Samurai Shodown was based on the cult hit fighting video game series, Samurai Spirits, made by SNK in 1993 with the game being notable as one of the first fighting games that made use of weaponry as part of its combat system. A TV special that loosely adapted the game’s plot and characters was aired on Fuji TV the following year on September 8. The anime was licensed by ADV Films in the late 1990s releasing the movie on VHS and later on DVD in 2003, with both versions being out of print.
Haohmaru and six other warriors are chosen Holy Warriors tasked with preventing the unsealing of the power of the evil god Ambrosia. However, one of the warriors named Amakusa betrayed the other six by breaking the god’s seal to obtain Ambrosia’s power. He proceeds to kill the six in a confrontation yet fails to prevent their souls from escaping. One hundred years later, Amakusa is now the corrupt leader of Japan and seeks to wipe out humanity by freeing Ambrosia from his seal. Fortunately, the six Holy Warriors have been reincarnated and are prepared to fight their former comrade. However, Haohmaru has no memory of his past life as a Holy Warrior and the other five warriors find themselves having to try getting him to recall his former life before confronting Amakusa.
-Haohmaru- One of the reincarnated Holy Warriors who has no memory of his former life. The cocky and energetic young swordsman had settled in a small Japanese village before it was wiped out by Amakusa’s forces. Consumed with rage, Haohmaru seeks to avenge the loss of his mother and other villagers, unaware that he is becoming a pawn in Amakusa’s plans.
-Amakusa- A powerful sorcerer who was once one of the Holy Warriors. After being fatally wounded in a heated battle, Amakusa used the last of his strength to release the seal on Ambrosia’s power so he could be resurrected. However, this power corrupts his mind and consumes him to destroy the six other Holy Warriors and have the desire to wipe out humanity by releasing the evil god from his seal.
Samurai Shodown is no different from many horrible anime adaptations of video game titles as the movie’s creators seemed more concerned with making a quick buck off the video game’s popularity than offering a quality anime title to watch.
The title’s Holy Warriors storyline is an anime-original one that has a nice number of glaring plot holes and logical lapses. Considering it took one hundred years in the storyline for the six killed warriors to be reborn and reunite, you would have to wonder why Amakusa didn’t bother wiping out humanity in that time or kill the warriors outright
while they were much younger to keep them from being a threat.
Alongside its issues with its anime-original plot, Samurai Shodown carries all the typical flaws you would find in an anime adapted from a fighting video game series. Characters from the video game, regardless of their role, are added in having little depth compared to Haohmaru and Amakusa, seemingly being around just to please fans of the video game. Pacing is clearly rushed which greatly limits any depth one can get from the anime’s plot and characters for one to even care about them. Also, the anime borrows enough clichés from typical action anime such as sudden power upgrades, hammy and cocky villains and way too much emphasis on the main hero despite earlier plot mentions.
Even as an action title, Samurai Shodown fails to deliver good quality in its action scenes thanks to its below average animation. Lazy choreography, reused animation frames and the use of speed stripes in backgrounds are the norm with any action scene you can find in Samurai Shodown.
ADV even had its part to play in enhancing the horrific quality of Samurai Shodown when they changed Amakusa’s gender into a woman for their English dub, only adding more to the gender confusion folks had of the androgynous villain’s character.
Master of Martial Hearts was a 5-episode OAV anime series released from October 29, 2008 to February 25, 2009. The series was animated by Studio ARMS, who are well-known for creating Elfen Lied and a number of other ecchi titles, and is currently licensed in America by Funimation Entertainment for streaming and video release.
High school student Aya Iseshima comes across a brawl between two girls competing in a tournament for a prize called the Platonic Heart (Martial Heart in English dub) that will grant any wish to the winner of the tournament. Aya finds herself making friends with one of the two girls, a young priestess named Miko Kazuki, who chooses to retire from the tournament as her wish of making friends with someone came true. However, Aya finds herself placed in the tournament in Miko’s place. When the priestess is mysteriously abducted from her home, Aya finds herself competing in the Platonic Heart tournament against a number of fetish-themed women to learn of the whereabouts of Miko and the true nature of the tournament.
Originality is definitely not Master of Martial Hearts' best area. The series takes aspects of Ikki Tousen with its fan service and clothes-tearing fights with many aspects of the show’s plot being an excuse for said fights, even with the occasional hints dropped regarding the true nature of the Platonic Heart tournament. The fights Aya gets involved in involve women in fetish-themed outfits from their professions whose only roles are to pander to the title’s otaku audience and be punching bags to the female lead.
Master of Martial Hearts also takes a page from School Days’ book in trying to create an unexpected and shocking resolution in its final episode when Aya learns the truth surrounding the Platonic Heart tournament (which I won’t spoil here). While School Days made some sense with its shocking resolution with how hated much of its cast became from their actions (one of the few times you'll hear me praise the series for something), the revelations concerning the tournament for Master of Martial Hearts come across as poorly written and mean-spirited in comparison.
The action scenes don’t even work well in this title because of the subpar animation in Master of Martial Hearts. The quality and detail in the series looks more on par with a TV anime than an OAV and the action scenes weren’t too engaging or fluid as attacks from many female fighters tended to be themed for whatever fetish that the fighters stuck with and shortcuts with animation were quite notable. Also, don’t be too surprised if you see a change in the bust sizes of Aya and Natsume as they tend to switch quite frequently between being normal-sized and huge.
Might also want to avoid listening to Master of Martial Hearts' opening music as it makes for quite the obnoxious and irritating little J-Pop song.