With the implementation of the “K-Fight” system at Daimon High School, the Shinsengumi Unit to snuff out localized gangs, and a mysterious agenda surrounding fighting entertainment, our heroine will be thrown head first into the fray and may find herself biting off more than she can chew. So go ahead and hit the jump to catch the Real Bout High School manga review and find out if it brings the fight!
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Title: Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School リアル バウト ハイ スクール.
Writer: Reiji Saiga.
Illustrator: Sora Inoue.
Publisher: Tokyopop (USA) / Fujimi Shobo (Japan).
01. Story Synopsis.
03. The Verdict.
[ Story Synopsis ]
|(Left-to-Right) Asuka, Midori, Megumi, Ryoko, Aoi, Hitomi, and Xiaoxing (Bottom right corner).|
This story follows Ryoko Mitsurugi, a samurai girl who aims to be a great woman and plans on achieving that by growing strong through combat. Her everyday life involves halting troublemakers, training, and Kendo (She is also in love with her senpai and Kendo Captain, Tatsuya Shishikura). She is very popular in school amongst the guys and girls and finds herself getting mixed up with the likes of Shizuma Kusanagi; Shizuma is a monobrowed martial arts expert who acts as an anti-hero, sort of the deuteragonist, and Ryoko’s main rival outside of Azumi Kiribayashi. She continues on her path of justice, aiming to strike down the vengeful while at the same time trying to express her feelings to Tatsuya.
Eventually Ryoko is challenged to a sparring match by Tatsuya who determines that her strength is adequate enough for her to go on without him. Ryoko soon finds out that what Tatsuya meant by “Going on without him” is that he was transferring schools and would no longer be apart of her everyday life, this causes her to lose her way and question her strength and who she is. Upon getting into a conflict with Azumi she rushes to the bathroom and cries while reflecting on Hitomi’s speech of her being like a faucet and letting out all of her emotions through crying. Through the tears, Ryoko eventually becomes her old self and is able to finish the conflict with Azumi she had previously ran away from. Then an opportunity presented itself after a sparring session with Shizuma when she is approached by Aoi Asahina.
The Daimon High School Student Council President and his two identical brothers (They are triplets) invite Ryoko to their mansion to tell them of their vision: Unite with other School Councils for the sole purpose of bringing down the “crux” of the hoodlums in all other schools by taking down Shizuma Kusanagi. Upon becoming the Captain of the Shinsengumi unit, they fight rival gangs until they are all taken down by members of G’s team for footage to sell of them fighting. Upset by their loss, Shinsengumi wants revenge to which they are given an opportunity to get it via an arranged fight between the two teams on March 21st at Isozaki Dragonland. The Shinsengumi appeared, each taking on a different members of G’s team while Shizuma appears to continually fight for his own agenda. Many enemies become friends during this time and many epic fights take place, each leading up to the decisive battle between Mitsurugi and Kusanagi. What will the outcome be when only one of them is left standing?
[ Thoughts & Impressions ]
|Shizuma Kusanagi vs Ryoko Mitsurugi|
All right, let me start this off by addressing how misleading the sub-title “Real Bout High School” is, since most of the fights take place away from Diamon High and only Ryoko and Shizuma (Who is a transfer student) actually are from that school. The “Samurai Girl” part is correct since it focuses upon Ryoko, however it should have probably been called “Samurai Girl: Fighting High Schooler” or something along those lines to be a better indicator as to what people can expect (The anime of this series features an incredibly misleading description when speaking about what it is about, but more on that later as the anime happens AFTER the manga). As far as the rest of the review I am going to judge the story, the characters, and miscellaneous items involving this manga.
First off, the original plot of Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School is supposedly based off of a light novel that actually follows a teacher and not a student, supposedly a few things have been adapted and changed to better make it a better manga. As far as how this story is told, I will say that it is woefully executed and half-baked that could have been executed a lot better than it did. This is suppose to be the story of Ryoko Mitsurugi and how she is suppose to grow stronger and become a greater woman… at least that is what I thought it was suppose to be, turned out to be something different entirely.
They show at the very beginning that Ryoko is our main character but that Shizuma plays a very big role. Each of their personalities are displayed from the jump and that they are polar opposites that are destined to fight, you know this is probably what the book is leading up to but that it is not the main plot. However, Shizuma acts as an anti-hero which eventually leads to the introduction of G as the main antagonist, his whole scheme seems to be to market the Shinsengumi in order to sell the footage of the fights to corporations who are into it via a twisted fetish of sorts. We are never really given the real reason behind why he is doing this as it does not merge well with the damaged past they have given him in this series. After Ryoko loses to G and wants her revenge, we think we will see a showing of that at their bout in Dragonland and we cannot wait. However, during their rematch bout it is very clear that Ryoko is completely outmatched and is nowhere near G’s skill-level. Aoi suggests that she will be able to surpass him in three years time, and for now she will remain G’s opponent. Why was Ryoko the Captain of the Shinsengumi when Aoi was obviously a much better fighter in both movement and technique (The third stepping method she taught Ryoko)? It is never stated if Ryoko is selected to become the leader because of her status or not (Cannot be because of her fighting skill since Aoi is the best in the group), also, we never get too much information regarding the other members and why they fight and why they were selected to join in. The ending battle is very dull because it seems like the most skilled fight would have been between Aoi and G, and we never get to see it in action as much as the other fighters.
The problem is that Ryoko does not defeat the villain and that leaves it feeling very incomplete. Also, the serious fight between Ryoko and Kusanagi is also a pretty bad fight to me because of the way in which it happened. Before the battle Ryoko only fought G to a certain degree and was more mind-broken than physically injured, and even then Aoi took over for her so that she could fight in the main event with Shizuma. However, he had two different full-scale fights before even coming up against Ryoko. One fight was against the pompadour hair boxer (Who I believe took it easy on Megumi and let her win because he was going all out on Shizuma), and one was against G’s assistant who uses tuning fork vibration style weapons that can cut through flesh. These battles were each intense and took a lot out of Shizuma, not to mention the fact that it ultimately looks as though he allowed Ryoko to win and admitted that he “Loves her” before he collapsed.
Also, something I hate in this series is the fact they hint at a lot of romantic relationships and never do anything about them. This can be borderline frustrating because nothing ever develops and you feels as if you are being lead on for now reason, let us take Ryoko Mitsurugi for instance. She has unrequited love with Tatsuya Shishikura who is in love with someone else, and she is fighting for his affections alongside Azumi Kiribayashi but we never see a true resolution of this love dilemma, even from Tatsuya’s standpoint. Despite the love part with Tatsuya, she seemed to also have feelings for Shizuma (Though she may hate that she does) who also loves her to a certain extent and it is never rightfully acknowledged. Megumi and the pompadour boxing guy who faces Shizuma after she does seem to also have a thing never fully acknowledged (She stayed behind and watched him fight and stayed by his side after he lost, and he ended up punching a guy that was talking crazy to Megumi and said “I’ll kill you old man!”). Also, despite the fact that Hitomi is Ryoko’s best friend it feels as if she has a girl crush on her and never fully admits it, some yuri would have been nice.
|Ryoko and Megumi discussing their bodies.|
The most notable things about this series are actually the fighting, the artistic style, and the hints of perversion given. The fighting is actually pretty good and is the main reason why I picked up this book, I love series that have to do with martial arts and something surrounding a high school girl (I was in high school at the time when I picked up this series) was appealing to me. I thought the fighting was pretty decent, not as great as it could have been, but was a pretty good starter book for me (I’m probably giving it too much credit, you can thank nostalgia for that). Not only that, I actually like the artistic talents in this book as far as how they portray both the guys and girls as normally I will prefer one over the other and disregard some aspects of their work. I believe this is mostly caused by the intense contrast at times as well as the preference to do darker shades compared to light.
The thing that probably drives me most outside of the fighting is simply the perversion. Often times you will get bountiful amounts of cleavage as well as a few panty shots. Not to mention a few things like Ryoko and Hitomi in a bathtub or the Shinsengumi at a bathhouse. Nothing too much is actually shown and they leave the vast majority of things to the imagination, it is still a welcomed accompaniment that makes this series readable and able to stand on its own.
[ The Verdict ]
|My favorite panel of Ryoko.|
Respectfully, I disagree with several points of your conclusion. But with your indulgence, I'll focus on the the only point where I feel you're absolutely wrong.
A romantic relationship would not have expressed Ryoko's femininity better. In point of fact, it would have weakened the central thesis of the manga, expressed by Tatsuya early on: Anyone can be a cute girl and pursue the male lead, hell, recently, even some male characters have done that. A great woman is so much more.
This manga has a message that a lot more manga would do well to emulate-You are not defined by your relationships to the opposite sex. Your review does the story a giant disservice, and is even a little sexist by suggesting it would have worked better as a romance.
That's all well and good, it is only my opinion after all. However, I do feel as though being able to see her in a relationship would have made her a better character since we are hinted interest in both Tatsuya and Shizuma.
While you do not need to be in a relationship to define who you are, I do think we can both agree that being in a relationship shows a different side of your character than not being in a relationship and I would have very much liked to see that part of Ryoko.
Hmm. While I can agree that a romantic relationship shows a different side of one's character, I respectfully disagree that it makes one a -better- character. Perhaps if a better romantic partner came along, but the two 'suggested' love interests in the manga would have seriously undermined Ryoko's position as the main character.
Shizuma's character is built around his reaction to fights and strength and dominance. His whole interest in Ryoko seems to be based upon her being a woman that doesn't fawn over his muscles, and he can't fight her into submission. He would be an awful boyfriend (Which is probably why her interest in him never progresses very far past respect for his ability)
Tatsuya would be a much more suitable partner…if he wasn't so far ahead of her. Pairing her with Tatsuya would have stunted all other aspects of her efforts to be a great woman, because her motivation would have been simply been to impress him.
And to cover the Yuri angle…Hitomi would have been an acceptable romantic partner, but storywise, she would have been simply a damsel in distress, which would not have added anything to the story in any way, other than to cast Ryoko as any other Samurai hero, just in skirts and thigh highs.
In my opinion, the only acceptable romantic partner for Ryoko presented as part of the cast is…(drum roll)…Azumi Kiribayashi. She contributed to the growth of the main character by both antagonism and but also respect. Ryoko doesn't fawn all over Azumi, looking for approval, but also wouldn't be pushed aside by Azumi's personal quest for strength.
Anyway, I do really think you don't give the writing enough credit. I will grant you that the end of the manga came a little abruptly, but the progression of the story was well done, and the characters were well fleshed out (Azumi, who doesn't even get much past volume three, gets her motivations and insights detailed quite well) and the story was fairly tightly written, with none of the bloated filler common to manga these days (I'm looking at you, Naruto)
The ending fight with Shizuma was a little anticlimactic, yes, but that was primarily to wrap up his story, not hers, and to make up for Ryoko needing to rely heavily on Aoi in the real final battle.
While I can agree with the Tatsuya part (I mean, she felt like she had lost his way when he was going to transfer schools, so them being in a relationship may have her abandon her effort), I honestly do not think that Shizuma would have been a bad boyfriend when it was all said and done.
Shizuma is a ruffian who takes pride in his strength, but I think he legitimately cared for Ryoko (Say what you will about the final battle but I think he allowed her to win that fight), and when you care for someone it brings out different aspects of your relationships and you can even change your habits and abandon some foolhardy tendencies to better embrace your interest. I think him wanting Ryoko to be around (Remember when he was like "This be a whole lot more fun if Titan gal was around" during his fighting where he only used his legs mostly because of their sparring? Or even when was one of the first people to visit her in the hospital after she collapsed)and respecting her as a fighter and a woman would merit him being a stand-up boyfriend.
As far as Azumi, I would agree completely if it were not for the fact Azumi appears completely straight with only a mutual respect for Ryoko as her rival; I say the thing about Hitomi because it can easily be inferred as her liking Ryoko in a more than platonic fashion.
As far as the writing, yeah, I do think they did a pretty terrible job. First off, they let too many of the main characters win/draw with people who were obviously way stronger than them (Xiaoxing & Asuka vs the Ninja guy, Megumi vs the Pompadour boxer, Ryoko vs Shizuma), not to mention they did not expand upon exactly what type of trouble the K-Fight system had established in other schools (Nor did we even see how relevant the K-Fight system was to everyone else outside of the Shizuma vs Todo match and Ryoko saving the one teacher vs the student who challenged her to a K-Fight). Also, I do not think the conclusion between Aoi and G was even settled, they wrapped things up horribly and did not elaborate on a lot of the more intricate details that should have been covered in the manga.
Was the manga entertaining? Yes. Well written? Not in my opinion.