Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism

Alright, let’s get this out of the way first; the premise behind this one is fucking weird. Basically, our protagonist is expelled from his school after inciting a huge brawl and sent to what is essentially a correctional facility for male delinquents in the guise of a school. Upon setting foot onto the school grounds, he witnesses the rest of the male students dressing up as and pretending to be women, and naturally questions one of them as to what the fuck is happening. It’s explained that the school was once an all-girls institution before it eventually became co-ed, and the female students were so afraid of being attacked by the male students that they were given permission to arm themselves (with batons and similar weapons). Eventually, a group of five students were given permission to carry swords, keep the peace, and “correct” the behavior of problematic male students; think Public Safety Committee from Rosario Vampire, except they aren’t evil extortionists and mostly just abuse their power in order to enforce female superiority and keep the men in check. Enter our protagonist; a smart mouthed, fist-fighting delinquent who doesn’t take shit from anybody and openly defies the Five Swords in order to secure his own freedom at the academy. Now that we have the premise out of the way, I can break down some of what happens and why it matters; first off, I went into this expecting it to be more of a comedy and less action and plot heavy than it actually was. If you couldn’t tell just from that comment alone, it’s really not; this is a straight up shonen anime, action scenes and attack names abound. At the very least characters don’t constantly shout out their attack names, but what we have here instead is arguably worse; EVERY SINGLE time any of the characters do fucking anything in these fights short of breathing, the show goes out of its way to briefly and dramatically pause the action so that it can flash the names of techniques up on screen. It’s incredibly irritating and it breaks up the fight sequences, slowing them down and being generally annoying. What’s worse is that the show feels the need to explain to you what is happening in these fights with mind-boggling levels of absurdity; in fact, when I said “nothing short of breathing” earlier, that was a fucking lie because one of the characters uses a special “mirrored breathing” technique very early on. It’s frustrating because it feels like the show is, to a certain extent, supposed to be grounded in reality and yet it is almost entirely impossible to suspend your disbelief; the combination of the absolutely ridiculous fight sequences and the anime’s premise comes together to make something nothing short of entirely absurd. This is especially noticeable when the show tries too hard to be serious; during the serious scenes of tragic flashbacks and heavy character dialogue, you can’t take any of it seriously at all because of how ridiculous the entire fucking show is. Let’s talk some more about the action; too fucking much of it is centered on the main character. 90% of the fights are the protagonist versus someone else while other people watch on from the sidelines, pausing the fight every two seconds to comment on whatever just happened. That alone is irritating, but the real problem is how everybody else is shafted as a result. As the protagonist goes on his crusade against the Five Swords, he ends up befriending them one by one after defeating them and earning stamps that he needs in order to leave the school grounds whenever he wants. Because of that, they end up fighting on his side during later episodes except thAT THEY NEVER DO ANYTHING. The main character just handles most of the fighting himself anyway, the contributions from the others are usually very minor, and often they are sidelined, unable to do anything while our hero just fuckin’ does it himself; it’s incredibly frustrating, and it’s also a very clear case of “overpowered shonen protagonist”, exactly the kind-of shit that Saitama from One Punch Man parodies. None of the dialogue exchanged in these fights is interesting, and boy is there a lot of it; during the final fight scene of the show in particular, Amou and Nomura try very hard to be all deep and meaningful in their dialogue, thoughtlessly exchanging fists at the end in dramatic fashion, and none of it works at all; the impression it leaves on the viewer just completely misses the mark. All of that leads me to an obvious conclusion; the writers didn’t understand the abject absurdity of what they were making when they made it. And honestly, it’s mostly sad because of there being some legitimate potential here. Despite there being an overpowered shonen protagonist, he’s not dislikable and neither are the other major characters, despite a fair few of them taking on stereotypical tropes (Rin is a tsundere, Kikakujo is the resident closet-pervert Ojou-sama, etc). A fair few of the comedic moments hit the mark, and you end up warming up to characters you initially hated as the show goes on *cough*Warabi*cough*. The fact that the female leads are actually somewhat likable here is nothing short of a miracle considering the show’s premise, so it’s a damn shame that they decided rather than making the show have a comedic focus they would instead play it straight and try to have it be action driven. If you took this show’s premise and executed it similarly to how Haiyore! Nyaruko-san did it, you could have a real gem of a show here. But instead, we get really bad dramatic dialogue and really annoying fight scenes. When there is comedy thrown in to break up the serious parts of the show, you get the distinct feeling that the drama and the comedy are at a complete disconnect from one another. I mean come the fuck on, how can you expect me to take it seriously towards the end where the main villain fucking snaps everyone when the show is literally about a delinquent fighting for his life against schoolgirls with swords using blade-resistant gloves, slowly defeating each of the “Five Swords” and turning them into his own personal fucking harem so that he can avoid being forced to play dress-up?! *sigh* Honestly, with how much I’m shit-talking it, it probably sounds like I really didn’t like this show, but that’s not the case. Despite everything I said, I actually enjoyed my time watching it; it’s far from being as bad as shows like Gamers or Hidan no Aria. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a show with this premise to be driven by its action, but the execution is just not very good. Even with decent animation for the fight scenes, having them constantly broken up by attack names and dialogue with 60% of that dialogue during each fight having the protagonist try to figure out which sword style his opponent is using, it’s unavoidably frustrating. The show’s poor direction is even present in its music; you’d expect a show with a premise as silly as this one to have music fitting that silliness, or at the very least accommodating the highschool setting, but instead the vast majority of what music is present is dramatic and high-tension. And it’s not like the music is bad, or even unfitting, it’s just blatantly representative of where the show goes wrong, focusing entirely on the wrong shit. You know, instead of scenes like the one where Satori watches her sister die and has to come to terms with the fact that she has human emotions before she fucking dies too, how about LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE? How about reserving that kind-of heavy shit for a show where it will actually work well? You could literally copy-paste the exact same fucking scene into a different show and it would be fantastic, BUT IT ISN’T HERE BECAUSE IT DOESN’T WORK (thanks for coming to my ted talk). I’m not really sure what I should say here about whether or not I can really recommend the show to you, but I should probably list a few other minor things. As previously mentioned, the animation is fine and that aspect of the action is decent enough, the music is fine and serves its purpose well enough despite being a microcosm of the show’s missteps, the art is good, the voice acting is fine (despite some characters having annoying speaking habits), etc. I think the primary takeaway here is that the show has decent comedy and likable characters with a truly bizarre premise that could’ve been really good if it was executed properly, but the fact that it is played straight and turned into a full-on dramatic shonen anime severely hurts it, if not kills it. It’s not worth watching for the action sequences and story-driven dialogue that it focuses on, and the aspect of it that is good—the comedy—is sidelined and at a complete disconnect from the rest of the show. Despite the fact that I did enjoy my time with this show to a certain extent, it’s pretty damn hard to recommend, so I’d say watch at your own risk.

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