“Fighting Chance” – Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School (manga) – 5/10 Pencils

Mangaka: Seiji Saiga, Sora Inoue

Genre: Romance/Action/Comedy/School

Review Status: Complete (6 Volumes/6 Volumes)

Licensed: No. It was formerly licensed by Tokyopop.

Art: Typical shounen art. Reminiscent of Full Metal Panic!, but nothing aprticularly special.

Summary: In a school where martial arts are standard curriculum, Ryoko Mitsuragi, the Samurai Girl, is the top fighter and the most popular student around. This changes when the uncouth Shizuma Kusanagi transfers in from Kansai. He may not have the grace of Ryoko, but with his amazing fighting abilities, he could soon be the most dominant martial artist at Daimon High. Principal Todo encourages the rivalry between the competitors, setting up an exciting K-Fight trournament where even the teachers can join in and settle once and for all whos’ the top dog on campus. (back cover 1st volume)

Review: Samurai Girl manages to take most of my common complaints and turns them upside-down for a change. Instead of standard characters in a non-standard setting, it’s one non-standard character in a semi -standard setting! Ryoko is all about honor and keeping up appearances. She’ll fight to support those who can’t, and occasionally is challenged to fight because punks feel intimidated by her stregnth. Her goal is to uphold the ideals of the samurai, and for the most part she’s successfull… “For the most part” being key! She’s not perfect, which makes her more likeable. Prone to bouts of anger and irritations, especially when a guy shows up that knows just how to press her buttons, she’s not the strongest in the school nor in love with him – her romantic prospect is her cool and kind sempai from Kendo club. Shizuma, her new arch-rival of sorts, is loud, brash, easily tempted into fighting…. He lacks the characterization Ryoko gets, and even some that the side characters get. For a main character, that’s pretty pathetic, but he’s played off as Ryoko’s for-sure future love (someday in the future!) and gets a lot of page-time. It really brings the story down.

Thankfully, some of the side characters get a solid amount of characterization, from Ryoko’s sempai, who shows other interests, his motivations for teaching her, and is in love with someone else. The other big players are Aoi, a girl recruited to the school’s ‘Shinsengumi’ to help regulate fights in the school, and Willard, the antagonist who has a chip on his shoulder and a thirst for blood. He and Aoi have a connection between them because of their past, and Aoi has a need to defeat him because of the monster he’s become. Aoi herself is as strong as – or stronger than – Ryoko, and Ryoko looks up to her for a number of reasons. Unfortuantely, there are so many side characters that even some of the most important in the story get a good glossing-over or even seem fairly pointless, like Ryoko’s best friend Hitomi, who has no martial arts skills but goes to a school with k-fights, or the various other members of the Shinsengumi, who’s pasts are hinted at but never revealed with any depth.

So this series really focuses on only one character: Ryoko. And to get her to fight, there has to be some sort of fighting system in place, right? It’s a shounen series, so the answer to this is ‘yes’. The principal decides that if the fights in it are sponsored, then there will be less chances of illegal fighting, and it can be monitored and used to reign in the student’s violent streaks since everyone would know who won and lost. I’ll run with it, since crazier things have happened. But there really seems to be no purpose to it other than creating the basis for the *real* plot that’s going on behind the scenes – that illegal gambling has been going on. Though this plot is SO secondary to the gang fighting that Ryoko & Co have gotten caught up in that it’s negligible to anything else that’s going on.

To be truthful, there really isn’t big point here. It’s not about the K-fights, it’s not about the gambleling, it’s not about the gang fight against the psycho that that they get caught up in… Considering that it’s the gang fight that becomes the central plot of the main arc, this seems like a horrible oversight in terms of story! But the whole set-up leads to Ryoko and Shizuma fighting, which is both stupid and insensible since they both are on the same side. They both were fighting the same people. Yet for no rason, they are left alone at the end of the series, and they decide to have a serious fight against each other. I was left speechless at how out of nowhere it was and that nothing – absolutely NOTHING – is resolved by it! It was just apparently there to provide some sort of conclusion, no mattter how it happened.

Poor choice. This really ended up a very weak fighting manga, not really wirth the time I spent on it. It had some good moments, but enough bad ones to really balance that out. But I can’t honestly say that this was bad, which drives me up a wall.

Overall, this was a purely indifferent manga, and only worth it if all you need is someone getting punched to get a thrill.

Recommended: 15+. This has fights (obviously), so people get beaten up. There’s some innuendo when a guy says he’ll make two girls his love slaves. There’s some depiction of child torture, including when one boy is made to murder another (the body is off-page, but you see him shoot the gun).

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Angel Densetsu (anime or manga)

One Piece (manga)

Mahou Sensei Negima (manga)

Salaryman Kintarou (manga)

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