From the Pile: Master of Martial Hearts

August 8th, 2010

From the Pile is a regular feature in which we profile something at random from our large pile of yet-to-be-reviewed anime and manga. Believe us, we’ve been in this game for several years now and have had only limited space in the print edition to share all our thoughts, so there’s quite a bit of catch-up work to do on our backlog. So without further ado …

Today’s profile: Master of Martial Hearts (complete series)
Publisher: Funimation
Suggested age rating: Older teen 16+

Being an anime reviewer isn’t all the fun it would seem to be on the surface. Yeah, sure, we get to watch cartoons animated features whenever we have time and get paid for it, but not all of it is good. And lately, it seems like the quality of anime has dipped in general — for every buzzworthy work like Summer Wars or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Gurren Lagann, there are a dozen cheap, exploitative works that either ramp up the sexual quotient or throw in a half-dozen “moe blobs,” patch it all together with the loosest of plots, and send it out to fanboys who obsess over every perverse detail in the darker corners of the Internet.

Master of Martial Hearts is one of those series that falls into the latter category. It seems like the producers of this series felt they had to take every possible opportunity to remind viewers, “Hey, LOOK! Hot girls and women over here! Some of whom may actually be wearing clothes! And they’re fighting one another!”  So there are slow, tantalizing establishing shots of characters from their ankles up to their heads; other shots that emphasize that, yes, these characters have breasts, and yes, they’re wearing panties; an obligatory “hey, let’s all go to the pool and dress up in as little as possible!” scene; and fight sequences in which each powerful blow is accompanied by clothing exploding off bodies in dramatic slow-motion.

Oh yeah, and there’s some plot about a jewel that grants wishes that everyone’s fighting over. But hey, breasts.

Thrown into the midst of all this is Aya … oh, let’s face it, it really doesn’t matter what anyone’s name is in this series, because all of the combatants can be described in broad archetypes. Let’s just call Aya “Schoolgirl.” So Schoolgirl’s thrown into this tournament, fighting for her missing friend (and former tournament participant) Shrine Maiden. We know Schoolgirl’s the main character because when she squares off against Stewardess, Teacher, Nurse, Policewoman, Japanese Folk Musician,, the following happens, without fail:
  1. Schoolgirl gets soundly pummeled. Clothes explode off her left and right. Yet throughout the onslaught, she still manages to keep her underwear on.
  2. Schoolgirl snaps.
  3. Schoolgirl proceeds to beat the bejeebers out of her opponent … and within the first few seconds, her opponent’s topless.

I thought at first this was out of courtesy to maintain Schoolgirl’s chaste nature … and then there was a prolonged scene of her showering, which pretty much buried that theory six feet under. Heck, I felt like I needed a shower after watching any part of this DVD for a significant chunk of time. I probably should have realized what I was in for with the opening theme song, an ear-piercing horror that prompted me to push fast-forward during the opening sequence for the first time in recent memory. And I’m usually one to give opening sequences a fair shake for at least one episode.

From a young age, I was taught to always try to find the good in a particular situation. For Master of Martial Hearts, what’s good is that it’s five episodes long and you don’t have to buy it until, say, Right Stuf sticks it in its Bargain Bin for $1.98 or so (and even then, I could think of better ways of spending $1.98).

Aside from that … well, you know how every Funimation production these days starts off with the company’s logo swirling into view, a bunch of people proclaiming, “FUNIMATION!” and a voice whispering, “You should be watching”? I feel like there should be a second voice for series like these that whispers “… something else.”

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