Is the conceit of Samurai Girls that a great general makes for a great soldier; or is it that behind every great woman is a great man?
The ‘great generals making great soldiers’ theme is an old one that has popped up in countless war stories. It’s even been modified for use in sports movies, where an unconventional coach turns a team of misfits into champions. It’s very common in American fiction especially; which is odd, considering America’s love of anti-authoritarian rebel heroes.
Samurai Girls takes place in an alternate universe where the Japanese feudal area survived to the modern day. The nation, ‘Great Japan,’ is protected by a class of Master Samurai, who all happen to be women. These women gain their super powers by entering into a pact with a male general, a pact sealed with a kiss.
Does that make the series sexist? I don’t think so. The plot point seems to exist solely as a vehicle to introduce some very tired romantic cliches. The girls fret about kissing Muneakira, and about the other girls kissing him first.
Muneakira himself is a rom-com cliche; good-natured to the point of paralysis, he’s so worried about the emotional consequences of kissing that he leaves the country unprotected from lack of Master Samurai.
Samurai Girls is not about sexual dynamics. It isn’t about women taking an oath to serve a man; it’s about Bushido, the philosophy of Samurai: duty, honor, and absolute loyalty to one’s general. The fact that they happen to be men and women doesn’t substantively change that.
One of the characters in the series, a villain, makes the counter argument: that the Master Samurai are slaves to their general, and that she should serve him both in battle and bed. The protagonists say that the relationship is not one of master and slave, but one of reciprocal responsibility.
Indeed, later in the series we’re introduced to a general who is not able form pacts because he is not ‘worthy.’ Worthiness, in this case, is defined as having concern for the samurais’ well-being. I guess that’s the most important trait a soldier can hope for in a leader; someone who cares just as much about their safety as they do.
The show has a striking visual style that involves having thick black outlines around all the characters and splash marks on the screen. There isn’t too much depth to the style, but it undoubtedly makes Samurai Girls stand out from the rest.
Samurai Girls is an okay series. It looks nice, the animation and fight choreography are in the top tier of late night TV series; and the plot makes sense. The downside is the shallow and cliche-laden cast that prevents you from really getting invested.