4 June 2012 | TedStixonAKAMaximumMadness
"Master of Martial Hearts" is a dreadful anime and a key example of exploitation done wrong... Unfunny, misogynistic, bloated and boring...
I'm something of a fan of the exploitation genre. I like some of the trashy films and series, although I've always been put off by some of the more misogynistic sides of the genre, as a man who was raised by a single-mother who understands the strength and compassion women possess. So even though I enjoy trashy exploitation, I'm always bothered by it. I suppose one could argue that it is an almost masochistic enjoyment on my part.
I'm also something of a fan of anime. I've appreciated some of the classics, such as "Akira", "Vampire Hunter D" and "Ghost in the Shell", and I'm a fan of several anime series like "GTO", "Excel Saga" and of course "Cowboy Bebop" which in my mind is one of the single best animated TV shows worldwide, of all time.
So, when a friend told me about the 5-episode anime "Master of Martial Hearts", which he had heard was a combat-themed exploitation comedy/drama series, we excitedly loaded it up on Netflix to watch. We were both sadly, sorely and even angrily disappointed by how outlandishly boring, poorly written and bland the series was.
The series follows Aya, a young woman who miraculously saves a young girl named Miko during a vicious (and highly sexualized, and nudity- filled) street-fight. Afterwords, Aya befriends Miko, and discovers that the fight was for a tournament/competition (Master of Martial Hearts)- the winner of this competition will be given the "Platonic Heart", a rare gem that has the power to make your deepest wish come true.
Shortly after, Miko goes missing, and Aya becomes part of the competition to help save her, hoping to use the gem to bring her back. (I think, I stopped paying attention after a while) She is forced to battle a number of enemies, ranging from her perfect-bodied school teacher, to a trio of perfect-bodied sisters in themed costumes, to a perfect-bodied psychic. And it all leads down to a revolting and hilariously over-the-top finale that I won't spoil. But don't get me wrong- the final episode is one of the biggest, most disturbing and convoluted messes you will ever see.
The series suffers from several major flaws.
First and foremost, it is extraordinarily bland and poorly-written. Nothing in the show really begs for attention or care from the audience. The series tries to make us care about the characters, but the storyline is DOA, and the character development is all phoned in and basic. Not to mention boring as all heck. For a series that's only five episodes, it's shocking that midway through the first episode, myself and my friend had both completely zoned out and didn't care one bit about anything that was happening.
The internal logic of the show is also shaky at best. Aya is trying to find Miko, that's her whole motivation. Problem is, she only knew Miko for about an hour before she disappeared (or so it seems), so it makes no sense for Aya to become so insanely invested in finding her- they're still practically strangers, and Miko is dangerous to be around because of her involvement with the competition. It's akin to risking your life to save a someone who happened to be in line with you at McDonalds that was a suspect in a gunfight. There is no logical reason for the investment on Aya's part. Hence, the entire reason for the show to exist is flawed and pointless.
Animation is ridiculous and sub-par at times. Design for the characters, costumes, etc is also inconsistent. (For a show meant to show off sexy, perfect-bodied women, it shockingly isn't that sexy at all 90% of the time.)
Finally, the exploitive elements of the show (fighting ripping clothing off, blood, etc) was a let-down and is more of a tease to the audience than anything. I know I said that I am bothered by these things above, but still, if the show is trying to be exploitive, then it should go all the way. Sure there might be fleeting nudity here and there, or outrageous scenarios, but the shows seems afraid to go as far as it wants to, and it's a let-down.
This show is a mess. It's boring, poorly written, has bad character development and motivation, and to top it off, the exploitive elements are a tease and are wimped-down. This is a crummy, crappy show, plain and simple. It gets a 2 out of 10, simply for a few moments that worked. But seriously, avoid this.