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Review: “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” In The Pan

Senran Kagura

Senran KaguraDid you see that cute girl walking to class? If you did, she must not be a ninja. The Good Ninjas take special classes at Hanzo Academy, sight unseen from the common people, and are engaged in a never-ending battle against the Evil Ninjas of the Serpent Academy. Engaged in their martial arts training, they will enjoy high school life with a few special perks: they can summon an animal spirit, transform into special ninja battle forms at will, and even be courted by their evil adversaries… all while looking good. Do the bountiful and bouncy-ful girls of Hanzo Academy pass their classes, or are they just a team of bimbos that don’t have a brain between them?

To be very clear in what kind of series Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! is, you’ve got to know that the title is an adaptation of a mildly-popular fighting game from Japan that’s had enough sequels to span consoles, but minimal exposure in America. The game is known more for it’s busty and barely-dressed ninja girls fighting each other, jiggling all the way to the bank. It’s not known for a deep storyline, but maybe, just maybe, an animated adaption could solve that.

Senran KaguraCoulda, woulda, shoulda.

Ninja Flash! fails to do that, and instead, offers a semblance of a running plot over 12 episodes that could have been handled better in 120 minutes with a more competent story. It’s got a litany of characters that you won’t bother to learn by name, since it’s easier and faster to remember them as Main Girl, Pink-Haired Naive Girl, The Two Girls With Eyepatches For No Explained Reason, The Weird Mind-Controlling One That Actually Has The Body That Would Come With That Chest, The Serious Brunette, The Breast-Obsessed Blonde, The Vaguely-Snake Girl, and The Handful Of Male Characters That Exist To Only Back-Up Plot Or Give Exposition. Each of the girl fulfills some sort of fanboy desire, physically or mentally, and whose slightest amount of character development in twelve episodes is soon overtaken by the jiggling that comes from erotically chowing down on a sushi roll. Or just standing in place.

Mind you, the cast is in the mid-to-late teens. They’re also animated, but it’s easy to imagine that’s not as much of a hindrance as the other for most viewers.

Senran KaguraMany of the episodes featuring some sort of specialized training: how to handle frogs to better your animal attack prowess; super-tough hiking to share survival techniques; or simply learning what sort of titillating, bikini-based costume you’ll theoretically fight best in. The very loose overall plot involves the Evil Ninjas (who are frequently referred to as such, even by themselves) trying to break into the Hanzo Academy to steal a special scroll. Naturally, this culminates with a series finale where both teams must pair to defeat a true nemesis, what you see in any sort of superhero meet-cute. A meet-fight?

It’s not that the story takes any particularly bad paths; there’s some decent traits of any sort of martial arts series. You’ve got rivals learning how to be friends, knowing how to accept your limits, knowing how to push yourself, and a fair amount of backstabbing and double-crosses. The whole issue with the series is that it’s very predictable, and it all exists for fanservice. There’s some fun to be had with fanservice when it’s creative, but when it equates to magically-taped shirts or redundant transformation sequences to temporarily titillate, you’re just pandering to the lowest-common denominator.

Senran KaguraThe box set has two commentaries, several promotional videos and Japanese commercials, one textless opening, three textless closings, and your standard assortment of trailers. The set is well-done, with both the Blu-rays and DVDs coming in Blu-ray cases encased in a hard box. Each format has reversible artwork, if your girl of choice isn’t on display by default. Much like the show itself, it’s a pretty package, and that’s where it stops. Commentaries are always appreciated and are clearly something that the English production has to go out of their way for, so it is nice to have them. Japanese commercials are frequently interesting as an “oddity,” but you can completely go through all extras within a hour; there’s not much depth here. Notably, the extra mini-episodes and an OVA that were released in Japan were not included with this set. It’s unclear to this Kagura neophyte whether they’ll be held for another release, were unable to be included, or even belonged more to the games than the series.

Unless you’re a fan of the Senran Kagura franchise, or you’ve never seen bouncing teenage girls fight each other in animation, you can completely pass this series up. It gets a failing grade for not trying hard enough. Effort is commendable, but when a series plays it so safe and paints by numbers, you can’t expect a masterpiece.