Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Kämpfer

Original Run: October 2, 2009 - December 18, 2009
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance
Based on the Series Created By: Toshihiko Tsukiji and Senmu

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Kämpfer. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Natsuro Seno (voiced by Marina Inoue) wakes up to find he has transformed into a girl. Unbeknownst to him, Natsuro was chosen to participate in an ancient battle as a Kämpfer.

And to his chagrin, Kämpfers must be women.

Although capable of switching between forms, Natsuro’s female side causes a massive stir. Natsuro becomes an instant celebrity and gains admirers from all genders.

However, being a Kämpfer means that sooner or later, Natsuro will need to fight.

Sure enough, Natsuro meets other rival Kämpfers. Fortunately, there are enough cool heads amongst the combatants to realize their true enemy.

Natsuro and his fellow Kämpfers team up to face the people forcing them against one another — the mysterious Moderators.

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Series Positives

Kämpfer wasn’t as bad as I had remembered it being. In fact, there were numerous elements to this series which were legitimately enjoyable.

That said, I can’t claim I am a converted fan.

Kämpfer was neither fully likable nor fully dislikable, but it did lean more towards the latter side of that spectrum. Through and through, there was aggravating nonsense to this show. Like, a lot of it.

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Fortunately, not a part of that aggravation was Kämpfer’s animation. This series actually looked quite nice.

Stemming from that, Kämpfer’s character designs have proven to be distinctly its own. Specifically, the female version of Natsuro Seno is impossible to mistake for anyone else. Although I couldn’t recall his name when I sat down to re-watch this show, I had never forgotten what Natsuro looked like when he was in his Kämpfer form.

That staying power, one completely free of malice, should not be understated or ignored.

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Also, the Entrail Animals — plush dolls named after extremely brutal methods of death, as well as the Messengers for the Moderators — were one of those details that have become synonymous with their respective series.

Then, when Kämpfer actually decided to be an action anime (no joke, I sometimes lost track of what “the point” of this show was), the series managed to produce an unignorable amount of excitement. In particular, the final climatic fight was absurdly fun in the this-is-one-of-the-dumbest-things-I-have-ever-seen-and-I-am-loving-it sort of way.

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Putting the animation aside, Kämpfer made a ton of storytelling decisions that would have broken most other shows. Granted, this series didn’t walk away clean, but it did leave the field standing.

For every piss-off-show moment, there was something to counterbalance it.

For example, Natsuro was obnoxiously dense; to the point of unbelievability. However, Kämpfer gave a reason why Natsuro was that way.

I have a lot of issues with the explanation provided, but nevertheless, it was a vastly better alternative to just having Natsuro be a simpleminded butt-munch.

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Of all the counterbalances in Kämpfer, though, none were more effective than Shizuku Sangou (voiced by Kaori Nazuka).

Shizuku was a gift from above. She instantly saw through and was prepared for every ounce of BS this series threw out. To be honest, her ability for logical, rational thinking was damn near superhuman, and thank Christ for that. If Shizuku were any less than she was, the second half of Kämpfer would have been unbearable.

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It’s a little odd. Shizuku was almost too perfect with the role she played. It was as though Kämpfer was aware that what it was doing was a headache guaranteed to happen.

I will give this series the benefit of the doubt (if it can be called a benefit at all) and say it didn’t actively try to clean up the mess it knew was in the making.

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Series Negatives

I want to further discuss something I hinted at earlier.

Kämpfer framed itself as an action series. Part of me (as in 99.9% of me) thinks that was nothing more than a heavy-handed excuse to have a bunch of pretty girls play grab-ass with each other.

Don’t tell me you threw a steak into a pool of lava because you wanted to eat dinner. You did it to see what would happen if you tossed a steak into a pool of lava.

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Conversely, Kämpfer, don’t sit there and act like there was a deeper meaning to your story when you spent most of the time being a romantic comedy with a bunch of characters whose “assets” were constantly on display.

At least this series dropped all pretenses in episode twelve.

Odyssey, why did this tick you off as much as it did?

Normally, this kind of thing would make a series forgettable, not infuriating. That suddenly changes when said series thinks it can try being clever without needing to put in any of the work.

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The villain of Kämpfer was terrible. However, they weren’t terrible because they were a bad character. No, the problem was with the fact the villain wasn’t the villain until they arbitrarily became it near the end of the show.

I suppose one way for a story to hide its true intentions is to not have them throughout most of the narrative.

To have a decent reveal or twist requires more effort than simply doing something unexpected. The best surprises happen when a viewer fails to put the clues together. But when you are never given the pieces or even told there is a puzzle to solve, any “revelation” only results in a negative effect.

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That was why Shizuku was so important. Had she been fooled by Kämpfer’s hollow trickery, then this review would have been significantly harsher.

Since Shizuku was ready for what happened, the resolution to this show was mercifully brief. Too bad that wasn’t anything to brag about. Kämpfer’s story went into the realm of intergalactic beings and ancient battles for the sake of the universe. I have never had to handle those sorts of troubles before, but I suspect dealing with them would be a little bit taxing.

Early on during this re-watch, I thought I was going to flip my opinion on Kämpfer. This series then did a pretty thorough job of ensuring that wouldn’t happen.

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Final Thoughts

Considering everything that was said, I do hold this series in a better light than I once did.

That’s no small feat.

It is a shame this show still came well short of being worthwhile, but it wasn’t without its fun.

There was enough to this series that made it watchable; and occasionally enjoyable. However, that doesn’t undo the underlying problems that existed.

In good conscience, I cannot recommend Kämpfer. But I would also like to point out, you could do a lot worse.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Kämpfer? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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