Ecchi ninja girl franchise Senran Kagura wrapped up its second season this week. Senran Kagura Shinovi Master — Tokyo Youma Chapter broke new ground for the series by showing nipples in a franchise that, outside of the Estival Versus OVA, had previously only teased them in games and anime. They should have stayed behind thin strips of clothing and conspicuously placed objects.
As a fan of the busty shinobi babes who form the core of the series, the idea of seeing even more of them sounded good at first. You show up to Senran Kagura for big bouncy bazongas. That’s the reason for the season. But it’s clear now that there’s an inverse relationship between how much the series can show and how much effort goes into the story and, especially, the humor.
Ecchi to me has never meant “almost porn,” it’s always been more like “sex comedy.” I fell in love with the Senran Kagura games not because I could see big ninja boobies, but because the characters are fun and likeable, and the writing made me laugh.
The recent trend for the franchise, though, is to go much lighter on characters and humor and go much heavier on sexuality. Compare the Nintendo Switch exclusive Senran Kagura Reflexions. Billed as a dating sim, the base game features only a few lines of dialogue from the protagonist Asuka as her model repeatedly clips through itself before you get into the meat of the game: a heavily sexualized massage minigame where the object is to bring her to orgasm. That gameplay loop then repeats. There is no real story, there are no jokes. It’s just your favorite ninja girls getting super horny as their clothes clip through their bodies. Really nice CG art though. I appreciate that.
Likewise, Shinovi Versus has very little in the way of comic writing. Oddly, the plot of this bouncy ninja ecchi show centers on the philosophical legacy of protagonist Yumi’s late grandfather Kurokage. It gets surprisingly heavy. There are a lot of tears, arguments about justice, and the only comic relief is a joke here and there where the punchline is “you can see a nipple.” For a show that has a huge ensemble cast of 30 well-known characters from a long-running video game, anime, and manga series, Shinovi Master doesn’t play with character humor to the extent that Ninja Flash, the first anime season, or any of the previous games did.
A new game, Peach Ball: Senran Kagura, was released in Japan last month. Yet another Nintendo Switch exclusive, Peach Ball is a pinball game with your topheavy ninjas dressed up as kemonomimi animal girls. That’s cute, and at least pinball has some real gameplay to it. But what does it have to do with ninjas?
I won’t be satisfied until we get another character-driven ninja combat game with all the fun and comedy we’ve come to expect. And sure, it should be sexy. But sexy isn’t a substitute for the character until they’re ready to go all the way and license Senran Kagura hentai.
Crunchyroll streamed Senran Kagura: Shinovi Master — Tokyo Youma Chapter fully uncensored with English subtitles, and Funimation have an English dub up to episode eight this week, where they also show the goods.