Watching the latest series of Ikkitousen, with the absurd subtitle of Xtreme Xecutor, is like viewing a relic of the past. Series focused on both fighting and fanservice have long since surpassed it in terms of what can be offered: whether that's titillation or solid action, the first three episodes contain much of what characterised the first three series. Primarily an adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms epic (of which there is a self-titled, more straight faced series airing within the same season) with some lacklustre combat and ludicrously proportioned girls losing their clothing at the slightest opportunity. Next to nothing has changed from the preceding series, so like slipping into an old set of clothes, there is comfort in the familiar but also lamentation at their threadbare state.
Mostly ignoring the resolute waste of time that was Great Guardians, the schools are enjoying a time of relative peace after the battle which took place at the climax of Dragon Destiny. That is until a spunky young lass appears attempting to make trouble for some fatal grievance her brother-cum-guardian suffered at the hand of the nefarious Sousou. After a selection of tepid duels, some involving baked goods, she is put in her place and only barely manages to escape; she is picked up by Ryuubei stumbling blindly in the rain and taken to Seito. The girl, Bachou, begs to be trained at the school until a misguided excursion with Ryuubei leads to an intervention by the interminably ditsy Hakufu. Now begging to be trained by Hakufu, an imperial decree is delivered with word of a new fighting tournament, issued by someone claiming to be the Emperor Kentei.
The opening of the first episode is a scattershot recap of the plot covered in both Ikkitousen and Dragon Destiny; instead of informing though, this only serves to reinforce that if one is not intimately familiar with the Chinese source story or has not recently rewatched all of the pertinent series, most of the characters' motives and manoeuvring will remain oblique at best. The first three episodes of Xtreme Xecutor oscillate between goofy, staid humour and dense monologues referencing people, places and events with little to no context. Confusion reigns, not helped by story progression that is reliant upon little user characters who are poorly reintegrated with obscure flashbacks. It's sloppy storytelling combined with an original source that is ill suited to the buxom bombast on display. Thankfully the plot is almost entirely superfluous to enjoyment.
All of the series have been about scantily clad females - Kan'u's persistent choice of child size clothing a prime example - angling to pummel the consciousness out of each other. Add a dash of homosexual overtones and casual nipple exposure and the juxtaposition between licentiousness and literature becomes all the more pronounced. Understanding the myriad fractious loyalties or why the combatants attack who isn't going to make the plotting any less ham-fisted or the cast any more developed; despite the overwrought drama with characters such as Ryomou, her personality - what little is present - has been fixed since the beginning of Dragon Destiny. The Three Kingdoms-inspired story will make those already familiar with it more appreciative of the liberties no doubt taken, however this is a series concerned with curvaceous ladies and their disrobing antics. Whereas once the series had a mostly captive audience, now however it has been dethroned innumerable times over.
To its credit, the first three episodes of Xtreme Xecutor are undemanding in both content and premise; it may be a widescreen presentation cropped to standard resolution and the animation may not be spectacular but there is a charm to the silly-serious mix it manages so well, never favouring one over the other. Ikkitousen was never ground-breaking and the latest instalment is no exception, it certainly isn't the best place to start with the series; its tone however will stand one in good stead. Fans of previous incarnations who have stuck with it this far will find little to dissuade them from continuing besides their patience or an acute onset of apathy. Familiar, cheeky and unchallenging, three episodes is enough to inform that little has or will change, and more series will undoubtedly be forthcoming if their popularity remains constant.