Well it’s been a hot second since my last post. Apologies for the slip in activity, been busy with other stuff, plus my new Nintendo Switch has slowly been consuming my being. I was going to review Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but I want to put video game reviews behind me. So I was looking through my recent posts, and I realized it’s been a hot second since my last anime review. I seem to have done nothing but Godzilla and other Kaiju related stuff, and while I love writing that, to avoid redundancy I figured I’d review an anime. I want to take you all back, WAY back. If you remember, last year and into this year I reviewed Senran Kagura Shinovi Masters. My overall impression of the show was mostly positive, but as times gone on, hindsight has reduced that positivity a tad. Instead of going back and remastering that review, I decided to instead look at the Senran Kagura franchises other anime adaptation from 2013, Ninja Flash. For some context, by this point in the franchises life, it was still recent, but was becoming a hit with both Eastern and Western audiences. So naturally it received an anime adaptation, but was it any good? Well…yes it was, in fact it was better that Shinovi Masters in almost every way? But what made it superior? Let’s find out.
The story follows 2 opposing academies for girl shinobi’s. The good Hanzo Academy and the evil Hebijo Academy. The two academies cross paths, and from there both teams are challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. Their motivations clash like blades of steel, all while the machinations of an evil unbeknownst to all towers above all. Will the clashes of justice and freedom end to bring about the end of this evil, or will this conflict spiral out of control and into chaos?
It’s a bit harder to address the full story in one review, but I don’t want to go by this thing episode by episode, but I’ll try my best. The plot is an adaptation of the first game in the series Senran Kagura Burst and is almost a beat for beat retelling of that story just with some minor elements tweaked, and certain filler elements either added or removed. While Burst followed both sides of the story, Hanzo academy being the good guys and Hebijo academy being the bad guys (but also technically good guys cos they’re actually okay people). But this show focuses almost entirely on Hanzo, and while it does it well I do wish they’d shown more of the Hebijo side too. Some episodes were dedicated to Hebijo, but not in a long term way, these were the typical ‘peak behind the villains curtain’ type episodes and aided mainly in fleshing them out as they were rather than giving them meaningful development. The episodes flowed pretty well, they had consistent stories and managed to balance out a combination of a larger overarching plot. One major gripe I do have is how the ending was very rushed, with the two feuding characters Asuka and Homura making amends, killing this McGuffin 8 headed snake dragon thing (yes it’s exactly how you’d imagine) and with no further elaboration, the story ends, it was over just a bit too quickly. Is the story perfect? No it’s not, it does have the occasional dip in quality and there’s either too much explained or too little explained, but it was at the very least consistent and had cohesion to it.
The cast is a lot smaller in this series, back when the actual franchise itself didn’t have a character roster larger than the marina trench. But I have to keep the
- Hanzo Academy: Asuka is a fine and fun character in this show. She does show meaningful development in this show, determined to stand by her morals and has some downright charming moments. Ikaruga and Katsuragi work well with the rest of the group but are probably the most inconsequential of the quintet of ladies. Yagyu is surprisingly good in this series despite her being downright detestable for me in later entries in the franchise be it games of anime. Hibari gets some surprisingly relevant plot development and does help propel the plot into its final act and it’s thanks to her we see behind the curtain of the Hebijo girls.
- Hebijo Academy: The Hebijo girls are treated as the villains throughout most of this story. They show truly nefarious natures and each one parallels their respective Hanzo rival in surprisingly effective ways. But the two that really shine are Homura and Haruka. Homura is at her best here, before she became a relatively likeable but kinda dull second wheel to Asuka, she is a brutal bully and a really effective antagonist who gets under Asuka’s skin and her actions linger throughout the series. Haruka is the one who I believe shines the most in this series. She acts almost entirely independently, masquerading as working for Dogen the main villain. Seeing her with Hibari was…interesting but for reasons I cannot discuss, but other than the oodles of fanservice she provides, she was a great catalyst for the plot and seeing her act independently was a great showcase of her personality.
- The Other Characters: I’ll keep this brief because I’m already getting way too deep into this. For the other Hanzo/Good guys, Kiriya is an effective mentor who’s place in the plot is pretty fleshed out and links to another character. Daidouji is just kinda there and doesn’t really offer that much other than to alleviate tension whether it be for better or worse due to her obscene strength and Master Hanzo is…whatever. He’s basically a bland Master Roshi and that’s all there is to is. For Hebijo/Bad Guy characters, Rin was a decent threat and had some decent plot moments, while Dogen was so boring and ultimately meaningless I had to look up the cast because all I saw in Dogen’s place was a blank slate, he’s that forgettable.
This show has some pretty good presentation, nothing iconic, but still good looking. Those who have seen Shinovi Master can agree the animation was…let’s just say it wasn’t up to standard. The more frames I see of Shinovi Master the more I realize how poor the animation was, so it was a great surprise to see this animation was pretty good. Characters were on model consistently, the facial expressions and eyes were very expressive and the color pallet was very varied. While Shinovi Master had a very bright and mellow color scheme, Ninja Flash uses somewhat more realistic colors, with a lot of shading on characters in certain lighting and the combat scenes being accentuated by heavy shadows. Speaking of combat, these fights were explosive and the animation really does make for some great movements, special attacks and a lot of conviction in the movement. So in conclusion, this anime boasts some good presentation and animation, I wouldn’t call it perfect as I mentioned before, but I will definitely praise it for looking impressive at least.
Compared to Shinovi Master?
Now it might be a bit unfair to compare these two anime since one of them is still ongoing at the time of this review and the two of them follow separate continuities. But Shinovi Master is meant to serve as a follow up anime, so I shall compare elements of both shows and determine which I feel is better at this point.
- Story: Honestly Shinovi Master has a more interesting story but Ninja Flash has slightly better pacing. Ninja Flash is more of a slow burn with its story, serving to set up plot threads early on and slowly bring them forward, while Shinovi Master dives straight into the meat of the story and has a much faster approach to its plot points in most places. Ninja Flash treats itself like an anime for everyone to approach, Shinovi Master treats itself in a way that it expects you to know these characters and doesn’t address the relationships these characters have that much.
- Characters: Honestly It’s a bit more difficult to say which show is better in terms of characters. While Shinovi Masters cast might be a bit too cluttered for some, it doesn’t waste time establishing them to the audience, but this only works if you know these characters and the series. For first time viewers this might be confusing, while Ninja Flash makes sure the charaters are set up and established before the plot starts, having a roster of characters less than half of what Shinovi Master has. In terms of which show managed their characters better it’s difficult to say, Shinovi Master has some great character interactions and the characters play off one another well, while Ninja Flash keeps their cast close knit and the interactions between them are really sincere. So while Shinovi Master has more variety and doesn’t waste too much time setting them up, Ninja Flash sets up the smaller cast before any meaningful interactions, so I’d say they are both good but for different reasons.
- Presentation: Ninja Flash trumps Shinovi Master in almost every aspect with presentation. Colours are far more vibrant and varied, the fight sequences and action segments are better out together and the actual animation itself is so superior that it’s laughable. Ninja Flash’s animation is so much smoother, well drawn and has much more varied colours. Not much else to say on this front, there’s no real contest on this front.
We talked about it in the Shinovi Master full review, so it’s only fair we talk about it here too. As mentioned in the past, Senran Kagura is an inherently ‘ecchi’ franchise, so the fanservice is of course a big part of it. What differentiates this fanservice from that seen in Shinovi master is much more tame, at least in how much it shows. While Shinovi Master had full frontal nudity type fanservice, Ninja Flash has much more ‘tasteful’ fanservice, covering things up and leaving it more to your imagination. Me personally, I hate it when a show that has typically tasteful and mild fanservice changes in a later series and has much more explicit fanservice, it just throws the whole thing off tonally in my opinion. But that aside, this fanservice is played off usually for comedic effect, and in some ways it does actually add to it. I don’t know why I’m going in depth about the comedic value and tastefulness of franchise for a 6 year old anime, so let’s end it here and get to the grades.
- Story: 4/5 – A plot reminiscent of the original game. Many great events and cool character moments, overall a very enjoyably story.
- Characters: 4/5 – I loved seeing these characters shining on the screen without gameplay stifling their personalities. These girls shine in this anime and were a joy to watch through and through.
- Presentation: 4/5 – The animation was consistent, the expressions and colors were good and the combat scenes had great motion and flow to them.
- Enjoyability: 5/5 – In terms of how fun this show was, its a big fat 5. These characters are charming to watch, the story is engaging and paced well. As a fan of this series its great seeing these characters truly flourish outside of the games.
- (Unique Grade) Tasteful Fanservice: 4/5 – This one doesn’t have fanservice as extreme as Shinovi Master, and in this series it works way better. It’s more comedic, more appealing and not as distracting, this was back when the series knew how to make quality fanservice.
Final Grade: 4/5
I might have a wee bit of bias towards this show, it’s tied to one of my favorite franchises and I do have some nostalgic attachment to it. I know some people will definitely think it’s worse than I give it credit, but to me this is a great anime and a pretty good show for the franchise. It has a great selection of characters that flourish in this narrative setting, not stifled by gameplay. The story is basic but wonderfully executed and the overall presentation is great. If you’re a fan of the Senran Kagura series, do give this a look, it’s still great to watch today.
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