New Anime Fall 2009 Season: Kämpfer

November 6th, 2009

Kämpfer is either an incredibly silly anime with no redeeming value whatsoever or a surprisingly intelligent critical look at “magical girl” tropes in seinen anime.

As a silly anime, it’s the story of Senou Natsuru, a stereotypically nice but sort of dorky guy who, for plot purposes, suddenly changes into a girl in order to fight for her life. Natsuru is one of those characters who asks the wrong questions badly, so gets useless information in return. Several episodes into the series he still has basically no clue why he’s fighting. Natsuru as a boy is nice, ineffective and stutter-y. As a girl, Natsuru is *exactly* the same, except she now has magic powers. Natsuru’s neighbor and friend, Sakura, is uninterested in Natsuru as a guy, but when she is saved by female Natsuru, she falls head over heels. (“And the moral of that story,” said the Duchess, “is that women will always fall for magic competence over ineffectual niceness.” To which Alice replied, “Nonsense! The moral of the story is that Sakura is a lesbian.”)

As a surprisingly intelligent critical look at tropes of the guy’s version of magical girl anime, we are introduced to a man who is a better woman than he is a man, but really not that great of a woman. He transforms into a magical fighter then given *no* reason to fight; he is pursued by the women around him as both a man and a woman, but is incapable of following through with any of them in any form. There are “cute” magical mascots in the form of eviscerated and mangled stuffed animals – I’ll come back to them later – and, in what I consider a piece d’resistance – he is subjected to all the stereotypical service dress-up scenes after which he sighs, “I feel as I’ve just had my humanity stripped from me.” Yes, Natsuru, you have. Just as all the other girl characters who’ve been put through that nonsense have.

The real reason any sane person would watch this anime is the “Entrails Animals.” These evil and unpleasant little mascot creatures are voiced by popular voice actresses – with a 4th wall crushing recognition of each other’s voices. Not *just* popular voice actresses, but VAs that have themselves built up a following voicing characters in exactly the kind of anime of which this series is a meta-comment.

I’d like to give Kämpfer the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is consciously written as a poke at the genre. I’d like to, but I can’t. It’s probably just a really silly series. (“And the moral of that story, said the Duchess, “is that you can’t compare gender-switching comedy anime to a critical reading of societal norms.” Alice nodded solemnly. “I think that’s the only sense I’ve ever heard from you.”)

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 4
Characters – 5
Yuri – 7
Service – 36

Overall – 7

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7 Responses

  1. sarcastic_weasel says:

    The way I see it, Kämpfer is a bad anime based on a bad series of LNs. I briefly considered purchasing a volume or two of the LNs, to see if the source material was any better/worse. Fortunately for my wallet, I read some of the amazon.co.jp reviews– most of which implied that the main character really is an empty-headed animal-food-trough-wiper.

    Too many handwaves for my taste, plus a painfully stupid and clueless lead make this series hard to watch. (Seriously, Natsuru? You can’t pick up on Akane’s vibes? And you don’t have the courage to just explain what’s going on to Sakura?) So tired of wishy-washy leads, I could scream.

    I still watch, but only for when Akane transforms and starts cursing and shooting up stuff. She’s the saving grace of the show.

    But it’s no KimiTodo, that’s for sure.

  2. @sarcastic_weasel – Well, no. Kimi no Todoke is a shoujo romantic comedy and Kampfer is a seinen action comedy, so you’re right they are nothing alike. Nor are they meant to be. Glass Mask isn’t much like Fist of the North Star, either. :-)

  3. Actually, I would like to think it’s an intelligent parody disguised in all the ugly tropes that reminds the viewers every now and again that it while it is making fun of itself, it also has to pay to bills.

    Smart, but dumb enough so that the dumber viewers don’t feel as though they are losing any of their service.

    I just knew Kampfer was not meant to be taken seriously when one of those disemboweled dolls said in the start, something like, “The story is about… well, the story’s not that important.” Because really, it isn’t. It’s about making fun of mahou shoujo, ecchi, harem, Yuri and gender bender. My only grouse is sometimes it uses its disguise as actual clothing–that is, there are moments where it seems to want to service the fans instead of making fun of that service.

    Namely the entire romantic aspect of the anime. And when the story actually starts to “go somewhere”.

    I think if they pandered less and criticised more, this would be an absolute winner. But as it stands right now, at least the viewers who are aware it’s a parody are enjoying it.

    The reaction seems to be rage for everyone else. You should see some of the comments on forums for example. “This is utter crappy fanservice trash with no plot and stereotypical characters!” Why yes, it is. Because it in intended to be that.

    I don’t know which is worse–the people who don’t realise this anime is a parody of itself and hate it, or the people who don’t realise it’s a parody of itself and love it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It might be interesting to note that the anime itself doesn’t follow the original plot fully. Amusing to watch, perhaps, but right now the animated version is focusing too much on the “harem” aspect, with mediocre handling of comedy. The handwaves mentioned by sarcastic_weasel don’t show up as prominently in the novels, either.

    If you really wanted an interesting experience, might as well go for the novels, especially volume 2 and 3 onwards when it grows a bit of stubble. The manga, which is based on the novels’ storyline, does a better job at narrating as well.

    Trivia: the voice actor references were actually from the novels themselves. Natsuru mentions how his tiger sounds just like the “original Shizuka-chan” (Doraemon reference); while Akane, being a otaku-o’-clock TV addict, brings up how her rabbit sounds like Tamura Yukari and makes the Mizuki Nana crack at Shizuku’s wildcat.

  5. sarcastic_weasel says:

    @Erica: Actually, I was talking in terms of quality… but that’s what I deserve for posting late at night with my brain not fully engaged… then again, you probably already know that.

  6. Caliph says:

    So is it silly as in the good silly or the bad silly? Silly stuff can still be entertaining.

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