A series that’s been on our radar for quite a while is Queen’s Blade, and that only intensified after the series contributed a few kisses to our List of Yuri Anime Kisses post.
Well, we finally got around to watching the first season, and we’re left with mixed feelings about it all…
Synopsis: In a land where a queen is chosen every few years solely by winning a tournament, there can be no short supply of formidable opponents. For one woman warrior however, an early defeat clearly shows her that she is lacking in experience though she may be bountiful in body.
Fortunately, while defeat could spell one’s doom, her life is saved by a powerful stranger. But unfortunately for this savior, less-than-pure motives and shrewd family members mean her reward is a prison cell. Her release is prompt when the unseasoned warrior she saved, tired of her current lifestyle of nobility, sets off to prove herself.
I should preface this review by saying that my expectations for this anime were very low. I saw Valkyrie Drive and didn’t enjoy it at all, so I was expecting that same exact thing here. And at least when it comes to the story, I’m not sure Queen’s Blade is any better than Valkyrie Drive.
This anime really sells the concept of the Queen’s Blade tournament, where strength and beauty help determine a winner that will become the next queen, but the main problem with that is, the tournament doesn’t even occur during this season. All we see are a mishmash of scattered battles that seem to have no bearing on who actually becomes queen. That’s not to say that these battles aren’t entertaining—they definitely are—yet they’d be more meaningful if there was more on the line.
At least each of the girls who are planning to participate have their own reasons for doing so, whether that’s to protect their country (Tomoe), provide a better life for orphans (Risty), test the limits of their strength (Leina), or any number of other reasons. Over the course of the season, there are quite a lot of characters introduced, although most of them see enough of the spotlight that you get a decent sense of their personalities and motivations, so the characterization of these girls isn’t bad.
The worldbuilding in Queen’s Blade is so-so, as are the high fantasy elements, and we can probably thank the absence of the tournament for that. Instead of seeing an organized series of battles, we got several of these girls making a long journey to the capital city of Gainos, and along the way, they encounter all sorts of trouble. Fantasy fans won’t be in awe or anything, but this aspect of the anime was a little better than what I expected.
And it may be cliché, but I always enjoy when several characters have to band together in order to defeat a new threat, and that’s exactly what happens in this anime. That doesn’t make up for the other shortcomings of the story, but it’s still pretty cool. All in all, it’s not as stupid as I would have guessed, though the character-driven story too often feels like it’s dragging its feet, and by the end of the season, I was left wishing it had taken a slightly more plot-driven approach.
The story may be a little disappointing, yet the cast of characters is surprisingly competent.
Despite her noble background, the main protagonist, Leina, is not unlike many of the protagonists you’ll find in similar action/adventure anime or even video games. She runs away from home and the future that’s expected of her as the next in line for the family throne, and she gets caught up in the world of scantily clad women who are chasing the power that comes with being queen.
Throughout the course of the season, we see her grow in strength and conviction, but I’m still not sure I buy her as a fighter that’s on the level of some of the other girls, even if she does manage to win some of those matches. Because of Leina’s headstrong attitude, I do like her, but sometimes, she seems to be too much of a Mary Sue, and that can get a little annoying.
Early on, Leina gets rescued by Risty, a chivalrous thief who has a good heart yet she’ll do some shady things in order to accomplish her goals. Thanks to her Robin Hood-like qualities, she’s pretty easy to like, and even though Leina wants to tag along with her and be friends, Risty cares more about getting to and winning the tournament than befriending anyone.
Leina’s half-sister, Claudette, acts as Leina’s foil for most of the season, and in terms of pure badassness, she’s a character that ranks near the top. Claudette has some family issues that she needs to sort out—which causes a bit of a rift with Leina—but she still falls into the “good girl” category. The youngest sister in the family, Elina, has a small role compared to the other two, however, she appears to be the closest thing the show has to a yuri character, so she’s another welcome addition to the cast.
Speaking of good, you can’t get any more divine than an angel, though Nanael isn’t your typical angel. She’s quite mischievous, but I think the show needed someone like her that’s playful and silly, so I suspect that she may be the favorite of many a viewer. Falling somewhere between friend or foe of Leina is Echidna, who sort of joins Elina as someone who perhaps likes Leina a little too much. A mercenary that seems to do whatever the hell she wants is an idea I can get behind, as is her role as a frenemy to a portion of the cast.
Another couple of girls that get a big push are Tomoe & Shizuka, a warrior priestess and her faithful (former) ninja ally. Tomoe is as honorable and righteous a character as there is in the show, but unlike Leina, that never really bothered me. Actually, if I were to pick a favorite character, it just might be her. And Shizuka isn’t bad either. We usually see her acting as Tomoe’s sidekick along her journey to participate in the Queen’s Blade tourney, so she’s a little underutilized (at least compared to Tomoe), yet she was still pretty awesome.
Some of the girls like Echidna and Claudette have a few qualities of a villain, but the real villains here are Melona, Menace, and Airi. The three of them serve as underlings of the Swamp Witch, and while all three have their qualities that help make them servicable antagonists, its Melona that takes the cake. After all, anyone who can fire acidic and/or explosive breast milk with the help of the extra pair of hands in their hair is obviously going to stand above their peers. She can also shapeshift into the form of other characters, but who cares about that? She uses breast milk as a deadly weapon, for crying out loud! 😛
Episode nine introduces us to Cattleya and Ymir—an esteemed weaponsmith and dwarven princess, respectively—and after they iron out their differences, they both intend to join the tourney as well. You can’t mention Cattleya and not talk about her ridiculously huge boobs. Most of the characters in the show have big boobs, but Cattleya’s are clearly on another level, and it’s funny and disgusting at the same time. On the flip side is Ymir, who appears to be a loli, but she’s actually older than Cattleya. She doesn’t act like it, however, which is what makes her really entertaining.
Like Cattleya and Ymir, Nowa and Alleyne are introduced a little later in the season, but they seem to have even less of an impact than the others. Probably the thing that sticks in my head the most about these two elves is how neither one of them wear panties. I know, I’m a horrible person for remembering that most. 😛
As for how yuri plays into all of this, there are no male characters in the show (besides Cattleya’s young son), so we’re free to read into these relationships and ship to our heart’s content. The most obvious example would have to be Elina, who seems to be a siscon. For most of the season, she’s away from Leina, yet she still longs to reunite with her, and she’s always commenting how Leina’s body belongs only to her. For the record, Leina doesn’t seem to share those sentiments, but they are there. There are also several duos that provide a little bit of subtext, such as Tomoe x Suzuka, Nowa x Alleyne, Leina x Risty, and Echidna x Leina. Also, don’t forget about those kisses I mentioned in the intro. While they’re not kisses meant as a sign of affection and they have some other reason for existing, the ones who administered those kisses (Airi and Echidna) seem to enjoy them a little too much to not mention. Valkyrie Drive this is not, though, it’s still not that hard to notice the yuri.
Holy hell this character section was long, but I guess you can say that the characters were the primary beneficiaries of the simple story, and for such a large cast, I was surprised that many of them left such positive impressions. I’d easily take this group over the casts from newer ecchi shows like Valkyrie Drive or Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai, despite those two having the benefit of being much stronger in terms of yuri.
If the major selling point of your anime is the extreme level of fanservice, you best believe that it better look good, and Queen’s Blade actually does look pretty good. I went back and forth as to whether the animation score should be 7.5 or 8, but I think it did just enough to earn the latter.
First and foremost, it’s no surprise that this anime is ecchi… really ecchi. Personally, I wouldn’t put it up there with Valkyrie Drive, but the copious amounts of boobs, crotch/ass shots, boob physics, and general states of undress are sure to please those who are simply watching for the T&A. Even the girls who wear armor are nearly naked, and unlike most other anime of this type, Queen’s Blade was uncensored, so there’s no need to search the internet for the lewder versions of these episodes.
Aside from the nudity, the battles themselves look pretty nice. Compared to some other action anime, they’re probably not as flashy or spectacular, yet they’re still entertaining and intense. In addition to the diverse environments, one other thing I really liked was the design of the characters, and I’m not talking about their physical assets (even though they are appreciated). Each of the girls bears a distinctive look that further adds to their level of badassness, and their barely there armor/clothing manages to look pretty cool as well. Look no further than Echidna and Aldra, who each have a unique take on panties. Okay, maybe their assets do play a small role in this after all… 😛
Especially in an anime like this, you can’t expect the sound to stand out as much as the visuals, however, the music is arguably the best thing about this anime. As I said earlier, I was expecting very little from this anime, so some legit production values are awesome. From what I recall, every piece of music used was instrumental, and, to me, those almost always end up being the ones you remember most. I always enjoying hearing a good orchestral score, and I honestly would have never expected Queen’s Blade to produce such a quality one.
Overall, Queen’s Blade isn’t bad as I had my preconceived notions had led me to believe. If it hadn’t have been for a weak story and narrative structure, this anime probably would’ve had a pretty decent score, because it does a good enough job at many of the different aspects that make this type of anime enjoyable. Thanks to all of the lewdity, it’s easy to look down on this anime and think it’s terrible, but it might surprise some people that it’s actually not that bad. If you’re into ecchi anime, you’ll probably like this, just don’t expect Valkyrie Drive levels of yuri.