Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Armed Girl’s Machiavellism
Anime Studio: Silver Link
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Action / Comedy / Ecchi
Released: February 4th 2019
Language: Japanese / English
Length: 325 minutes
When Aichi Coexistence Academy converted from all-girls to a coed model, the female students were so concerned about male misbehaviour that they armed themselves! Now the school is ruled by the lovely but lethal Supreme Five Swords, and the boy students are forced to dress and act like girls or suffer the razor sharp points of the Swords’ anger. But for new transfer student Fudo Nomura, this goes against the policy of personal freedom that he holds dear. He might just have the martial arts chops and rapier wit needed to slash through the Swords’ defences, but can he tame their fiery hearts enough to regain his independence?! It’s a whole new kind of slice of life High School Drama, extra heavy on the “slice”, as one Bad Boy meets some very Dicey Girls!
Once you load Armed Girl’s Machiavellism up, you’d be forgiven for looking at the menu screen and expecting the show to lean heavily on fan service. Truth be told, it would be a fair assumption to make. The usual suspects – such as clothing damage during battles – are all present, but it goes beyond that too. For example, during one scene, one of the girls chooses to fight naked. Why? Because the arousal it will cause Fudo Nomura will mean that he can’t take the correct stance to do his special attack due to embarrassment. So, while not the only element to the show, it would absolutely be fair to label it as being part of the ecchi genre.
The set-up of the show is an odd one. On the one hand, as misguided as they are here, the idea that women can stand up for themselves is absolutely positive. They take it to extremes here though, forcing transvestism on the boys and generally being so controlling that it’s ridiculous. The idea here is no doubt to make you root for Fudo in his battles, but even then you have the conflict of the male hero attacking and, whether intentional or not, disrobing the girls. Throw in the occasional homophobic undertones in the script, and you have the recipe for a potentially terrible series.
All that being said, the series is not without redeeming qualities. The martial arts on display are well represented, with the various techniques being based firmly in the realms of realism. Even some of the odd moments, such as sumo wrestling a bear, pays fair tribute to the actual combat form and its rules. In fact, it’s the silly moments like this that play a huge part in making the episodes surprisingly quick watches. This combined with the use of blood, threats of actual death, and some epic fight music makes it clear that the show should be able to provide some decent drama. The problem is that the combination of the silliness and the clearly-just-to-titillate nudity makes it all very hard to take the threats seriously. That really diminishes the impact of the positives of the show.
What makes it all very frustrating is that the final trilogy of episodes show that the series had some real promise. Here, we get some tangible tension, character growth, and a decent build-up to the climactic battle. The series gets a satisfying ending that, while not resolving the entire plot, feels like a logical place to leave off. That in itself means that the team behind the series did know what they were doing and were perfectly capable of creating something more than the series is. With a little thematic shifting, this could have been a watchable fight series. As it is though, we get a show that pretends to be a little different but quickly drifts away into being a disjointed harem series. The story feels secondary to the set-pieces through most of the action too, which doesn’t do it any favours.
From a technical standpoint, the animation is fine for what it is, but certainly not standout. Putting aside the excellent battle music, the opening theme is very good in an old school anime sort of way. Meanwhile, the ending theme has an almost video game quality to it, which fits the feel of the action quite well. The dub voice cast is perhaps a little inconsistent here, but not horrendous. In terms of extra material, the OVA is a fairly normal hot springs episode and doesn’t really add anything to the story.
So, how do I rate this? Well, that’s a tough one because the series certainly has plenty of faults. At the same time though, while not as effective as it clearly wants to be, the episodes don’t tend to drag, and there are entertaining scenes throughout. The collector’s edition Blu-ray set does also come with a massive 240-page art book and 6 art cards too, which should satisfy fans. For me, it just about scrapes an average 3 out of 5, but if you’re fine with fan service and the conflicting feelings that the set-up can provide, you may rate it higher.