Armed Girl’s Machiavellism (Cert 15)

2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 321 minutes approx.

For some teenage boys, being sent to an all girls’ school would probably be his every (wet) dream come true and with anime being what it is, you know exactly the sort of girls that would be in attendance. But in this day and age of female empowerment, even anime puts a unique spin on this.

Private Aichi Symbiosis Academy is an all girls’ school that recently opened up its doors to troubled male students with a view of straightening them out but the existing pupils were afraid of being victims of improper behaviour. To ensure this doesn’t happen, a vigilante group called the Supreme Five Swords enforce the rules, breaking the boys by forcing them to dress and act like girls

This has proven successful until Fudo Nomura arrives for his first day. Having been expelled from this previous school for instigating a 40 person brawl, which he won, Fudo is having none of the oppressive regime at Aichi and vows to stand up for his rights as a male, putting him on a collision course with the Five Swords.

Despite its different and intriguing approach to the set up, Armed Girl’s Machiavellism is every bit a harem comedy, which you’ve probably surmised already. Kudos to creator Yuya Kurokami, for trying something new with the genre, including avoiding the usual romantic element which is only hinted at rather than being the engine of the story.

Part of the reason there is little romance is down to the personalities of the Five Swords, who, as you might expect, are all quirky but familiar tropes to give the viewers – and is the loosest way Fudo – a choice of favourite. Because no-one is actively looking for romance, any feelings that do surface are out of circumstance or mutual respect rather than conscious flirtation.

Fudo certainly doesn’t appear to be looking for love but that is not say he isn’t a red blooded male neither. As for being a bad boy, whilst he won’t ever win Pupil of the Year, Fudo is more a product of resisting authority than a wanton troublemaker. Throughout this 12-episode run plus OVA, he shows more moral fibre than those enforcing order.

Unsurprisingly, Fudo finds himself in trouble almost as soon as he steps inside the school grounds, clashing with masked leader of the five Swords, Rin Onigawara, the diminutive mask wearing sword master. Rin hides behind an Oni (demon) mask after being scarred by her mother calling her ugly, but is every bit a monster with the sword as Fudo quickly discovers.

Mary Kikakujou, a French-Japanese student who reverts to speaking français whenever she gets excited or flustered, is the token busty girl using her ample charms to woo Fudo having warmed to him after he defeats her in a fight. Warabi Hanasaka is the haughty owner of a pet bear named Kyobou and has a loyal cadre of followers to do her bidding, as does Satori Tamaba, a slow witted girl who openly tries to seduce Fudo in order to fight him.

The two most curious females in this story however, are Tsukuyo Inaba, a blind prodigy dressed in traditional Japanese attire as a throwback /riff of sorts to Zatoichi, the strongest fighter yet the last to take part in any action, and Kirukiru Amou, the nominal antagonist of the series. She seems to have a history with Fudo but he is a bit hazy about it, but Amou truly is a nasty and dangerous piece of work that even the Five Swords can’t handle.

If you’re looking for an overarching plot featuring Amou, you won’t find one here which is a major disappointment given the ambiguity of her character and the threat she poses. A hero is only as compelling as their villain but Amou is reduced to lurking in the shadows for most of the show, only to resurface in the final three episodes to raise hell – a wasted opportunity if there ever was one to create a fully realised plot based around her dark machinations.

But, this is a harem comedy and those girls aren’t going to fall for Fudo for no reason, so the early episodes sees Fudo out to win all five stamps on his permission pass to leave the school grounds. Whilst Fudo doesn’t possess a sword, he does have a pair of studded gloves that can deflect any of the blades aimed at him, relying on his brute strength to finish the fight.

Looking beyond the clichés and generic plotting, one thing this show can boast is a robust, if often misguided, feminist streak in empowering the girls in taking matters into their own hands against unruly males. Making boys dress as girls (complete with make-up and wigs) is either a step too far or a “see how you like it” form of correctional therapy but it has a point too.

However Fudo is held up as the last bastion of manhood in a female ruled environment, and in proving to be much more sensitive and empathetic than his reputation suggests, he wins over the girls whilst alleviating their fears at the same time. This is where the story could have said something quite profound about gender politics and equality but misses the boat entirely to cater for the fan service crowd instead.

The animation is handled by Silver Link, now in the 10th year with many hits to their credit. The nature of this show means they aren’t challenged too much beyond the fight scenes which bristle with colourful energy. Character designs lack originality, otherwise the presentation is commensurate to the ambition of the script.

Armed Girl’s Machiavellism has a wonderfully fertile concept deserving of a story that strives for more, instead it falls back on the harem conventions for attention when subverting them would have served it better. An often fun diversion with a rather dark climax that sadly never fulfils its potential in discussing modern gender equality issues.

 

Extras:

English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA

Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA

English Subtitles

Disc 2 only:

Japanese Promos

Clean Opening Animations

Clean Closing Animation

 

Rating – ***  

Man In Black