Brave 10 is a twelve episode anime series based off the manga that ran from 2007 to 2010. The series does have an ending to it, but at the same time, leaves a lot open to continue on with, which is probably why they picked up the manga again in 2011 under the title Brave 10 Spiral, which is also getting an anime treatment I’ve heard. The show and the manga are very visually easy on the eyes and have a lot going on in that area, but aside from having an interesting mix of characters that actually make the show enjoyable, you’re basically watching a group of misfits trying to save the world from an evil force, and that basic plot doesn’t get expounded on too much outside of the characters themselves. So if you’re looking for a new over-arching plot for a series, you won’t find it here, but it looks like the seeds were planted and nurtured a bit for that in the second series. Let’s take a look.
The series is a fictional take on events that occurred during the Warring States period of medieval Japan. Lords fight and ally against other lords in a bid for control, leading up to the unification of political power under the Tokugawa Shogunate after raging from the 15th to the 17th century. The series is set about a year before the Battle of Sekighahara, which is towards the end of the Warring States period. While set in the period, aside from the more fantastical elements to this story, it also plays with the legend of the Sanada Ten Braves from which the show takes its title. Brave 10 itself is not entirely focused on Sanada, although him bringing the Ten Braves together is a big focus, but this is definitely more of an ensemble show with most everyone getting equal spotlight, though a little more is cast on Yukimura Sanada, Saizo Kirigakure and Isanami.
Isanami is who we’re first introduced to, as the Temple she was living at is assaulted by a mysterious force and she’s forced to flee as everyone there risks their own lives to get her out before she can be taken. She’s instructed to seek out Yuikmura Sanada at Ueda Castle, a remote but fortified castle, and get his help, but is told little else beyond that. On the way, she’s attacked by the same group that was hunting her down at the temple and seeks the help of Saizo Kirigakure, who wants absolutely nothing to do with helping anyone at all, but as he’s seen Isanami, the ninjas trailing her plan to off him as well, which he isn’t going to put up with. He dispatches her pursuers and agrees to escort her to Ueda Castle, if only to get a look at what is supposedly not able to be taken. Their trip is interrupted by Sasuke Sarutobi, who has a distaste for ninjas trained in Saizo’s style, and the two end up fighting, but are interrupted by Isanami who just wants to get where she’s going. The pair do get an audience with Sanada, who’s attended by Rokuro Unno, but Sanada isn’t moved by Isanami’s troubles and even less by Saizo’s attitude, and only give her a night’s shelter at his castle.
Predictably, when Saizo and Isanami leave, they are attacked once again by the group after Isanami, however it’s revealed that Sanada and Sasuke were using them to lure out whoever was after Isanami, and after she gets blood on her, it’s revealed that Isanami has some kind of hidden power attached to her, as she turns her attackers to ash and collapses. Sanada realizes he must help her and takes her in, using Saizo’s honor against him to get him to work for the feudal lord. Sanada realizes that he can’t protect or use Isanami effectively with just the forces at his disposal, and decides to create a team composed of ten members, one for each finger (yes I know you only have 8 fingers and 2 thumbs but go with it). This team will help him protect Isanami and help figure out the power she wields.
So the show basically ends up revolving around Isanami and dealing with her powers, the temple attack, what they are and how to save her and the world. They lay seeds for a rivalry between Sanada and Masamune Date, a military commander in charge of Oshu that will eventually lead to them squaring off in historical events on the battlefield but yield little more than a sparring match and a hint at future events in a future series. While they do spend some time on this, the thrust of the series is Sanada gathering together his Brave 10 and protecting Isanami from the forces of Hanzo Hattori, who was actually involved in the attack on the Temple she was living at, as well as defeating his ninja forces to keep them from harnessing Isanami’s powers for their own purposes.
Isanami isn’t quite the damsel in distress, and is kind of the glue holding most of this series together. While she gets in trouble, she gets out of a lot of it on her own or stops many of the fights cold through force of will or her powers. Her affection for Saizo is very much a crush and is definitely one of the main things driving her at first in the show. Saizo is the quintessential anime anti-hero to a fault. While he does grow, it’s very predictable, but at the same time is amusing to watch because of the way the show is written. Sasuke Sarutobi is kind of like a Ranger from Dungeons and Dragons if they were ninjas. He’s very soft-spoken and brief, like he hasn’t had much contact with people, and has some strong opinions on things. Anastasia is the only female of the ten and also the only foreigner. She’s got some history with Saizo and isn’t interested in him at all, but Isanami doesn’t take it that way. Ana, as Saizo calls her, likes to watch before she engages and tends to not let things get her riled up. Juzo Kakei is the only member of the group who uses a more modern weapon, in the form of a matchlock, but is an expert marksman. He’s fiercely loyal to Sanada but is terrified of heights and has a connection to pirates.
Kamanosuke Yuri is a bit of a conundrum. When we first meet him, he’s disguised as a woman, is often mistaken for a woman, has a very intense, well, interest, sexually, in Saizo, looks very pretty either way, is extremely violent and gets off on it, and really hates that everyone thinks he’s a woman at first glance. Benmaru probably gets the least amount of development after he’s introduced, as he’s a younger child with no home, but some skills with explosive traps makes him useful. Benmaru attaches himself to Seikai Miyoshi, who’s the ‘brother’ of Isanami, and isn’t very bright, but can take a ton of punishment and is constantly searching for answers from God. Jinpachi Nezu is the last introduced from the ten and has ties to Juzo through his piracy. Each of the Brave 10 bring a unique ability to the table, and Sanada basically leaves it up to them to determine a pecking order, with himself as ultimate leader. The characters and their interactions make what could have been another action show in a long line of them far more interesting, along with the fantasy elements.
The voice actors for all of the characters do a great job, and the music suits both events in the show and the opening and closing. The frantic fight scenes are often underscored by the somber countryside and leads to some great moments audibly. Like all releases from NIS America so far, you’ll be listening to this in Japanese, as there is no English dub available. This has the side issue of the subtitles always being on screen, as the blu-ray releases have no way of turning these off. Visually there’s a lot going on in this, but it’s never hard to see what or who is on screen, and it looks great. The production is fantastic and was a lot of fun to take in.
As far as extras go, I do have to say this isn’t my favorite collection for it. The standard disc based extras are included, so you get a text free opening and closing credits, as well as the commercials for the show. The collection is Blu-Ray only, as I mentioned earlier, so you won’t have the option for turning subtitles off, and on top of that, it limits where you can take them as most people have DVD players but not everyone has a Blu-Ray player. This isn’t usually an issue for me, but I admit I like being able to take these on the go sometimes to share with friends. The price cut difference between versions they’ve released in the past with and without DVDs isn’t really a deal-maker, however, as it only saves you between four and five dollars based on their past sets, and depending on which site you buy your set from. The NISA site actually has the best deal on them.
Off the disc extras, you do get an artbook and collector’s sleeve to hold the book and the two discs the series comes on. The discs are in slim cases with some nice artwork on them. The whole set is about eight inches wide by about eleven inches long and about an inch thick, so it’s not small. We’re talking coffee table set here or bookshelf set, not DVD and Blu-Ray shelf sized at all. Bear that in mind. The case itself and the artbook look great however, like all the NISA releases. The artwork on the exterior looks great. This is the first artbook, however, I was a little disappointed with. Usually the artbooks have a character section, maybe an episode guide or behind the scenes interviews, and then a poster section with some great artwork inside. Brave 10 kind of has that.
The artbook has an episode guide with screenshots from the show and episode synopsis. It’s pretty standard, but usually they do something related to the show, though this one just didn’t fit and looked almost thrown together. After the episode synopsis, they decided to break down the characters, including all the Braves and a few of the antagonists. The character pages do look good, and it’s nice to see the character artwork here as well as the brief descriptions for each, but interspersed between the characters are full pages dealing with the various techniques they use, as well as a few splash pages of poetry, and the pages there aren’t only unnecessary and take up space as filler, but they don’t look as good as other artbooks we’ve gotten in the past. I’d have rather they excised these and put the poster pages or interviews we’d gotten before in past sets instead, but we don’t get the poster pages at all. This ends up being the most lackluster of the artbooks that’s come with the sets so far, which is a shame as I really liked the show and would have loved the companion artbook that comes with it to be just as much fun, but it ends up being a bit of a letdown.
As a complete package, then, this one is a little hard to recommend just because of my disappointment over the artbook, which is actually a big portion of why you’d get a premium edition like this one. On the other hand, if you wait for NISA to put out the barebones version, you’re not going to be saving much money and might as well have opted for this version anyway. Just taken on the merit of the show alone, I really did enjoy the anime. While it seems almost pretty standard action fluff with an anti-hero and a ‘stop the enemy from covering the world in darkness’ plot, the characters and their interactions really sold this for me and took it from being just standard to being something a little more. The ensemble cast isn’t completely wasted, and while some characters get more to do and more screen time than others, none of them feel wasted. Now, the sub-plot of the plotting warlords being expounded upon mid-series and then basically dropped to finish off the end of the world plot, then hinting at more, was a bit of a letdown, but as there’s a sequel series in the planning I’d expect that to get picked up and run with there. If you like action shows with some gorgeous art, fun characters and very good looking people in it, then you’ll like this one.