IkkiTousen Vol.01: Legendary Fighter Review
Based on a Manga by Shiozaki Yuuji, violence and fan service pretty much sums up Ikkitousen, which literally translates as: “strength of one thousand”. The basic premise is simple enough; all the high schools in the Kanto region of Japan are battling for supremacy. In each school there are a number of particularly tough kids, called “fighters”. These fighters are special because they have inherited the souls of legendary warriors from the Gokan Era of China, when the Shin Dynasty ruled around 1800 years ago, and these souls are contained in special beads that bestow the powers of the legendary warriors upon the teenagers. Enter Sonsaku Hakufu, a dim-witted but energetic young girl starting her first day at Nanyo Academy, she immediately makes a name for herself for two reasons: One is that she has an enormous pair of breasts, earning her the nickname of “Booby Bombs”, the other is that she bears the soul of the notoriously fearsome warrior: the Sho-Haou. Yet although this soul is supposed to be the most powerful of all in the legendary story, she hasn’t fully awakened the latent power within her, but with in-school battling and fight tournaments taking place left right and centre, it’s only a matter of time before the Sho-Haou arises once more.
This “ultra-powerful schoolkids battling for supremacy” premise of Ikkitousen isn’t the most original that’s for sure, Real Bout High School did it, and somewhat notoriously Tenjo Tenge bears an uncanny resemblance to this show, but before you can scream out “Tenjo came out after Ikkitousen!” in Manga form it predates Ikki by around two years and there’s been various Otaku debate over the startling similarities between the two strips - not so much in terms of storyline but the general aesthetics and motifs. Moving into live-action territory there’s plenty of films and TV shows that feature bloodshed among schoolkids, like the Tennen Shojo Mann mini-series from Takashi Miike (Another Manga adaptation), Masato Tanno’s Ichi the Killer prequel: 1-Ichi, and of course the infamous Battle Royale from Kinji Fukasaku. It’s definitely not like the Japanese haven’t seen their fair share of storylines of this type, and unfortunately Ikkitousen doesn’t bring much to the table besides excessive amounts of Fan Service. Basing the story around a recreation of the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” period of Chinese history gives the impression that proceedings are complex and political, but it’s just a mirage, the show has one goal and that’s to fit in as many fight scenes and soft-core shots as possible.
The basic rules of the Fan Service are simple: No girl can perform a kick without flashing her panties - in fact no girl can move without flashing her panties. No fight between two girls can take place without a bit of lesbian activity and most important of all: Hakafu’s breasts must be in motion in almost all her scenes. Considering the amount of jiggle on display I’m convinced they must have more lines of animation than any other part of the show, although I checked to see if her clackers had their own personal animation team in the credits and found no mention. Of course, whenever she’s stuck in a fight you can bet your bottom dollar that her clothes will be ripped off by the end, although the titillation doesn’t go as far as outright nudity so anyone who actually enjoys seeing drawings of impossibly proportioned naked women will probably be more than a little disappointed by that. At first the ridiculous amount of Fan Service is genuinely amusing, but by the final episode on this disc it was beginning to get tiring.
Thankfully the show does have three things going for it: It looks great, the characters are immediately likeable and the action is generally pretty good. The episodes across this volume focus on Hakufu’s introduction to Nanyo Academy and her battles with “The Big Four”, the four toughest fighters in the school. Gakushi is a big hulking student that looks 17 going on 45, but he’s the first person to give Hakufu a rude awakening to her limitations as a fighter, unfortunately for her he’s also the weakest of the Big Four. Next in the power scale is Kannei who is your stereotypical freak character complete with deranged mentality and a slobbering, lizard-like tongue. The strongest two members and the most interesting fighters Hakufu faces off against in volume one are Ryomou and Saji, who seem to have something of a thing for each other but where Saji is the token “cool and devious” character of shows like these, Ryomou is something of a kinky sadist, getting off on the pain she causes from her numerous leg grappling techniques – needless to say that these techniques require A LOT of arse and panty shots. Her character design is probably the most vivid as well, dressed in a saucy waitress uniform with a medical eye patch masking her left eye - quite why she thinks a waitress outfit is appropriate attire for school is never quite explained, but perhaps she helps out with the catering during dinnertime.
While this first batch of episodes remain centred around Hakufu's introduction to the Big Four, there are two more characters introduced who seem to be the primary villains of the piece. First up is Enjyutsu, the top dog at Nanyo Academy who has yet to make an appearance in person and then we have Totaku, the strongest and most vicious fighter in the Kanto region and whom destroyed the other schools' best fighters singlehandledy two years ago, but all we’ve seen him do so far is act smarmy and tend to his flowers – again reinforcing his "evil" credentials because good characters never grow flowers in shows like this. The heroes are pretty cool as well, Hakufu may be a horrible big-boobed blonde idiot but she’s naïve enough to be endearing rather than irritating and her partner in crime, Shuyu Koukin is just about the most normal character in the show, a young boy who is as studious as Hakufu is brash and considerate as she is outgoing, they bounce off each other quite well as characters go, but they don’t really seem brilliantly suited as romantic partners, so it’ll be interesting to see if the story goes down that route.
So far Ikkitousen has made an enjoyable but unimpressive start, the story is extremely slight and the fan service is more than a little excessive but there’s enough action across the volume to ensure the episodes fly by and the characters are pretty interesting. There are far better action anime shows out there, that’s for sure, but if you just want a no-brain beat ‘em up and have a fondness for anime women, it just might be up your alley.
While I have tried my best not to reveal too much about each episode in these synopses, please bare in mind that the second episode and onwards may feature spoilers for the episodes prior.
Episode 1. An energetic new student arrives at the gates of Nanyo Academy and wastes no time in picking a fight with every guy in the yard. Her name is Sonsaku Hakufu an attractive but dimwitted teenager who thinks the best way to make an impression at her new school is to beat down thirty men in one day, but her ambitions are cut short when the giant Gakushu arrives on the scene. He’s hoping that this new fighter is the reincarnation of the legendary Sho-Haou, but after knocking her out easily he decides this cannot be the case, but he and the other pupils at Nanyo Academy are soon going to find out there’s more to this large-chested bimbo than first appears.
Episode 2. Hakafu’s arrival has caused quite a stir with the regular Nanyo Academy pupils, in fact her awesome fighting skills and pin-up looks have earned her the rather unflattering nickname of Bobby Bombs. However, not everyone is impressed by this newcomer, the ruler of Nanyo Academy: Enjyutsu Kourou has ordered his subordinate: Kannei of the Big Four to execute the Booby Bomb before the day is through. What’s more, Saji and Ryomou are taking an interest in proceedings themselves, so it looks like Hakufu is going to be facing more than just one member of the Big Four before the day is done.
Episode 3. Having no memory of how the fight with Ryomou ended, Hakufu is holed up in bed mourning what she believes was her first total defeat. Koukin on the other hand knows what really happened and he’s extremely concerned for her mental well being and decides to check up on his cousin, but he finds her bed empty. Hakafu has sneaked out on a day trip to recover from the shame of defeat, but her idiocy soon leads her into the arms of some perverted punks and two fighters with great skill and interesting personalities.
Episode 4. After helping Kakoton of Kyosho Academy beat up a gang affiliated with Rakuyo High School, Hakufu has unwittingly made a very public gesture that Nanyo Academy is moving against the mighty Totaku. In retaliation he dispatches the top fighters of Youshu Academy to take Hakafu down, but Koukin catches wind and as usual tries to eliminate the threat before it can reach her, but is he strong enough to defeat these fighters?
PresentationPresented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio this is a pretty gorgeous transfer that handles the sharp, colourful animation brilliantly. Colours are clean, vivid and sharp, detail levels are high, contrast and brightness spot on and Edge Enhancements are evident but pretty minor. The print itself is almost spotless, only the odd fleck or spot pops up from time to time, also the transfer is a hybrid interlaced-progressive job so there is some noticeably shimmer and jaggies during some of the camera pans, but nothing distracting.
With a choice of Japanese/English DD2.0 surround, I stuck primarily to the former, and it’s up to Geneon’s usual standards. Dialogue is audible and clear, although the odd bit of heavy screaming results in a little bit of tear. The score and sound FX sound solid enough, but perhaps a little restrained in comparison to other recent action shows. When the main fights do kick in though, the track becomes noticeably more aggressive, with solid bass and clear dynamics to give the action a bit of weight. As for the soundstage, it remains heavily centralized, with really only the score making use of the stereo channels and surrounds.
In comparison the English track is nigh on identical, although the newer recording means the dialogue doesn’t suffer from any minor tearing when voices are raised high enough, the opening and closing sequences are also a touch louder as well for some reason. The dub itself is quite good, obviously the performances lack a little of the vitality of the Japanese counterparts but most of the cast’s voices suit their characters, particularly Carrie Savage in the lead role of Hakafu.
Optional English subtitles are present with no spelling or grammatical errors I can recall.
ExtrasJust the basics here, there’s the Creditless Opening, Art Gallery, and Geneon previews for Ai Yori Aoshi, Demon Lord Dante and Mahoromatic.
OverallAs far as no-brain actioners go Ikkitousen is quite entertaining, but the excessive amount of fan service and overly convoluted setting cannot gloss over the fact that the story is just too slight to satisfy. Ultimately Ikkitousen is a fun but disposable ride, but at least Geneon have ensured that the DVD is up to scratch, combining lush visuals with solid sound, shame there aren’t any extras of merit.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 09:51:18