Brave 10 Print
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Wednesday, 04 April 2012 10:04

Sometimes you start a show without any real expectation of getting much out of it, and Brave 10 would be one of those shows. On the surface something for the fangirl / fujoshi crowd (manly men doing manly things, with one or two notable exceptions), it doesn't exactly do anything to make it stand out from the crowd. But it isn't entirely hopeless, either...

The Warring States era, where rumour has it that Yukimura Sanada has been gathering ten warriors known as Sanada's Brave 10, who have the power to change history and take down the Tokugawa empire. Isanami, Priestess of Izumo, is on her way to speak with Yukimura, but it seems that some people are very keen to ensure that she doesn't reach her destination. She's fortunate, then, that her path crosses with that of swordsman Saizo, who reluctantly takes on the role of her protector, and ultimately becomes the first of Sanada's Braves.

Over the course of the next 6 episodes or so, the series then goes on a hero-of-the-week (or sometimes two heroes) while the rest of the band is built up - a development which of course attracts the shoguns attention - before moving on to giving the Braves something to actually do. Other than argue. This show has a lot of arguing. For me, most of the band of twelve faded into obscurity as soon at their introductory episodes were out of the way, with only a few standing out: Saizo, by virtue of being the first and likely strongest of the bunch; main female of the bunch Ana, of clearly foreign origin and unknown motivation; and Kamanosuke, a thief with a real taste for blood and of very ambiguous gender - the series has great fun teasing with the subject of whether their a "he" or a "she", and it's a question that's never really resolved. Beware of the (potential) trap.

To round the core cast out, there's obviously Yukimura himself, a big man with big ambitions and a definite sense of fun about him; and the priestess Isanami, who bears within her a darkness that could destroy the world, should it fall into the wrong hands - a sure indication that the wrong hands will absolutely try to get hold of her, which leads to the all-hands-on-board confrontation between good and evil that rounds out the series.

I've never been much of a fan of this sort of "period" action series - historical Japan doesn't hold much interest for me, and shows set there have a tendency to boost up their heroes and villains with unlikely special abilities that leave me cold. Brave 10 plays with the latter idea a little - the Braves do each have their own unique abilities - but they're not overplayed to the extent they are in, say, Basilisk, so I can live with that.

Where the series did impress - and enough to stop me from dropping what would otherwise be a fairly unremarkable show - is the sense of fun it has about itself. Yukimura and his Braves really aren't taking any of this seriously - despite the world-ending potential of Isanami's powers, you never get the feeling that the world is really at stake. Instead, it's just a group of warriors out for a bit of a bust-up, and having fun while doing it. It's hard to describe in a way that really catches the feel that the series has, though, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

That said, a good sense of fun will only take a series so far, and Brave 10 doesn't push far past "okay, I'm getting a few laughs out of this...". Part of that can be explained by my natural wariness of this sort of show in the first place, but even compared to other shows with a similar leaning - you could probably bracket Sengoku Basara with it, for example, although that plays out on a much larger scale - it lacks ambition, and the fun to be had from Brave 10 is nothing more than a short-live sugar rush that'll quickly be forgotten about.

Rating - ***

1 - The Fateful Two
The Warring States era, where rumour has it that Yukimura Sanada has been gathering ten warriors known as Sanada's Brave 10, who have the power to change history and take down the Tokugawa empire. Isanami, Priestess of Izumo, is on her way to speak with Yukimura, but it seems that some people are very keen to ensure that she doesn't reach her destination. She's fortunate, then, that her path crosses with that of swordsman Saizo, who reluncantly takes on the role of her protector...


2 - Dark and Light
Orders have been issued for Isanami to be seized from Yukimura and brought before the Shogun - and if Yukimura can be taught a lesson for his disobedience in the process, so much the better. Meanwhile, there's a rumor around that an uwabami - a giant, snake-line beast - has been circling around the area, looking for targets while the people prepare for the harvest festival. Saizo decides to kill the beast, but in doing so he discovers the kingdom is in far more danger than he'd thought...


3 - Valley of Whirlwinds
Saizo, Isanami, and Kakei are dispatched back to Izumo by Yukimura, in an attempt to work out just what those behind the shrine's destruction were after, but on their way there they're ambushed by the thief, Yuri Kamanosuke. Caught up in the thrill of battle, Kamanosuke kidnaps and tortures Isanami, hoping to user her to draw out the cold killer within Saizo - a challenge he'd relish. Although he didn't account for just what power he was about to have unleashed against him...


4 - The Souls of the Gods
The gang have arrived at the ruins of the Izumo shrine - there's not much left, but they head into the ruins to investigate and, with Izanami's help, they discover a staircase to an underground cavern. Thinking this may be what the shrine's destroyers were looking for, they head inside, but they're ambushed by Hanzo and Okatsu, who are looking for the Kushimi Jewel. With Saizo injured and Kakei under Okatsu's spell, things are looking grim - but unexpected help is on its way...

SorrowCruel cut

5 - The Heart of the Dragon
Saizo has lost his will to battle after IsanamiÕs kidnapping, and so Yukimura sends Sasuke and Anastasia to assist in the rescue. Isanami herself seems to have lost her resolve too, fearing that her presence will cause everybody around her will be hurt. Unless people can overcome their issues, their mission may be over before it ever really begins...


6 - Taizan Meido
Yukimura has invited his warriors to his private hot spring - which sound like fun, and who's going a refuse some free time? One their way there, though, Saizo, Kakei, Kamanosuke, and Sasuke end up getting into a fight with monk Seikai, who's on a search to find him long-lost sister - and he proves remarkably good in a fight, as the other four are unable to defeat him until help arrives on the scene...

SeikaiManly onsen

7 - Sword and Fan
A tea ceremony is being held at the Shogun's palace, and all the local lords are expected to attend. Yukimura chooses to travel to the event with Saizo, Isanami, and Rokuro - but an onslaught of traps on the mountain road there leaves Yukimura wishing he'd brought more warriors. Which makes the revelation that the traps were all set by a single young boy rather annoying. His name is Mochizuki Rokuro, he's determined to become a samurai, and he's decided that Yukimura is going to be his new master. If only it were his decision to make. There are other problems awaiting the gang on their arrival at the palace, too...

Under attackPoser

8 - The Birth of a Warrior
Ieyasu has announced that Yukimura is to be executed on the spot if he does not surrender - sich is the price of annoying the Shogun, it seems. With his escape route blocked by the sea and an army chasing him, though, it seems that a little help could be required. Fortunately, there's some unexpected help on hand...

9 - The True Face of Ice
The gang continue towards Ueda castle, and some in the group are getting a bit fed up with all the walking. But home, fortunately, isn't far away - and Yukimura finally has his 10 warriors assembled. The number 10, you see, has particular significance to the Sanada family - and with his group around him, should come the power to change the world. But it seems that some in the group may not have Yukimura's best interests at heart...

10 - The Opening Curtain to Tragedy
Trouble is brewing - there's growing anticipation that the Shogun will soon face a serious challenge, and those behind that challenge are planning on using Isanami and the power of her hairband to boost their chances. Of course, getting hold of Isanami means going up against Yukimura and his allies first. Isanami, meanwhile, is coming to terms with what she is - the force of darkness, in previous incarnations responsible for the deaths of thousands - and that's a thought that doesn't sit well with her...

11 - The Wail of Darkness
The Braves' battle to prevent Isanami's capture continues, but it's not going well for the good guys, with even Saizo having trouble holding his own against powerful opposition. And he's not the only one having problems, as delusions and illusions become the order of the day - and the ability to tell the difference between dreamworld and reality becomes the key to survival. Ana, meanwhile, seems to be having doubts about her mission...

12 - The Warrior of Light
As foretold by prophecy, Isanami's dark side has awakened. This is, of course, a bad thing - the darkness she represents could destroy the world - and only the power of Saizo and the other braves can hope to stop it. But when the most obvious way of stopping Isanami in her tracks is to strike her down, Saizo finds himself unable to do what he knows must be done. And for some, the unleashing of Isanami's power is exactly what they were hoping for...

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