Master of Martial Hearts is bad. Really, really bad. Not in a train wreck, “so bad its good” sort of way, but watching this series is akin to serving penance for past misdeeds. The thin plot involves Aya, a young high schooler who stumbles upon a fight between a shrine priestess named Miko and a stewardess. By defending Miko, Aya is brought into an underground girl-on-girl tournament where the prize is the Platonic Heart, a jewel that supposedly grants the victor a single wish. Initially, Aya has no interest in the Platonic Heart, but when Miko suddenly disappears she is forced to fight her way up the ladder against women who are trying beat her for the wish-giving jewel.
Master of the Martial Hearts is not so much an OVA series but rather an animated catalog of cosplay fetishes. The tournament itself is a blend between WCW and UFC, with women using fierce hand to hand combat while adopting a theatrical persona, such as a sexy nurse, schoolteacher and a cop to name a few. Aya’s assigned bouts are the focus of each episode and it is their presentation that makes the series so embarrassingly unwatchable. For you see, women literally punch each other’s clothes off. In the world these characters live in, a single punch or kick has the ability to tear off articles of clothing and by the end of each fight, Aya stands victorious in her bra and panties while her opponents lie on the ground topless (in some cases, only their panties survive unscathed) in a pool of blood. In one episode in particular, Aya must fend off an assault in a public pool after her swimsuit has been removed. It is obvious that the series is meant to titillate but it can’t even manage that. There is simply nothing sexy about what is going on here and it all comes off as perverse.
If the cheap nudity and poor animation wasn’t enough to make this series a disaster, the finale’s complete reversal in tone takes things to a whole new level. The sudden influx of convoluted plot is handled so poorly, it makes those found in day time soap operas appear as grand masterworks of fiction. The finale itself takes the series in a startlingly misogynistic direction that is both uncomfortable and incomprehensible. For reasons that remain unknown, the series ends on a sort of cliffhanger, but it is doubtful that anyone would care to see any sort of resolution. The animation in the program isn’t particularly well done either, as the series tends to constantly reuse frames, mirroring them in a lazy attempt to differentiate them.
The only tender mercy with Master of Martial Hearts is that it is only five episodes. But by the end of the series, you might argue that it is about three episodes too long. The plot is weak and nonsensical, the animation is often lazy and the entire product simply comes off as ridiculous. Most bad anime tends to have at least one redeeming element, but that is not the case here.
Master of the Martial Hearts
directed by Yoshitaka Fujimoto
110 minutes, Number of Discs: 1
Company Age Rating: TV-MA