Samurai Spirits 2
I've run into this tape several times over the years. And on each occasion I watch it and make a note to look for some more episodes so I can do a review. Well, it's becoming increasingly obvious that if there are more I'm not going to find em, so on with the review.
Note that It's proven very hard to find information on this title. Searching gives me lots (and lots, seems to have a huge fanbase) of hits on the games, lots on the first movie and only very sparse information on this title. It looks like it didn't make much of an impact. Some sources suggest one OAV episode, some suggest 2, so if you can confirm it one way or another please mail me. I'm going to assume, for the present time, there's only this single episode.
The story is set in the sort of medieval Japan that only exists in the background of fighting anime and video games. On this stage exist a whole bunch of tough warriors enjoying a moment of peace between battles. And the lead, a burly samurai with a sharp Katana and even sharper hair, seems well skilled at this. Eating, drinking and letting the female ninja do all the work. Life is good.
But of course this isn't a shoujo anime, and before long things start getting more interesting. It seems the Samurai is actually a figure of some importance, the sort of guy who's attracted some powerful enemies, but not sufficiently powerful for him to take them seriously. But what will happen when a powerful enemy, once a friend, comes to them on the run from a deadly enemy of her own. While at the same time their friends are willing to make sure, by force of arms if necessary, that anyone who could possibly be an enemy is permanently disposed of. Looks like they're in the middle of it all once more.
In case you didn't know this anime is based upon an arcade fighting game, one of the many spawned at the same time as street-fighter. If you didn't know that you'd certainly pick it up quickly as there's something familiar about anime constructed around this media. The extremely distinctive, but not always sensible, character design being one clue. The corny plots, simplistic dialog and paper thin characterization being another. After all, the video game doesn't really provide that much background for a story.
Thankfully this anime is far superior to the rather dire Samurai Spirits 1. They've dumped all the characters who don't fit, at least a little bit, into the Japanese environment. Well, apart from gothic elf-boy but he makes a pretty good villain. They've also improved the animation quality and spend a little time doing some character work (shock!). It actually gives you some hope of being an entertaining title.
But of course it runs into the fatal flaw that all pilot episodes have. It sets up the characters, builds to a climax, and then rolls the credits to continue the story next episode. A next episode that will never arrive. Which of course means the story is pointless because we will never have resolution. The characters, starting to show some personality, are now trapped in time. If this were the first episode it would be enough for me to watch the second, but standing alone it's just pointless. And as a result this review must also be weak. This episode is watchable, but given it goes nowhere it's not really worth spending time or money to hunt out.
It also has some silly flaws. The initial fight scene ends extremely abruptly and doesn't make sense. They can't decide if they want the lead female to be cute, humorous or deadly which makes for some confusion of character. Meanwhile Galford's role is sort of unlikely. Not to mention the rather annoying links to events that happened in the previous material. Oh yeah, and goth-boys weapon just looks painfully unwieldy rather than deadly. Lots of weaknesses, so the second episode could just as easily have sucked as succeeded.
The production, as mentioned, is not bad. It's got cute women with magic ninja powers and that's always a good start (they need to eat something though, scrawny as they are). Japan makes a good backdrop and Hoshimaru, the lead male, almost seems like an interesting guy to follow. The character designs are of course drawn from the game. The action scenes are watchable, decent atmosphere and some nice animation touches especially the representation of the lead females bird companion. It's exactly what it sounds like, unremarkable animation, neither particularly good or hopelessly bad. Although it was, to my tastes, more fun before they got into the fighting. The music, if any, went completely under my radar and the female voices where a little squeaky to my ears. I don't think the fan-titlers throwing in the occasional expletive actually added to the depth of the title either.