Before Kyoshiro and Kannazuki, the infamous Kaishaku did Steel Angel Kurumi, a surprisingly popular and critically acclaimed series when it first came to North America.
Set in alternative 1920’s Japan, a young boy named Nakahito trains to be an Onmyou mystic, but is a poor student for it. Everything changes when he explores a house of a mad scientist, finds a life-like doll his size dressed in a maid outfit, and kisses it by accident. The maid doll, Kurumi, awakens, and at first sight she falls in love and pledges her devotion towards Nakahito. As it turns out, she was created as part of the Steel Angel project, a series of battle dolls driven by Angel Hearts, cores infused with the power of angels to gain superhuman abilities; they were basically meant to be military warfare combining science and mysticism. While not a proficient mystic, Nakahito still had the latent powers that awakened Kurumi. She is however, more special and powerful than the other Steel Angels, for she is imbued with the Mark II angel heart, which also seals demon powers. Due to the danger of her latent power, both the Imperial Army and Academy (for which Kurumi’s scientist creator, Dr. Ayanokoji, works) hunt her down. Everything ensues with Nakahito and Kurumi running off on a journey together to evade them, gaining companions and learning secrets/truths along the way, ultimately leading to the climactic finale upon the Academy’s suspended-in-the-sky castle, along with the basic power-of-love message that transcends Kurumi’s unconditional devotion and Nakahito’s weakness as a mystic.
The Yuri found in this series mostly centers around Kurumi’s Steel Angel ‘sister’ Saki, who Kurumi awakens with her own kiss with the power of her Mark II heart. Because of this, Saki falls in love with her just as Kurumi had for Nakahito, then fulfills the role of the obsessive lesbian archetype. She constantly fantasizes the perfect life she might have with Kurumi and always jumps on the opportunity to bathe with her – for obvious reasons. There’s one interesting scene in the middle of the series where she decides to tell Kurumi how she feels to clear up a misunderstanding, and actually does it. In response, it’s unclear whether Kurumi understands, but lets her down easy by saying she loves her as a sister, or whether she remains oblivious.
This is all the first series. The sequel of Steel Angel Kurumi, however, is a straight-out yuri harem series, where all the characters are enveloped in a web of girls-love, all stemming from the main protagonist being a girl this time. Taking place in the early 21st century, Nako, a descendent of Nakahito’s family, is a talented, aspiring cellist while also being a shy klutz. Her best friend is Uruka, who comes across as the somewhat cold, tsundere-type character that puts up with Nako’s clumsiness. Everything changes when they explore underneath the shrine where Nako lives, and they discover Kurumi. Nako kisses her by accident, Kurumi awakens, and thus history repeats itself as Kurumi falls in love at first sight and pledges devotion toward Nako. We discover at that moment that Uruka is gay and had harbored secret feelings for her friend, which gets crushed and encroached upon by Kurumi’s entry into their lives. Wanting nothing more than the romantic rival to be out of the picture, she turns to her father who runs their family private military, unleashing robots to attack Kurumi, which she constantly defeats. He soon finds Saki, whom Uruka awakens with a kiss. But Saki is less interested in fighting Kurumi than she is still being her romantic interest, while at the same time having unconditional feelings for Uruka, so she often fantasizes having a three-way relationship. Regardless of her devotion, Uruka will have none of it, even though she lets Saki stay with her in her room. Nako, for one, is clearly hinted to have mutual interest in Kurumi, but because of her reserved shyness, this does not develop.
Unlike the first series, nothing really happens here story-wise, nor does it reach the same epic scale, making it come across as having been made for pure Yuri service. The story is mostly about Kurumi integrating herself in Nako’s normal life, i.e., attending school with her; Uruka’s constant plotting to take back Nako for herself; and Nako’s rise as a self-confident cellist. Even so, if you don’t mind having pure Yuri service with a predominant Yuri cast of characters, then for some the second series may still be more entertaining than the first.
If you were able to read through and follow the story summaries of the two series above, with or without a straight face, you can basically surmise that Steel Angel Kurumi is almost everything you would expect from Kaishaku. The story is about as nonsensical as it can get, although this is actually their most coherent one. If you like Kaishaku at all, or you’re at least tolerant of their works, then you’ll likely find something to enjoy in this. Ask this reviewer, I’d say in a strange way this is actually one of their best series, or at least this is a best anime adaptation of one of their series, even if it isn’t ‘good’ per se. It’s got some nice action and some funny humor (especially in the English dub, which admittedly took some liberties but still gave it lively flavor). There’s also no lesbian rape, which should count for something, right? If you’re interested, feel free to check it out on CrunchyRoll if it’s still there. (Erica here: They are, but marked as mature, so yu’ll need to be registered as an adult.)
Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – Series 1, 6; Series 2, 9
Service – 7 (the usual Kaishaku panty shots, skin, fetishist outfits [mostly maids in this case], and other things I can’t recall from the top of my head)
Overall – 7 (my usual rating for everything it seems)
Erica again: Thank you Eric! I haven’t thought about this series in ages. I wonder if I’ll ever watch it again. lol
While I’ve got you all on the topic, did you know that there was a *Live-Action* Steel Angel Kurumi series? I didn’t. You can get the Live-Action version on Amazon if you’re feeling brave. ^_^