Brave 10 Complete Series Premium Edition

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Like Daily Live of High School Boys, Brave 10 is an anime series that NIS America licensed right around the time that it was scheduled to air in Japan. Almost a year and a half after it finished airing the publisher has released the show as a 2 Blu-ray set with their usual limited edition packaging. Compared to some of the other anime that NIS has put out, Brave 10 seems a bit more traditional as it’s a fantasy action series based on the manga of the same name that took the legendary Sanada Ten Braves and reimagined them for an original storyline. Unfortunately like most action anime that’s only 12 or 13 episodes long Brave 10 takes a bit too long to really build up its plot and only goes skin deep with its character exploration, leaving it feeling merely average overall.

The storyline in Brave 10 takes place during the Warring States period, and some of the main characters are loosely based off of the Sanada Ten Braves and other historical figures. Viewers may recognize some of the names from Samurai Deeper Kyo which also used the Braves in its plot, but there aren’t very many similarities between the two series aside from this. The story begins with Iga Ninja Saizo coming across a shrine maiden being attacked by assassins. Saizo is on a journey of sorts to discover his life’s path and has decided to not swear allegiance to any particular master, but after saving this shrine maiden (Isanami) the two become a pair. Isanami is the only survivor of a massacre at the Izumo Temple, and the pair finds themselves in the care of feudal lord Yukimura Sanada. Sanada is surrounding himself with “Ten Braves” that all have different abilities, and Saizo and Isanami are added into the group. The majority of Brave 10 revolves around the main cast searching for answers about why Izumo was destroyed and the secret that Isanami holds as the only survivor, as well as the reason for the formation of the braves.

One of the major flaws of the show becomes apparent after a few episodes. When Saizo and Isanami initially join up with Sanada, he has four other Braves already serving him (I’ll get into character specifics shortly). It takes a considerable amount of time for the remaining four to get added in, and while events do happen in the meantime the Brave 10 isn’t fully established until the end of episode eight. Not only are the majority of the characters not really given the chance to be given much depth or background besides their initial introduction, but the pacing of the entire run seems a bit uneven. Despite the fact that there are several major conflicts established early on, the show still finds time to sneak in a hot springs episode and a good deal of lighthearted and drama focused moments in between major battles. The problem is that they just aren’t that interesting and most of the time I found myself hoping they’d end quickly and lead into another battle sequence. Thankfully this is one of the areas that Brave 10 does well, which is important for an action focused anime. Every single battle is flashy and well animated, and unlike some of the other series out there this one doesn’t shy away from blood. The combination of sword and gunplay along with magical powers gives each sequence a striking look, and despite the fact that this is one of those anime where every character yells out the name of their attack before using it I wasn’t as bothered by it as I usually am. The strength of the fights and variety of elemental attacks that each character had are what motivated me to keep watching more so than the overarching plot line, as the pacing wasn’t consistent until the final arc.

There are a lot of characters in Brave 10, but each of them has a fairly striking look and attacks that are based around particular elements (which plays a major role in the story towards the end of the show). Saizo is your standard badass lead character who’s rough bloodthirsty persona changes to a warmer one over the course of the show, while Isanami goes for the naïve damsel in distress role. Sasuke’s a ninja that controls the forest and is friends with many animals, while Anastasia wields the power of ice and has a personality that’s just as cold. There’s also Juzo who is the lone character to use a gun instead of a bladed weapon and Rokuro, whose abilities revolve around an eye that allows him to maintain the memory of anything he sees and he’s given an air of mystery that made me want to learn more about him. As for the remaining cast, there’s thief/bandit Yuri who’s often mistaken for a woman and has a weird obsession with Saizo, super strong monk Seikai, child bomb maker Benmaru, and the pirate Jinpachi.

Each of the aforementioned characters is likeable in their own way and they are all distinguishable, but the biggest problem is that none of them are really given enough depth to avoid stereotypes. Think of all the action or fantasy focused anime you have watched in the past, and see how many of the character types I’ve laid out in the previous paragraph sound familiar. For me that was Brave 10’s biggest downfall, as only having twelve episodes to try and flesh out ten main characters (plus Sanada and some villains) just wasn’t enough and the majority of the cast just isn’t able to break out of the stereotypes of their role. It also doesn’t help that the actual moments where the story does try to focus more on the characters than the action weren’t nearly as exciting and didn’t really draw me in. The one exception to this would have to be the final arc where the Saizo and Isanami dynamic actually worked well and Saizo finally moved beyond the badass loner role, but he’s the only one I felt actually got proper development over the course of the series.

While the narrative may not have grabbed me as much as I had hoped, Brave 10 was continually able to grab my attention with its sleek animation. The show was produced by TMS Entertainment but animation was handled by Studio Sakimakura, which looks to be a newer studio that has only worked on one other title besides this one. There’s clearly talent at work here though, as not only are the environments vibrant and filled with enough life to draw you into the Warring States period of Japan where the show takes place but the characters are well animated both in and out of fights. They all have differing looks, and the fight scenes are well choreographed and each attack is eye catching. It’s clear that the series either had a decent budget to work with or knew how to make the most of the budget they did have, as there aren’t any of the long static cuts or time saving transitions that I’ve seen from some of the lower quality action series. I was more impressed with the animation and art design than I had anticipated, and that’s one of the major reasons that I didn’t regret spending time with the show even with the story issues.

Another area that Brave 10 excelled in was the voice acting, and it looks like TMS was able to get a wide range of actors who were suited to their particular role. When there are this many characters in one show sometimes it feels like some of the acting is simply throwaway since you’re not supposed to pay attention to every single one, but with the abundance of main characters in Brave 10 each one is given a distinct personality that is enhanced by the voice acting. As for the music, the opening theme and background music are both quite strong and fit the overall feel of the series but I was not a fan of the ending song at all. There’s just something about using auto tune during the ending of a samurai/ninja anime that didn’t seem to fit, and I wasn’t that crazy about the song itself. But this is a small detail and since I was watching the Blu-ray’s and not streaming it was easy to skip over the sequence.

NIS America continues to follow the same limited edition format for each anime they give a physical release to. The double sided hard case has some great artwork on it that features almost the entire main cast, and it makes it quite obvious what genre Brave 10 falls into for anyone that might spot it in your collection. The included episode guide may just be the most straightforward the publisher has done for one of their shows, as they’ve had a tendency in the past to dress up episode summaries as character journals or focus more on the artwork. This one is laid out more like a traditional summary of each episode, but the choice of screenshots and artwork does fit quite well and makes it a decent bonus for people that are fans of the show. Brave 10’s on-disc extras are limited to commercials/trailers and clean opening and ending themes, which are a little less interesting to me this time around since I wasn’t quite as crazy about the ending song. It’s clear that NIS is putting in as much as they can based on what is available from the licensor though, so I can’t fault them too much for taking a more standardized approach this time since there didn’t appear to be as much bonus material available.

I had high hopes for Brave 10, but it ended up being a merely average action focused anime that only really grabbed my attention during fight scenes. It’s quite possible that the manga goes much further in depth with each of the characters and provides an engaging story, but the anime spends too much time just getting the main cast together and doesn’t really dive past some of the stereotypical roles. If it gets another season somewhere in the future perhaps this will change and the series will be able to propel itself into the spotlight, but if this never happens I’m afraid it won’t be a story I’ll remember for years to come. Perhaps those of you who are a little more into the fantasy and action side of the anime world will feel differently and it’s certainly easy to check out as the show is on both Crunchyroll and Hulu, but Brave 10 just didn’t quite do it for me and there are others in the genre that I’d recommend over this particular title.

Brave 10 is available as a Blu-ray box set from NIS America and is also streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll

http://nisamerica.com/index.php?nav=ap&aid=brave10

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