By Timothy Georgi
It's a sunny day in Ikebukuro. Ryoko Mitsurugi is on her way to school when she's ambushed by the kendo club... Ryoko pulls out her wodden sword and goes to town taking down the masked legions of opponents, leaving her as the only one standing in the end. And that was all just on the way to school...
It's not a new concept. You take a good looking, strong-willed female protagonist and pit her against all sorts of bad guys and you have a constant in anime story making. We've seen the scenario time and time again. You'd think with how often this formula is used, we'd get tired of seeing it. Well, in some cases, yeah, it might be tiring, but in this case, Real Bout has the goods. The action and the silly factor makes Real Bout fun to watch.
The general story line is basically the same in both the first volume of the manga and the anime. There are however a couple of key differences. Unlike the manga, the anime starts off after the beginning of the manga series and gets you into the fight sequences right off the bat. If you haven't read the manga you'll have to hold tight to understand what's come before as very little background given up front. For example, you have little explanation on the fight between Ryoko and Shizuma beyond the fact that there was a K-Fight between them. You get thrown into the action and you slowly get bits of background as the series goes along.
Certain characters roles had shifted slightly from the manga. Daisaku goes from playing the position of Shizuma's pseudo-manager to being the ultimate Ryoko Fanboy groupie, keeping record of every little thing that Ryoko does. Azumi comes off at Ryoko's biggest rival and ultimate nemesis in the manga yet ends up being a bit more of a friend and mentor in the anime.
The largest difference from the manga is the introduction of a small necklace pendant. Ryoko finds the pendant in the girls locker room after a K-Fight. She's puts the necklace on, admiring the pendant when it begins to glow. She then finds herself in engulfed in a bright light. In some rather inopportune times, the pendant glows and Ryoko is transported into an alternate dimension where she must battle all sorts of monsters and demons. There she also encounters a mysterious being that seems to have the explanation behind what keeps bringing Ryoko into the alternate world. What is Ryoko's purpose there? Only the next volumes of the series will tell.
And there are also several other mysteries beyond Ryoko's dimension shifting that are presented in the first four episodes. From the appearance of Keiichiro Nagumo, the "Father" of the K-Fight system to the mysterious "Men In Black" that are trying to pinpoint Nagumo's whereabouts, there's plenty to look forward to.
Tokyopop really nailed it with the DVD release. The disc is full of fun tidbits and features and there are some nice packaging items as well. Lets start with the DVD itself. Tokyopop started off the DVD release on a good note by putting four episodes on the first disc. The DVD features a fun menu interface, presenting a mock fighter game setup, complete with a time countdown and combatant stats. Of course, Ryoko wins. The language options are fairly typical with one exception. You have the option to watch the DVD with English subtitles for signs and writing throughout the disc as well as your typical options for the English language dub, Japanese language and subtitles. Being able to turn the sign subtitles on and off is a nice touch. For those that need to fill their kawaii (cute) factor, there's a set of live sequences featuring some of the seiyuu from the series cosplaying as Ryoko and Azumi. The packaging is masterfully presented with beautiful artwork on the cover by character designer Keiji Gotoh and a bonus "poster" on the back side of the DVD cover. The DVD insert is a unique piece featuring a list of notes by the translator, Rika Takahashi. Inside, Rika gives here notes and some explanations on what some terms in the anime mean as well as why certain things were translated the way they were. Overall a very good presentation on the disc and in the packaging.
Cheesy dialog and stereotypical characters aside, and despite the overplayed nature of the concept of the series, Real Bout is a boatload of fun to watch. If cool fighting anime is your thing, pick up a copy of Real Bout Volume 1 which is available now and Volume 2 which will be released at the end of July.