Funny thing with this show. I was covering it weekly but suddenly stopped. Not because I lost interest but it was during that point in my blogging career where I slowed down due to personal stuff something that made me very angry at the time. Anyway I binged episodes 9-23 in one day and saw the finale on the day this review was written. Let us find out whether this show was, as our good friend Rory initially thought, a decent romp like Battle Girl High School or Schoolgirl Strikers or something more as we take a look at Toji no Miko.
Alternate Title: Katana Maidens ~ Toji no Miko (English)
Genres: Action, Supernatural.
Number of episodes: 24
G-Rating: 8/10 though some may see it as a 7 or 6.
Plot Summary: Since ancient times, shrine maidens who wield swords have been exorcising “aradama,” strange existences that threaten the human world. These young women who wear school uniforms and a sword are called “Toji,” and they serve as an official unit within the police force as a “special religious service police squad.” The government authorizes the Toji to wear swords and serve as government officials, and the government has set up five schools throughout the country for the girls to attend. In the spring, the five schools send their best Toji to compete in a tournament. As the tournament comes closer, all of the representatives rigorously train themselves in order to get stronger and improve their skills.
To answer the above question right away Toji no Miko is indeed something more than previous shows about a group of girls fighting against giant monsters and possibly other swordswomen. Besides the cool sword fights of varying length and occasional monster/aradama slaying there is much more to this show than that. See, it is a show in which its world is filled with a rich history while being set in the modern age. Think of it as a merging of old traditions while also embracing the advancements in technology for the greater good. Going back to the history a lot of it has meaning and plays a role in the story and battles such as the okatana (though the ones relevant to the plot belong to our leading ladies) and the battle auras that protect the Toji from lethal blows so long as they can emit it in battle. Should they be exhausted and can no longer emit the aura the next attack from the opponent could be their last.
Watching the show I felt a similar viewing experience as I did with Tales of Zestiria – The X though I will admit the fights in this show were cooler. What I meant by a similar viewing experience is that the first episode, as indicated in the summary, got right into the action being about a fighting tournament. However, that whole summary…it only applies to the first episode. From the second episode onward the story goes in an entirely different direction that will remind some viewers of the first half of Kill La Kill. Some viewers also recognized elements from Bleach, specifically with Kanami. Then suddenly the story changes yet again when major plot twists are sprinkled into the mix. The best part. All these twists and turns happen in the first half of the show. During the second half it takes its time before getting back to the action and while there are still more bombshells dropped and surprise moments waiting the second half has a more concrete direction, meaning viewers will have an idea what is going on and what our heroines are fighting for. Another reason I brought up Zestiria – The X was that the show takes its time to set things up. It is not all action. This is more evident early on in the second half but the early parts of the first half also take its time to explain things. Expect a lot of in-depth conversations and strategizing alongside the character development and intense action. It all works and no character feels like they were there just because. Almost every character from both the face and heel side get their time in the spotlight.
Let us move on to the action. The duels start off short and sweet similar to real life ones which were confirmed as not being anywhere near as long as ones in anime. Of course as the story progresses and our heroines face stronger foes who do not abide by the one strike rule the duels become much longer, faster and more intense, almost shounen like but with swords instead of fists. Think of some of the duels in Samurai Jack and you will get the idea. Some even surpass the intensity in Samurai Jack while still maintaining the emotional weight in some of them. It is like Kanami said, a great warrior can learn a lot about their opponent in a duel.
Best way I can describe the animation, especially in the longer duels, is it being really flashy. Yes the aradama and much of the combat is in CG so it may be an issue for viewers who have problems with Japanese CGI. I am used to it so it did not bother me. Both because the aradama are more like sub-bosses, meaning fights against them do not last long and there are not that many duels involving aradama beasts. Also the regular duels were flashy enough to keep me satisfied though not everyone agrees. The soundtrack is solid. I enjoy the more Japanese sounding tunes. The OPs and EDs for both halves of the show are fun to listen to.
Instead of discussing all the characters let us go over the leading duo. Kanami is the cheerful one of the two. Her defining trait is being a katana nerd, meaning she is familiar with many katana based fighting styles. This is very advantageous to her as her vast knowledge, giving her the ability to analyze opponents’ movements, along with her nearly prodigy like combat skills (There is a reason why she is as good as she is) make her a force to be reckoned with. Think of her as a female Goku (Dragon Ball) except she is capable of balancing her feelings for other people and her obsession with combat without coming off like a douche. Hiyori is the more stoic of the two, dedicated to her mission and not as amicable. Basically Kanami’s Vegeta during the Cell Saga, meaning nowhere near as bloodthirsty but sharing his grumpiness and being easily embarrassed. The rest of the cast, both faces and heels, have their own traits and as mentioned get their time in the spotlight to develop their characters during combat and casual time.
This of course leads to the Yuri goodness. There are several pairings on the show ranging from ones who have some cute moments to others who will make people say “get a room you two”. The most obvious one is KanaYori (Or KanaHiyo. Whatever) along with another cute one. The third pairing are less snuggles so not a ship worthy. In the first half there are some Yuri moments but compared to the ocean that is the second half it is like a drop in a bucket. Basically the Yuri goodness becomes much more apparent during the second half.
Overall Toji no Miko started off like another decent romp starring a large group of combat girls but quickly became much more than that. It takes its time explaining things and developing characters during calm scenes and strategy meeting while going balls to the wall in duels as the story progresses. The cast of characters are all fun on both the face and heel side and are worth cheering and booing respectively with the occasional sympathetic characters. Not sure who to recommend the show to…Umm…Okay. People who like seeing badass girls in badass duels…and are patient. Yes. Let us go with that.