Busou Shinki: Armored War Goddess Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 324 minutes approx.
You have you hand it to the Japanese. Whenever someone conceives something that has franchise possibilities, they go all in and milk it to enth degree. Take Busou Shinki – mini armoured female-fighter figures created by Konami Digital Entertainment that extended beyond their plastic origins to video games, graphic novels and of course, an anime.
This series isn’t the first animated outing for this mini-mecha brigade, appearing in a 10 part series of 5 minute chapters on the internet, later complied into a 43 minute OVA episode for DVD release. However this follow-up series is not directly related to the OVA, yet one senses director Yasuhito Kikuchi is presupposing audiences have seen it, offering no real history of the Shinki.
Being almost in medias res the show opens with High schooler Rihito returning to Japan from the US to start life anew, with his Arnval Shinki name Ann. Rihito is the bumbling type who is always running late so he leaves Ann to sort out the furnishing of his new apartment while he as at school. Among the packages that arrive are two other Shinki – Ines and Lene, who help out with the boxes too.
They are later joined by a sullen, uptight Shinki named Hina, who refuses to let anyone other than Rihito call her by her name so they call her by her Shinki type, Straf. As the humourless one, she is prone to whipping out her blade to solve a dispute or request silence. Elsewhere the group encounter the excitable Kurara, playing the role of designated foil to their actions, and a pair of cat type Shinki who also become regular sparring partners.
Oh, did I mention that the Shinki are only six inches tall? That’s the main gimmick of this concept which serves as the basis for most of the comedy scenarios the Shinki get themselves into. As it transpires, Shinki are a regularly accepted feature of everyday life in this particular reality, so their appearance doesn’t cause alarm or wonderment when out in public.
In case you thought this was another harem show where Rihito is surrounded by a bevy of beauties to attend to his every need whilst feuding with each other over his affections, I would love to tell you that you can breathe a sigh of relief but sadly, I can’t. Whilst there is nothing revealed to be sexual on Rihito’s part, the Shinki do worship their master and pangs of jealousy are felt when he seems to favour Ann.
This is debatably the most disappointing aspect of this show as it might have worked more successfully keeping such tawdry shenanigans out of it, but the producers clearly had other ideas. Naturally no physical interaction can occur between Rihito and his miniature mechas but that doesn’t stop a simple act like repainting scuffed surfaces (on their backsides no less) being treated as an erotic experience for the Shinki.
Despite being held together by tiny screws and powered by intricate mechanisms beneath their armour, Shinki are capable of human emotions and unfortunately are also unnecessarily sexualised, evident by their skimpy battle attire and obligatory fan service episodes involving a steam bath and a beach episode, with plenty of boob jiggling! That’s some malleable plastic they are made out of.
When needs arise and they must embark on a journey or enter into battle, the Shinki can magically transform their armour into a mecha structure complete with a bespoke weapon. These moments are few and far between but provide the show with its visual highlights, although these battles tend to be brief affairs.
Some of you may have noticed the lack of discussion regarding the plot; there is good reason for this – there isn’t one. Aside from the last two episodes in which Hina is kidnapped and returned to her original owner, each episode is a standalone affair of little consequence. The opening chapter involves chasing after a letter blown away by the wind – thrilling stuff eh?
Elsewhere there is the dilemma of cooking dinner for Rihito, getting part time jobs to buy their master a Christmas present and, rather adventurously, thwarting a Shinki hijacking of an airplane complete with a time bomb that needs defusing. And if that wasn’t absurd enough, the Shinki community (yes it really exists) has its own annual version of Whacky Races (ask your parents)!!
One comparable anime series to this is Rozen Maiden, which I wasn’t particularly enamoured with. However if given the option between the Maidens and Shinki, the Gothic Lolis win. Tipping the scales in their favour is the presence of an over-arching story which might have saved this show, had Masahiro Yokotani – who has quite a pedigree as a screenwriter – put some actual thought into the writing.
Had this show been aimed at kids with all of the seedier elements excised then it might have got a pass for being such a flimsy cash-in on what is a successful franchise, but this is to assume that the target audience are kids. We know that otaku in Japan aren’t restricted by age and grown men are likely to be enamoured by the Shinki, which is a demographic this show hopes to snare along with the kids.
The animation from studio 8-Bit is perfectly fine and the artwork and backgrounds are better than this show deserves, but the character designs are cookie cutter at best – most of the Shinki even look alike (try telling Ann and Lene apart) – and schoolboy Rihito looks about 30. The personalities are one trope cliché after another while Rihito is the arguably the most pointless and flaccid male master in all of anime.
Whatever promise the original OVA may or may not have shown, Busou Shinki: Armored War Goddess is a series that doesn’t live up to it. An inconsequential and maladroit waste of potential, providing the briefest of distractions.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – **
Man In Black