Everyone wants him, mostly when he’s a girl.
What kind of war is this?!?
Okay, so my policy has always been that I have no guilty pleasures, because everything I love or ever loved was for a reason and I stood behind it. I loved NKOTB when I was young, I defended Twilight left and right (and still do, even though I no longer care for it), I loved High School Musical just a couple of years ago (well past my teens, mind you) and currently I love all kinds of untrendy pop music, over-the-top shojo manga, and I am now and will always be a total Disney geek. I have no regrets and no shame because I believe that not only do I like enough cool stuff to balance out the “uncool” stuff, I also decided long ago that I am cool enough to make loving something uncool, cool. Well, today marks a milestone in my realm of shamelessness: I have a guilty pleasure.* And that guilty pleasure is a little anime called Kämpfer.
Toshihiko Tsukiji’s light novel comes to life in a short anime series that’s only eleven episodes long (with one odd little bonus episode) and the story involves a boy named Natsuru Senō. One day Natsuru, a second year high school student, gets a nasty wake-up: somehow overnight he was fitted with a blue bracelet that turns him into a Kämpfer, which is a female fighter, whenever other Kämpfer are near. The Blue Kämpfer fight the Red Kämpfer and vice versa, and when in Kämpfer form the girls have special fighter powers. Since all Kämpfer are female, Natsuru transforms from a blue-haired boy into a blue-haired girl who can create and throw fireballs.
Oh yes, and he has a little stuffed tiger with entrails hanging out of its body that talks and tells him what to do as a Kämpfer. All of the Kämpfer warriors have these stuffed animals, known as “messengers,” who tell them bits of information about the “Moderators,” who are beings who make the Kämpfer fight. And all of the messengers are “Entrails Animals,” i.e. all have entrails hanging out of their bodies. (Thus far I have not been able to find out if this is a real set of stuffed toys in Japan or something purely created for this series.)
Whew, that’s a lot of information, right? I find that tends to be the case with anime based on light novels: lots of info crammed into just a few episodes. However, unlike the other anime based on light novels that I have seen thus far, once you make it through all of the information thrown at you in the first couple of episodes, the rest proceeds much smoother. Natsuru discovers Kämpfer at his school, both Blue and Red, and enters into a truce with the others until they can figure out exactly who the Moderators are and what they’re up to. In the meantime he is transferred to the girls’ section of his school by the student council president, a Red Kämpfer named Shizuku Sangō.
All the girls go wild for the new beauty, as do the boys, and when she/he isn’t fighting other Kämpfer, Natsuru is dealing with the overzealous fans of girl Natsuru. Boy Natsuru has his admirers as well, namely the other Kämpfer at his school who know the truth about his gender bending. Oh yes, and Natsuru’s long-time crush, a girl named Kaede Sakura, wants nothing to do with male Natsuru, but develops an obsession with female Natsuru. Chaos ensues!
I enjoyed this quirky little anime for its yuri gender bending and the ever-popular harem comedy aspects. The guilt in liking it comes from the fact that, in the anime at least, all of the action seems to be a loose framework for copious amounts of fan service. It’s not hentai, but it’s definitely ecchi. If you watch be prepared for lots of non-graphic sexual situations. (Also be prepared to read, as this one is subtitles only.) That aside, I liked many of the characters, my favourite being Natsuru’s Blue Kämpfer friend Akane Mishima: usually a quiet, shy girl with glasses, as a Kämpfer the glasses disappear, her hair becomes a fiery red, and she’s rough, foul-mouthed, and wields a gun like nobody’s business. (I think she speaks to my bi-polar tendencies.) The artwork is bright and colourful, and both the opening and closing theme songs are infectiously cute. In fact, I think that the opening would give someone a pretty good idea of what this anime is like: silly, strange, naughty, cute, and everything in-between:
My main complaint is the fact that the series ended rather abruptly and left loads of questions unanswered (which seems to be the norm in anime but something which I’m still getting used to). However, word on the interwebz is that season two is currently in the works. While I don’t know how much re-watch value the series has for me personally, I definitely enjoyed Kämpfer the first go-round and would certainly be interested in a second season.
*Editor’s Note: Eh, screw it, I don’t feel guilty about liking this, either.