Discussing IkkiTousen’s third season, I described the show as “sexist, and stupid, and slapdash”.” Nonetheless I obviously enjoyed it enough to return for Xtreme Xecutor, season four of the anime. What made me come back for more was the appeal of the show’s “insistence on the insubstantial” – it’s as substantial as a helium balloon, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A frothy, fan-service-heavy piece of fluff is a welcome change from grim television shows like The Leftovers (not that there’s anything wrong with grim, mind).
The earliest episodes of Xtreme Xecutor promise a similarly nonchalant approach to the requirements of plot and they include a refreshing self-referential sense of humour; newcomer Mouki Bachou is introduced (of course) with a close-up on her bountiful bouncing breasts as she marches to inflict revenge on Nanyo Academy. Only minutes into the episode, however, those jiggling bosoms are revealed to be sweet buns stuffed into Mouki’s top, and it’s great to see the writers finding some time to poke fun at themselves.
That nonchalance soon evaporates, unfortunately. A handful of episodes are devoted to the kind of unserious frivolity that made Great Guardians enjoyable despite itself, as Mouki ingratiates herself with Hakafu. Even the fan-service is relatively light on the ground for a while; there’s a bath scene here or there, but for a while you get the sense that the writers are actually interested in telling a story.
They are, but unfortunately the tone of that story is antithetical to what made the anime a guilty pleasure in its previous season. Conflict is introduced as barely-dressed Moyu battles a nude Choun on the rooftops (shown here in GIF form – one of the very few times the show successfully uses fan service to service the plot), and soon the entirety of Nanyo Academy is engaged in full-scale conflict with warriors serving the mysterious Kentei.
Okay, fine, whatever; after all, the putative purpose of this series is to stage fights between its characters. But as the plot becomes serious and things get dark, the show gets a lot less enjoyable. It doesn’t help matters that fan-service ramps up just as the violence gets more gruesome; I don’t want to know the kind of person who thinks a topless girl being beaten bloody by a group of armed men is erotic in any way. The fun increasingly bleeds out of the show, and the sexist undertones accumulate. A reveal that the mysterious – implicitly male – Kentei is actually a girl in disguise softens the blow a little (and isn’t especially surprising – as sexist as IkkiTousen is, its insistence on an almost entirely female cast generally avoids the “harem” problem where women fight for the attention of the milquetoast male protagonist).
It’s not an entirely lost cause; those first few episodes were fun, and the series is packaged with an insubstantial but enjoyable feature-length OVA (Shugaku Toshi Keppu-Roku) whose plot I’ve entirely forgotten. And those viewers hoping for a substantial slate of nudity and panty shots will be satisfied; a number of characters spend the majority of the last half of the season in clothes tattered enough to be strategically revealing. But overall, IkkiTousen Xtreme Xecutor demonstrates a conflict between content and tone that drains much of the pleasure out of this guilty pleasure.