"Romance of the Three Kingdoms" is familiar territory to anyone weaned on material from Japan. Video games, manga, and anime have tackled the Three Kingdoms for a long, long time. Koihime Musou is the latest example of that, though this time around the concept leans heavily towards fan-service and ecchi material.
Originally released in 2007 as an eroge PC game, Koihime Musou skews the "Romance" story a bit and introduces a bevy of busty babes. The game was popular enough and it was later turned into a manga and three subsequent anime series. Sentai Filmworks/Section23 has obtained the license for the first season, and today we're looking at the two disc collection.
With twelve episodes and an extra OVA the first season of Koihime Musou is pretty to look at and fun at times, but ultimately it's an empty shell. This is one of those shows that doesn't require much investment from its viewer and it basically entertains with bright colors and boobs aplenty. Anime like this permeates the industry and it's the equivalent of eating a bowl of popcorn. Yeah it's light and fluffy and tastes good at the time, but in the end you're left unsatisfied and don't want another bite.
The show follows the exploits of Aisha, who goes by the name Kan'u. She's an experienced spear-wielder and has become known as a black-haired bandit slayer. Her beauty and reputation precede her, and as she journeys she meets many people that know of her legend. Naturally these are mostly other beautiful women and of course they all want to fight her upon introduction. In predictable fashion Aisha wins them over with her charm and prowess and the girls, for the most part, join her in her travels.
For instance, in the first episode Aisha wanders into a town and sees a young girl, Rin Rin, claiming to be a bandit. She's really just a kid, but mostly harmless. After a bout Rin Rin decides to join Aisha. In the next episode the two meet up with Sei, who is another busty bandit hunter that decides to travel with Aisha and Rin Rin. Gradually other character come out of the woodwork, but they are either left behind in their subsequent episodes, or stick around with Aisha and the gang for a while.
While the show contains a lot of action, fun and lively characters, and plenty of genuinely hilarious moments, Koihime Musou is best served up in pieces. The episodes are self-contained for the most part and there's really no grand, branching story until the end, and even that attempt is relatively weak. Character development is a big focus for the narrative and the world that's crafted here is more entertaining than most. Just don't expect to find an epic storyline or something that sticks in your memory.
Koihime Musou is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks good with a vibrant palette, smooth animation, and solid designs all around. The presentation is clean with virtually no grain and blocking isn't much of a problem even in darker areas of the show. Some aliasing is noticeable, but it's never debilitating, and overall this is a solid looking transfer for the series.
As is the case with a majority of Sentai Filmworks/Section23 releases, Koihime Musou hits Region 1 with a Japanese only 2.0 stereo language track and optional English subtitles. This isn't the kind of show that needs a bombastic 5.1 track, but some amplification in presentation would have added some flavor to the many battles and sound effects. Dialogue is mostly flat and front-centric, though that's really all the show ultimately needs.
For bonus features there's the included OVA episode, some trailers, and clean opening and closing animations.
Koihime Musou doesn't really stand out in the field of anime, but it's a popular enough franchise in Japan, and there's probably a good reason for that. The first season isn't stellar by any means, but it's "not bad". The characters are fun and the show pops from a visual and personality standpoint, but at the end of the day things are rather mid-range in terms of quality. The episodic nature, the abundant fan-service, and the deluge of characters in each episode doesn't help matters. This show is for fans of eroge-to-anime efforts and as long as you don't mind boobs and panty flashes mixed in with light story, you'll have a good time. Ultimately I'd call it a rental.