Anime Review · DVD Review

Master of Martial Hearts

Headline: A Masterpiece that Captured my Heart

5/5 Stars

Originally posted May 6th, 2015

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful 

Before I begin, I just want to say there will be people who disagree with the 5-star rating I’ve given this DVD. Over the years, there have been many critics who’ve poured scorn over this series because of its violent/inappropriate content. Some have even called it “one of the most offensive, vile pieces of [garbage] to [ever] pass through [their] DVD player.” But as for me, I chose to look past the violent fan-service and focus on the story instead. Because despite being a poor excuse to show women fighting each other in cosplay, it does have an intriguing plot. One that’s full of emotional development, shocking twists, dark secrets and a debate on whether somebody is truly good or evil. I remember being in such awe of this series that when it ended I couldn’t even move a muscle – I knew I’d just witnessed a masterpiece.

So what is it about this series everyone hates that I love with all of my (martial) heart? Let’s start with the story.

The story revolves around Aya Iseshima, a high-school student with immense fighting skills. On her way home from school, she and her best friend, Natsume, stumble across a battle between an air stewardess and a girl dressed like a shrine maiden. Aya saves the girl, who introduces herself as Miko. She tells Aya she’s part of a secret fighting tournament for the Martial Heart; a magical gem that can grant any girl any wish. Since Miko’s wish is to make friends, Aya and Natsume offer her their friendship, allowing Miko to withdraw from the tournament. However, later that night, Aya receives an anonymous text message, saying that due to her interference she’s replaced Miko in the tournament. Worse still, Miko suddenly vanishes without a trace. Now Aya has to find out what happened to her friend, while fighting numerous opponents to uncover the truth behind something called the Dark Realm.

For a series that’s only five episodes long, the plot manages to include everything it needs to. There’s enough story- and character-development for it to feel like a series three times its length; Aya’s opponents get stronger, her love-life gets more complicated and she’s forced to do increasingly hurtful things to achieve her goals – including fight against her teacher. 

The downside is the narrative feels rushed and there’s barely any time for us to get to know the characters. Aya’s opponents only appear for one episode each, Natsume is just there to provide moral support, and other recurring characters don’t receive any backstory until the last episode. 

The only exception is Aya. Throughout the series she becomes more and more aggressive towards her opponents – to the point where she enjoys the pain she inflicts. Everything culminates in the final episode, when she commits cold-blooded murder and is forced to reflect on her actions. It’s only then she realises that perhaps she’s been the real monster all along.

There’s not much else I can say without spoiling the series. Except the last episode has a plot-twist that’s so unexpected and mind-blowing you’d never believe it. I even read about it online beforehand and episodes 1-4 convinced me I’d read it wrong – there was no way Natsume was who it said she was.

Overall, ‘Master of Martial Hearts’ is one of the best masterpieces of Japanese animation I’ve ever seen, and I think it’s a shame that only five episodes were made. I understand why some people hate it: there are too many unanswered questions, the sexual content (including full-body nudity) is inappropriate, the ending is ambiguous, the opening credits are annoying, the closing credits are…strange; etc. But I think it’s unfortunate the series is underrated.

If I had to recommend this anime to anyone it would be people who like a good surprise – the ending is definitely up that alley. Also, you have to either like violent fan-service, or not be too offended by it, to enjoy the story. I would also recommend this series to adults more than teenagers, since I don’t agree with the ’15’ rating. Plus, to anyone who does watch this series, I’d recommend watching all five episodes together. That way the story feels like an animated movie and you can appreciate the series as a whole. I’ve said so in the title, but I’ll say it again. ‘Master of Martial Hearts’ is a masterpiece that captured my heart.

While studying my last year at University, there were still several DVDs I wanted to review. The first was ‘Master of Martial Hearts’. Unlike most people, I was blown away when I first saw this anime. And for the longest time, I wanted to express my feelings for it. However, due to my busy schedule, I never had a spare moment to do so. It wasn’t until finishing University that I finally had a chance to speak my mind. 

Unfortunately, as anticipated as I was, the review didn’t turn out so well. And to be honest, I know why.

Considering I wrote this piece the day after ‘Dork Diaries’, you can tell my talents were exhausted on the latter. Although, I tried being creative with my sentences, they came out long and tedious – probably because I used too many lists. Writing the synopsis was a challenge, too. Because the series was short, I couldn’t go into details without giving away spoilers. I decided to summarise the first episode’s plot, then give highlights of the others throughout the review. In concept, this strategy was perfect. But in execution, it wasn’t handled well. The synopsis struggled to get the first episode across, and the other highlights felt out of place when mentioned. Even when I brought up more important aspects (e.g. character development and plot-twists) there was no passion behind my words. In the end, rather than convince people this anime was a masterpiece, I made it sound like a confusing mess.

As you can tell, I was a little disappointed with this review’s outcome. Especially as I know it could’ve turned out differently.

There’s no doubt in my mind things would’ve been better if I’d written this piece after watching ‘Martial Hearts’ for the first time. By this point I’d seen it three times and much of the excitement had worn off. It also would’ve helped to take more time writing it. Aiming to complete something in a day is admirable. But you have to spend the right amount of time editing, too, or else the end result will seem sloppy and unprofessional. The edits I’ve made in this repost are quite vast – including removing whole sentences and paragraphs. However, it’s done little to fix things.

All in all, this review may’ve been wasted potential. But it taught me a valuable lesson about giving something the time and effort it deserves. Particularly when you’re passionate about it.  

(Image courtesy of: http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/franchises/Master-of-Martial-Hearts/)

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