At Daimon High School, kids settle their disputes by dueling with each other in the school's official K-Fight battle arena. Ryoko Mitsurugi, samurai girl and undefeated K-Fight champion, is called upon by a mysterious Priestess to protect the Earth from an invasion coming from the alternate universe of Solvania. She must face battles that will test her skills, her friendships, and her heart in order to find her true strength as a samurai warrior.
Anyone who is reasonably familiar with Neo Geo's classic fighting game franchise "Real Bout Fatal Fury" will probably be confused as I was upon stumbling across "Samurai Girl Real Bout High School". I'd wondered whether the series is some spinoff from the games, and the opening scenes did little to dispell that suspicion - it features a hand to hand combat between two fighters, one of whom resembles Wolfgang Krauser, a boss from the video games (in fact he resembles the video game character more than the actual Wolfgang Krauser in the anime "Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle"). However, soon it became clear that
"Samurai Girl Real Bout High School" had no real connection with "Real Bout Fatal Fury", though I guess it's possible the games did provide some inspirations for it. Even though I was a little disappointed to find that the anime series and the games are unrelated, I have to say that I did not expect to like this as much as I did.
"Samurai Girl Real Bout High School" is a strange anime: a mixture of action, comedy, school drama, with an intruding touch of fantasy. It's this touch of fantasy that makes the whole thing strange, and without it, I think I would have liked the series quite a bit more.
My initial impressions of "Samurai Girl Real Bout High School" is pretty much inline with my expectations - it seemed to scream mediocrity in all departments. The idea of using "K-Fights" in a school to settle disputes is a poor excuse for fighting, one that almost matches the absurdity of another fighting/martial arts anime "Variable Geo" (which, by the way, is about a tournament to determine "who is the toughest waitress in the world"...). Other elements that I dislike in anime such as the whacky comedy and the panty shots are also omnipresent.
But there was one bright spark that seemed to promise to redeem the anime, and that's the first proper K-Fight (proper as in not one of those fights where some cannon fodder gets annihilated within like 2 seconds) that happened in the second half of the first episode. It comprises some breathtaking action sequences the quality of which I honestly did not expect from this kind of show, and it became my first highlight of the series.
Alas, it turns out that K-Fight is the best fight in the whole series by some distance, as later battles never lived up to the expectation set by it. Most of the later fights involve battling monsters, and those are pretty boring if I'm being honest. I was more interested in the side of the comedy/school drama that was being unfolded. At the time of watching, I'd already gone through 100+ anime titles, and I suspect my brain had finally succumbed to typical anime humour and was beginning to accept it. As the action got less and less entertaining, I found to my surprise that the comedy of this series was beginning to entertain me more and more. Also, the development of the non-supernatural part of the story, shallow though they may be, was beginning to rouse a casual interest in me.
Episode 10 brought an astonishing change of mood - in a single episode, the series manages to introduce a new dimension of romantic drama that was not present before. Prior to this, the "romance" is mostly there as a source of comedy (like the silly K-Fight over lunch), but episode 10 turned it into a much more serious affair . It shouldn't have worked, but for me it did, and in fact I liked it so much it's my second highlight of "Samurai Girl Real Bout High School".
It also turned out to be the last highlight. After episode 10 brought "Samurai Girl Real Bout High School" to an all series high, episode 11 promptly dragged it down to an all series low. It's an episode that comprises a measely amount of new footage and about fifteen minutes of pointless flashbacks. Things don't improve after that either, as the remainder of the series goes on to finish the demon story (badly) and that was that.
I do see the story as the weakest aspect of "Samurai Girl Real Bout High School". I know I said earlier that certain aspects of the story triggered my interest slightly, but as I'm sitting here writing this, try as I might, I cannot remember what the supposedly interesting bits I was referring to were. The only strong impression I'm left with when I think back on the story is that awful demon slaying fantasy. It comes out of no where, doesn't integrate well with the the school aspect of the anime, and is badly explained to boot. As a matter of fact, they hardly explain it at all. Towards the end, I noticed that this is made by Gonzo, which goes a long way towards explaining the mashed up, half-arsed story, as it's one of the trademarks of their works.
I guess it must have been the characters that kept me interested. I genuinely found them likeable even if they are mostly quite shallow. I have to say voice actors did a great job of bringing them to life, particularly the protagonist Ryoko, whose voice has an audible "wild streak" in it.
So, expect comedy, expect fanservice, expect action that can be brilliant AND boring, expect a half assed, incomplete fantasy story and, if you don't expect too much in terms of quality, then maybe, just maybe, the show will spring a couple of pleasant surprises on you as it did for me.