Ikki Tousen is a tricky and complicated title for anime fans in the West. The first season was held by Geneon, while Media Blasters scored the licenses for seasons two (Dragon Destiny) and three (Great Guardians.) Sadly Geneon eventually folded and closed their doors. Season two was then released by Media Blasters, but due to poor sales and problems with production, things came to an immediate halt and the license for Great Guardians was dropped. After nearly 6 years of being stuck in licensing hell, FUNimation has saved it and fans are finally treated to the greatly anticipated English dub of Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians (and the soon to be released Season 4, Xtreme Xecutor.) So how does Great Guardians stack up to it's predecessors??
For those who do not know the back story of Ikki Tousen, the series is about several different schools at war with one another for territorial supremacy of the Kanto region in Japan. The fighters from each school possess sacred jewels called Magatama, which contains the spirits of warriors from "The Romance of Three Kingdoms", an era from China over 1800 years ago. These jewels give said fighters the power of their ancient ancestor, as well as their fate. For those who have not seen the series and have chosen this season as the starting point won't really be lost, Great Guardians doesn't really focus on the main plot of the prior two seasons, and instead focuses on fan service. The season almost feels like filler.
The story of Great Guardians picks up directly after the second season Dragon Destiny, which concluded with the Nanyo academy forming an alliance with the Seito academy to put an end to the Kyosho Academy's leader. Thus at the top of this season we are left with only two schools warring, yet they have a truce. The season picks up with Hakufu and her cousin Koukin enjoying peaceful times between the Nanyo and Seito academies, and that is basically sums up what the entire season is about.
While the majority of Great Guardians is rather light, we do have some story lines sprinkled throughout. The main story for Great Guardians doesn't even come fully to light until the last couple episodes. We're introduced to a brand new villain named Genpo Saji, who is essentially a body snatcher. Genpo's motivation is a simple one, she holds a grudge against some of the main cast and wants good old fashioned revenge. The good thing about the character is that until the end (which is cliche), she's left rather mysterious and her actions are unpredictable. She's a solid addition the show, but I do have a problem with her, Genpo has nothing to do with the schools feud or either past seasons, so it's kind of out of left field and it feels out of place, much like the season, it feels like filler.
Other than the plot with Genpo, we have two prominent side stories for the season. While Hakufu is enjoying life and attending school with Koukin, out of nowhere we're introduced to a young girl named Chubo, who claims to be Hakufu's younger sister. Since Hakufu is an airhead, Chubo is pretty much instantly accepted into the family without question.
The last primary storyline for the season once again comes out of nowhere. We have a storyline where Ryofu from season one returns from the dead, to say the other characters are rocked by her return is an understatement. She is the exact opposite of how her Season 1 counterpart acted, in Season 1 she was a promiscuous, skimpy dressed, strong fighter. In this season she is timid, shy, rather weak, and devoid of any sexual tension toward others. Her main story is to find out about her past, Overall I thought it was an OK side plot, although it was pretty odd to have in the first place.
Great Guardians is really laid back compared to the other seasons. Think about the break episodes in between the battles in the first two seasons, and this is basically the entire season three. To enjoy Great Guardians to the fullest, you really have to enjoy the characters. Sadly for me personally, there's not many interesting characters to enjoy here in Great Guardians... you have the airhead bimbo that everyone wants, the guy in love with his cousin, a cliched villain, the character who has amnesia, and the long lost sister. The Ikki Tousen franchise has all of the correct elements, it has solid humor, action, drama and fan service, it just needs to learn how to correctly balance it all out, season 3 is a step in the wrong direction.
- While not quite as good as the first two seasons, hardcore fans of Ikki Tousen are sure to enjoy it.
- Although underdeveloped, the story lines were solid and had quite a bit of potential.
- The returning dub cast. Since I enjoyed the first season of Ikki Tousen, I was thrilled to see the majority of the original cast return to their roles. While I knew it was impossible for them to get everyone back, FUNimation made one hell of an effort, and their hard work is appreciated. It was great to see them back in the roles that started some of their careers, especially Carrie Savage, whose work I've always have been a fan of.
- It doesn't really continue the main story from seasons prior. Instead, Great Guardians opts to focus more on fan service and the relationships of the characters.
- No meat to the story. The series is a simple one, continuing the Ikki Tousen franchise with the main priority of Great Guardians being to focus on fan service, which is fine... just give us a solid story.
- Another series that sacrifices plot developments for fan service.
Video and Audio
For video, Great Guardians is presented in it's original 1.78:1 broadcast aspect ratio. For a show 6 years old, it was a great DVD transfer. There were no signs of compression, the colors of the series were bold and vivid. The only real problem I seen with the animation quality was the faraway shots were very poorly done, with almost no detail to them.
For Great Guardians we get two audio tracks, the first is a 5.1 English language Dolby Surround Sound`and then we have the original Japanese 2.0 Stereo track. I viewed the series in English and it was a solid effort, with the returning cast upping their performances from a decade earlier. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and there were no noticeable problems with dropouts or distortions.
- Episode 2 commentary with Jonathan Klein, the voice director for this season and the producer for the first Ikki Tousen series. Ted Sroka, who voices the male lead, Koukin, in seasons 1, and 3-4. Lastly, Carrie Savage, who handles the voice work of the female lead, Hakufu, in seasons 1, and 3-4.
- Episode 5 commentary with Jonathan Klein again, along with Michele Knotz, the voice of Shiryuu. Georgette Reilly, the voice of Kakouen. Lastly, Jessica Calvello, the voice of Ekitoku.
Both tracks are relatively informative, with each group discussing their time on the 1st season, and what it was like to return to their respective roles over a decade later. Carrie Savage, who is now a prolific voice actor stated it was her very first Anime series.
- Battle Tours/Sexy Cosplays/Dangerous Jobs - Episodes 1-6: A collection of six mini shorts with some of the female cast in various lewd situations to provide more fan service.
- Great Guardians Radio Event at Tokyo Anime Fair 2008: A half hour interview with some of the Japanese female voice actresses to promote the show.
- Promo video.
- Commercial collection.
- FUNimation Trailers.
- Textless opening and closing themes.
It may not be as good to it's two previous seasons, but Great Guardians is still some solid fun. If you enjoyed the first two seasons of Ikki Tousen, then Great Guardians comes recommended. To the average anime myself, start with season one, or go find something else. Rent It.