“Do you know what the ultimate battle strategy is? To eliminate the enemy’s will to fight without fighting them. That’s what I was taught by a certain someone I know. And the way to achieve that is that I must be unarmed. I must keep smiling and I must hold the enemy close to my soft bosom.”
– Rushia Tendou
You know, there are shows that I’ve come across in my time as an anime fan that, no matter how many times I watch it, no matter what language track I watch it in, I simply cannot for the life of me take it seriously. “Grenadier ~The Senshi of Smiles~” is one such show. “But Samurai”, I hear you cry out from the other side of the keyboard “if memory serves, you actually OWN “Grenadier”! How can you not take it seriously?” Well, my dear friends, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that I also own “Angelic Layer”, “ToHeart” and “Boys Be…” just to name a few, and those shows have earned the lowest scores on my humble blog. Every anime collection has its swings and misses. Is “Grenadier” such a miss? What could be so bad about this particular series that would make me consider washing my hands of the whole thing? Is it the mediocre story, the one-dimensional characters, the fan-service without substance or the acting that is about as uninspired as the story that goes with it? Let’s get into it and find out.
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content: “Grenadier ~The Senshi of Smiles~” is rated for viewers 13 and older, and I would be inclined to agree. There’s some gun violence, but nothing really gory. There is a bit of PG language, but nothing about the “S” word. While there IS fan-service abound in this series, everything stays [just barely] covered.
Series Availability – Honestly, you would be hard pressed to find “Grenadier” in standard brick-and-morter stores unless you hit a speciality shop like FYE. Best Buy has the series, but at the time of this printing, it’s only available for online purchase. The series can either be found in three individual volumes or bundled together in a “Complete Collection” style which includes a box to keep all three DVD’s in.
Story Premise – “Grenadier ~The Senshi of Smiles~” is a twelve episode series based off a manga created by Sosuke Kaise. The series follows Rushuha Tendo, a sixteen year old “senshi” [another word for “gunslinger”] traveling from city to city spreading the “gospel” of non-violence to end the fighting in the world. You see, Rushuna has been trained to bring about peace by killing her enemies with kindness, holding them literally close to her ample bosom with a smile, thus disarming them emotionally and eliminating their desire to fight. However, there are many enemies that don’t take too kindly to the service with a smile methodology, in which case, Rushuna uses her sharp-shooter skills to disarm the foes…and THEN hugs them. Given the task to spread this word by her teacher, Rushuna, along with her travel companions, a former samurai fighter named Yajirou and the young balloon maker Mikan, set off on a quest. However, along the way, Rushuna becomes a wanted woman with a bounty on her head, dead or alive. So it’s up to our intrepid group of travelers to go to her teachers house and clear her name, all the while trying to maintain her ideals of non-violence and avoid those who seek the bounty on Rushua’s head. Now if the idea of a blond gunslinger who preaches peace at all costs without taking human lives traveling with a somewhat reluctant companion/love interest sounds familiar, then you wouldn’t be alone. To me, this show is pretty much a poorly rehashed “Trigun” with breasts…freakishly, absurdly, “how in the name of all that is good and holy in the world are you able to remain in an upright position” breasts. I found it simply impossible to take seriously with the large amount of fan-service used in EVERY episode. Literally in every episode, the busty female characters are put in various positions and angles that give the viewer an eyeful. If you need an example of this, I ask that you consider the fact that our female lead has a penchant for taking baths in hot springs every chance she gets. While the story does get interesting in spots, and some of the stories are cool to watch, as a whole, I found myself not really enjoying “Grenadier”. The ending is…well…in some kind of strange freakish way, it’s actually really well done and works. Now if the other 11 episodes were the same way. [17.5/25]
Favorite Episode – I have to admit, I enjoyed Episode 8 “An Enemy of Memories Aizen Teppa”. I found myself actually laughing at the antics of the episodes title character and the episode as a whole was really enjoyable for me. Also, the first half of Episode 9 was hilarious. I wont spoil it for you, but all I have to say is “Bunny Girl”.
Characters – Our motley crew of characters are pretty much re-imaged versions of the ones seen in “Trigun” with Rushuna Tendo assuming the role of Vash the Stampede, Yajirou assuming the roles of Nick Wolfwood and Meryl Stryfe, Mikan assuming the child-like innocence of Milly and Tenshi, Rushuna’s trainer/mentor, is a replication of Rem, Vash’s guardian. And while we’re on the subject of Tenshi, I would like to bring up another one of her disciples that we meet in episode five named Touka. As I mentioned above, Tenchi preaches that you should use love and smiles to disarm your enemies. That I understand, and even I have to admit, that’s a pretty admirable goal. Touka takes it to the next level, stating “Sex appeal is the best thing to strip men of their armor.” To that end, what did she do? She took in a bunch of homeless girls and started a “Pleasure Palace” or, as Yajiro correctly calls it, a brothel. Okay, loving your enemies is one thing but LOVING your enemies is, well…I just don’t know… Seriously, there’s not much to be said about the characters here, which is pitiful. I would’ve enjoyed a longer series where these characters had a chance to set themselves apart and become unique and enjoyable on their own merits. There are moments where you can see that the creators wanted to make the characters more developed [Pun Intended…nyuk, nyuk…] and at times it was nice, but as a whole, my mind kept drifting to “Trigun”…as in “they did this much better on…” [17.5/25]
Animation – The animation of “Grenadier”…oh, where should I begin? Aside from the fact that some of the character designs are absurdly over-exaggerated [Seriously, have you NOT been paying attention to the pictures in this review??], the whole show just seems a little too cartoon-ish for me to take seriously. The almost scary wide eyes and out of proportion figures pose more a distraction than anything. The one thing that “Trigun” had going for it is that, even though some of the things Vash and company were doing were pretty much impossible in real-world physics, and the technology was completely out in left field, it was animated in such a way that it FELT real. “Grenadier” does not have this–the cartoon appearance with the bright colors and exaggerated features makes it look as absurd as it really is. I mean, Rushuna’s main talent is reloading her gun by undulating her breasts in such a way that the bullets fly up out of her cleavage, get caught up in the centrifugal force of her spinning around, and somehow load PERFECTLY each and every time inside her revolver. Yeah…I believe that…when pigs fly. [8/12.5]
Music – The first opening theme, “KOHAKU” by Mikuni Shimokawa, is lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not something that doesn’t make me want to listen to it twelve times in a row when watching on a DVD. It just sounds so bland and so uninspired. The first ending song “Kanashimi ni Makenaide” also by Mikuni Shimokawa is none the better, sounding like something composed using the “Latin” beat in a 90’s electric piano. All incidental music is okay, not getting in the way, but still managing to sound nice. [7/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Grenadier” was directed by Hiroshi Koujina in Japan, a director who has been at the head of such projects as “Hunter x Hunter (2011)”, “Kiba”, and “Tiger & Bunny”. He also worked on key animation for “High School of the Dead” [Much has just been explained…]. At the helm of this project in the US is Wendee Lee, a name that every single anime fan who has ANY kind of knowledge of dubbing in the United States should know. Not only has she played iconic roles such as Faye Valentine in “Cowboy Bebop”, Konata Izumi in “Lucky Star” and the titular character in “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, but she has also acted as ADR director and script writer, helming and penning some of the most iconic dubs [For better or worse…] of the last 10 years including but not limited to “Digimon Adventure”, “Outlaw Star”, “Bleach”, “Love Hina” and “Wild Arms – Twilight Venom (TV)”. To say she’s talented is an understatement…which begs the question…”WHAT HAPPENED?” This dub, while not the worst I’ve heard by a longshot [“Angelic Layer” and “ToHeart anyone?] it’s certainly not the BEST. Some of the actors have delivery problems; ether the dialogue is too stiff or pronunciations are way off. This could be contributed to either the actors themselves or the written dialogue. Wendee Lee, in addition to directing the series and acting a script writer also portrayed the main character, Rushuna Tendo. [I would mention how much of a mistake I think it is when people take on too many roles in an anime production and how the end project can suffer, but I think I’ve beat that dead horse enough, don’t you?] Her portrayal of Rushia was, to say the least, not her best work. I REALLY got annoyed with her high-pitched ditz voice. I think she really could’ve done better with this one…or maybe cast a different actress. Either way, Rushia didn’t earn any points from me, which is sad because as the main character, your voice is the one that the viewer is listening to at least 50% of the time. Sam Riegal as the sword wielding Yajirou earned points and an overall redemption from his role in “Boys Be”. I can honestly say I enjoyed his performance. Granted, he sounded flat in places [probably the only thing “flat” in this whole series…] but as a whole, he put on the best performance of any other actor in this particular work. Julie Ann Taylor as the young Mikan is another rare highlight in this dub. Other characters, such as Doug Erholtz as Teppa Aizen the armor cloth wielder with a severe case of grabby-hands, Dorthy Elias-Fahn as Tenshi, and Cindy Robinson as Touka the brothel owner range in quality from good to mediocre. [19.5/25]
Story Breakdown – 17.5/25
Characters – 17.5/25
Animation – 8/12.5
Music – 7/12.5
Performance and Production – 19.5/25
Final Score – 69.5/100 = 69.5% – (D-)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)
- In the US DVD release of “Grenadier ~The Senshi of Smiles~”, all 12 episodes are incorrectly given the same opening and closing title sequence. There was actually another opening and closing title sequence used in the TV run of the series featuring new songs by a different artist.
- Also in the US Release of “Grenadier”, the series went by a different sub-title, being called “Grenadier: The Beautiful Warrior” as compared to “The Senshi of Smiles”.
So where does that leave us? Well, while I do give an “E” for effort to the creators for trying, and because there are some parts of this show that I genuinely enjoyed, the fact remains that “Grenadier” is simply a poorly done “Trigun” with ta-ta’s. The story was as bad a rip as you could get with few creative instances, characters that are simply one-dimensional eye-candy, animation that looks better suited for an ecchi anime than a serious gun-slinger series, music that is uninspired and a dub that could have and SHOULD have been better considering the production and acting crew. “Grenadier” remains a shining example that just because you add breasts to something, no matter how big they are, it doesn’t make it better. However, for those of you who are looking for a series to add to your “Guilty Pleasure” watch list, “Grenadier ~The Senshi of Smiles~” will provide twelve-fold.
And so with that, we bid a farewell to “Grenadier”! To wrap up our voyage to the West this month, we got one more review in regulation, an overtime review for the “Six Steps” contest winner, and finally, come hell or high water, we will be revealing the new award system for “The Cajun Samurai”! In the meantime, stick around partners as we cross the desert on a horse with no name and take a look at the little known anime known as…
“Wild Arms: Twilight Venom”
[Editors Note: Yeah, Yeah…I know I originally had “Desert Punk” as the next review, but I only JUST remembered that I had “Wild Arms” in my collection, and it honestly best fit the overall theme for the month more. My apologies for those who were looking forward to “Desert Punk”–I’ll review it at a later date.]