Long ago, the gate to the world of darkness was sealed. Now evil warriors, known as Remnants, are trying to reopen the gate and let demons take over the world. However, at Tobira High School, there exist guardians of the gate who must risk their lives to prevent the gate from being opened.
What the hell is going on? When will all my questions be answered? Those are the thoughts you can expect to have whilst watching Combustible Campus Guardress. It’s incredibly difficult to get through this Supernatural, Action, Comedy fiesta, without being confused about something fundamental, like the plot.
From what I could gather after the numerous failed attempts at exposition; there’s a world of darkness, which had its gate to our world sealed somehow. Now the “Remnants” want to reopen the gate, to do the usual take over the world thing that all evil seems compelled to do. So it’s all up to the “Guardians” to prevent
this from happening. You still following me? … Well this does sound like your average Good vs. Evil standard affair and that’s what it should be however the incomprehensible turn of events and sheer insanity of the actions that drive the story, will leave most people confused. I say that but what really confused the heck out of me was what this anime was trying to achieve, as both a comedy and a serious action drama. For this to be a success, there needs to be a healthy balance of the two aspects however this anime made a mess of the two. Amongst all this mess the one redeeming quality that can be salvaged would be the theme on “destiny”, which gives the series something interesting to work with and some fine developments arise from it. Nevertheless the characters that experience these developments constantly try their best to ruin it.
Ah yes the characters. How could I forget this delightful bunch of misfits who may entertain some but not those with a keen grip on reality. Who would have thought it would be possible, but Combustible Campus Guardress had an entire cast full of annoying characters; some with incredibly annoying voices to match. The story’s heroine (Hazumi) being the most annoying of the lot. For half the show I was unwittingly praying that the god’s of common sense would strike her down with a lightning bolt of logic.
It amazes me by how much Production I.G. got wrong with the series but what they always get right is the animation. Sure the animation is about as out dated as my cassette player but they still manage to pull off some incredibly well animated fight scenes. Just watching buildings crumble when someone is sent flying throw them, is simply worthwhile. On the other hand, when I think about the sound my mind goes blank. A few minutes after finishes the series; no memory of a soundtrack or interesting SFX were available in my mind and all I did remember was the god awful ending theme and second-rate voice acting, which isn’t helped by its mind-numbing dialogue.
In the end this is a series where the writers didn’t believe in such things like: a coherent storyline, funny jokes, logic or even anime logic. Instead they thought giving the characters the most retarded abilities imaginable would make entertainment. Picture this… a girl summoning a barrage of puppies just to be slaughtered by some ambiguous blue blob. You’ll witness a lot of stupidity in this short series, right up until the inevitable climax, where you realize that you wasted your time watching a mediocre series just to be force fed a bullshit ending.
Bakuen Campus Guardress (EN: *Combustible Campus Guardress) is often outshined by its successor series, Bastard!!—but in the waning light of obscurity is something the breaks the mold and was way ahead of its time, as far as progressive ideology goes. An apocalyptic comedy that is queer, in every sense of the word, and polarizing to its viewers.
*This title was coined by the members of the fansub group: Project Daicon—Guardress has never been officially licensed for English-speaking audiences.
This review contains spoilers for Bakuen Campus Guardress (1994)! You have been warned!
Every 3,000 years, a portal to the demon world opens up, and demons are unleashed upon us.
That means that the demons will slaughter all of the humans… unless there a sacrifice with special powers, that prevents the massacre from happening. Kairei was the human, in the previous onslaught of demons, who was used as a ‘Key’ to close the demon portal. In the Gateway District of Tokyo, the residents have been trained in magic to ward off demons—including the main characters, Hazuki Jinnō, and her brother, Takumi Jinnō.
It is reveled that Takumi Jinnō is the reincarnation of Kairei and consequently, has been pre-ordained to take on the role of ‘Key’ in the current reality and sacrifice his life for all of humanity. To make things more complicated Hazuki Jinnō is in love with her *brother, and is also the reincarnation of Kairei’s emissary.
*It is revealed early on, in OVA 1, that Takumi is not related to Hazuki or his adoptive mother, Kasumi Jinnō. They are the equivalent to modern-day retainers for him, since he is the ‘Key.’ Kasumi also seems to have feelings for Takumi, though it seems more lustful than Hazuki’s pure love for him.
It is interesting to see the powers of the guardians versus the demons. The guardians of in Gateway District use their professions to fight in a comedic way—Kasumi uses a frying pan to fight and flings curry at her enemies because of her profession: housewife, the plumber throws magic plungers, the banker bashes them in the head with money vaults, the laundromat man has a washer strapped to his back, like a backpack, and swishes the demons around on his back… there are many more examples of the Gateway District residents that are equally as amazing.
NOTE: Not to mention that one of the demons in OVA 3 looks like the American flag.
The main conflict that appears around the end of OVA 3 and the beginning of OVA 4 because *Takumi is ready to accept his role as the ‘Key’ and sacrifice himself to banish the demons, but Hazuki is so in love with him that she is willing to let the demons destroy humanity, in order to spare her beloved’s life. In the battle between Hazuki and the final boss, Kijima Tōta, it is revealed that the demons are essentially the same as humans, except they choose to express their feelings through hatred and resentment—instead of love.
*Takumi Jinnō is essentially the yáng to Hazuki Jinnō’s yīn. Takumi has more of an ‘order’ oriented mind, where he believes that the most logical thing to do is sacrifice himself to save the entire human race. Whereas, Hazuki wants to bring chaos to the world, via a revolution, and risk the sacrifice of billions of lives in order to save the person she loves—which, ironically, ends up working. The determinism of one being is able to completely change the world. Takumi can also be seen as the ‘blue oni’ archetype, a figure that is calm and observes authority, while Hazuki is the hot-blooded ‘red oni’ archetype that is passionate and challenges authority. I have written about the yīnyáng duality countless times because it interests me: if you want to read more examples of this character model, read the Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni analyses on my blog.
NOTE: Any character that is shown with a moon behind them is going to be a yīn-type character, this is a reference to Hazuki Jinnō’s first appearance in OVA 1. Yīn is emblematic of the moon, and opposing it is the sun, yáng.
So, to quell the on-going war between demons and humans, Hazuki decides to use her large, *phallic-looking bokken to permanently open the demon gate—causing the Tōta to get heart-shaped pupils at the sight of her… large ‘bokken.’ Reality is then permanently altered so that humans and demons coexist among each other, free to openly express their hedonistic desires. It even shows Chiryū and the high school guardian, *Tenku, sharing a popsicle together, as well as Kasumi and Aoba hanging off of Takumi’s arms… implying that they’re now in a polyamorous relationship because moral condemnation has ceased to exist. The ending is very similar to the conclusion Dororon Enma-kun MeeraMera (2011).
*More about the topic of Hazuki Jinnō’s phallism in the analysis! Both Chiryū and Tenku are men.
Although the version of Bakuen Campus Guardress circulated on the web is low quality—the designs, animation, and, particularly, the directing is gorgeous. Mizuho Nishikubo, director of the Video Girl Ai OVA, directed the action scenes to be absurdist and jarring—the sky is often captured through a fish-eye lens, one of the opening scenes is a crowd of real Japanese people obscured by inverted lighting, the landscapes and Kazushi Hagiwara’s designs compliment each other perfectly; the animation during the action scenes and particularly the character animation for Kijima Tōta in the final OVA, is absolutely stunning—some of the best visual direction that I’ve seen in anime.
There definitely is more of a comedic slant in Bakuen Campus Guardress than in Bastard!!—this is because the co-writer of Guardress is none other than Satoru Akahori: notable creator of Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai, Bakuretsu Hunters, the first Ginga Ojōsama Densetsu Yuna OVA series, KO Seiki Beast Sanjushi, and all of the Saber Marionette series. There’s humor that you wouldn’t think would land but does, like the scene in OVA 4 when Kijima Tōta tosses Chiryū’s severed torso at Hazuki Jinnō—only for the torso to reanimate and look up her skirt. It may not seem that funny, but the pacing of the scene made the absurdity of it hilarious.
*A lot of the comedy is campy, B-movie humor… similar to Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator.
There are A-list seiyū in this OVA, despite the campiness of the production, like Rico Matsumoto (Hazuki Jinnō)—Satoshi in Pokémon and Rumi Hidaka in Perfect Blue, Akira Ishida (Takumi Jinnō)—*Kaworu Nagisa in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Yūrakutei Yakumo in Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, Rei Sakuma (Aoi)—Shampoo in Ranma ½ and Peorth in Aa! Megami-sama, Mika Kanai (Aoba Hime)— Satoko Hōjō in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Jigglypuff in Pokémon, Toshiyuki Morikawa (Kazuma Yamashiro)—Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII and Naraku in Sengoku Otogizōshi Inuyasha, and Takehito Koyasu (Tenku)—Hotohori in Fushigi Yūgi and Zechs Merquise in Gundam Wing.
*In Bakuen Campus Guardress (1994), Ishida voices his FIRST sacrificial, effeminate male character—Neon Genesis Evangelion’s airing dates were from 10/4/1995–3/27/1996 and Bakuen Campus Guardress aired from 5/27/1994–11/25/1994.
Hazuki Jinnō is indefinitely an intersex character.
• Her phallic (Cloud Strife sword-sized) bokken is used as a pun throughout the OVA as a penile euphemism. Especially, at the very end, when Takumi kisses her, she gets a nosebleed, and her ‘bokken’ becomes engorged enough to permanently alter reality.
• Her face is drawn in a very masculine way, her shoulders are very broad and muscular for a woman’s and she has a small hip-ratio. Typically, male bodies are drawn like an upside down triangle without curvature in the hips—identical to how Hazuki Jinnō’s body is drawn!
• At the very end of OVA 4, the character Chiryū is outed as gay. He ends up hooking up with Takehito Koyasu’s character, Tenku, but throughout the OVA, he’s constantly perving on Hazuki—most notably, peeking up her skirt. From an audience’s perspective, it only ever shows her panties from the backside and Chiryū is shown sticking his head into the front of her skirt as well. That enough is implicative that she probably has a penis.
• Since she is the catalyst between good and evil, and essentially the ‘antichrist’ that brings all of the demons to Earth, if ancient lore is to be believed, her being a hemaphrodite would make perfect sense. Look at Ryō Asuka from Devilman (1972), both characters choose love and end reality, and both have androgynous attributes. Another interpretation of chaos and order, yīn and yáng, is the culmination of femininity and masculinity. Hazuki and Takumi Jinnō both have feminine AND masculine characteristics.
Additional LGBTQ+ themes in Bakuen Campus Guardress: Kasumi Jinnō and, the voluptuous demon, Aoi have masculine statures, as though they are both supposed to resemble trans-women. I’m surprised with works, such as Stop!! Hibari-kun! and Patalliro! gaining more traction in the LGBTQ+ sphere, that Guardress has been neglected to be noticed as one.
Conclusively, Bakuen Campus Guardress is more of a poignant story to me than Bastard!!—even though Bastard!! has higher production values; Guardress resonated with me on a deeper emotional level than the legend of Dark Schneider. Guardress is not only a hidden gem, but a creation that has the mettle to have an openly intersex protagonist! I am aware that Combustible Campus Guardress isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I encourage anyone—looking to find something experimental with B-movie humor—to check it out. Bakuen Campus Guardress gets an 8/10 for its originality and balls-out approach to storytelling!