Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians
After the climactic battle of the previous season, the fighters of Nanyo and Seito High Schools would like to enjoy some peaceful time, but someone with a grudge wants to create chaos and discord within each school's own ranks as well as between the two schools.
For those unfamiliar with this series: teenagers possessed by the spirits of figures from the ancient Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms feel compelled to re-fight those ancient battles. For some reason, they often came back as voluptuous females in this incarnation (we KNOW the reason, of course), hence the English rendition of the title in the manga: Battle Vixens. They usually engage in unarmed combat (a few have swords or lances), and when they meet, ferocious fights ensue in which clothes are customarily ripped off (we know the reason for that too; same as the other one.)
The previous chapter of this saga left our heroine, Hakufu, and the fighters of her school, Nanyo, in alliance with the fighters of Seito High (apparently an all-girls' school) at the top of the heap following an apocalyptic struggle. Since the other schools have been defeated by this point, I thought the adversary of Great Guardians might be pulled out of left field, and so this proved. But that's not all that's different here.
Put simply, the re-enactment of the Battle of the Red Cliffs in Season Two was (I HATE this cliché, but I'll use it) game-changing, and it's completely altered the show's conventions. The cast is no longer agonizing quite so much about whether to accept the fates of their spiritual ancestors; Hakufu and her allies have already shown that the chains of fate can be broken. There are no more portentous (if pretentious) biographical narratives about characters' past incarnations when they're introduced; in fact, Great Guardians only introduces three new characters (though it resurrects one from the grave.) We've HAD the Epic Battle, so foreshadowing is out the window too.
As a result, Guardians is largely a story about the characters' 21st-Century personalities, and for some of them that's quite a comedown. One that's particularly distressing is Kan'u's transformation: the staid, proud warrior of the previous two seasons here is shown in the throes of a simpering schoolgirl crush. The mighty have fallen low, indeed.
I CAN talk a little about one of the new characters. Her name is Chubo, and she's supposedly Hakufu's long-lost little sister; Goei, Hakufu's mom (still a "cougar", by the way) is evasive when directly asked about the girl, so the impression is given that Chubo is the product of a dalliance of Hakufu's father. Chubo is apparently NOT a fighter, though she's familiar with Sun Tzu's The Art of War and is often quoting it. (Interesting synchronicity for me; I finally bought a copy of Sun Tzu's little book just a few weeks before I saw this, and really enjoyed seeing how some of its martial aphorisms were tied into the plot.) Koukin, Hakufu's cousin (that familial relationship is downplayed in this one), childhood friend, and would-be protector, develops a crush on Chubo, maybe because of the contrast between Chubo's and Hakufu's personalities. It's always seemed to me that Hakufu has never really appreciated Koukin's kindness toward her, but she does have one line that shows she does notice when she's getting less of it. It WOULD be nice to see a little more plot movement in this relationship.
One more change this time, which I have mixed feelings about: this season finally indulges in "warm fuzzies". I don't normally object to warm fuzzies, but it just seems out of place in the Ikki Tousen universe. Events in this series have always been depicted in a spirit of grim seriousness, no matter how objectively absurd they were (well, except for the VERY end of Season Two, and also excepting the little OVAs included with the series.)
Overall, this season of the show is not that bad, but it just doesn't seem like the same series. But it STILL comes off as a "classier" show than similar ones like, say, Sekirei. I'm not at all sure how it does that. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: One thing that certainly didn't change this season is the quantity of fan service; there are plenty of bare-breasts-in-the-bath scenes, the usual panty shots, bondage scenes, and a few sexual assaults, though this time there's not one scene of truly consensual sex. Adults only, please.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians © 2008 Yuji Shozaki/Wani Books/ Ikkitousen GG Partners
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