Right off the bat I have to say this a guilty pleasure of mine and I enjoyed watching this a lot. After seeing clips and trailers online, I wrote it off as an immature, stupid anime that just served as an excuse to show a lot of nudity.
After watching the first couple of episodes, this was definitely confirmed (the protagonist has her clothes melted by ooze that shoots from an opponent’s breasts literally in the first scene, by episode 3 you’re watching what is basically a lesbian sex scene in a goo pit). However, I found myself thoroughly entertained, amused, and laughing all the way to the end of the series.
I compare Queen’s Blade to an ecchi equivalent of a Michael Bay movie. It is not subtle. It is over-the-top, dumb, shallow, and lots of fun. It does not make any attempt to be anything else and makes it clear up front what kind of anime this is with no shame.
I found myself more and more awed with how blatant the camera would focus in on a character’s breasts or buttocks during a conversation, the obvious suggestive posing, the excessive nudity, the ridiculous outfits, and the exploitative fight scenes. Let’s not get into “milk” spilling. It is like the creators wanted to see how far they could go creating an anime without it being classified as hentai.
Other anime sneaks in this kind of fan service sparsely. The result usually makes me roll my eyes, especially in serious anime where this feels out of place and cheap. In Queen’s Blade, they turn this to 11 and stay there from beginning to end. It literally had me laughing at parts as characters were introduced with costumes consisting of less and less material.
I also have to point out the great character design. Yes, they’re all excessively provocative and leave little to the imagination, but you can’t fault them for lack of originality. The aforementioned breast-acid girl, Melona, has hair shaped like hands that cover her breasts. The hands are ‘alive’ and operate Melona’s breast to aim and fire acid (WTF? I couldn’t stop laughing). Where else can you find that kind of creativity in an anime? Another character, Echidna, has a living snake that serves as her underwear with obvious phallic innuendo. Again, this series has no shame and it is impressive.
It is this kind of character design that elevates the characters and story for me that would otherwise be somewhat shallow. The premise of a fighting tournament with main characters traveling place to place fighting new opponents could be boring, but coupled with the ridiculous character designs and fight scenes, I became invested.
I was actually interested in protagonist Leina’s journey as she had to learn to become a fighter while traveling the world and meeting all of these wacky people. She has a weird relationship with her sisters, particularly Elina, which I found entertaining. I also liked clumsy angel Nanael, in other anime I find this type of character irritating, here, she fits in. Later episodes focus in on the villains hanging out together, which is interesting to watch and funny.
Another thing I totally appreciated was the lack of male characters. I have a particular bias against harem-style anime and the tropes that come along with them. I would have definitely not been able to watch this series had it been about a male character with all these women throwing themselves at him while he did his damnedest to turn them down for no logical reason. Having a female dominated cast (I think the only male with significant screen time is that one boy) is one of the strengths of this series.
Since the main draw here is the nudity and girls, the series could have easily cut corners on production value. They did not, and for what it is, Queen’s Blade has above average animation and sound. The art is very good, the female characters are attractive, and the action scenes are well done. The music wasn’t bad either. I had the theme stuck in my head for weeks. Voice acting is good and the English dub was also very passable.
Although I can appreciate a dumb, over-the-top action film, that doesn’t mean a mean an anime or film can be good just by being overly bad or stupid. Using Michael Bay as an example again, a lot can go wrong with the execution (first Transformers: entertaining, the rest: bad). I usually hate anime like Queen’s Blade, but in this case I feel they execute the premise very well with high production value. Queen’s Blade is the type of absurd that I have no problem getting in to.
Queen’s Blade is definitely not for everyone. I can understand why a lot of people probably can’t get over how stupid and fan service-oriented it is. It is a guilty pleasure of mine and I’m not even sure if it intentionally was supposed to be as funny as it was. But in with the right mindset, I think you can enjoy Queen’s Blade and have a lot of fun watching it.