Sometimes a series would be better served by sticking with its original Japanese name. Samurai Harem (known as Asu no Yoichi in its native land) suffers from the same problem as Cat Planet Cuties – the silly title bestowed upon it, by the English language localisation team, is so goofy that some viewers will avoid it purely on the moniker alone. Thankfully I am not one of those people. It shall take more than a daft name to dissuade me from watching an anime! I am after all the sort of person who will watch a cartoon even if it happens to feature a bloke cross dressing as a magical girl.
One thing I cannot criticise Samurai Harem on is the accuracy of its title. The series does indeed feature a samurai and a harem of cute girls. This tale, based on Yū Minamoto’s manga, is however set during modern times rather than the Edo period. Yoichi Karasuma is the titular samurai, who has spent his seventeen years of life training how to bash skulls with a wooden sword. After surpassing his father’s skill with a Bokken, Yoichi is ordered to travel down from his mountainside stomping grounds to the city, where he can continue his training at an acquaintance’s dojo.
The trend of anime parents abandoning their offspring is alive and well in Samurai Harem. No surprise then when it’s revealed that, in the absence of their parents, the dojo Yoichi is staying at is run by a quartet of sisters. Hilarity ensues as Yoichi struggles to acclimatize to city life and cohabitate with four attractive girls. The honourable ronin, who has previously only interacted with woodland creatures, cannot help but become overly stimulated when in the presence of the busty Ikaruga siblings. His knack for inadvertently traipsing into female changing rooms and accidently grabbing boobs doesn’t help matters either.
Ibuki Ikaruga is the eldest sister and Yoichi’s prospective love interest. She admires the protagonist’s prowess with a hickory blade, even if his perverted antics never fail to make her blood boil. Competing with Ibuki, for Yoichi’s heart, is her younger sister Ayame Ikaruga. Ayame suffers from an inferiority complex, which has made her envious of Ibuki’s superior school grades… and also her sis’ more ample bosom. Fanning the sexual tension flames is the aspiring manga artist Chihaya Ikaruga. She loves pitting her sisters against each other, as the resulting fireworks serve as good inspiration for comic book plotlines. The last member of the Ikaruga household is ten-year-old Kagome. She’s cute, a proficient cook and from the bunch is R Kelly’s favourite character.
My rating for Samurai Harem is three stars. It’s a funny series that doesn’t make an effort to subvert the expectations conjured by its uninspired title. Although the series has no chance of cracking my top-five anime shows of 2015 it would be disingenuous to say that I didn’t find its twelve episodes to be amusing. Like other harem shows there is a bit of eye candy on display, but when compared to other examples in the genre the fan service on offer is rather tame. If anything Samurai Harem may disappoint pervs seeking a saucy harem cartoon because it is too wholesome. The script instils the importance of family bonds and when given the choice Yoichi would prefer to resolve conflict through diplomacy rather than force.
Delivering gags is Samurai Harem’s chief focus. Although a multitude of characters are smitten with Yoichi none of the relationships develop into anything substantial. On the action side of things, despite being fronted by a swordfighter, the series is surprisingly lightweight on martial art duels. Over the DVD’s dozen episodes Yoichi battles a delinquent, a couple of surf ninjas and a girl who transforms into an adroit fighter whenever she is disrobed. None of the aforementioned opponents pose much of a challenge however and are dispatched with little fanfare. The structure of the series is reminiscent to Rosario Vampire, as the bulk of each episode consists of harem hijinks with a few minutes reserved at the end for vanquishing the villain of the week.
A year from now I will struggle to remember Samurai Harem, but it did at least make me laugh for the short time it lasted. I wonder what other generic show titles the anime industry will come up with next. My money is on High School Romance, Teenage Mech Pilot or Amorous Tentacles (you must be over eighteen to watch that last one.)