and the guy who really liked animals. Oh, and Isanami. I had to do a mental double-take when I realized that the lord, whose name I also can't remember, considered her one of his braves. Twelve episodes for 11 characters makes decent character development difficult-to-impossible. Saizo and Isanami got a decent bit of screentime, and there was an attempt at giving Ana a tragic backstory, but none of it made me actually care for any of the characters.

I might have considered the series passable if it had at least managed to pull off some good-looking battles, but it didn't even accomplish that much. Sure, there were plenty of battles against opponents with a variety of strange abilities (the insect woman reminded me of Otome Yokai Zakuro), but I got as tired of the battles as I did of the story.

All in all, I kind of wish I had never even started watching this show. I kept watching on the off chance it would get better, and it never did. The events of episode 9 were the best, but the show faltered again after that. Even if it hadn't, the show shouldn't have taken that long to become good. I've read viewer comments saying there will be a season 2, but, from what I can tell, that's probably just wishful thinking. Even if a second season is made, however, I have no plans to watch it. I wasted enough time with this first season. I'd rather move on to something better.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Mysterious Play (manga) by Yuu Watase; Fushigi Yuugi: Mysterious Play (anime TV series) - If you'd like another series starring a large cast of gorgeous guys and you don't mind somewhat annoying heroines, you might want to try this. A 15-year-old girl and her best friend get sucked into the world inside a book, where they are both made priestesses of opposing sides. It's another pseudo-historical world with magic. If you're most interested in good-looking action and battles, you might be a little disappointed with this series - although there are certainly a lot of battles, the main focus of the series is characters' relationships, whether they're lovers, friends, or enemies.
  • Rurouni Kenshin (manga) by Nobuhiro Watsuki; Rurouni Kenshin (anime TV series) - If you'd like something else with a historical setting, lots of outlandish battles, and a bit of romance you might want to try this. Kenshin used to be an assassin, but now he strives to live the kind of life where he protects those in need without ever killing anyone again. I have written about the first season of the anime.
  • Hakuoki (anime TV series) - If you'd like something with lots of gorgeous guys, fight scenes, and a few fantasy elements and don't mind another wimpy heroine, you might want to try this. I have written about this anime. The game (or one of the games? it seems like there might be more than one...) upon which the anime was based has recently been made available in English - I haven't played it and don't know if it's any good. Just a warning, if you've never played a visual novel game before - they're not so much games as choose-your-own-adventure stories.

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