Koihime Musou Review

Title: Koihime†Musou
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Historical, comedy, action
Year of release: 2008

I’m awfully glad that there were few – if any – jokes in Koihime Musou centring on the text it parodies, because I’m only surface-level acquainted with Romance of the Three Kingdoms. If there was a joke I’ve missed, I’m sure it’s no big deal, because this is the sort of series that isn’t too interested in high-brow a-ha’s, and it doesn’t particularly want you to think it’s clever. And, yet, it’s been some time for me since ‘dim wit’ has felt so dynamic.

A quick trip to the wiki tells me than Kan’u – informally known as Aisha (and, yes, being a Chinese-based anime, you’re going to have to get used to characters having largely unrelated-sounding names) – is Romance of the Three Kingdom’s historically based Guan Yu, and I do wonder how much of his character rubbed off on her as the acting-protagonist. Aisha lost her brother to a bandit attack, and now aims to end the ‘chaos’ of the region by personally dispatching bandits. She teams up with, initially, Chouhi – the loudmouthed, youthful Rin Rin – and carries on on her journey meeting a variety of other gender-swapped major players from the period-based novel, dispatching bandits and making money in jovial episodics with scattered and, largely, unimportant developments.

It all works well, though, because with the general exception of competent strategists Saso and Shuri, everybody is rather thick, and very into one-another. Koihime Musou doesn’t resort to simple routines where its characters point out each other’s dumbness, but the show fairly consistently finds new, exciting ways to keep its characters dumb, in full-control of their dumb decisions, and at the mercy of each other berating one-another only to become sillier and sillier and more sapphic by the minute.

Yes, there is minor fanservice; perhaps most egregiously was that one time that Sei’s boobs bounced like balloons, and most uncomfortably when Saso had her main advisor, Keifa, lick her sweat off – but there are no male characters for the women to be stupid ‘for’, and the carefree lesbian comedy charges forth akin to Yuru Yuri, Gokujo et cetera, with a rarer fantasy adventure coat of paint. Bluntly, it does not come across like the women are putting on an act of stupidity for fanservice, and nor does the fanservice feel like a performance; everybody is fully-fleshed out to be, well, bonkers, and it is key to the show erring on the side of ‘amusing’ earning an easy watch. Everybody simply IS stupid, throwing quick-witted retorts at one-another only to reveal an even bigger stupidity, and back-and-forths regularly trade multiple times to become stupider and stupider. Perhaps my favourite is when bandits take a hostage, but Rin Rin was bickering with them only a moment before, and as she declares loudly to the bandits she doesn’t care, she’s told to have sympathy for the bandits because without a hostage they wouldn’t have a leverage!

It might be a surprise, that Big Lesbian energy which is channeled energetically by each member of the cast and comprises most of the fanservice, because the series is an extremely loose adaption of a sexual visual novel. The time-travelling male character of that variant has been removed entirely here, and as such, the thing that usually happens in harems occurs unidirectionally – everybody is particularly into one another instead of anybody in particular, and flirt 24/7. Sei muses quite straightforwardly that she was ‘looking forward’ to ‘feeling’ Aisha’s ‘body against’ her own in one of the more convoluted plots of the series, and Aisha’s motherly acting towards Rin Rin is cause for even more teasing. While only Saso manages to engage in anything beyond lipservice (which she almost gets in the final ED’s montage), the series isn’t as brave as some of its contemporaries, but the lack of an angle to invite you into the fantasies is much more pleasing, and as a voyeuristic affair low on invasive camera angles and such, rarely ever insulting.

Despite a fairly small back-catalogue in anime voice-acting, Nami Kurokawa as Aisha impresses with her impressions of cast-members – ‘don’t [x] me!’ she repeats stupid lines back at her co-cast in some of the more serious, but still silly, moments. Beyond that, though, the general voice-acting quality is much like the rest of the production, and indeed the situational writing of dispatching goonish bandits – there’s very little flair, yet nothing to complain about. A handful of animation cuts are impressive, but a handful are disappointing; the tone generally sways surprisingly elegantly from the major comic moments to the rarer, more serious moments, though the occasional tonal break, of Saso’s sexual blackmail of Aisha or the Volunteer Army two-episode arc at the end, are wobbles the series doesn’t fully recover from. Irregardless, this Koihime Musou anime goes on, carefree, finding amusing ways to be stupid, and it’s quite clear that Koihime Musou isn’t too interested in you taking away from it tense battles, complex characters or historical accuracy. It wants you to have a jolly good time and, perhaps as a low bar, it merrily succeeds as light watching, with few true drops.

koihimemusouverdict

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