Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Real Bout High School (Samurai Girl)

Genre: Action
Parental Guidance Recommended
English Version © 2002 Mixx Entertainment, Inc. (Distributed by TOKYOPOP)

Real Bout High School DVDs
Real Bout High School Art Books & Manga
Real Bout High School Music

Kyubi Kitsune's Description:
At Daimon High School disputes and power struggles are settled through organized fights known K-Fights. Ryoko Mitsurugi, a girl who aspires to be a modern day samurai, is the current champion. If not tied up through constant challenges for her position, she is also occupied in dealing with her own stalker, competing for the love of the Kendo Club president, learning under a master swordsman, and saving the alternative dimension of Solvania from demon invaders.

(13 episodes)

Not one of Studio Gonzo's highlights. >>> by Kyubi Kitsune

Real Bout High School faces a major identity crisis as it fumbles through many story ideas. At times it is a fantasy adventure, other times it is martial arts oriented, sometimes a parody of various genres, and some high school drama is thrown into mix for good measure. Oh yeah, it also has gratuitous panty shots to distract the viewer from its lack of coherency.

Story wise, nothing ever really gets resolved in RBHS except for the Solvania sub plot, and even this is not done very well because it never gets fully developed. It just seems like the show takes a shotgun approach to the story by throwing a whole lot out at the viewer hoping that something will be appealing, if not just to overwhelm the viewer. This is a shame because some elements, especially the high school elements of show like the rivalry between Ryoko and Azumi (the Naginata wielding president of the Flower Arrangement Club), Ryoko's rivalry with Shizuma (another top contender for her champion status who has some devastating energy attacks), and the K-Fights themselves would make for a good anime in itself. Actually if the series tried to be truer to the manga it was based on, it probably would have turned out very well. In all fairness there are some very good episodes in RBHS like the seventh episode which involves a K-Fight between Ryoko and Azumi which plays out to be an over-the-top skewering of the Iron Chef style of cooking shows.

RBHS is filled with an interesting cast of eccentric characters like Ryoko, Azumi, and Shizuma, but the schizophrenic storyline never quite allows them to shine as bright as they could.

Animation is rather nice as one would expect from Studio Gonzo, but there are places where the quality noticeably drops, and still shots are sometimes used. Character designs are done by Gonzo regular Keiji Gotoh (Nadesico), and mileage will vary depending on how you like his style. In this case they work rather well. However some may take issue with Ryoko's design where she has thicker legs than most anime heroines, but due to her athletic nature the design works rather well.

What show does really well is its fights, as they are well animated and choreographed. This is where someone may find interest in this series. For example, the fight in the first episode between Ryoko and Azumi is well worth a viewing.

Music in this series is almost strictly a love-hate aspect of RBHS. The opening is mildly catchy, yet is nonsensical and strictly generic J-Pop. Ending fairs to be an even worse generic J-Pop tune which most people will opt to skip over to get to the next-episode preview. Background music almost resembles the plot in a sense with its variety. While there is some nice techno music playing during the fights, there is also some horrid '80s synthesizer material along with some other forgettable tunes.

The dub is good considering that the show itself was not well written initially. One of the better American dubbing studios, Bang Zoom!, handled the dub on RBHS, and while you know the voice actors (three of which played the major characters in the often praised Cowboy Bebop dub) are actually talented in their craft, the source material really does not allow for them to standout and do their job.

Real Bout High School is a tough one to recommend. It does have some good elements to it like characters, humor, and the fights. However it tries to be more than what its thirteen episodes allow for it to be, and the flashback episode (episode 11) did not help the pacing out either. Before buying this series, definitely either borrow or rent the first couple volumes to see if you can tolerate it. This is definitely a good example of a series where you are either going to like it or hate it.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 5; Characters 8; Sounds 5

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