Do you enjoy the sight of breasts? Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, your response to this question will ultimately determine how much you get out of Master of Martial Hearts. If you answered with a slobbering, ecstatic 'YES', then you're in good shape. If you hesitated for even a moment or thought to qualify your response, then you may want to read on.
Aya has recently moved to a new school after some unpleasantness at her old one. She's trying to make the best of it. She has a new pal named Natsume and has eyes for Natsume's older brother Haruki. One fine day on their way back home from school, Aya and Natsume witness a most peculiar sight. An air hostess and a shrine princess are having a knock-down, drag out fight in the middle of the road. At some peril to her own life, Aya steps in and helps out the shrine princess with some high-flying moves that she learned from her mom. With the air hostess defeated, Aya and Natsume learn more about their new friend, the shrine princess named Miko.
Miko explains to the girls that she is part of a fighting tournament called the Platonic Heart. Its rules are both mysterious and brutally simple. Female contestants receive text messages telling them when and where to show up for fights that will enable them to advance within the competition. A special prize awaits the tournament's champion since they get to have whatever they desire. An unsavory fate lies in store for the losers who get spirited away to a dark world. When Miko entered the tournament, her only desire was to make a few friends. With Aya and Natsume now in her life, she decides to withdraw from the competition. Subsequently Aya finds herself drawn into the Platonic Heart against her will when Miko goes missing without any explanation. Aya just wants some answers but it looks like she's going to have to fight her way to the top first.
Everything I've said so far suggests that the show is a standard tournament style action anime with a focus on female fighters. While that is definitely true, it overlooks one huge defining element. The show is filled to the brim and overflowing with fan service. In fact, that seems to be the show's only true purpose. This is evident as soon as you give the fight scenes even a cursory glance. Opponents throw punches and kicks with obliterating impact on each others clothes. Apparently, a blow to the chest can cause one's shirt and bra to be torn to shreds. A strike to the lower torso can blow out the seat of one's pants exposing one's panties for the entire world to see. This is, in a word, ridiculous.
When the show's creators aren't expressing their immense distaste for women's clothing, they look for other sleazy ways to violate the female form. We get to peek in on girls as they shower and plenty of appreciative slow pans as they emerge sopping wet from pools. When all else fails, the shot just lingers on panties as clothed crotches fill the screen. While I can handle a bit of fan service in my anime, the sheer quantity and blatant nature of what's on display here soon becomes overwhelming. It also distracts from the fight scenes which are the only remotely interesting aspect of the show. It's tough to marvel at the elegance or ferocity of the fighters when the focus seems to be on popping out as many breasts as possible.
Even though the show is only 5 episodes long, it feels overdone and poorly paced. After 4 episodes of nearly-nude fights, the fifth one attempts to cram a mountain of exposition down our throats. We get surprise reveals, shocking betrayals and generational conflicts all in quick succession until we realize that the creators don't give a damn about any of it. They simply want to claim closure as if to suggest that they had something worthwhile to say in the first place. I started out with a question that I should answer myself. I do enjoy the sight of breasts but not enough to subject myself to this drivel.
The show was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The 5 episodes of the show were captured on a single disc. I found the image to be fairly clear if unspectacular. It did look like the picture was intentionally hazy in spots. This coupled with numerous static shots suggested that more than a few corners were cut in the production of this show.
The audio was presented in English 5.1 Surround and Japanese 2.0 Stereo mixes. I chose to view most of the episodes with the Japanese audio track along with the available English subtitles. The Japanese track was perfectly serviceable. It came alive for the punky power pop theme song and during some of the more bone-crunching fights. I also spot checked the English track and found it to be well produced. The English voice cast brought a good deal more spunk to the proceedings than the dry subtitles would have let on.
There was only one extra feature on this release but it was an interesting one. We get to watch a Video Commentary with the Japanese Voice Cast including Kaori Nazuka (Aya), Satomi Akesaka (Natsume) and Ai Nonaka (Miko). The lively trio keeps things entertaining by talking about everything under the sun except the show. The disc closes things out with 8 additional Funimation Trailers.
Master of Martial Hearts is fan service taken to its trashy extreme. Almost every aspect of the show is targeted at showing the female form in various states of undress. I know it's ostensibly an action packed show but the fights aren't much fun when they are solely focused on getting a few more boobs out in the open. A last minute attempt at building mythology falls flat and smacks of laziness, just like the rest of the show. Skip It.