Ikki Tousen has been around for quite some time and it's was popular enough to get a couple of sequels since its 2003 debut. The show undoubtedly caters to a niche audience, and if you haven't seen it you probably still instantly recognize it due to the, um, interesting character designs. Much like Tenjho Tenge and several other shows that cater to lovers of everything ecchi (naughty), Ikki Tousen is full of boobs, panties, and all manner of compromising shots of the female body. It thrives on fan service and most of the time; heck, all of the time, it feels like it was constructed around it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when a show is more about the T&A than actual story that's when it becomes a problem.
Let's put it this way. If you're an adolescent male and you are raging with hormones then you undoubtedly look for as much flesh wherever it's possible to find. If that's you then boy has your ship come in. Ikki Tousen goes out of its way to satisfy youthful male urges. The show's two main staples (Fighting and boobs) come together like peanut butter and chocolate as all manner of girls clash with each other and lose their clothes in the process. It's ridiculous, unnecessary, and somehow oh so appropriate for an anime fighting series with girls as its main focus. Many other shows aren't quite so brazen about the fan service, but Ikki Tousen really has no shame in what it is. Not that that's entirely a bad thing.
This is the kind of show where you have to shut your brain off and leave it at the door. Come to the series with your other brain working, i.e., penis, and you may walk away reasonably entertained. This is a prime example of what guilty pleasure anime is all about and unfortunately it never really extends beyond those ideals. At any rate, if you missed the show before and you're still interested in what's going on then you may appreciate FUNimation's latest defunct Geneon release, which compiles all 13 episodes of the first season onto two discs.
Ikki Tousen loosely tells a story about an ancient Chinese war from the Three Kingdoms. Basically the souls of powerful and famous warriors of Chinese dissent have been placed inside of some jewels. Throughout the years these jewels have been handed down and bearers have been carrying on the tradition of fighting and war. Fast forward to present day to the district of Kanto and you have seven rival schools all duking it out with each other. Warriors from each school converge and battle it out to satisfy the ancient souls in their jewels. That's pretty much about as in depth as the plot gets for this show and from that point on it's really just meeting the characters and watching them fight. There really aren't any big, dramatic developments and plot exposition is virtually nil.
While the show's plot is weak, the focus of the series is undoubtedly skewed to a girl named Hakufu Sonsaku. She's the star of the series and is kind of the oddball of it as well. Just about every other fighter in the show has some kind of serious tone to them, but Hakufu is more or less the village idiot. She's ditzy, seemingly unskilled, and stands out from the cast for all the wrong reasons. She may be upbeat, perky, and funny, but for a fighting series that puts her at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of prowess on the battlefield. Still, during this first season of Ikki Tousen Hakufu does have some development. The rest of the eclectic cast fits in much better than she, but all around this isn't exactly the kind of show you watch for a robust cast.
If you like boobies, violence, and little else, then you'll love Ikki Tousen. It's unabashedly skewed to the perverse and it wears panties and cleavage on its sleeve. However, if you're looking for something with a little more depth, plot, and something of interest you'll be sorely disappointed. This is guilty pleasure anime and nothing else. Granted there's some room for that in just about everyone's collection, but there are far better shows that are more entertaining. Sign up if you want naughty bits, but pass if you want anything else. In the end I'd say this one is at best a rental.
Ikki Tousen is presented on DVD with its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. FUNimation's transfer is pulled from the original Geneon one and comes with the 13 episodes wedged into two DVDs. Three DVDs would have been much better with regards to compression of the series, but as it stands things aren't too bad here. There's some grain, blocking, and aliasing throughout the show, but otherwise there are some sharp clean moments as well. As you'd expect the design of the show is reasonably attractive, but the technical merits aren't as eye-popping as one might hope.
It's funny really. For a show with so much action you would think a 5.1 track would have been produced for it somewhere along the line. Sadly all we get are 2.0 stereo tracks for English and Japanese. This leaves much of the action feeling flat and there's no sense of immersion to get the blood pumping. This is a show that simply begged for some powerful surround, though that's just not in the cards apparently. Both language tracks do present a decent cast that does well with the material and as such I didn't have a preference between either English or Japanese.
Some trailers are about all you're going to find here for bonus features. I suppose you could count the naughty reversible artwork inside the DVD sleeve, but that's not really an extra worth scoring.
Ikki Tousen is the epitome of guilty pleasure anime and it never once stands out for intellectual reasons. The plot hardly develops in a deep manner, the characters aren't that interesting, and the only thing that keeps this show going is an ample supply of boobs and violence. I hold a special place in my heart for both of those things, but I was just so under whelmed by this series. If there was more substance then the fan service wouldn't have felt so blatant or forced. There are worse shows out there, but the best I can muster up for Ikki Tousen is the recommendation of a rental.
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