Review/discussion about: Shinmai Maou no Testament Burst
Shinmai Maou no Testament Burst has an affinity for bathing. That makes sense. An ecchi anime without a bath scene or two is like an anime without animation – it is almost unheard of.
For myself, bathing has never generated any exceptional stories. Save for one.
Growing up, I’ve always liked minty snacks. But, as a young kid, I took it a few steps further. When I bathed, I had this plastic container that I would fill with both water and toothpaste because the toothpaste tasted like mint. And, as the weirdo I was, I ate my watery-tooth-pasty concoction. Not just once either. Every shower, be it Crest or Aquafresh, I would partake in my makeshift, minty mousse.
The outcome? I would get sick. Many a night I had tears in my eyes and a bucket in my lap as I vomited a mixture of water, toothpaste, and SpaghettiOs. I did not learn my lesson for quite a while, but, suffice it to say, the only toothpaste I “eat” nowadays is by accident when brushing my teeth.
I tell this tale because watching Burst is like eating toothpaste: Its pleasing at first, but the bile aftertaste cannot be avoided.
Burst continues on from the first season. Basara still has his Banishing Shift, Mio cares deeply for her Onii-chan, and Yuki remains as forward as ever. However, there is evil afoot. Evil that this harem has to contend with.
Before diving into the bosom of the anime, some positives deserve to be pointed out. For starters, the anime adds more members to the harem: Yuki’s younger sister Kurumi and Zolgia’s former bodyguard Zest fall for Basara. Expanding the harem in a harem-focused anime is usually not a negative, so it deserves some props.
Burst also deserves props for continuing to make its sexual content purposeful. As with the first season, in order to strengthen the bond between Basara and the girls as well as increase their power, they must take part in lewd activities with each other. Having ecchi material for fun is fine, but having it be important to the narrative makes it that much more of a positive. So, once again, Burst gets props.
Unfortunately, where the anime begins to waver is in the activities themselves. In short, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, the sexual scenes more often than not take place in a bath or shower with one-too-many breast-to-back washings, inducing repetition and therefore a lack of creativity. On the other hand, some of the sexual scenes are quite nice. The girls cosplaying as dogs, some spanking punishment, and the entire harem going at it at once demonstrate that Burst understands how to do ecchi content right when it wants to.
Past the harem and the ecchi is where one begins to taste the bile. The ten episodes of this season are split up into essentially three different arcs. The first involves the school festival and the ensuing battles. The second involves a trip to the demon realm and the machinations therein. And the third involves a whole lot of fighting. All three are some combination of lame or boring.
In the first arc, a lot goes down. Yuki uses her butt to bump balloons, Basara loses his arm (for a short time), and both gods and vampires are introduced. While the sex scene with Hasegawa-sensei is beyond steamy (and welcome), many of the elements of this arc are not used later. For instance, the vampires and the heroes have no place. Hasegawa-sensei and the god-related information has no involvement. And even something as simple as Lars speaking with Mio and Yuki about killing Basara if they have to does not have such foreshadowing addressed since they never once attempt or even think about killing him – even when he rampages.
In the second arc, even more goes down. Political maneuvering by the moderate faction, the reigning Demon Lord, and the Demon Council make life difficult for Basara and the harem. During this middle stretch, character setup and event setup takes center stage. Massive entities called heroic spirits are introduced as is the catalyst for the rising of their leader Chaos. Basara and the gang get trained for the eventual tournament. And, all the while, sex runs rampant. Simply put, it’s middle of the road material.
In the third and final arc, the most goes down. Almost everybody fights somebody else. Mio crushes a heroic spirit. Maria loses to Lars. Kurumi gets tricked by her adversary – he later gets demolished. (That’s putting it lightly; the dude gets his arms cut off and his body beaten beyond recognition.) Yuki decimates her opponent (the brother of a villain from the first season) with an unseen flurry. Basara squares off against Leohart. And they, with Mio, quarrel with Chaos while everybody else deals with protecting the city.
This last arc reduces the ecchi density, and that’s a problem for this ecchi-centric show, but a bigger problem exists. Namely, too much villain clutter. Before the tourney, Ramsas, Leohart, one of Leohart’s followers named Gald, Lars, and a lesser lackey named Nebra are all antagonists. Then, during and after the tourney, the Demon Council, a helper of the Demon Council named Viscount Admirath, Chaos, and Leohart’s older sister named Riara are added to the mix. But, to make matters even worse, some of the initial antagonists flip sides, making it hard to say who exactly the group is combating let alone what they are combating for.
Still, the outcome of this clutter actually has some merit. Basara killing off a high-ranking, dangerous figure stops the radicals from revolting. The murder of the entire Demon Council (at the hands of Riara) removes a lot of tension in the demon world. And Basara and Mio working with Leohart to stop Chaos and subsequently save the city gives Mio indirect protection from would-be pursuers because, now, wars will die down and a “path to peace,” as Basara’s father Jin puts it, can be traveled.
The final scene of Burst has each of the girls of Basara’s harem throwing themselves at him. Said scene succinctly sums up the anime. The season has a narrative that is not too concerned with delivering a profound message. Instead, all it wanted to do was deliver some sexual goodness with an action-heavy plot on the side.
Yet, on both fronts, it did not hold up all that well.
Much of Burst’s art has no redeeming qualities.
The lighting is not played with, the cinematography does not go beyond the standard, and the backgrounds are plain. In particular, episode eight has shot of the audience from afar, but they all appear to be human. Considering they are in the demon world, and that people of irregular skin colors had been shown moments prior (e.g., green, dark blue, etc.), this mistake was either an oversight or slight laziness. Of course, this observation is nitpicking, but it somewhat indicates the care the art received.
In terms of animation, Burst has a lot of fighting that goes on over the course of the season. “Fighting,” though, may be the wrong word. The fights usually consist of lots of explosions. Lots of explosions. Mio creating a black hole, Ramsus generating gravity magic, and Jin evaporating a section of a forest whilst training his son leave very little room for choreography and, hence, a reduction in actual animation.
But this reduction is done for an obvious reason: the ecchi content. For Burst, it puts as much attention as it can into its sexual scenes. Breasts jiggle, tongues twirl, and bodies dance, creating one libido-driven spectacle after another.
Returning again is the anime’s brand of censoring. When nipples or too much below the waist would have been shown, the anime overlays these naughty bits with cutesy miniatures of the characters. This time around, there are even more variations, like Zest in a maid outfit with spatulas that form an X or a distressed Kurumi that does her best to hide herself. While the censoring is certainly unfortunate – arguably a detriment – having it be a comedy bit as opposed to a total nuisance makes up somewhat for including it.
Also returning are the nice character designs. Symbolism still exists: Mio’s red symbolizes her fiery passion, Yuki’s blue symbolizes her coolness, and so on. The newcomers get the same treatment: Kurumi’s purple symbolizes her sense of respect, and Zest’s yellowish-green symbolizes her happiness and stability. Besides the colors, the girls do not change their outfits all that much, and the outfits they usually wear are not that detailed. Regardless, the girls have pretty faces and ample figures, increasing their attractiveness and thereby improving their ecchi scenes that much more.
The cast of Burst finds a lot of difficulty in being more meaningful than just the sex they so often showcase. And, to some extent, that’s fine. What the girls lack in thematic weight they make up for in fetishes. At least, the harem girls do.
Mio’s all about her breasts, Yuki has her butt, Maria goes kinky, Zest is the exotic-looking maid, and Kurumi does the whole underarm deal. To put it differently, the girls have a specialization that differentiates them beyond just their personalities. Plus, having such sexual diversity only improves the ecchi content.
Examining the cast beyond their sex-centric traits begins to reveal problems.
Starting with Basara, he arguably ends up as the worst character of the bunch. He acts as a standard, harem lead: ultra-powerful, overly kind, and surrounded by beauties. These traits are fine since the audience is more or less meant to self-insert into his role. It’s more everything else that hurts him.
First, some explanation. This seasons sees Basara struggling to contain his power. Early on, he’s shown to have no control, prompting Jin to train Basara harder. Jin also drops the most important bit of info – Basara has to eliminate his so-called “limiters” if he stands a chance of beating the baddies and reigning in his beastlike power.
Jin essentially tells Basara that these limiters are personal battles, conscious and subconscious wars that Basara has to win to overcome. But Basara does not do any waging. In fact, he almost cheats, taking some (alluringly heart-shaped) drugs to overcome the limiters placed on him and, subsequently, his power. It feels entirely like a copout – rather than progressing as a person, he just pops some pills to save the day. He continues to prove his own lack of development when he is unable to stop himself from rampaging once again near the end of the season.
Cue Mio. A lot of Mio’s character revolved around Basara. If she was compatible with him. Placing trust in him. Whether or not she could protect him when he needed it most. In this way, a lot of her actions have him in mind: debasing herself to enhance the Master-Servant pact, going berserk herself when she believes Basara has perished, and believing in him when he asks her to.
Mio has conflicts of a more personal nature. Going back to the demon realm creates feelings of trepidation and uncertainty, feelings that she does her best to confront. But, in a nice bit of writing on Burst’s part, this conflict ties back to her relationship with Basara. Instead of going at it all alone – like the Mio of last season may have done – she leans on him and, to some extent, her other friends.
The peak of Mio’s character happens at the trough of Basara’s. As Basara rampages, still unable to control himself, Mio does what Basara has always done for her: She rushes to help him. Granted the whole wading through his mind is a bit too magical for the anime, but it lets Mio return the favor by being there for Basara. The sexual nature of this encounter may seem out of place, but, when ecchi is so common and their relationships are literally strengthened through sex, it makes perfect sense in context. And so Mio, rather surprisingly, becomes the best character Burst has to offer.
A few other characters are worth talking about: Yuki, Maria, Lars, Kurumi, and Zest.
Yuki’s handled strangely. Throughout a sizeable portion of the season, Yuki has nightmares of losing her friends and huge concerns for Basara. Essentially, she worries about losing those close to her – similar to what happened in the past. But neither of her problems are confronted. She fails in protecting Kurumi and Maria, and, even more strangely, she never says a single word to Basara about her worries. To be fair, Kurumi gives a small piece of encouragement to Yuki, but it is not nearly enough to compensate for how poorly her character unfolds.
The anime also tries to make Maria into a more meaningful character. Her older sister Rukia demonstrates just how immature Maria tends to be, but a lack of interaction between the two of them – be it conversation or even just battling side-by-side at length – fails to make this parallel purposeful. The parallel of Maria and Rukia with Yuki and Kurumi also goes nowhere besides quick shots of all of them battling together in the finale.
Then, during the tournament, Lars chides Maria for trying to use her unlocked power, claiming that her trying to wield such power without first controlling it is futile. His words ring true when she loses the fight.
This idea both works and doesn’t. It works because it ties in with her immaturity and has parallelism with Basara’s own struggles. It does not work because her unlocked power was never used or called into question beforehand, and she neither uses nor reflects on her power afterward, making Lars’s words feel empty.
As for Lars himself, he ends up a bit better character-wise. Largely because he sits in a morally ambiguous spot – his allegiance coincides with his own personal desires. For him, that’s revenge against those that hurt him and his friends oh so long ago. At the same time, he has moments of humanity, advising Maria and helping Basara and warning both Mio and Yuki. That is, he focuses on aiding himself while also aiding those around him. Usually in whatever way best suits him.
That explains his mask: His motivations remain hidden behind a veil of ambiguity. Unfortunately, this depth is as deep as Lars’s character goes. He does not get the chance to (directly) exact that revenge, and he does not have a large enough presence within the anime to greatly affect the characters and the outcomes.
Kurumi and Zest are last. Besides being the newest additions to the harem, they represent the concept of acceptance. Kurumi is naïve and Zest has never really had people who cared about her for her. Despite this, Basara, Mio, and the others (especially Maria in Kurumi’s case) accept them into their circle, providing them with the camaraderie and friendship they have always sought. Their characters do not get much more than this, but it was nice to see them get something.
Overall, it’s hard to say how strong the cast is. Mio sits at the top, Basara’s at the bottom, and everyone else is in-between. But the balance tips more towards Basara’s end than it does Mio’s, sexual specializations or no.
The opening track of Burst is, at first listen, nothing special. Some nice singing accompanied by a rock-n-roll and orchestral composition make the song both cool and lofty. On second and third listens, however, the song changes. Becomes different for two reasons.
One, the vocalist changes. Rather than sticking to one singer, the track switches the singer multiple times creating multiple versions of the piece. Two, some of these versions include sound-effects. As the song plays, one can hear Yuki slicing at a heroic spirit or Maria landing with immeasurable force on a roof. Technically these sound-effects get in the way of the OP, but they, however slightly, make the track somewhat special.
The ending track does change up its visuals but not the actual music itself. This track as well combines the rock-n-roll and orchestral compositions, making it sound a lot like the OP. The major difference here is that the ED likes its background choir. It’s a painfully average piece that barely deserves to be deemed an ED.
The rest of the original soundtrack is likewise par for the course. Burst includes hard battle tracks for the numerous fights it contains. It includes ominous tracks for the dramatic times and softer tracks for the melancholy ones. And it includes grandiose tracks for those steamier moments. Nothing extraordinary, nothing awful. Just a whole lot of passable.
The only section that performs well is the voice acting. Sarah Emi Bridcutt as Yuki, Yuu Asakawa as Hasegawa-sensei, and Seiko Yoshida as Zest (with shout-outs to the other voice actresses) not only have voices befitting their roles – cool, mature, and subservient respectively – but also their screaming in the streets and moaning in the sheets is duly appreciated.
I cannot deny that the only reason I decided to watch the sequel was for the ecchi content therein.
And, for the most part, I liked the sexual scenes quite a bit no matter how repetitive they could be at times. Though there were two big issues: everything not ecchi and the character density.
It says a lot that whenever the anime was attempting to push action or drama that I just wanted them to get back to showing off Mio and the others half-naked. The vampire kid in the first arc was lame, I did not care for Leohart and the politics, and the tournament with its heroic spirits made me yawn. Luckily the tournament had the cat-girl announcer in the skimpy outfit (yet another fetish added to the anime’s list) to give me something worth watching.
The second problem was the character density. By “character density,” I simply mean the proportion of the character’s on-screen time to the overall season. This includes ecchi content, too. I am partial to Yuki, Hasegawa-sensei, and Zest, but they have some of the lowest character density. Hasegawa-sensei only appears in the first three episodes with just a single ecchi scene of her own. Same goes for Zest but in the middle of the season.
Yuki, however, is the most disappointing. She’s around, but she does a lot more fighting and worrying than interacting. Worse still, all of that fighting and worrying cuts into the amount of ecchi content she gets – nothing short of a shame.
Shinmai Maou no Testament Burst does not so much burst as it does fizzle. Almost everything, from the story to the music to the entertainment, has issues that the anime has difficulty correcting. On second thought, eating toothpaste may not be all that horrible of an alternative.
Story: Bad, the harem expands and the ecchi is purposeful, but repetition in the sexual scenes and a shoddy plot create a subpar narrative
Animation: Fine, bad artistic direction, okay actual animation, funny censoring, and nice character designs
Characters: Bad, the girls specialize in fetishes, but, with the exception of Mio, the cast has too many problems or are simply not relevant enough
Sound: Fine, okay OP, bad ED, okay OST, good VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, while the ecchi content was appealing, the action and drama, as well as a lack of Yuki, Hasegawa-sensei, and Zest, was not
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3