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Battle Vixens, vol. 2: Historic Battles
A region 2 DVD review by CNash
 

Battle Vixens (Ikki Tousen) Volume 2, released on 13th March by MVM Entertainment, is the second part of a 13-episode series that is promoted as "one of the sexiest series around". And they're not kidding.

If you thought regular academic study at Japanese high schools was ultra-competitive, just be glad you're not a member of a school in this universe. The seven schools and academies of the Kanto district are constantly at war with each other, each school frequently sending their skilled warriors to fight with representatives of the other schools in some kind of teenage gang warfare. They're not just fighting for the hell of it, though – they're guided by the magatama stones that each fighter wears as an earring; each magatama containing the spirit of a great warrior from the Chinese Three Kingdoms era (as popularised by Koei's video game series, Dynasty Warriors). In this way, the students are fated to re-enact the life and battles of these ancient warriors.

And these aren't your typical animé fantasy battles, either. This is full-on, kick-the-crap kung fu action, bloody and brutal, with just a hint of magical "energy attacks" thrown in for good measure. I wasn't really surprised by the level of gore, as I was with Gunslinger Girl – mainly because of the series' other important aspect: the fanservice.

Battle Vixens prides itself on two things: the vicious action scenes, and what goes on afterwards. In fact, "fanservice" is putting it mildly. Every time a girl is in frame, you're almost guaranteed to get a panty shot or another typically sexual pose from them. During the battles, lead character Hakufu tends to get the front of her blouse ripped open, allowing her breasts to bounce freely. The series' main running gag is between Hakufu and her (male) cousin, Koukin – he'll frequently walk in on her in a state of undress, grab his nose, and run frantically from the room, shouting at her to put some clothes on. There's even some very softcore hentai – no exposed breasts or genitals, but some explicit lesbian action between a number of the characters.

This volume contains three episodes:

5: "An Angry Hakufu and a School Wide Counterattack" Hakufu tries to visit Taishiji, whom she injured in a previous episode, but is turned away. Losing control, she destroys a rival school's entire team of fighters. Where is this "rage" coming from?

6: "The Great Tournament Begins" The first round of the Great Tournament kicks off, with Ryomou making a surprise appearance to help Hakufu and Koukin.

7: "A Confrontation With Destiny" Kanu battles with Ryomou and Hakufu, and Hakufu's mysterious power begins to surface. Ryofu starts to be suspicious of Totaku.

The animation is quite unremarkable; nothing jumped out at me as being exceptional. It's just "regular" animé style, lots of bold colours. The English-dubbed voices are fine, but some of their dialogue is delivered stiffly and leaves a lot to be desired. The lip-synching is sometimes mismatched. And I suppose that because I can't really remember the music – aside from the image songs, which are generic – it means that that wasn't anything special either.

The big question that Battle Vixens left me with was whether there was more to the series than fanservice and fighting. I certainly didn't think so. Even the director, in his extra-feature interview, comments that he wants viewers to be "excited in different ways" by the mix of panty shots and kung-fu action. And when the director thinks the best thing about his series is the fanservice, it doesn't bode well for the plot.

So is it style over substance? To be honest, there's not much substance. Come to think of it, there's barely any style! The plot is merely the setup for more action and sex, and has very little bearing on the characters or their lives. The main characters almost never mention the ancient history they're re-enacting, making this entire element of the story little more than an aside.

In short, if you just want to see animé babes kicking seven shades of crap out of each other, and then making out, give Battle Vixens a try. If you're the kind of person who needs a more meaningful story, and characters that have stories of their own, you should probably avoid this. Really, though, with an Americanised name like "Battle Vixens", what did you expect?

sound and vision

Framed 4:3, the picture quality of decent enough without being exceptional. Certainly there were no obvious flaws, and compression artefacts do not shout their presence. Colours reproduction is solid, though never leaps from the screen.

Unlike releases of more recent animé sries, Dolby 2.0 stereo is the only option here, both in the original Japanese and the usual English dub. There is some separation on the music, but the rest sits largely in the centre. The dynamic range is nothing to shout about, but the track is clear enough.

There are two English subtitle options – English and Signs Only, which translate any on-screen signs, title or graphics for those listening to the English dub.

extra features

Battle Vixens has quite a good selection of extra features. The best of the bunch has to be the Outtakes (06:31), showing the English voice actors playing around and re-recording several scenes with whatever came into their heads. There's an interview with director Takashi Watanabe (04:30) – Watanabe talks about how he used specially-filmed footage of real Japanese schoolgirls for his animators to work off -though I get the impression that he wasn't just using that footage for his art...

There's an Art Gallery of character designs and sketches for you to flick through, clean closing (but strangely, not opening) credits, and trailers for Samurai Champloo and Kiddy Grade.

appendix

I mentioned at the start of the review that the story is based on the Chinese Three Kingdoms period. English players of historical games such as Dynasty Warriors, Kessen 2 or Romance of the Three Kingdoms may recognise some of the events, but since the names used in the anime are Japanese and not Chinese, may not quite know who's who. Here's a quick guide:

Japanese
Chinese
Hakufu Sonsaku
Sun Ce
Shuuyu Koukin
Zhou Yu
Shimei Ryomou
Lu Meng
Unchou Kanu
Guan Yu
Housen Ryofu
Lu Bu
Genpou Saji
Zuo Ci
Toutaku Chuuei
Dong Zhuo
Kannei Kouha
Gan Ning
Taishiji Shigi
Taishi Ci 
Battle Vixens

Japan 2003
75 mins
director
Takashi Watanabe

DVD details
region 2
video
4:3
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
English – signs only
extras
Outtakes
Interview with director
Art Gallery
Trailers
distributor
Manga
release date
Out now
review posted
18 March 2006

See all of CNash's reviews