Kämpfer Series And OVA Collection (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 351 minutes approx.
Magical girls in anime come in all types – tall, short, slender, Amazonian, aggressive, sweet natured, alien, cat girl, schoolgirls, schoolboys….wait what? Yup, the conceit of this particular magical girl series is that the central heroine is in fact male!
Natsuru Senō is a male student at the Seitetsu Gakuin High School, a co-ed school which implements a divide between the genders. One day Natsuru wakes up to find he has transformed into a female (as you do) and has been chosen to be a Kämpfer, a combatant in the battle between the red and blue factions, with his allegiance illustrated by the blue bracelet newly attached to his arm.
Natsuru is informed of this by a messenger, which in fact is a stuffed toy with its entrails hanging out, also assigned to him out of nowhere by the moderators of the battle. Since Kämpfers are female only it is quite the mystery as to why a boy was chosen but at least Natsuru can transform back into his male form when the bracelet allows it, so all is not lost.
That’s quite the hook to kick off this series and offers the chance for a male protagonist to experience life as an objectified woman and hopefully have more respect for his female counterparts, perhaps also encouraging debate about transgender issues. But this is anime so of course nothing of the sort happens because where is the fun in that? A boy in a girl’s body? That is ecchi comedy gold!
And that is exactly what we get in this unfocused and unashamedly tawdry mess of a show but one look at the unambiguous DVD cover informs us of this anyway. Adapted from a light novel series from Toshihiko Tsukiji, it became a manga two years after its debut and now studio Nomad have brought it to life in animated form, and frankly they needn’t have bothered.
Once the opening episode has passed, having set up the story of the red vs. blue battle, introduced the characters and set up a convoluted duo gender lover triangle/harem scenario, any semblance of a story to expand upon the gravity of this violent tussle is swiftly defenestrated so we can get down to the more important business of clothes shopping swimming pools and Sapphic shenanigans.
Kämpfer (the German for “fighter”) are fierce weapon wielding ladies whose identities are obscured by their everyday appearances, until danger looms in which case they can instigate a transformation via their bracelets. For Natsuru his Kämpfer form is his female form, which is pretty much his male form with longer hair and a voluptuous female body which excites both genders because yuri.
Other Kämpfer include meek Akane Mishima, a bespectacled lass with a crush on male Natsuru who turns into a foul mouthed, fiery red haired gunslinger; Mikoto Kondō, Natsuru’s itinerant childhood friend becomes a katana wielding silver aired warrior; and Student Council President Shizuku Sangō, whose appearance doesn’t really change much at all, except for a lighter shade of shadow in her hair.
The standard attire of the Kämpfer is their school uniform because of course it is and they all have their own stuffed toy messenger, a gruesome looking animal with its innards spilling out of its stomach. Not content with these battling babes all wanting a piece of Natsuru in either one or both forms, there is the spare wheel in Kaede Sakura, a non- Kämpfer and the object of desire for male Natsuru while man hater Kaede is in love with female Natsuru.
It all sounds quite enticing when the central components of the show are explained in full like this but the execution is woefully maladroit and counterproductive, spraying the whole thing up the wall. This isn’t the first series to ignore the main story while it wastes valuable episodes with the standard high school/ecchi/harem comedy nonsense before remembering there is a plot to be resolved, and it won’t be the last.
And if you are hoping that a satisfying and worthy explanation for this all female fracas awaits you at the conclusion of this bawdy excursion, I regretfully have to inform you that the writers couldn’t even be bothered to come up with one. There is a reason for this conflict but it is woefully unsubstantial, pretty much amounting to “just because”.
Such lazy writing and a pay off that reeks of contempt for the audience, it is hard to muster any interest or investment in the show finale and it is in anti-climactic one at that. The real series closer is episode 12 but there is a 13th episode which is a non-canon coda, plus two OVAs, only one of which is set in the main timeline but again adds nothing as it is basically more ecchi nonsense.
Matters aren’t helped by the uninspired artwork, adequate at best animation and cookie cutter character designs; I’m sure every watching could name at least half a dozen shows which feature an identical looking cast member. The tropes are also run of the mill, but the biggest offender is Natsuru – both versions – who is dumber than the cast members of TOWIE and Geordie Shore combined!
In fact the whole show is just plain dumb and makes Ikki Tousen look like Neon Genesis Evangelion in terms of intellect, and not just through its unfulfilling story development but also its equally unoriginal and lacking pandering to the genre conventions. The one good idea it had it squandered in favour of trying to titillate the audience instead of stimulating them into pondering a prevalent social issue.
Kämpfer disappoints on so many levels yet at the same time, there is little surprise that it exists in this lewd and desperate form given anime’s history of appealing to the lowest common denominator rather than provide something with substance and value.
Unless you have a perverse desire to see the bottom of the barrel being scraped, there is really not much to recommend here.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Amazing Bowel Familiars
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – **
Man In Black