DVD Review: Samurai Harem – The Complete Series
14/12/2015 Leave a comment
Judging from MVM Entertainment’s December line-up it seems the UK Distributor can’t get enough of harem-filled-anime; but with this being said Samurai Harem offers something a little bit different. Why exactly? Well you’ll have to read this review to find out…hopefully.
After many long years perfecting the art of fighting, 17-year-old Yoichi Karasuma is sent down from the remote mountains where he has been raised thinking that he’s going to study some new martial arts techniques… but what he’s really going to learn about are some slightly more practical things, like electrical appliances, modern clothing and, most especially, how NOT to make girls to want to kill you!
Unfortunately, that last lesson is one Yoichi may not survive, as his new dojo is infested with the infernal creatures in the form of the Ikaruga sisters, and they don’t really seem to understand how “proper” girls are “supposed” to behave! Will Yoichi’s bushido blade be struck down by the fearsome charms of Ibuki, Ayame, Chihaya, and Kagome? Or will the equally lethal girls from the rival Tsubame school be his undoing?
When it comes to harem anime the series has to do something different to catch my attention; Maid Sama achieved this by being comedic in the right places while elsewhere So I Can’t Play H offered the type of unique content that can’t be found elsewhere. So with this being said does Samurai Harem offer anything different; or is it just the same as previous shows that failed to capture my attention? Well interestingly enough the answer is neither; Samurai Harem is its own show and – at first glance at least – its not even a harem; but it does feature girls with big boobs and a shy guy unsure of what to do.
Confused? So was I – but it all makes sense in the end. The story of this series follows the events of 17-year-old Yoichi Karasuma; a samurai who has been raised and trained in the mountains and sent to the city to live with his relatives in order to learn about civilised lifestyle. As you’d expect Yoichi is clueless about modern day life, be it dress code, mannerisms or the law and as such gets himself into all sorts of trouble – including with the police. The first episode pretty much sets the tone of what to expect; whereby he bumps into various female characters – each of which later turn out to be the relatives he will be staying with, and making himself an enemy in the form of the local school bully but it’s the events that happen after this first episode which make the show interesting.
Judging from its title, and the events that transpired in the first episode, you would expect either Yoichi to go ‘head-over-heels’ for the girls or vice versa; but in actuality that’s not really the case. For the most part it’s about the characters going about their everyday lives and getting accustomed to each other. For instance Yoichi will attend school in an attempt to get accustomed to normal life while Ibuki Ikaruga, the eldest daughter of the Ikaruga resident, takes care of everyone in the household; elsewhere Chihaya Ikaruga, one of the younger daughters in the house, is a high-schooler but a profressional manga artist at the same time. There is then the other two sisters of the household, Ayame and Kagome, each of which add their own ‘spice of life’ to the mix whereby Ayame is high-strung and easily annoyed high-schooler while Kagome, the youngest of the sisters, is relatively timid and shy.
It’s a great cast of characters and yet while each get their own time in the spotlight they never admittedly stand out. Of course two of the characters, namely Ibuki and Ayame, start to develop feelings for Joichi – but the for the most part Kagome is a support character and Chihaya stirs up trouble. So in short it’s not really a harem as you may expect; but as the series progresses the school bully begins to develop feelings for Ibuki and tries to express his feelings to her – which is amusing in its own right – and adds further complications down the line for the entire Ikaruga household.
Ironically enough however this is only one-side of the story; as elsewhere, lurking in the shadows, a notorious assassin is trying to kill Yoichi by any means. Of course it’s another rival samurai and as each episode passes by we see him hire assassins in order to kill Yoichi until, eventually, he decides to do it himself. It’s a comical chain of events which leads to a mixed ‘potential’ harem with a quarrel between two fractions and while, on paper at least, it sounds disappointing it’s actually not half bad.
Each episode does have a ‘rinse and repeat’ process but the cast of colourful characters, the love-interest developing between ‘selective’ characters and then an assassin with more money than sense all adds to the charm. At the end of the day this isn’t your typical harem but it has elements from it to keep it on track with its ideals.
Samurai Harem’s selection of bonus content continues to remain consistent with previous releases by MVM Entertainment; whereby across the two DVD discs we have a selection of trailers and textless songs.
Unlike other titles the trailers included on this release have yet to be released by any distributor within the UK; with the exception of Gintama which saw MangaUK release the film several years ago. Of course this isn’t an indication that MVM Entertainment will release any of these titles in the UK but it does give us an insight into some of the shows that are available in the US and not in the UK.
Media: DVD 9 x2
Running Time: 2:31:48 (Disc 1 & 2)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps
Samurai Harem is a show I did not expect anything from and yet twelve episodes later i am left basking in its entertaining but amusing glory. Some may say it is your traditional harem story filled with ‘unique girls’ and one main guy all driving for his affection; but in actuality it’s not – it is more of a love triangle type of story between selective characters disguised as a harem and it all works quite well. The events of the series cover the entire Ikaruga household, just like a traditional harem would, but it’s only the main protagonists – in this case Ibuki, Ayame, Ryo and Yoichi – getting their feelings explored to the viewer. The remaining characters meanwhile, such as the two younger sisters of the Ikaruga household, are used as a cause to bring out there emotions onto the screen; for instance Chihaya constantly teases Ayame about her true feelings for Ryo but is unwilling to express them – the same can also be said for Ibuki.
Of course this aside Samurai Harem has another story to be told; as Yoichi and the girls of the Ikaruga household are constantly attacked by various assassins hired by an unknown group. There is a reasoning behind these attacks – one which I will not spoil – but it further spices up the show that’s centric on being a love story/harem; thus offering it a nice balance between character development and samurai action. Ironically I use the term ‘action’ loosely as the fights do not last very long but when they do take place they are pretty unique and different – for instance one episode sees surfboard style samurai attack their target while another is a high-schooler in disguise. It’s bonkers but at the same time seems valid.
When it comes to this DVD release by MVM Entertainment, with discs masters created by Sentai Filmworks, then there isn’t much to say as everything is as you would expect it to be. Unlike So I Can’t play H the DVD Menu has some nice design to it, with each episode listed on the main screen and then a sub-menu for extra features and setup options – each of which play a theme song from the show. To keep things – as high quality – the extras are also spread across the two DVD discs; meanwhile in terms of picture and subtitle quality everything remains consistent of what you would expect from a DVD. Praise must also be given to the inclusion of an English Dub which, given by Sentai Filmwork standards, is actually enjoyable to watch – although at times the Japanese audio provided the better overall experience.
Overall Samurai Harem is a show I did not expect to like and yet after the first episode it had me hooked; sure enough it has selective ecchi scenes but its nothing over-the-top or brash like the events of So I Can’t Play H; furthermore theres a relatively decent love-story to be had in a world filled with Samurais. Basically it looks and sounds completely out of place; but as a show it works quite well and it is worth watching – especially if you enjoy other shows with similar traits.
Samurai Harem – The Complete Series is now available on DVD within the UK.