Anime: Dai Shogun
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 5th, 2015
Retail Price: $59.98
The anime series Dai Shogun shows viewers an alternate history route in which Japan has ended up in isolation from the rest of the world due to… unforeseen circumstances. The events that led to the divide are caused by steam powered robots that fend off any “invaders” attempting to cause a change or shift in power not in favor of the robotic legion, but hope still remains in the form of a smaller rebellion. Unfortunately for the humans, these separate groups aren’t ever on the same page so their goals are never actually met and unity seems highly unlikely. A boy by the name of Keiichiro Tokugawa imagines himself as someone capable of building a bridge to the different groups and finally fight back with a powerful, united team. Keiichiro’s wish seems to have potential when it’s revealed that he is the only person (male) who can operate the legendary robot by the name of Susanoo.
What complicates things for Keiichiro is that he isn’t the only one who can actually operate Susanoo, but that a females assistance is required to co-pilot the heavy artillery (with interactions between the male and female character being essential to the operation.) Things aren’t so simple however, and the possible female role isn’t as clear as Keiichiro’s, so a good amount of time is spent trying to determine who will aid him in the battle with his robotic/mech defense system. This is when the anime begins to branch into harem territory by establishing different relationships with each other the female counterparts and continues to be a focal point for the development of Dai Shogun. An interesting difference from others is the fact that not every character surrounding Keiichiro has the best intentions, making you evaluate each of them like Chiharu, Kiriko and others whose roles were sometimes left undetermined.
Keiichiro has many attributes to the male character of a shounen series with an arrogant sense of humor on occasion, and can appreciate female attributes – but is surprisingly terrified of close proximity to other women. In fact, one of the first facts we become privy to regarding his female anxieties is that he even practically breaks out in stress rashes, making him less of the assertive male character that’s always expected in anime of this nature. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his moments, (it’s still laced with harem plot points so he definitely plays it up in instances) but his entire screen time isn’t filled with cringe worthy sexist jokes or insulting behavior. He has a soft side which is certainly his most redeeming quality, and Keiichiro isn’t the usual tough guy that is another stereotype of series similar to Dai Shogun. To be specific, Keiichiro often loses his battles (even in the later episodes) and is repeatedly shown that he has work to do before he can rival the enemies of the anime.
Whereas sexuality and romanticism can be played up in most harem series, the difference with Dai Shogun is the fact that in order to operate the machinery, “purity” is key – much like the old school rules to a horror film. Keiichiro can be seen in questionable circumstances with others, but straying from physicality is a requirement to continue survival for themselves and Japan entirely. Sure, it’s not really a great method of storytelling, but I was at least relieved to know that we could at least avoid the in-your-face over sexualization that I initially expected to see. As I mentioned earlier, it does still perpetuate suggestive scenes that keep the series in the harem/ecchi category, but it doesn’t cross into territory that pushes offensive themes as much as others like Dragonar Academy, Black Bullet, or Freezing Vibration have done in recent years.
The girls in the anime aren’t too bad themselves, and that is thanks in large part due to the plot that focused on individual growth for the characters close to (but not quite) an episodic approach. There is still a coherent ongoing plot, but it’s never quite lived up to as much as you would expect which is why I’d say it sometimes mirrored series with a carefree or relaxed aspect of storytelling. It’s unfortunate that it has a Bachelor (the reality series) method of asking which character will be compatible to Keiichiro and his cause, especially since the mecha elements of Dai Shogun are very minimalistic in comparison to the harem notions in the anime series. The ending feels very abrupt trying to sum up a building tension in the final branch of Dai Shogun, but the villain’s presence was a nice transition when it was shown (in those fleeting instances.) My assumption is that they have hope to continue the plot by giving the viewers a taste of the alternate mecha world, but by underutilizing so many possibilities time will only tell if that’s plausible for the anime. Dai Shogun is available now by Sentai Filmworks, so check it out when you get the chance if you’re looking for a mecha(ish) harem series!
Overall Score: 5.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-Making the other character’s role/importance unknown was a nice way to inject the series with a chance for speculation
-I liked that all of the characters were (mostly) evenly characterized without trademark harem sexism
-Keiichiro felt more rounded than male characters you would expect him to replicate.