Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! (2013)
Masters in the art of full frontal combat!
With an extremely popular Nintendo 3DS videogame series, developed by Tamsoft, and a handful of manga adaptations, based on and around the much admired characters, the next foreseeable step for the ninja based Senran Kagura — which loosely translates to, ‘War to become Kagura,’ with Kagura being the highest level of ninja that a character in this game can achieve — was an anime; thus, Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! was born.
This exceedingly admired franchise primarily revolves around a group of buxom female ninjas, with the anime being no different, as its principal focus is to show off the delicious curves of the female fighters’ voluptuous bodies, with little attempt at integrating any real martial art ingredient, or even ninja know-how, into the vivacious mix. Surprisingly however, while the show’s core focal point is certainly its fan service, as the lightly dressed women constantly flaunt their oversized bosoms and curvaceous physique, there is an almost bizarre attempt at providing the ninjas — or ninjettes — with some rather traumatic pasts and complex backstories; though the anime’s biggest draw card is undoubtedly in its viscerally exciting design aesthetic and brilliant high-energy battle sequences.
Produced by Animation Studio Artland, Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! is directed by Takashi Watanabe, Ikki Tousen: Battle Vixens (2003), with a screenplay written by Takao Yoshioka, High School DxD New (2013). Having worked on the Ikki Tousen series, Watanabe is no stranger to vixens with overly endowed assets, knowing exactly how to blend elements of fan service — though, Senran Kagura is rather tame for the most part — with intensely fluid ninja fight scenes, implanting bouncy boobs into the action wherever possible.
Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! can essentially be boiled down to the age old tale of good versus evil, albeit this time with plenty of jiggling breasts. The story follows 16-year-old Asuka, a cute, small statured girl with black hair, tied in a medium sized ponytail, held up by a white ribbon bow — though, while in ninja form, Asuka dons a uniform composed of a yellow vest, green plaid skirt and a white shirt with a green tie; around her neck is a small red bandanna worn like a scarf. Attending the all-girl Hanzo Academy, Asuka — who is a second year student — meets first year students, the upbeat and often-clumsy 15-year-old Hibari — distinguished by her pink hair, decorated with three black ribbons that tie it into two pigtails — and 15-year-old Yagyū, a quiet, long white haired beauty, who cares greatly for Hibari, vowing to protect her at all cost — Yagyū wears a patch over her right eye and carries around an umbrella which aids her in battle. Asuka also befriends two third year girls; the serious and prestigious 18-year-old Ikaruga, who comes from a wealthy ninja family — known for her long dark straight hair, extending all the way down her thighs, and striking blue eyes — and 17-year-old blonde pervert, Katsuragi, who very quickly invites herself to fondle Asuka’s breasts at any given opportunity — Katsuragi’s ninja costume is without a doubt the most revealing of the girl’s outfits, though quite simplistic, as it is composed of her usual white Hanzo school uniform, but unbuttoned, revealing almost everything underneath.
Together these voluptuous babes secretly study the ancient art of ninjutsu, outside school hours of course! While other students are busy studying or completing their homework, Asuka and her newfound friends push their sensual bodies to breaking point in pursuit of their perfect form, attempting to master the shinobi craft. Life is pretty much one sexy sparring session after another, that is, until a devious rival clan of evil female ninja — from Hibi Girls Academy, who train their ninjas in the opposite moral philosophy to Hanzo — ambush the Hanzo hotties, stealing their sacred ninja scroll. With the girl’s abilities truly tested for the very first time, they find their own skills inadequate, especially when faced with this powerful foe. Pit against their toughest — and possibly most well rounded — adversary to date, Asuka and her fellow deadly divas will have to go further than ever before to prove they’ve mastered the art of Ninjutsu and reclaim Hanzo Academy’s sanctified scroll.
When it comes to storyline, Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! is rather basic; being based on a 3DS videogame the material is clearly much more difficult to adapt, in terms of creating and fashioning an enthralling storyline, as opposed to a translation from a light novel or a manga. Nonetheless, writer Takao Yoshioka has done a decent job in crafting a narrative that literally pits one ninja against the other, while giving both the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ girls adequately developed motivations to fuel the combating. When it comes to the Hanzo sweethearts, the characters, much like the plot, are hardly anything audiences haven’t seen before. Each of the main leads fall into a somewhat stereotypical anime role: the klutzy-yet-talented hero, the proper lady, the tomboy, the quiet girl, and the cutesy character — and each of these heroines has a similar counterpart on the evil side; although, while fairly generic on the outset, the ladies’ backstories and eccentricities raise them above mediocrity.
Asuka, the putative leader of the group, has many insecurities, including a bizarre fear which she must ultimately overcome — petrified of the family’s summon spirit, the tree frog — as well as a bit of anxiety, believing that she may be the first person in her family to fail at the ‘family business,’ being the granddaughter of the legendary shinobi, Hanzo. The other protagonists have similarly intricate histories, which — much like Asuka — play heavily into their development, but most pale in comparison to those of the antagonists; the Hibi ninjas.
Leading the band of ‘dark’ ninjas is the striking 16-year-old full-figured, tanned skin, Homura, with her dark brown hair, tied in a lengthy ponytail, held together by a white ribbon — Katanas being her weapon of choice. Homura is by far the most complex, and interesting, of the show’s characters, betrayed by her former master — whom she deeply trusted — setting her off on an inevitable path to evil; though the character of Homura feels slightly underused as her arc only surfaces toward the end of the 12-epidose series. Other noteworthy villains are puppeteer, Haruka, and 16-year-old, blonde haired, Yomi — whose outfit is somewhat reminiscent of a maid — growing up in the slums and harboring both great hate and yearning for prosperous houses/ families, envious of Ikaruga, who was adopted into a noble ninja dynasty. Lastly, rounding out the large cast of characters, and weaving some light-hearted humor into comings and goings, is Hanzo Academy ninjutsu teacher, Kiriya, who makes all his entrances and exits — rather unnecessarily — via smoke bomb, along with Asuka’s grandfather, Hanzo — also known for his famous futomaki delicacy, which the scantily clad ninjas-in-training take pleasure in devouring — making an unexpected appearance at the all-girl school; both pretty much being the only male/ authoritarian figures in the entire anime.
While Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! does attempt to weave together the forces of light and darkness — especially in the second half of the series — it does however feel like this conflict comes into play a smidgen too late, as a majority of the show is comprised of various filler material, including the obligatory beach/ bikini episode and other such storylines, which aim to do very little other than to get the girls in their underwear — the latter not being too difficult, seeing as the gal’s combat outfits conveniently ‘break away’ whenever these warriors are injured in battle, putting the honeys in their bra and panties at every possible turn — cleverly combining elements of fan service into the narrative.
The energetic fight scenes and wonderful character designs by Takashi Torii — who also worked on the project as episode/ animation director — are indeed the show’s biggest standout. Despite some of the character animation being a bit on the generic side, each of the busty babes has been given a distinct look and a nifty personalized uniform, which mirrors the girls’ individual traits and qualities. Though, it’s in the impressive combat scenes where Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! truly hauls itself out of lackluster territory, as the shapely heroines face off against their robust counterparts. These vivid battle sequences often erupt with fluidity and fury, regularly offering strange, almost psychedelic, backgrounds, introducing a quasi-hallucinogenic quality to some of the encounters, providing the anime with a distinctively strong visual allure.
Not as predictable or generic as it seems, Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! is a decent attempt at bringing the beloved Nintendo 3DS videogame to the animation platform, as this generally amusing and humors series — thanks to its well formulated characters — does posses a real spectacle-like quality, particularly in some of the gripping ninja clashes. While proceedings do get wrapped up a tad too quickly in the rushed final act, Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! is an entertaining and playful affair, which doesn’t get too raunchy. The series is certainly worth a sit through — if you’re into ecchi or ‘naughty’ anime — even just to catch a glimpse of these cute girls and their huge breasts bursting out of customized ninja uniforms.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by S-Littner
Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! is released through Madman Entertainment Australia