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Anime review: ‘Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!’

Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!
© 2012 MarvelousAQL/SENRAN-KAGURA Partners Licensed by FUNimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

On July 29, 2014, anime publisher FUNimation Entertainment releases the beautiful ninja girl anime series, “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” in limited and standard edition Blu-ray/DVD combo packs, and we took the opportunity to check out this action-packed anime series.

Based on the side-scrolling adventure game, released in North America by XSEED Games, “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” follows the journey of Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyuu and Hibari, shinobi in training at the prestigious Hanzo Academy. Hanzo Academy serves as a training ground for a select group of elite good ninja, the school is actually named for Asuka’s grandfather, a world-renowned ninja.

Though Asuka is one of only five ninja in training, her grandfather casts a rather large shadow, and although he seems rather laid back, Asuka struggles to avoid bringing the family name shame. Thankfully, the girls are a team, and whenever one is falling behind, the others step up and help, even if that means helping Asuka get over her fear of frogs by throwing her in a kiddy pool filled with them, since despite an intense phobia, it appears that frogs are the family’s summon beast.

It’s not all high school drama though, you wouldn’t have good ninja without the bad, and Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy definitely delivers on the bad thanks to its elite five, Homura, Yomi, Hikage, Mirai and Haruka. The girls of Hebijo have been sent by their academy to challenge Asuka and her companions, while they also search for a secret ninja art scroll, the evil shinobi have one and the good have the other.

Early on, Asuka and the Hanzo Academy girls don’t stack up, as far as fighting ability goes anyway, to the ladies of Hebijo. That doesn’t keep them down for long though, they can be annoyingly optimistic at times, so no matter what challenges they face, Hanzo meets them head on. All of the girls seem like tough, beautiful female leads, but Hibari does come off as far too weak early on, she slightly redeems herself eventually. As the girls work to grow stronger, they learn that not everyone who is evil is as bad as they might initially seem.

Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” has a story that moves at a bit of an odd pace, this may be due to me having played the game, but I felt that the story could have slowed a little bit and the series could have gone a few more episodes to establish the Hebijo girls a little bit better. It was also strange that while the girls have their stories partially told, not enough time was spent on backstory, so that you can better understand them. Although, it was a nice touch to flashback to the early years of when each girl entered the academy and gets to know the others.

It is kind of funny to say, but because there is no love interest for any of the girls to focus on, despite the panty and boob shot fanservice, the series feels a little more like “K-ON!” than is does “Freezing” or “Sekirei”. The relationships between the girls, both good and bad, are interesting to see develop, and even though the Hanzo and Hebijo girls seem like exact opposites, they are a lot more alike than you might think, and the series does a nice job of showing that.

Visually, “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” has a nice look, the picture quality is clear and vivid, while the animation and battle scenes look smooth. This review is based on the DVD version of the series, it is likely that the Blu-ray version will look at least a bit better. Comparing the look of the girls in the game to the anime, it would appear that the anime does a nice job of matching their looks, and they even include a few quick costume changes.

As far as the two voice options go, the Japanese cast was the better option, in my opinion. Early on, the English cast just didn’t sit well with me, but I can’t put my finger on what it was. The more I watched of the series in English though, the more it grew on me and by the end I was fine with both options. The English subtitles were clear, easy to read, the translations had good flow and the text remained on screen for a fair length of time.

Included as on-disc extras with “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” are promotional videos, a U.S. trailer for the series, the textless opening and closings, Japanese commercials, and trailers for other FUNimation Entertainment releases. Also included is episode commentary for episodes four and ten of the anime.

“Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” has plenty of combat, battle-damaged scantily-clad busty women, and a secret war between good and evil, everything you would expect from an entertaining action anime. The series does however, suffer a bit from some storytelling issues, but as I said before, it may feel that way, to me, because I played the game.

It just felt like more time should have been spent on the girls, good and evil, and each of their backstory. That said however, the series does have a nice high school comedy type of feel, because of the girls’ friendships and interactions, despite being action-oriented and not focused much on the school itself. And it couldn’t be based on the “Senran Kagura” games, if the girls weren’t losing clothes in every battle.

If you enjoyed anime series like “Ikki Tousen”, “Himawari!” and “Koihime Muso”, then “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” may be right up your alley. Whether you have played “Senran Kagura Burst” or not, this anime is definitely entertaining.

Score
3.5 out of 5

Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Runtime: 300 minutes
Number of Episodes: 12
Number of Discs: 2 DVDs (Also on Blu-ray)
Languages: English, Japanese with English subtitles
Age Rating: TV-MA
Release Date: July 29, 2014

(A review copy of “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” on DVD was provided by FUNimation Entertainment for review.)