Over in America the WWE have little confidence in the drawing power of female wrestlers. I wonder why that is, when you consider the sizable income Japanese studios make off anime starring lady fighters. Kampfer, a 2009 series based on Toshihiko Tsukiji’s light novels, is one such example of a cartoon featuring gals who beat the snot out of each other. The twist on the established formula is that protagonist Natsuru Seno is actually a guy. No one wants to see a bloke battering women though, but fear not because the story has you covered. Whenever a brawl erupts, much like Ranma getting doused with water or Lana Wachowski having surgery, our gender-confused hero transforms into a heroine.
High school student Natsuru Seno’s humdrum life is forever changed one day when his tiger plushie attains sentience. Said toy, which resembles a feline pirate who has entrails protruding from its gut, informs the bewildered teen that he has been involuntarily recruited as a combatant in the ongoing Kampfer war. Armed with a blue bracelet, capable of transforming him into a busty beauty that can hurl fireballs, Natsuru is now expected to square off against rival Kampfer (who are identifiable by the red coloured bangles they wear.) Red versus blue… sounds a bit like that Halo web series – only with less funny jokes and a lot more boobies bouncing onscreen.
It doesn’t take long for Natsuru to ally himself with fellow Kampfer who conveniently study at the same school he attends. The first of these is a bashful librarian named Akane Mishima, who has the ability to transform into a feisty sharpshooter possessing a firearm imbued with infinite ammo. Also joining Natsuru’s cause is student council president Shizuku Sango, who is trying to uncover the identities of the group orchestrating the Kampfer conflict. By the time episode six rolls along the aforementioned trio become a quartet, thanks to the introduction of Natsuru’s globetrotting friend Mikoto Kondo. The sixth episode reveals that Mikoto and the mysterious silver haired Kampfer, who has been hunting Natsuru, are one and the same person! What a twist… shame then that said bombshell had already been spoiled by the show’s opening credits.
My rating for Kampfer is two stars. I was initially on-board with the series (it is no worse than other run of the mill harem shows at the very least) but towards the latter part of its twelve episode run things began to get tiresome. The final episode was really stupid, the gags began to get overly crude and worse of all the two bonus OVAs bundled with the DVD set appear to be episodes for a cancelled season two. As a result the series concludes without a definitive ending, despite the fact that the source material finished years ago. Viewers will have to track down the novels or the manga adaptation to find out how the Kampfer hostilities pan out. Alternatively you can cut your losses and give up on the franchise, because if the anime is indicative of the books’ quality you aren’t missing out on much.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, in an anime titled after the German word for fighter, is the lack of action on display. Instead of superhuman scuffles, what we get instead is three Kampfer squabbling over who should date Natsuru. The girls are wasting their time though because the protagonist only has eyes for school idol Kaede Sakura (a lesbian, who in a cruel twist of fate, is smitten with Natsuru’s female alter ego.) It’s a shame that Kampfer didn’t meet expectations because even with minimal story there is guilty pleasure fun to be had whenever a show successfully combines comedy, action and eye candy. If you seek a better alternative I would recommend checking out something like Sekirei. The episodes are more action packed, the quips are funnier and you can admire the topless shots without worrying that you are technically jerking off to a dude.