Sekirei – Pure Engagement (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 294 minutes approx.
Even if you have seen the first series of the big boobed battle babes show that is Sekirei, which arrived on our shores last year, you will need to have either a very good memory or will have to watch it again as a refresher course, as this follow up carries on directly where it’s predecessor left off. A few little helpful reminders are dotted throughout the first episode but not enough to enlighten anyone coming in fresh to this series or to kick start the old memory for the rest of us.
A brief recap then of the main premise: 19 year-old Minato Sahashi is surrounded by a bevy of young women who are Sekirei – one hundred and eight woman with mystical powers which are unlocked when awakened by an “Ashikabi”, a human with special genes. Lucky old Minato seems to have some pretty potent genes as he has no less than five Sekirei with whom he locked lips, awakened and now lives with: ditzy Musubi, aggressive man hater Tsukiumi, computer nerd Matsu, heavy boozer Kazehana the drunkard and the youngster Kusano (the only one Minato hasn’t awakened). The Sekirei are all embroiled in an all out Battle Royale called the “Sekirei Plan” – organized by Hiroto Minaka, the chairman and founder of the mysterious MBI Corporation – with the last Sekirei standing receiving the grand reward of having their wish fulfilled.
Got that? Right, so moving on and the maniacal Minaka has decide to play some games with the Sekirei, spreading the word that there are still one left yet to be awakened, the androgynous Homura/Kagari, and issues orders a hunt for him/her (don’t ask). Being the good guys they are Minato and his harem step in to protect the outnumbered Homura and I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Not content with this, Minaka decides to throw the world into more chaos by decreeing to all Ashikabi who have yet to score in the game that they must do so immediately or their Sekirei will cease to function. Cue mass panic and nationwide free-for-alls.
But it’s not all melees and manipulation – the show actually carries with it an intrinsic meditation on the importance of friendship. Regardless of their petty squabbles about bra size and who is Minato’s rightful ladylove, the girls in his harem are committed to one another and in the heat of battle will fight alongside each other rather than against them, consequences be damned. This ethos is soon compromised however when Uzume, a Sekirei residing at the Izumo Inn suddenly ups and leaves, turning on her fellow housemates. The reason is her Ashikabi, Chiho Hidaka, a young girl with a crippling illness who is mostly confined to a hospital bed. Fearful that the latest decree from Minaka will put her in danger, Uzume dedicates herself to protecting Chiho in one of the more potent story arcs of the show.
With its concentration on creating some depth for many of the central characters along with emotive storylines, it therefore makes one wonder why the need for all the fan service and prurience when the storytelling could have sufficed. Yes, sex sells but there are times when it feels gratuitous and sadly, for all of the evident good points to be found in this show, it definitely falls into that category. Not content with all of the females – save for prepubescent Kusano – being so well endowed their breasts enter a room a full minute before the rest of them does, their clothes either tear with ridiculous ease, or key conversations take place before, during and after a bath session for full bare flesh exposure. Throw in the usual harem comedy set-ups of Minato “accidentally” falling face first into nominal leading lady Musubi’s ample bosom leading to easily jealous Tsukimi – who has declared herself Minato’s legal wife because she says so – exploding with rage, it often makes it a struggle to take this show seriously as anything other than a piece of ribald fluff. And if the message wasn’t driven home enough about how much precedence the nudity has over the story, the OVA included in the extras is solely about the girls chests being measured!!
Supporting the occasionally solid storytelling are some impressive visuals; the battle scenes are deftly handled and given room to breathe, rather than be lost of a furious haze of frenetic mayhem, usually a sign of lazy animators. With a cast of one-hundred and eight Sekirei to represent (thankfully not all of them are shown), the ones given the most attention are distinguishable enough by their bespoke special powers and weaponry, should their physical appearances be to close to another’s. Easily more recognisable are the Ashikabi, most of whom we meet for the first time here with little introduction and who are far more ruthless than Minato. One nasty chap abuses his Sekirei but like a good servant she takes it. Unfortunately for him, feminist Tsukimi just happens to be passing by during one of his bullying sessions. Need I say more?
For those who can’t get enough, the series ends with a hint that a third series is still to come as the original Manga continues to this day (no sign of the anime just yet) but this instalment ends on a sufficient enough note that it wraps up what its started without making that wait unbearable.
It feels almost like a waste of energy to complain too much about how Sekirei: Pure Engagement squanders its potential by following the tawdry, harem comedy route but that is pretty much the sum of its parts. A slight redeeming factor is that there are far worse shows of this type out there.
If you know what you are letting yourself in for then sit back and enjoy!
English Language 5.1 Surround
Episode 5 commentary
OVA – Two Gossip Topics
Episode 10 Commentary
Ratings – ***
Man In Black