Sekirei Series 1 Review: or “you could put an eye out with that!”
Special Features: “Kusano’s First Shopping Trip” OVA; textless opening song; textless closing song; English 5.1 Surround and Japanese Stereo (with English subtitles) audio options.
When Sekirei turned up in the pile of review disks, I took one look at the press release for it and called dibs. This is because I saw bits in it that made me fondly remember my evening with Master of Martial Hearts. It wasn’t that it branded itself as a ‘pugilistic peep-show’, or that it claimed to have ‘titillating teachers’ and ‘sultry stewardesses’. But. Well. Look at the front cover of the DVD. Even at half-an-inch high, that was pretty clear.
So, I rounded up the troupes. Jon, much-maligned convention dogsbody, was once again my trusty sidekick, and the poisons of choice were neatly set out in easy reaching distance. And then we were pleasantly surprised.
Sekirei is set in the year 2020, and follows 19 year old Minato Sahashi, who keeps failing the college entrance exam and doesn’t have a girlfriend. So far, so Love Hina. Then he gets flattened by the (and this is from the press release) ‘well-proportioned babe named Musubi’. Musubi is one of the titular Sekirei, one of 108 super-powered beings who are destined to battle to the death for their Ashikabi. What’s an Ashikabi? Someone with the power to activate a Sekirei’s true power through ‘mucosal contact’ (or in slightly more appealing terms, kissing), and who the Sekirei is then bound to serve.
Whilst initially it appears that the most evident super power of the Sekirei is being able to stand upright with breasts the size of Jack Fruit, never mind running anywhere with them, Sekirei appear to be like a more attractive version of Pokemon. Musubi, whose main power is thumping stuff very hard, describes herself as a ‘Fist Type’, whilst Hikari and Hibiki – a set of identical twins with bondage-esque outfits – are identified as ‘Lightning Types’. This Pokemon feel is also added to when you discover that each Ashikabi can ‘collect’ Sekirei, having several who are bonded to him and will fight in his name. Gotta catch ’em all, indeed.
But, despite this, Sekirei has a lot more to it than Master of Martial Hearts. It’s quite sweet in tone, and despite the nosebleeds and the more obvious harem-anime tropes that abound, it is quite self-aware in that respect as well – one character tells another “Sorry, I wasn’t listening. I was distracted by your panties.” But it doesn’t dissolve into flagrant slapstick over these issues, like Love Hina did, and which bothered me about that show. What is heavily emphasised is the importance of a good relationship between an Ashikabi and his Sekirei, and the threat is threaded throughout the series of Sekirei who have been activated, or ‘winged’, against their will and are thus trapped with an Ashikabi they don’t want and who treats them poorly.
This is a hint of the darker side of the plot of Sekirei, as are the reminders that eventually these characters are going to fight, and probably to the death. But it never really delivers on that darker side. As ‘phase 2’ of the mysterious ‘Sekirei Game’ moves into action, we are told that Minato and his friends are going to war. But it really doesn’t feel like it. And this is where Sekirei begins to fall down. Based on a manga that hasn’t been completed yet, you get the impression that perhaps the series doesn’t know where it is going. Or, even who it is really aimed at.
The large breasts, panty shots and exploding clothing, as well as the almost ‘tick-box’ cast of female characters, make me think that Sekirei is aimed at guys. But then you watch the opening credits – they’re pretty epic, as a contemporary fantasy series aimed at girls. And the ending credits, which are sexy, but in a fun and cheeky way. And the colours and the emphasis of the plot aren’t what you’d expect from a ‘cheesecake’ anime. The manga is categorised as seinen, like Gantz and Biomega, which are the main two other seinen titles I’ve encountered. But Sekirei is, well, nicer than either of those.
When I compare it to Pokemon, it’s not just an off-the-cuff remark. Sekirei has the same sort of pleasantness about it, the same principles of caring for each other and building a team through trust and hard work that Pokemon really sells. Perhaps another similar anime would be Pretear, which also stars the lovely Monica Rial, who lends her talents to this nicely-done dub as well. So, perhaps it’s Love Hina meets Oh! My Goddess!, or perhaps it’s Pokemon meets Pretear, with maybe a little of Tenchi Muyo! thrown in for good measure. Whatever it is, it’s a very sweet show. But I can’t help but feel it could be stronger, perhaps with less breasts and more direction.
That said, if it wasn’t for the breasts, Jon and I wouldn’t have had our Drinking Game. Click on the links below to play along with us!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5, GG cup.
Try this if you liked: Burn Up Excess, Master of Martial Hearts, Pretear, Love Hina