Master of Martial Hearts Review
Studio: ARMS Corporation
Licencor: Funimation Entertainment
Master of Martial Hearts is an ecchi battle series designed primarily for the sake of captivating heterosexual cisgender males with scenes of stereotypically dressed women beating the clothes off one another. Basically Senran Kagura, but without any charm, good design sense, and redeeming factors. The show centers around Aya, a schoolgirl with little in the way of physical descriptors or overarching personality whose unremarkable existence is given meaning after she sees a stewardess who looks to have just walked off the set of a subpar porn shoot trying to beat a shrine maiden who is named Miko, the Japanese word for shrine maiden. Upon saving Miko and treating her wounds with a mountain of food from “Moe Burgers”, Aya learns of the Martial Heart, a women-only fighting tournament held across the city wherein the winner will be granted access to a mythical wish-granting gemstone known as the Martial Heart.
After hearing that Miko wanted to use the Martial Heart to make herself some friends, Aya and her companion Natsume both offering to be Miko’s friends, causing Miko to declare this to be “Making Friends Day”. But this illustrious day is soon ruined after Miko mysteriously disappears just a few hours later, with Aya choosing to embark on a quest to rescue her friend, or at least wish for her return, by partaking in the Martial Heart tournament. With the ensuing three episodes all focusing on her making her way through the ranks by beating up her opponents, all of whom are scantily clad stereotypical low tier fetish bait, through a series of dull battle sequences.
It is a very hockey story does have some foreshadowing and basic structuring, but for the three interim episodes, it mostly serves as set dressing and something to be placed between the combat encounters. Encounters that rarely impress visually due to the overall lackluster animation seen throughout the show, and are often too absurd to take even remotely seriously. Such as the battle with the stewardess with a rocket propelled suitcase, a teacher who choreographs her attacks by naming chemical compounds, or a maid who sings to a group of otaku while swinging a bladed stick at Aya. In spite of this absurdity though, every battle recycles the same format of Aya getting her ass beaten down to her knickers while her opponent verbally berates her, calling her ugly, a slut, or some other baseless insult. All before Aya pops her devil trigger and beats her opponent until their tops come off and gelatin filled mammaries are left to bounce in the wind.
As for the writing, it strikes me as something that a team cranked out in a weekend, with little regard for the state of the finished product. This results in the script largely being bland pablum for the most part, only interspersed with self-aware jabs at the subject matter and genuinely idiotic one-liners. None of the characters come off as developed, with Aya being a loosely defined average girl who sucks at chemistry, values her word, and… respects her mother, I guess, while everybody else is just a loosely defined character, such as Aya’s best friend Natsume or her brother Haruki, whom Aya is attracted to. Oh, and everybody is also kind of stupid in their own way, demonstrated by neglecting vital things, making quick assumptions, or just being very flighty with a little something called logic and its friend feasibility.
There really is not a whole lot to say about the first four episodes beyond that. They are made up of lame fight scenes, a mostly pointless story, and poor writing, all encapsulated with a subpar presentation to tie everything together with often minimal animation, uninteresting character designs, and a score that is more often distracting than anything else. It’s all bad, but certainly far from the worse, and while one could easily tear the show a new one for being degrading, exploiting, or disrespecting women, that is all fairly innocuous when compared to the horrors that lurk within episode 5.
I am not sure that I can properly explain the contents within this episode without breaking down everything that happens in this horribly paced finale, so I will do just that. Episode 5 begins in the middle of the final battle of the Martial Heart, wherein Aya is getting her fanny whooped by a psychic lady in a Chinese dress who claims to have the ability to look into people’s souls. Aya, due to emotional and physical fatigue, chooses to believe this psychics words as she begins to push a narrative that Aya is a selfish person with a history of violence who desires to exert power over one another, which is why she has been participating in this tournament. A statement that would have some weight behind it, if not for how Aya was consistently presented as being reluctant to battle, regularly commented on how much she hated getting beaten down to her underwears, and routinely expressed frustration with how the needed to pummel other people into unconsciousness on a near daily basis.
The argument itself sounds like the sophomoric ramblings of an edgy teenager who just completed Psychology 101 and now believes themselves to be a master of the human condition or some crap, but because Aya is kind of stupid and is very susceptible to this kind of thing, the psychic’s words cause her to snap. One cut later, Aya is seen beating the psychic’s bloody corpse before Miko, who was previously declared dead, comes in to take her off of this rain covered rooftop and into the building proper. There, Aya is taken to the Dark Realm, a featureless black void with a tile based floor and sparsely placed lights, and serves as the main location for the remaining 15 minutes of this episode. It is also a place wherein a lot of things happen that are swept into the darkness and ignored, as if the staff forgot that the stage would be littered with corpses, a handgun, and a gaggle of mentally retarded sex slaves laying about in erotic manners, by the time the 20 minute mark rolled on.
In this room, Aya comes face to face with her previous opponents seen throughout the show, all of whom she was informed would be sent to the Dark Realm in the first episode. However, much to her horror, the women are all now mentally retarded, but in a sexy way where they somehow still know how to give a good blowjob. Miko tries to inform Aya that she is the one responsible for this, but that is actually a complete lie, based on events seen earlier in the show. Several opponents spoke coherently after their battle ended, and one of the fetishisticly styled opponents, a nurse, more or less admits that this retardation is due to an injection. Not physical or emotional trauma. Aya just beat them. She didn’t make anybody mentally retarded.
Not dissuaded by her lie, Miko continues to inform Aya that the Material Heart is a human trafficking racket that seeks out strong women as they make the best (sex) slaves for auctions, which Miko justifies by stating that, for being stupid enough to participate in a fighting tournament where the grand prize is a wish, and losing, they deserve to be turned into mentally retarded sex slaves! Seemingly unaware of how villainous she sounds, Miko begins highlighting the backstory of Aya’s various opponents (while feeding one of them dog food) in an attempt to make her feel guilty for beating them in what was presented as a life or death battle.
Things then stagger to address a reveal from the third episode that positioned Haruki, Aya’s loosely defined love interest, as the leader of the Martial Heart. In actually, the head of operations is not Haruki, just somebody who made himself look like Haruki so that Aya would think that he’s hot, and also he wants Aya for himself, presumably as a sex slave. His secretary strangles Miko for a bit, Miko pleads with Aya to free her, despite having talked trash about her mere seconds ago, and then both the imposter Haruki and the secretary are killed by the real Haruki, who comes from stage left. Also, the imposter spouts some bullcrap about a committee before, which just raises a bunch of questions that did not need to exist, but make the story seem more complex and sophisticated than it actually is.
Anyways, Natsume, Aya’s friend, then shows up and announces that her, Haruki, and Miko desire to enact revenge on Aya. What then ensues is a lengthy diatribe from these three newly positioned antagonists, which is explained without any form of visual aids, involves a lot of previously unmentioned full names, and details a sprawling family tree. Basically, Aya’s father, Shigeyuki, was a bastard who set up the Martial Heart 20 years ago, and her mother, Suzuko, collaborated with him in order to bring this twisted plan to life. Being the progeny of these two caused Aya to be utterly despised by Natsume, Haruki, and Miko, who have their own contrived reasons why they hate Aya for her parent’s actions.
Natsume and Haruki hate Shigeyuki and Suzuko because they killed their aunt before they were born, and rendered their mother, Kumi, mute with a blow to her neck. This in turn led to Kumi becoming obsessed with revenge, raising her children to despise Shigeyuki, Suzuko, and all who bore their devil gene. Meanwhile, Miko is both Aya’s half-sister and the cousin to Natsume and Haruki. Despite this familial relationship through, she despised her father, Shigeyuki, and hates him for sparking a bloody conflict that caused both himself and Miko’s mother to die in a bloody struggle that also happened to occur on Miko’s fourth birthday. Also, Miko and Haruki are lovers due to their mutual hatred of Aya, and both Kumi and Miko’s mother had to fight each other due to Suzuko’s plotting and scheduling of fights.
Now, I just want to pause and extrapolate that Natsume, Haruki, and Miko were all victims of the Martial Heart, and know first hand how harmful it can be as their mothers participated in the event and their lives were effectively ruined as a result. Despite this, they went through with this entire process, and Miko called people who would so much as think to participate in this tournament to be idiots, thereby calling her dead mother and aunt both idiots. Also, again, they hate Aya for being the child of two bad people, despite the fact that Aya herself did nothing wrong. While she does have a history of violence in her adolescence, she largely got over that in recent years, and only partook in this tournament so she could be reunited with a friend she made a few hours ago. Yes, that was pretty stupid on her part, and yes, she killed somebody, but that was because she was put through a hellish experience, and every person is prone to engaging in monsterous activities if placed in the right environment. Oh, and let’s not forget, these three are trying to shame someone after they just finished collaborating in a project that involved kidnapping, torturing, and selling women as mentally retarded sex slaves!
But no, Natsume goes on about how arrogance and evil flow throughout Aya’s body, that she is a hellspawn, and there is nothing she can do about it. She continues, calling Aya retarded for not seeing through her ironclad veniere of friendship when in actuality she wants nothing more than to kill Aya. They then throw Aya a gun, encouraging her to commit suicide so they can film it and rewatch and masturbate to her death of whatever. Though, Aya is thankfully not stupid enough to buy that bullcrap, tries to shoot them, but the gun has no ammunition, and the three instead decide to use their own hands to kill Aya, which means shooting her in the shoulder and thigh before giddily commenting how they should torture her before all life fades away from her body. Remember kids, you know you’re in the right when you are advocating the torture of another person, and you are nothing short of a goldarn saint when you play a direct role in human trafficking! It’s the world’s oldest profession!
Thankfully this insurmountable sum of bullshit is brought to a close by Aya’s mother, Suzuko, who comes in amidst an explosion. She puts the cherry on top of this garbage sundae by announcing that the Martial Heart has been going on for generations with alternating families taking turns in enacting revenge, creating a cycle of moronically justified bullshit that I like to believe has been ongoing for the entirety of Japanese history. She then knocks out Natsume, Haruki, and Miko, treats Aya’s wounds slightly, and after allowing Aya to leave the building, decides that burning to death would be pretty metal. Things then cut away to the heavily injured Aya escaping the burning building, heading to the home of Natsume, Haruki, and Kumi, where she interrupts Kumi’s session of stabbing photos of Aya with a box cutter. Things cut to black, the credits roll, and we are left to assume that Aya killed Kumi before being found guilty of murdering a disabled woman, and is sent to life in prison. Das ende.
I swear, I am not leaving anything important out, and am trying my hardest to summarize everything that happens in this final episode. It is an inglorious disaster, concluding everything on such a poorly throughout out and overly complicated tryhard note that aims to present the show as being in some way more than a load of disposable pseudo-erotic trite, when no, it is actually less than that. I will admit that there are some concepts here that could be salvaged, and the idea behind the finale is not a bad one. But when it is all put together, the end result is an unmitigated disaster, an absolutely miserable experience for the viewer, and the worst professionally produced piece of media I have ever had the misfortune of being subjected to.
Screw this show, screw everybody who thought this was a good idea, and most of all, screw me for having the audacity to subject myself to this trash for a third time.