BATTLE VIXENS (Ikkitousen), by Yuji Shiozaki. First published in 2000, and first published in North America in 2004.
PLOT: Most of the time, Hafuku Sonzaku is a clutzy ditz whose mother urges her towards ladylike activities to land a rich husband. When provoked, though, she becomes a brash fighter who can take down any comers, even if her wardrobe rarely survives the fight intact. This is because she is possessed by the spirit of one of the warriors from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, whose power is concentrated in the sacred soul bead upon an earring. After one fight too many, Hafuku's mother sends her off to Tokyo to find her destiny or something like that - it's never really explained. Still, Hafuku finds her way to Nanyo Academy, where she not only runs into her meek cousin Shuyu but a student body full of other kids with soul bead earrings who are all picking for a fight, urged on by the machinations of a select few students. Now Hafuku must fight her way through the ranks if she is to survive. Will she (and her shirts) survive?
STORY: My god, when it comes to storytelling this manga is an utter mess. It wants to be some sort of epic, where a new generation of legendary warriors must relive the the battles of their past in the modern day. It certainly tries hard enough, as it throws various historical names and terms like toushi and megatama like baseballs, hoping that the reader will catch on to what they mean. What this story is in reality is a fighting tournament ecchi-fest, where vulgarity and objectification reign supreme and sex and violence are mixed together into what tonally becomes a gross, sloppy sludge. It quite literally equates sex with violence, as these possessions not only grant their reincarnations great fighting skills, but the very act of fighting produces powerful orgasms.
Yeah, we are not dealing with a heartbreaking work of staggering genius here.
As previously mentioned, the historical epic elements mesh with the fighting tournaments about as well as oil and water. They seem almost tacked on to give some sort of excuse or justification for all these people making sleazy come-ons as we gaze up the girls' skirts. It doesn't help that we have another example of Tokyopop's free and easy translations. Admittedly, I have not read this in Japanese, but I feel pretty certain that there were not so many f-bombs and sexual slang in the original text. Then again, this is not a high-brow story, so this is really not a detriment to the story at large.
It also doesn't help that there isn't a single sympathetic or interesting character to be found. Our heroine shifts awkwardly from brawler to bumbler, and no matter what mode she's in she is utterly annoying. Her cousin is a spineless nobody who pervs on Hafuku and seems to have gotten lost on his way to becoming a lead in a harem series. Her mother is shallow and man-obsessed. The rest are loutish, sexist thugs, schemers, or sadists. Who the hell am I supposed to be rooting for here? Why on earth should I care whether this utter twit of a lead gets to some higher fighting level? Why are all these people with these weird soul beads all gathered together at the same place? WHY IS ANY OF THIS HAPPENING?! WHY SHOULD I CARE?! AND WHAT DOES THAT SIDE STORY HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?!
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that there was a side story after the main one. It's about some girl named Mouki who looks nearly identical to Hafuku and who ends up in similar sorts of battles. What does this have to do with anything else? I'll be damned if I know, because the mangaka can't be bothered to connect them either. They didn't even have enough exploitation to fill a full volume. Oh great, just what a crappy story like this needed: padding.
Battle Vixens is basically the manga equivalent of a Z-grade exploitation film. The mangaka can only be bothered to lay out the wispiest, most muddled plot thread possible, just so he has something to tack all the panty-flashing violence to without bothering with things like 'characterization' or 'context.'
ART: You know you're in for a hard time visually when they can't even find a piece of cover art that doesn't feature a blatant artistic error. Normally, one's breasts should sit parallel to one's shoulders. If you'll look up at the image above, though, you'll see that this poor girl's boobs seem to have come loose and have drifted down towards her navel. At least that random dragon is preventing her crotch from being featured front and center. It's a shame that it couldn't do so for the rest of the manga.
This manga is LOADED with fanservice - it's rare for it to go more than a few pages without a panty shot. There is no skirt that goes unflapped by unseen winds or unflipped during fights. There's also plenty of tits on display...well, it's mostly just from Hafuku. You see, whenever she gets punched, her shirt just happens to shred into pieces, leaving only just enough to convienently censor the nipples.
You'd think such a fanservice-laden work would have least have plenty of cute girls to ogle, but all the girls are just generically cute, and the guys are mostly large ugly brutes. There are moments of suprisingly nice shading and attention to detail, but I supsect this is done less to raise the quality of the artwork and more for the benefit of the reader's
Anyway, the action's not too badly drawn either, at least the bits removed from the fanservice. The poses are strong and dynamic, and speed lines are kept to a minimum which gives some of the attacks a clean, crisp look. Sadly, these brief flirtations with decency are far outweighed by all the aforementioned failings, and those failings only serve to enhance all the bad qualities of the story. Here, two wrongs don't equal a right - they just equal an even greater wrong.
PRESENTATION: The only extra to be found here is a single 4-koma comic about the mangaka. I'd normally be disappointed in the lack of extras, but mostly I was just glad to be done with the damn thing.
This is pure, dumb, irredeemable trash. I can only hope that this manga's destiny is to sit unloved and unbought in warehouses and bargain bins, where it might never offend the eyes or sensibilities of another reader.
This series is ongoing in Japan. It was published in the USA by Tokyopop. 15 volumes were released, and are now out of print.
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