High-schooler Ryoko Mitsurugi is adored by her fellow students. Her female
classmates make box lunches for her, and her male classmates slobber over her
pictures (especially ones taken while she's just waking up). Why is she so popular?
Well, Ryoko's the K-Fight champion at Daimon High, giving her a cachet like
Tiger Woods, Anna Kournikova, and Lennox Lewis all rolled into one.
And what is a K-Fight, you ask? Well, as is exhaustively explained in at
least half of the episodes on this DVD, a K-Fight is a special competition
established by the principal of Daimon High to allow students to work out
their differences in a gigantic arena fight, attended by the entire school.
And so, Ryoko's days are filled with an interminable series of these bouts,
as she fends off challengers ranging from a cliched bitchy rival to the
school's Amateur Ninja Club.
And that's this anime's biggest problem. It tries to be dramatic and serious,
with a plot involving Ryoko's destiny as an interdimensional monster slayer,
a subplot involving Daimon High's previous K-Fight champion who disappeared
after Ryoko beat him, and supporting characters like a serious-minded, laconic
shrine maiden and a reclusive swordmaster. But the entire K-Fight concept is
so goofy-ass and nonsensical that any attempts to build tension are defused
right from the start. The sudden shifts from dramatic to silly that work so
well in anime like Nadesico just don't work here. It's not wacky enough
to be funny by itself, but it's too wacky to provide any kind of grounding for
Worse, there's no emotional investment in any of the characters. The
personalities of everyone involved are bland, by-the-numbers, and all too
obviously the artificial constructions of lazy scriptwriters. Ryoko
herself is every bubble-headed anime heroine you've ever seen: not too
bright, kind of clumsy, but with a heart of gold, and a lot more
interesting when she was called Usagi Tsukino (or Yurika Misumaru, or Naru
Narusegawa, or Miaka Yuuki). Her best friend is bespectacled and shy, her
rivals are arrogant and insulting, her school's principal is mean and
conniving, the supernatural being urging her on to her destiny is
mysterious and cryptic, and all are about as deep as a puddle on the
sidewalk. There's no reason to care about any of them, much less their
Unfortunately, there's not a lot else to care about here, either. The character
designs, despite being done by Nadesico's Kenji Gotoh, are weirdly unattractive.
The males are gangly, while the females are chunky, and everyone's faces look
misshapen. The voice work isn't all that good, either in the dub or the sub.
Not even the presence of the supremely talented Wendee Lee and David Lucas (who
played the leads in the fantastic Cowboy Bebop dub) can save this. To
be fair, though, they aren't given all that much to work with, and they do make
the dub more than watchable.
Still, Real Bout High School isn't ALL bad. The DVD's menu designs are
fantastic, with a fighting videogame look and feel (right down to power bars
and joystick combos). The extras are also fairly exhaustive, with some original
Japanese TV trailers and a few making-of interviews with the cute-as-a-button
Japanese voice actresses (apparently, Japanese girls REALLY sound like that).
The animation itself, while limited in spots, is tightly choreographed and appropriately
kinetic for the all-important fight scenes. The colors are nice and bright (gotta
love Ryoko's hair). And while Ryoko herself isn't as cute as she should be,
the abbreviated nature of her school uniform means that her panties are on display
as often as her martial arts skills.
In the final reckoning, though, there's nothing in Real Bout High School
that some other anime doesn't do better. Perhaps the most notable thing about
it is that one of the English adaptation's writers was Tony Oliver ( who played
Rick Hunter in the original Robotech dub that made anime fans out of
so many of my generation), and the laconic little shrine-maiden is voiced by
Reba West (who was Minmei in the same Robotech dub). Still, it's not
a good sign when sole spark of interest in your anime comes from the nostalgic
presence of some classic voice actors. This anime won't insult you, but neither
will it leave you satisfied. It tries too hard to be like other anime, and fails
If I were you, I'd skip Real Bout High School and go pick up one of
those other anime.