NIS America is one of the most exciting anime distributors at work today, and not just because their Premium Edition collections are among the most beautiful, display-worthy sets on the market. Anything but predictable, NIS consistently releases anime that pushes the boundaries of what those of us who are accustomed to the North American anime market alone think anime to be, having been inundated by an endless stream of actioners and harems. (Granted, many anime fans have devoted themselves to wading through the innumerable fan subs of anime that has yet to see an import release, but I certainly don’t have time for that.) Yet even when NIS releases a shonen actioner, they push the envelope, as with Katanagatari, which relies heavily on incredibly long passages of dialogue. And then you have Natsume’s Book of Friends, of course, in which battles often span all of a single punch.
But their recent release of Studio Sakimakura’s Brave 10 strikes me as their most surprising release of all. Because it’s precisely the sort of anime I would not have expected them to distribute: a shonen series more in keeping with the output of FUNimation, for example, than anything we’ve seen from NIS to date. Still, it’s a choice that makes total sense for NIS, as no broad sample of anime would be complete without such a team-based, shonen anime. Moreover, given the popularity of such series in the American market, it’s perhaps the most broadly palatable release in NIS’s catalogue.
Don’t be misled, however. Brave 10 is by no means a dull, run-of-the-mill experience, even where shonen actioners are concerned. Sure, there’s your staple hot springs episode shoehorned in about halfway through the series and characters have crushes on our protagonist seemingly simply because he’s the protagonist, but Brave 10 excels in crafting a storyworld that extends far beyond the boundaries of the narrative it most fervently pursues. The central narrative follows the quest of a fictionalized Sanada Yukimura to bring together ten brave warriors, even as one of his Brave 10, the priestess Isanami, struggles to control the dark forces that bubble up inside her. Inevitably, swords and magic powers clash as a rival faction determines to abscond with Isanami.
Although that is the central focus of the series’ twelve episodes, series writer Mamiko Ikeda (who adapted the series from the manga by Kairi Shimotsuki) introduces a number of other conflicts that provide a narrative backdrop which is every bit as tense as the foreground action, especially as the threat of war becomes all-too-real near the series’ conclusion. Most of these background storylines are left unresolved, and yet I was left feeling anything but unfulfilled at the conclusion. The character arcs of the Brave 10 themselves are so incredibly rich that it’s really just nice to know that their story does not end here, even if we never get to see where the events brewing on the periphery take them.
The complete series of Brave 10 is now available from NIS America on Blu-ray in a gorgeous Premium Edition set, packaged in an (approximately) 8”x11”x1” hardboard slipsleeve, in keeping with all previous NIS Premium Editions. The set is adorned on the front and back with images of the series’ characters in tableau and the title appears on two of the three spines to allow for numerous display options. The two Blu-rays are housed in the hardboard sleeve in two slimline cases nestled beside one of the most impressively-illustrated full-color artbooks I’ve seen in an NIS set. The artbook features episode synopses, character descriptions and “Poetry of the Brave 10.” Disc-based special features include textless openings and closings as well as Japanese commercials and trailers.
If you’ve an anime fan who has yet to venture into NIS’s incredible catalogue of anime releases, Brave 10 is most assuredly the place to start!