Premise: A year before the battle of Sekigahara that ended the Sengoku Period, the ninja Saizou Kirigakure meets the miko Nami Isa as she's attacked by assassins. Her shrine was destroyed by Tokugawa Ieyasu for siding with Yukimura Sanada. Meanwhile, Sanada has been gathering ten warriors known as Sanada's Brave 10, who have the power to change history. As they gather one by one, Nami's own mysterious power awakens.
(Note: ANN made a little mistake...again. Her first name is "Isanami," and I'm not sure we ever find out her last name. Just wanted to clear that up)
Brave 10 is like a good peanut butter sandwich. It's solid, generic, you can always rely on it, and it can even be delicious, if you're in the right mood (or if the other food at camp all sucks...but I digress). I wouldn't call this series great, nor would I call it poor. I also wouldn't call it average. Though the ending is weak and the overall plot is hardly something to be impressed by, the great visuals, stylistic sound, large cast, and nostalgic approach serve to elevate Brave 10 to an overall "good" status. To make another food analogy, this series isn't a rich, heavy cake, nor an exotic foreign dish, but is instead a nice hunk of meat.
|No, that wasn't what I meant...|
|And we care...why? Oh, because your VA is Takehito Koyasu. Right.|
|Tweedledee (left) and Tweedledum (middle).|
|Oh. Right. That's his name. Okay Mitsunari, you've graduated from "Tweedledee." I believe my point stands, though.|
Brave 10 is predominately an action show, and I have to say that in that regard, it really delivers. I've never really felt that it's appropriate to talk about how well a genre is represented in a show, because then I have to get into what makes a specific genre good (as opposed to the series as a whole). That said, though, it really wouldn't be fair to talk about Brave 10 without mentioning the action. I'll still try to keep it brief, and just talk about what makes the action so good. The most noticeable thing is how "free" much the fighting is (for the purposes of this review, action = fighting). There are no shounen-esque "I use my special ultra-move, then you use yours" battle sequences (though those are not necessarily bad); instead, there's lots of just regular slashing, blocking, and dodging. It sounds kind of boring when put into words, so I'm gonna try to relate it to something else. You know when anime shows take fights from the manga and add in parts where the fighters just kind of fight, without using special attacks or following a specific "battle plan" (looking at you, Gintama)? Think that, but as the entire battle. There's very little stopping in the fights, and everything flows really nicely. Now, there are also special moves. (Nearly) every Brave has more than one, and Saizou has at least three he uses. But they never dominate or interrupt the fights. It makes the moves feel a little less special, but it makes the fights feel so much more natural and realistic, which is a bit surprising once you consider that everybody uses fantastical, supernatural ninja moves. In any event, though, the bottom line here is that the action is very good. Obviously, not all fights are as good as the others, but for the most part each one is very intense and fun to watch.
That actually leads to the next thing I want to point out about Brave 10; this series has a lot of genre-blending. This show has tragedy, action, comedy, adventure, and even some (light) fanservice. What's cool is that, with the exception of tragedy, it pulls off all of these quite well. The comedy is very natural and fast-paced; the show never stops and waits for a punchline to happen. Mostly taking place through great dialogue, it's also great because it meshes with the rest of the show perfectly and offsets the more serious parts. The adventure aspect is also executed pretty well. Remember that I said the plot takes a turn about two-thirds of the way in? Well, those two-thirds before the turn are basically all devoted to introducing and meeting the Braves. This is also where that "nostalgia" I mentioned in the beginning comes into play. This show has a very "classic" feel in the way it introduces the characters gradually, one by one. It not only serves to make the characters feel a little more special, but it's also a refreshingly traditional approach to things. This, along with the great action and comedy, lends the show an "adventury" feel to it. And last is the fanservice. As I mentioned in my Skip Beat! review, I view things like fanservice as a "bonus." Too much, and the show just starts to feel...dirty. However, used in the right places and the right amounts, fanservice can be a real boon to a show. It can lend the series a kind of sensual, style/character-enhancing aspect, without making it become too risque. Brave 10 does a really good job of getting the fanservice right. It's never so much that it gets particularly distracting, but it's enough that it makes the characters a little more likeable. The other thing they get right is the distribution. It's very spread out, but more than that it's spread out among both genders (see top). Again, not really enough to be offensive to either gender. It's just kind of nice to see a show that treats members of both orientations equally.
|Yes, I'm talking about this.|
|I'm not sure why, but I always look to leaves and tress for indications of whether or not art is good.|
A little while ago, I read a review of a series saying that the show in question was an example of "why cliches are cliches." What the reviewer meant by this is that despite being cliched, the show pulled off those cliches well enough that they were still good. Now, Brave 10 is certainly cliched, and no, it doesn't really pull of those cliches well enough that they don't stand out. I brought it up, though, because the character designs are an example of why we like the anime style. It's very arguable that one of the main reasons anime in general is as popular as it is is because of the way it looks. I imagine that at least 90% of the people reading this review would admit to liking it. Well, the character designs in Brave 10 pretty much sum up why that is. Everybody is pretty looking (bishies, as they're sometimes called), look great in whatever clothes they wear, are aesthetically pleasing, and are memorable & stylized. While Brave 10 may not be a show that exemplifies why cliches are cliches, it is a show that exemplifies why people like anime characters. To sum up what I've said: if you really like the way anime in general looks, then the character art in Brave 10 is definitely for you.
|On a side note, alternate costumes are great.|
Next is the sound effects. This is an area often overlooked, and I'm constantly struggling with how to review it. In this case, though, it's not too difficult, because Brave 10 has a purpose with its sound effects. Much like the nostalgic music and the traditional character introductions, the sound effects have that "classic" feel to them. There's an attempt to evoke the feelings of older action shows (like Rurouni Kenshin, to pick a random example) through sound, an attempt that's somewhat successful. A lot of the effects, like sword-drawing and blocking, will sound very familiar to you if you've ever watched older shows of those kinds. You won't really feel it, nor will you consciously notice it (when do you ever pay attention to sound effects, after all), but the effects on your subconscious are undeniably there. In and of themselves, though, the sound effects are still good. They are very complete, and as I said have an "older" quality to them (this is a good thing). All in all, good.
|Hearing this has so much more effect than reading it.|
|It took me a while to realize he was supposed to sound awkward, but after I did he was great.|
|Kamanosuke's character in a nutshell. Is (s)he a bad character because (s)he can be defined by a single image? I don't think so. Personally, Kamanosuke was one of my favorite characters.|
|Yes, this is the story I want to learn about.|
Overall: Brave 10 is a solid show. Great action, great visuals, above average sound, a memorable cast, and a classic vibe make up for the weaknesses of the story and some of the characters. There are a few areas that could have been improved, all by simply increasing the running length, but overall the series is a positive experience.
Plot/Story: 4/10 The ending is probably the worst thing about Brave 10. Things feel rushed, and the overarching plot that had been present earlier was abandoned. Since things could have been much worse still, and since a (arguably) more important character plotline was resolved, the story isn't too bad. Still, "not too bad" doesn't equal "good." Below average.
Characters: 7/10 This score may sound a little high after all the nitpicking I did, and admittedly it's infinitely close to being a 6.5/10. However, I do believe that the characters in Brave 10 earned the score. Memorable personalities, fun/cool traits, nice interactions, and pretty looking designs all tip the balance in their favor. While there are a few misses with characters (Tweedledum, the kid Brave, etc.), overall the characters are pretty strong. The lack of detailed backstories is a detriment, but a forgivable one. All in all, good characters.
Sound: 8/10 Great mood-fitting music, well made sound effects, and top notch voice acting make the sound in Brave 10 worth taking notice of. The music and sound effects both add to the "classic" feel of the series, and the voice actors really make the characters and script come to life. Overall, great.
Visuals: 8/10 Excellent visuals. Awesome animation, well drawn landscapes and backgrounds, and beautiful looking character
Rewatchability: 7/10 One of the advantages of a plot-lite anime: there's no story to get bored of. Of course, it's hard to ever get bored of the best stories (like Mushishi's, for example), but anything less and sooner or later you're gonna grow tired of the plot. Brave 10 doesn't run into this problem. You're not gonna go back to this series for the great story, but for the great action. I mean, action can only go so far too, but I finished this series two days ago and rewatched the whole thing yesterday and today, and I'd be willing to do it again (in a little while), so there's definitely some good return value to this series.
Anime Rating: 6.5/10 Brave 10 is, as I've said twice now, a solid show. The only thing that stopped it from being a 7/10 was the shift in story focus and the poor ending. These aren't enough to truly hurt the anime, especially if you're a proponent of "the journey is more important than the destination," but they do hinder it from reaching its full potential. If you like action, nice visuals, varied casts of characters, a retro feel, and/or nice looking anime designs, then Brave 10 is a good bet. Avoid if you're looking for a great, cohesive story. Overall, a fun show.
Any suggestions/requests for my next reviews? Post a comment!
P.S. It's ironic that the review titled "breaking out of retro" is about a show with a heavy retro feel to it...
P.P.S. (Here's another review with an extended food analogy: http://johnsato.blogspot.com/2012/01/mushishi-review.html)