Samurai with amazing strength and agility wielding odd weaponry, ninjas capable of using the elements to deal with their foes, and power hungry daimyos have become a staple of the anime industry as numerous series have been produced glorifying the Sengoku Era or touching upon various moments of Japan’s history with fantastical elements. The latest anime to make its way to North America following this trend happens to be Brave 10, but does it have enough action and a good enough story to set it apart from the rest?
While many ninja train diligently and eventually enter into the service of a lord, Saizo Kirigakure has seen what happens to ninjas that swear allegiance and sacrifice themselves to protect their lord, they are often tossed aside and quickly forgotten about. Because of this Saizo wanders through Japan without a master, fighting anyone who gets in his way and generally doing as he pleases, leaving him with a rather vicious reputation.
However one day when he is traveling through the forest a beautiful shrine priestess stumbles across his path. Her name is Isanami and she is being chased by a number of assassins. After dispatching these pesky enemies, Saizo learns that Isanami’s shrine was completely wiped out, leaving her the only survivor. After becoming indebted Isanami thanks to some food, Saizo agrees to escort her to the man who can potentially help her, Yukimura Sanada.
After tricking him into his service, Yukimura enlists both Isanami and Saizo as members of a special force he is putting together, which will give him a “Brave” for every finger on his hand. These Braves consist of fighters with special abilities and upon joining the group, Yukimura has already gathered nearly everyone that he needs.
Despite Yukimura’s defenses, the forces still hunting Isanami are eager to recapture her and take advantage of a mysterious power that she is capable of unleashing when under duress. With Saizo working under a lord for the first time in a long time and having to work with others, can he protect Isanami from the enemies closing in upon them and their dark intentions all while dealing with the manipulations of other daimyos?
If Brave 10 was given a twenty four episode run, it probably could have reached a much higher pinnacle than it ever was able to with this limited season. I say this because despite building up a setting that mixes historical figures and fantastical elements in a fresh way, it manages to barely deliver on anything except a bunch of great looking fights.
For most of this twelve episode season Brave 10 plays as a fight of the week style anime where Saizo, often with the help of another fighter, faces off against a new enemy and more often than not this enemy is then added to the group to try and reach that number ten. This runs on so long that some of the characters introduced near the end of the series are barely given any screen time nor any reason as to why the viewers should really care about the fights they are in, outside of good vs evil.
This is an issue of course, but it is a bigger issue when you factor in the fact that there are numerous elements that could build up to major developments could have happened if the character gathering hadn’t been so drawn out. Characters such as Date Masamune seem like big players and even make a handful of power moves, but ultimately fizzles off in favor of providing a rushed ending.
He joins a number of throwaway developments of power moves amongst the Warring States daimyos that simply seem like padding thanks to the fact that they never end up going anywhere. This padding could easily have been replaced with actual character development to give viewers a reason to care about the various characters in the series. While a few characters do manage to see some development, such as Saizo and Isanami’s relationship with one another, a bloodthirsty androgynous warrior named Kamanosuke, and Anastasia, another member of the Brave 10, are the only characters viewers are given any reason to care a little about.
If there is one thing that Brave 10 excels at it is creating some great looking fight sequences. Through fluid animation and some spectacular effects, the powers wielded by the various fighters in Brave 10 look great when these ninjas are attempting to kill one another. Every exchange, whether it is between a sword user and a fighter with a chain sickle or ninjas using various techniques against one another to take each other down remains impressive looking throughout the battle.
This is helped by the fact that the characters designs are nicely detailed and actually show wear and tear during battle, including a fair amount of blood for even superficial injuries to show how damaged the characters have become in each fight. Thanks to some nicely detailed backgrounds and a vivid color palette the fight sequences and even the outside of combat animation is pretty nicely done with little drop in quality.
It is worth noting that Brave 10 does not come with an English dub as the only voice track provided is the original Japanese one, but that works in this anime’s favor. It helps add some authenticity to some of the events occurring considering many of the characters in the series have historical Japanese counterparts. Of course, it also helps that the Japanese cast handles their characters expertly.
As for the soundtrack, the series sports a nice set of background tracks which work well for the intense fighting scenes but fall a bit short during slow spots in the series. The opening theme and ending theme songs fit well with the tone of the series as well.
Brave 10: Premium Edition comes with a number of basic on-disc bonuses as well as the oversized chipboard slip cover and hardcover art book that NIS America is known for with their anime releases. The on-disc bonuses are run of the mill as clean opening and ending themes, Japanese commercials and trailers for the anime, and trailers for other NIS America releases populate the bonus section of the disc.
As for the physical bonuses, the slip cover features some nice artwork on both the front and the back as it focuses on a number of the members of the Brave 10 as well as Masamune and Hanzo, though the lack of Isanami on either side is an odd decision. As for the art book, it features summaries of each episode of this release, followed by artwork and character descriptions for all of the important characters in the series which is then followed by three poems from the series. Additional information is given for Saizo as explanations of his various fighting techniques follow his character description.
While Brave 10 may have some amazing looking fight scenes with great looking animation and a variety of techniques on display, it’s overarching storyline falls flat on delivery. There has to be a reason for viewers to care about what is happening at any given moment outside of the basic motivations of the forces. To be fair, Brave 10 does manage to be a bit entertaining thanks to its fight scenes and the few running gags it manages to develop, it never becomes anything more than that.
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