I don't consider myself an avid anime watcher, but when I find an anime show I like, I get hooked. Such is the case with today's subject: Kämpfer. It's a series that unfortunately only lasted 12 episodes in 2009 before being cancelled. Here was my reaction when I learned that it was cancelled...
Why did I react this way? Well, because this was one of the most fun and enjoyable animes I have ever seen. What is the main plot, you may ask?
Natsuru Senō is your average high-school guy who can't seem to be popular with the ladies. He wakes up one day and realizes that he has been transformed into a woman by a mysterious blue bracelet on his wrist. He has been chosen to become a Kämpfer: a warrior who is forced to fight against other factions of Kämpfers for mysterious beings called Moderators. The catch? Only women can be Kämpfers.
The best way I can describe this show is Green Lantern Corps mixed with Sailor Moon -- except no galactic crusading, just Kämpfers fighting other Kämpfers with magic, guns, swords, and more. Now I know what some of you might be thinking: this looks like every other magical girl anime in existence and... yeah, there are a lot of repeated formulas from other series and there are some that even made me roll my eyes in this show. (Example, tell me if you've heard of this one before: the quiet and shy girl with unrequited loved for the main character... yeah.)
Been there, done that. However despite a few things seeming generic and overdone, the main reason I loved this show is because it is just pure fun. The animation is great to look at, the battles are all kinds of awesome, and the lore is something I was looking forward to learning about before it was cancelled.
The main reason I liked this show is because I found myself really liking most of the characters, especially the lead named Natsuru, your average guy with natural blue hair (seriously I want this guy's genes if my hair would come out that blue) who is forced into a weird but awesome situation that he deals with which leads to either good drama or great comedy.
The one thing I expected to groan at were the jokes SO many movies and shows do: he's a guy in a girl's body so he doesn't know what to do, so it's... funny? And while there are times where it goes that route, instead of the usual jokes there are genuinely funny routes and instead of fighting this alternate role, he just decides to roll with it and adapt. And he remains likable during it all, he's not a pervert who just wants to look at himself in the mirror nor does he try to hook up with a girl in his female form. Sure there are a few times where the shows goes a little...
...fan service-y -- which is not always a bad thing. I mean, as a guy it's nice to look at, and female Natsuru is drawn to be sexy (I'm aware they are high-school age, I'm just making a point), but the show never goes too far by having it become a hentai.
There are other characters who are on Natsuru's side such as Akane Mishima who starts as the timid girl but transforms into a loud/filthy mouthed warrior who loves to gun things down and even pick fights with her friends.
Yeah, her real persona may be a little grating, but the moment she becomes her Kämpfer side she becomes not only hilarious but also so awesome that you can't help but love her. It's a dynamic that I like, it reminds me of Jim Carrey's The Mask in some ways, as the protagonist switches between the two personalities.
Next there is Shizuku Sando, who is quite possibly the strangest character on the show. At times she seems like a villain, other times a hero, and other times an anti-hero. She is a Red Kämpfer (the evil faction) but she defected over for reasons that she doesn't explain well because, like I said, she's just odd.
Despite her oddness, she is strangely engaging as a character who has probably the most hilarious romance with Natsuru. I swear, I was holding my sides trying not to laugh at these two on a date.
The next is one of the best characters in the series just because of how energetic and nice she can be... plus a bit of insanity helps: Mikoto Kondo. A girl with an extreme love for curry and a some love for Natsuru... why do the most average of guys in anime get chased by so many women?
She is also a Red Kämpfer who defected to Natsuru's side. I'm not one for shipping characters, but I did often find myself hoping that Natsuru and Mikoto would become a couple. She's nice and lovable but when characters cross her she's either hilarious... or she's awesome.
There are other characters such as Kaede Sakura, who is Natsuru's crush but of course, she's the one girl who's not into him. Again, it's a reused formula but there are a few differences that I like.
Are there any bad characters?
Oh yes ,and this is one of the few parts of the show that I did not care for: The Messengers. Oh good god did I absolutely HATE the Messengers.
Every Kämpfer is given a stuffed animal to be their companion and every single one is a disturbing plush of an animal who's entrails are hanging out... lovely. If that's not bad enough, their voices will more than likely make you want to slam your face into the wall. Luckily, they are not in the show that much but whenever they are, I suggest skipping their scenes or putting the episode on mute while reading the subtitles.
Just to let you know, there is no English dub to this series.
Like I said above, the animation is great, which really helps the fight scenes which are just as great. I never found myself bored and there was never a loss of detail when fights were going fast. What really helps the fights as well is the fact that every Kämpfer is gifted with their own abilities and weapons. Each Kämpfer is given one of these power types:
- Zauber = Magic
- Gewehr = Firearms
Schwert = Swords & Various Blades
With each power being distinct, even when two Kämpfers are battling each other with blades it's always two different kinds of blades so, that plus a great difference in each character's look keeps the fights from seeming like a blur.
So the question comes to mind: why was a show this awesome cancelled? Well unfortunately it didn't get as many views in the West due to the whole 'gender change' plot with the main character, which in my opinion is just a stupid reason not to watch it. The show was very fun and really deserved more love than it originally got. Luckily, there is a fan community trying to convince the showrunners to give us a Season 2 which I am definitely part of. #SaveKämpfer!
I give Kämpfer a 8.5/10 and I highly recommend any fan of anime check it out. Just beware of the parts with the Messengers and have some fun watching a bunch of girls kick all sorts of ass.
Have you seen 'Kämpfer'? If you have, what did you think about it? Should it come back? Let me know in the comments below!