Dai Shogun Collection (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 296 minutes approx.
The Edo period of Japan has proven fertile ground for creative types in telling tales of samurai, warlords, or having fun with the legendary figures of the period. In anime, this has seen the era re-imagined to feature monsters, witchcraft, and even women as notable male characters, though I don’t think there has been an Edo period mecha series – until now.
Set in an alternate version of Japan, the famed Meiji restoration hasn’t happened as foreign visitors were repelled by giant robots called Onigami, meaning Japan remains isolated from the rest of the world. The most dangerous of the Onigami is Takemikazuchi, currently controlled by evil forces and the only Onigami capable of defeating it is the long lost Susanoo, based on the mythological God that can take on different forms.
Yet, it takes a special person to pilot Susanoo and unbeknownst to him, that would be rambunctious teen Keiichiro Tokugawa, whose life thus far involves getting into fights to prove Japan’s best and helping out at the bathhouse of his adopted grandmother. What makes Keiichiro qualified to pilot Susanoo and save Japan? Two things – one, he has the true blood lineage of the Tokugawa, albeit illegitimately, and two, he is a virgin!
Rumours that Keiichiro is a direct ascendant of Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari are unconfirmed but that would at least explain, historically, why chastened teens make the best Mecha pilots. At least with Shinji, we are able to get a handle on why the young lad is the mess he is, there are no such considerations afforded to Keiichiro in Dai Shogun, along with a litany of other character backstories and basic exposition that might have helped this show make some sense.
Concepts like alternate timelines and Steampunk have long been employed to help such anomalies and anachronisms in certain period settings work but they usually take the time to explain how and why this is so – all we get is a flimsy footnote at the start of the series informing us of the Onigami’s existence and it’s off we go. That such technology is present in a world when everything else is still rooted in the timeframe becomes just one of many frustrations encountered.
The conceit of Keiichiro being a virgin is also left unexplained to any level of satisfaction, presumably because it was felt that one particular aspect of Dai Shogun’s visual appeal would suffice in providing the explanation – boobs! It may be billed as a mecha show, but the truth is this is a tacky harem comedy bordering on hentai with some of the lascivious content contained within.
No doubt this has piqued interest in some readers (Judge, I’m looking at you) but much of the sexual material is often unpleasant, less bawdy more tawdry. It’s not just male on female lechery and perversion either, the yuri fanbase is catered for too but within the context of torture and oppression than sensual pleasure. Nudity is rife, of course due to the bath house setting, but this is just a lazy way to fit as much smut in as possible as the show goes on.
I’ve yet to discuss the story for good reason – the execution is woefully maladroit, as per numerous anime that have a decent idea then spray it up the wall with a cavalcade of irrelevant antics before recalling its core premise in time for the finale. Whilst this show is guilty as charged, the interim episodes at least introduce the support cast and the main antagonist, though there seems to be two or more, if only things were clearer.
When a mysterious woman arrives in town and starts killing off the local males, this is a ruse to draw Keiichiro out and unleash Susanoo from its slumber. This dangerous lady is Houkouin, a busty, overtly sexual ninja (the first of many in this show) who either wants Susanoo for herself or wants to destroy it – as she has her own Onigami – it isn’t exactly clear what she wants.
In order to prevent Keiichiro from popping his cherry, a curse has been put on him that cause him to break out in hives whenever he gets near a woman, but like all teenage boys surrounded by naked ladies, he has urges. So, the Iga have sent busty ninja (told you) Kiriko Hattori to act as his bodyguard/virginity protector but she is so sexy Keiichiro falls for her, and of course, later on she reciprocates.
Throw in a cheeky fox spirit who wants to take Keiichiro’s virginity for the sake of it, a psycho female pirate, a young woman seeking vengeance for her father’s death and the famed Shinsengumi (military police), also all busty women, and you have nosebleed paradise for a certain contingent of the anime fandom. That they are all strong, kick-ass women who get stuck in to the fights is a positive, but their heavily sexualised appearances, and the simpering way they fall for Keiichiro only serves to negate this agency.
With the story all over the place, characters largely unrefined, and a focus on prurience over substance, usually the production values are a redeeming factor. Well, the good news is the artwork is luscious and detailed, and the character designs and colour palette are striking; the bad news is the animation is offensively lazy. It is one step away from the inert bonus clips you get in the DVD extras for most part, only the battle scenes show signs of movement (and effort); the cast don’t walk into frame they slide in and the reliance on still shots is disgraceful for an action show.
Considering this was written by Dai Satō (Wolf’s Rain, GITS:SAC, Eureka Seven), directed by Takashi Watanabe (Slayers, Shakugan no Shana) and animated by JC Staff, quite how Dai Shogun turned out to be such a mess is a mystery. I guess everyone is entitled to one flop project, and this is theirs.
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Rating – **
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