Master of Martial Hearts
by Amber Burnham
Available now from FUNimation Entertainment
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There is a myth going around the town where Aya Iseshima lives about a jewel that can grant anyone’s wish if they are able to win it in a martial art tournament. The dark side of the myth is that if you lose a battle then you end up going to the dark realm and are never heard from again. Aya quickly finds out that there may be more to this myth when she accidentally encounters two women engaged in a battle and interferes. Without realizing it, Aya has now signed herself up for the martial hearts tournament where she must battle to gain all the pieces of the jewel known as the platonic heart.
Master of Martial Hearts is a five episode OVA series that surrounds the battles for the jewel between women searching for a way to grant their greatest wish. Surprisingly, there is a lot of story depth included in this series. You learn about the characters and why they are doing what they are to get their wishes granted. You find yourself cheering for Aya, since most of the story is told from her angle. Near the end there is a bit of a twist, which at first may be a little hard to take but works out to make the fighting more believable. The pacing of the story is done well considering you only have five episodes in which to learn the story. The only time you really feel there is a lot of exposition being given is near the end. It is necessary though to wrap up the existing story line with Aya.
The art of Master of Martial Hearts is great. The colors and lines are done with precision and there is great variety in the character designs. Along with the variety of character designs are their ways of fighting and weapons they use. There is a stewardess who uses luggage with built in armaments, a mechanic who uses wrenches as nun-chuck like weapons, and even a chemistry teacher who has turned chemical formulas into a fighting technique. Those are just a couple of the kinds of fighters that Aya will encounter while trying to win the tournament. Because of the variety in designs and fighting styles, the battles are entertaining and hard hitting. These women do not hold anything back. They are out to win at any cost. The fights are also done in an intelligent way, with the characters attempting to figure out their opponents weaknesses in order to win instead of just punching and kicking for no reason. The fact that by the end of the battles, all of the fighters involved tend to be as close to naked as possible due to the incredible ability of the hits to tear apart clothing, can be left up to each viewer as to whether it is necessary or not. At times it can be a little amusing and could take away from the fighting but it also goes along with the moe character designs. So, it is up to each person to decide if the fighting and storyline is worth the consistently near naked characters.
Master of Martial Hearts is available on DVD through the anime classics line from FUNimation Entertainment. The DVD includes all five original episodes as well as extras; video commentary with the Japanese voice cast and trailers.
Amber Burnham has a BA in Early Childhood Education from Kendall College. She is also a regular panelist on Kichicast, the all-girl, Chicago-based podcast devoted to anime, manga, and Japanese culture. You can listen to Kichicast at kichigi.com.
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