Senran Kagura Shinovi Master – Anime Review (Full)

So Senran Kagura Shinovi master has come to an end. With the departure of the latest addition to the Senran Kagura franchise, we can now look back on the show as a whole and evaluate it fully. I have done reviews for all 12 episodes of this anime (links to all the separate episode reviews will be down below), but today I want to give my overall thoughts like I have with all my other anime reviews.

Story (Spoilers)


The plot was a mixed bag for me. One one hand it took a much darker tone than previous games and also tried to take itself a bit more seriously, much like the previous Senran Kagura anime Ninja Flash. However it tried to be serious despite having a lot of aspects in it that were totally comedic. For instance it had magical clothes vanishing potions and a water gun fight, not exactly things that make for a darker story. By this point in the franchise Senran Kagura is incredibly self-aware so this type of storytelling is now par for the course, but the execution of that storytelling was 50/50 most of the time. The actual contents of the plot was pretty good all things considered, a revenge plot that disguises itself as a tournament plot at first only to turn into a race against time to prevent the impending demon apocalypse. The story is heavily character driven and focuses on many of the philosophies and ideals that the characters have and how they collide with one another. This isn’t necessarily a deep plot but it does keep you invested with the occasional twist, some decent overall pacing and some fun interludes that only serve to pad out the story but offer some fun moments. Senran Kagura is all about the characters working of one another and in this show that is shown in full force. While the massive collective of characters does create a certain level of stagnation at times, the interactions are tight-knit and faithful to the characters. I just wish we saw more of the smaller moments instead of primarily focusing on the larger plot that unfortunately peters out towards the end with a less than stellar ending that feels rushed, underdeveloped and doesn’t even offer much in the way of expansion of the world. So to summarise, an interesting plot that offered some unique ideas, decent pacing, somewhat lacking tonal consistency but wonderful character moments.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 21.31.34
Who else hears a sick guitar riff behind this shot?

Characters


  • Yumi: Yumi is the pivotal character of this series. Much of the climax centres around her struggle against Fubuki and much of the shows moral principles are based on her own. She is probably one of the best characters in this series since she does show the most growth out of many of the characters with the exception of Asuka. Yumi is a likeable character mainly because of her unbreakable spirit and unmistakably fun nature when she’s more laid back. Her struggle against Fubuki was quite compelling on an emotional front, and her growth of confronting the old ways that she used to follow was a great callback to her history. So in conclusion Yumi wa one of the better characters here.
  • Asuka: The driving force of the secondary plot of the show, Asuka underwent a big change in this show. While often shown as an innocent and wide-eyed girl with an unshakable drive and passion, this show paints her in a more serious light. The majority of her arc is her having her spirit shattered by Fubuki and suddenly adopting a new set of morals that out her in the grey section as far as good and evil goes. This change was very unexpected and was quite a substantial amount of growth for her character, at least by the standards of this franchise. While her brooding persona does ultimately go away, remnants of it remain and it does keep her character interesting. As someone who has seen Asuka for years and years over a multitude of games, this change made her one of the most interesting characters in the anime.
  • Homura: Homura is the most fun and entertaining of the main four girls. She acts like a moral compass for the characters that keep everyone in check when things go south. Her determination and unbridled passion make her a fabulous character to watch. Homura doesn’t do much in the way of plot relevance, except help bring Asuka around more and help usher in the end of the final boss. Since I’ve already spent a lot of time talking about the previous two girls, I’ll end with Homura by saying that she was easily the most fun character to watch and definitely one of the better parts of the cast.
  • Miyabi: Miyabi was the weakest link. Her tomboy nature is fun, but most of the time she was played off as a punchline to Imu’s comedic moments. She also serves more as a wedge that interferes with the cast with her whole shtick of being Anti-Youma to the point where all she cares about is killing them. While her character gins true it isn’t exactly playing a tune that helps to set the tone or aid in development for others. She just felt like a total waste, she barely factors into the plot and while her motivation is connected to the series lore it does nothing to justify many of her actions, she’s a one track mind character and unfortunately that track is frequented by a bit of a trainwreck.
  • Fubuki: Fubuki was a somewhat interesting villain, however she fell short for quite a number of reasons. For one she appeared along with the main cast in the ending scenes, thereby totally negating any separation from them and ultimately making her seem more like one of them. Not to mention Senran Kagura as a franchise suffers from a complete lack of tension in its villains since they are either dastardly and over the top and only last one game, or they are a tormented individual who eventually becomes a main cast member. This was the crux of the problem with Fubuki, her motivation was definitely there but it just came off as being a forced back story that gives her a twisted view of justice and was ultimately pointless considering many of her evil choices were dictated by her Youma guardian. That being said she still was enjoyable, the time she was evil was great to watch play out and her freak out moments were wonderfully over the top and made for a fun, if slightly underdeveloped, antagonist.
  • Everyone Else: I don’t want to dwell on the rest of the cast for long. The Gessen twins Gekkou and Sekkou were fun but they were just mindless goons that ultimately served as to drag the plot along and give Yumi a ladder to climb in terms of both physical and mental strength. Many of them were ultimately pointless to the overall narrative and only existed so as to provide some additional character interactions and help pad out the runtime of the episodes. Their interactions for the most part were fun but they did nothing for the narrative when you really think about it. Some honourable mentions will go to Haruka (number one waifu), Katsuragi and Minori.
Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 20.28.06
These kinds of interactions are the things we love about this series.

 

Presentation


*inhales* Ok I’m just going to get the first part out of the way. The OP was an absolute marvel, in fact it may be one of my favourites. Scarlet Master by Sayaka Sasaki has some absolutely wonderful vocals, a great beat and tune, some fabulous solo moments and overall just feels so good to listen to. Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about the big thing I rattled on about throughout this series, the animation problems. The animation for this show was bad, like really bad. Characters were often drawn off model, frames just looked awkward and clunky, and many long drawn out stills had some beyond poor designs in them. I don’t know why the animation looks this sloppy in places, but it is extremely distracting and while some parts of the show looks really good, and I mean damn good, the frequently poor moments really drag the show down as they take away from many scenes that could be much better. While many scenes where the animation needed to be good did have decent animation, but these few sparkling gems cannot be found among the mud that surrounds it. I don’t want to dwell any more on the animation since I effectively repeated myself for twelve weeks about why it’s bad, but to close off it is definitely the worst part of the show and it is a big problem if you let it bother you.

 

The Fanservice


Yes yes we’re talking about the fanservice. Senran Kagura is an ecchi franchise, always has been and to this day still is. So naturally we should talk about said ecchi, and I must say it’s…alright. I’m a man who loves himself some ecchi, I mean I’ve been a fan of this franchise since its inception in 2011 (thinking about this means I’ve spent 8 years if my life with this franchise and that makes me feel old), so I was hoping for some decent fanservice. Most of the fanservice was very subtle and for the most part was enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed episode 2 for its fanservice and many other episodes for their tidbits of ecchi. This section will be brief since I don’t really have much to say about it, but to cap it off I shall include a myriad of fanservice shots for you all.

 

Grades


  • Story: 3/5 – An interesting story that falters in terms of its tonal style and character handling, still enjoyable though.
  • Characters: 4/5 – It’s great seeing all these characters play off each other in anime format, no gameplay halting their adorable moments together. Despite a somewhat underdeveloped villain and a few moments of mishandling characters in places, these characters were still a joy to watch.
  • Presentation: 2/5 – This two is for the opening song, it’s that good. Otherwise this show was incredibly lacking in terms of presentation. The animation wavered and when it dipped into the negative there were no excusing its faults.
  • (Unique Grade) Waifu…ness: 5/5 – Oh please…this show has my number one waifu Haruka in it, I am duty bound to give it a 5. Sorry my hands are tied here.

Final Grade


Final Grade: 3.5/5 – I wish this show was better because at the end of the day there was a lot to love here. It had great character moments, does add to the franchise both in terms of quality and lore and really does open the door to future series. I just wished it picked up in terms of visuals, because otherwise people might have liked it more. That said it is still a must see for Senran Kagura fans and lovers of ecchi alike.

Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed it, if you did please consider leaving a like and following my blog for updates on future posts. Also follow me on twitter @joe_reviews for further updates and general nonsense, till next time.

If you want a more detailed look at this series, click the links below to see my episode by episode reviews of the series.

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