The first season of Queen's Blade was underwhelming, beyond the initial deviance on display it went only slightly further than many of the other fighting-fanservice genre shows and exploited none of the opportunities a guaranteed late night, paid channel slot offers. Season two does nothing to change this status quo and, if anything, regresses by reducing the rampant titillation and dialling up the poorly choreographed fights. It still exists in the penumbra between unabashed pornography and cheeky teenage lasciviousness but whereas its forebear had a streak of deviance, there is a laughable attempt at characterisation which transforms the plot from background noise to utter drivel. Scant recommendations can be made when the series wholly fails to elicit any response, emotional or lustful, other than pitying indifference.
At the end of the last season Reina had made her way to Gainos and - after a brief scuffle with an avatar of the oft alluded Swamp Witch - the current reigning champion of Queen's Blade, Aldra announced that the Queen's Blade tournament could now begin. All of the previously introduced combatants take part for reasons best ignored lest they crumble under scrutiny, and after the more insipid ones are knocked out, the protagonists Reina and Tomoe once again take centre stage. With nefarious whimsy Aldra pits friend against friend and master against pupil, however it becomes increasingly apparent she has an ulterior motive to the battles and that her power to petrify the living is not borne from human magicks. As the contestants are whittled down, deaths follow and harsh realities are brought into acute focus leaving all but the most stalwart able to survive.
The most pressing question one has to ask when beginning the second series is: why? Why bother continuing with a provenly dreadful series? Why watch a show based upon the flimsiest of source material? Disposing of any pretence: the nudity makes the show better. Without it, Queen's Blade has nothing to distinguish itself from the myriad other series that cluster the anime, game and manga space. It is wholly targeted at increasing sales of the paraphernalia orbiting its source whether figures or DVDs, the timid misogyny of the premise and the marketing cynicism required for its inception are easy targets for initial revulsion. However more than just pointless exposure of flesh, it fits with the base, almost primal tone of the show and stands neatly beside the combat, eager to prod the lizard brain of anyone morbidly curious enough to watch. Shows such as Ikkitousen and Koihime Musou are content to hide behind their superficial veil of dignity that not exposing their buxom female cast provides, but subsequently lose credibility for attempting to obscure what they are peddling. Queen's Blade abandons that masquerade and provides a refreshingly forthright cornucopia of female flesh.
Not to imply the show has in any way improved, only that it has no ideas above its station. The characters have remained static between seasons and their reasons for participating in the titular tournament are as weak as ever. The first half is especially adept at time wasting, expanding upon and then eliminating characters who were tertiary at best in the first series until both Tomoe and Reina have built up enough impetus to fight. There are brief glimmers of inspiration: the dynamic between the three sisters and the relationship with their father is drawn out as much as it can be; meanwhile Tomoe and her adjutant Shizuka's interplay, isolated thought it is, has a depth the series rightly doesn't deserve. Unfortunately these rare threads are lost in the torrent of banality that swarms every other character, be it the angel Nanael voiced by the ear grating Aya Hirano, or the aggressively sexual elf Echidna and her protégé Irma - all are insipidly bland and mar an otherwise serviceable core story.
The series forgot at some point the kind of levity it has been afforded and unsuccessfully attempts to tell a story of heartbreak and emotion instead of revelling in its inanity. Beyond the spurt of profuse nakedness in the opening episodes, the disrobing becomes an afterthought to dead-pan serious problems such as the orphaning of a child or the mercantile proclivities of a mountain dwarf. The climax of the series, built up as an epic battle between fearsome warriors, is instead a barrage of contextless dialogue and cringeworthy exposition that ends precisely as expected. Without the ridiculous situations the prior series delighted in, proceedings become stale, not helped by the lack of direction for the fights themselves: arguably the key element to a story centring on pugilistic women. Despite reportedly healthy sales, animation is substandard at best and combat is reduced to endless banter interspersed with poorly drawn static shots and speed lines; only the occasional jiggle of breasts is lavished with misplaced attention that stands-out only for its ridiculousness.
Queen's Blade had every opportunity to be something more than what it is. Whether full bore perversity, combat spectacle or the age-old tale of grit and determination triumphing over adversity. Instead the second season tries to grow a plot unbefitting its origins and discards the elements which made it a guiltily entertaining romp through a nonsense fantasy world. The collage of characters lack coherence and chemistry, the story is asinine to the point of insulting and the production lacks any element that would elevate an otherwise tepid show to watchable. Chronically dull, thoroughly pedestrian and not worth the time or effort involved in its watching.
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