Anime / Saber Marionette J

"Shogun! Shogun! Shogun! Shogun! Shogun! ... What's a shogun?"

Several centuries after an almost-failed colony attempt, the planet Terra II is a strange place. Its human population is entirely male, born from recombinant DNA and cloning technology, and its hostile surface is home to six widely-separated city-states, each mimicking an earthly culture ranging from medieval Japan to 20th-Century America. Women have not been forgotten among the men of Terra II, though — simple-minded automatons called "marionettes" are built in exclusively female form, and act as servants, entertainers, concubines — and in some cases, infantry troops.

In the city-state of Japoness, which is modeled after Edo-era Japan, industrious orphan Otaru struggles to make ends meet. Too poor to afford a marionette of his own, he runs back and forth through the city trying to scrape up enough cash to live on with a series of odd jobs. In the wake of a mishap during one such job, Otaru finds and awakens Lime — a marionette who acts more like a real person than an automaton, loaded with emotions, curiosity, and an unfortunate tendency to attract trouble.

Otaru soon finds himself the center of a great deal of attention, including (to his shock) that of the shogun. And two more "unusual" marionettes, Cherry and Bloodberry, soon end up in his possession. As a neighboring city-state modeled after Nazi Germany begins gearing up for war with Japoness, Otaru must guide and teach what amounts to three affectionate and rambunctious teenagers — whom he will discover hold within themselves the keys not only to Japoness' long term survival, but to the secrets behind the failure of the colony mission and to the rescue of the last survivor of the original crew.

Saber Marionette J is a series of light novels that are very obscure, and would probably have remained so, had the creators not made a Radio drama taking place 500 years after in the future, Saber Marionette R. R follows Virrey Junior, prince of Romana, and his Marionettes, named after the ones from J. It was eventually adapted into an OVA, and most likely lead to the novels getting an Animated Adaptation. The anime starts off as a light comedy, but slowly turns more dramatic as time goes on. It generally has a healthy mix of humor and suspense, and is a Cult Classic to those who watched it, especially in Latin America.

It was subsequently followed by several sequels, most notably Saber Marionette J Again, an OVA revolving around a new Marionette and Saber Marionette J To X, a second and final season. There's also a videogame for the first Playstation called Battle Sabers. It never was released outside of Japan.

A new anime project was revealed by AIC. If a certain image is to be believed, Saber Marionette J Last Story is going to be a lot more faithful to the original novels.

Created by Satoru Akahori, the creator of Mon Colle Knights, Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Sorcerer Hunters, Maze Megaburst Space, and Sakura Wars, and Hiroshi Negishi, director of several Tenchi Muyo! spinoffs.

Has a character sheet for the four installments, in desperate need of some wiki magic love.


  • Ambiguous Situation: It's left unsaid whether or not the marionettes their previous lives. The last episode seems to imply they don't, however.
Action Marionette: Several of them.
  • Affectionate Parody: Planet full of men but not women, good amount of Running Gags, Homosexuality is considered the standard while liking female androids is out of the question, and yet, it doesn't always remain a comedy. Parody of Shōnen? You bet.
  • Alien Sky: Terra II has about 5 moons.
  • All There in the Manual: Jokes aside, general information of Lime and the other characters are found in their character bios in the DVD sets for the J series. Among them are full body measurements, as well as code-names and miscellaneous stats.
    • Lime: Measurements (83-55-85cm) Height (5'1'') Weight (99lb).
    • Cherry: Measurements (80-50-80cm) Height (4'11'') Weight (95lb).
    • Bloodberry: Measurements (95-60-88cm) Height (5'5'') Weight (110lb).
  • Almost Kiss: Cherry and Otaru almost share their first kiss two times, but are stopped by Lime's timing.
    Cherry: (thinking) Geez, why does Lime has to be so inopportune?
  • Anime Hair
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Terra II's genetic science, "maiden circuits" and marionettes in general.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The main dilemma of Saber Marionette J as a whole revolves around the notion that there are no females on Terra II and genetic cloning can only advance the human race to a certain point with no real evolutionary progress. Because the six survivors use recombinant DNA to create all their clones, they overlook the possibility of simply adjusting the sexual chromosome (XY to XX) before the cloning process begins, which would solve the problem of limited birth options. But then that would make the plot of rescuing Lorelei from inside the Mesopotamia using the maiden circuits from three lucky marionettes completely moot.
    • Science Marches On: Actually, this is an error because cloning is based on the genetic information of the subject and its stem cells. A man's stem cells will always have XY chromosomes thus a woman cannot be produced out of a man's cells.
      • Science Marches On: You can always manipulate the genes, and THEN clone the organism. That's already what they do, just not for gender for some reason.
  • Ass Kicking Pose: Subverted in one episode where Otaru hits a blade-wielding Ronin.
  • A Twinkle in the Sky: The Saber Dolls end this way in the episode where the Japoness marionettes are competing in a worldwide tournament for Otaru's affection.
  • Balanced Harem: Otaru can't decide between the three marionettes and loves them equally. Since they are The Three Faces of Eve, together they make the perfect woman he wants. This is Played With later on.
  • Bamboo Technology: What the six castaways accomplished with just the equipment in their shuttle.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The last minute of the first series and the OVA averted this. Played Straight in the second series, for the most part.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In episode 4 of Saber Marionette J Again Otaru says:
    "If you guys were any slower to mature... we'd still be doing what we were doing in the last episode."
  • Camp Gay: Hanagata highly qualifies as this, mainly because of his obssession with Otaru, which naturally annoys both Otaru himself and the Marionettes. Obviously, he's also used as the series' Plucky Comic Relief, among others. The following quote is one of the mildest of his rather loud declarations.
    Hanagata: "I'll never let you go! Today is our day of destiny!"
    • Then there's him playing "He loves me, he loves me not" with a flower in his room... and eating the flower.
  • Can't Catch Up: The Saberdolls in SMJ series.
  • Clothing Damage: Many times, to different characters.
  • Covert Pervert: Cherry may act a modest lady but she's frequently seen daydreaming of "the things Otaru-sama could do to her", most of which seems increasingly sexual.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: The rather skintight leotard Cherry wore when she was first activated. Lime and Bloodberry's were also whole body suits, but Cherry's was more of a swimsuit with an open patch of nothing in the middle and lots of frills.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Saber Marionette R OVA.
  • Determinator: The Saberdolls, specially Tiger. Too bad it ends with her being impaled, badly damaged, partially amnesiac and shell of herself for the rest of original J series. She gets better in J Again.
    • Cherry and Lime in the Saber Marionette R OVA.
  • Designer Babies: All the male inhabitants of Terra II except Hess.
  • Diesel Punk: The Saber Marionette R OVA.
  • Distressed Damsel:
    • In episode 4 of J, Cherry invokes it in an attempt of creating the perfect "hero saves heroine" scenario to get a lovey-dovey moment with Otaru.
    • Lorelei
  • Do Androids Dream?: Otaru's marionettes and Faust's Saber Dolls. They have the ability to replicate human emotions and thought patterns, but they're often treated as though they're simply machines. Their maiden circuits allow them to feel human emotions, but it also extends to a form of consciousness once the circuits reach full maturity.
  • Drama Bomb: The infiltration into Gartland's episodes. After almost 10 episode of seeing Japoness, a peaceful and colorful city to then seeing Gartland and how bad it social situation is, it's quite shocking.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!:
    • In an episode of J, the three marionettes fell "ill" (actually they bodies started to overload because they were absorbing a lot of energy from a huge underground plasma cloud, simulating a fever) and Otaru, before going to confront the plasma to protect them, while the three where sleeping, give to each one a "goodbye" kiss on the cheeks.
    • Gender inverted in an episode of J to X. While they were on a train, Otaru fell asleep and the girls take the moment to talk about how wonderful he is and give to him each one a "thanks for being wonderful" kiss.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: All marionettes, save Lime, have a fear of mice.
  • Enemy Mine: In episode 6 of J; Hanagata, Lime and Cherry tried to join forces to avoid Bloodberry from having Otaru for herself.
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl
  • Eye Catch
  • Fanservice
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
  • Gaussian Girl: The three main marionettes at the beginning of the opening song.
  • Gainaxing: Like there's. No. Tomorrow. Well, save for Cherry.
  • Gecko Ending: The Manga and Anime go off in a different direction then the books. For example, the true nature of Hess. In the books, he's the original Faust who turned himself into a robot. In the Anime, he still turned himself into a robot, but he's instead a survivor from a previous expedition to Terra II. Averted with the radio drama, which is pretty much a Non-Serial Movie.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The marionettes at times when using one of their battle functions.
  • Hollywood Science: The genetics here are questionable.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The manga version, which brought up the question about why bother making them anatomically correct if you're going to make loving them socially taboo... (Bloodberry's pair of Gag Boobs are but two of many unending examples...and Lime is introduced naked.) It makes sense, in a way, because Kotoyoshi Yumisuke is an avid hentai artist, maybe it was on his contract, or just plain Author Appeal.
  • Hot Springs Episode: After Otaru, his three marionettes, and Hanagata complete their mission in Gartland, the group finds an abandoned hotel with natural hot springs. But the episode takes a nosedive in tone when a huge plasma cloud forms and threatens their lives.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Japoness' Guard and Gartland's Sabbelberg are the main qualifiers.
  • Idiot Ball: Possibly every character has one.
    Hanagata: Otaru! Oh, dear! How could you be such a nincompoop? There's no way in Hell you can sneak into Gartlant!
    Otaru: AAAAGH! Stupid, stupid, stupid, so stupid! I'm sorry, I—I...I'M A SUCKER FOR CANDY WITH PRIZES!!!
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes
  • InternalDeconstruction/Genre Deconstruction: the Harem Genre gets this treatment in J to X. Shirase does not approve when he learns about the situation at all. This causes Otaru to have an epiphany, which almost causes him to leave the Marionettes behind so he won't deny them their freedom. It gets better, but in the end none of the marionettes end up with Otaru... at least, not romantically.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The Mesopotamia itself. After the three marionettes's Heroic Sacrifice to stop the ship destroying Terra II, in a last act of good will the Mesopotamia let the three girls return to their beloved Otaru since the maiden circuits simulated Lorelei's personality and the ship does really love her and wants its new mechanical lovers to be happy.
  • Kill Sat: The Mesopotamia, the colony ship can function as one.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The Saber Beast Leopard.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Happens to Otaru's marionettes in J to X thanks to severe shock trauma by Hess. They snap out of it, though.
  • Last Of Her Kind: Lorelei is the only female human in the entire series. At least, until Lime, Cherry, and Bloodberry turned human at the end of J to X.
  • Lethal Chef: In one episode of J, there is a cooking contest involving the Otaru's Marionettes and the Saber Dolls. The only marionette to successfully avoid this trope was Cherry (being a Yamato Nadeshiko and all). Lime's unpredictability and Tiger's fan-service were able to obtain points even though their cooking was obviously less than par.
  • Love at First Sight: Marionettes with Maiden Circuits experience this with the first man person thing they see upon activating.
  • Love Epiphany: Lime was kidnapped in episode 8 of J. When Otaru worries too much for her, Hanagata insinuates that he loves his marionettes and tells him that marionettes are just machines and loving them is wrong. After a visit to the pioneers museum, he decides to screw the rules and make his own decisions on what's right and wrong; and for him is right to love his marionettes.
  • Love Hurts: Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry, because of all the love Otaru gives to them, they can't understand the pain the Saber Dolls have to suffer through for their love towards Faust, who treats them as mere tools. When they realize it, Lime sees that having a maiden circuit (a heart) not only gives people happiness but also she in a confused, psychotic break takes hers out.
  • Love Makes You Evil:
    • The Saber Dolls. Because of their love for Faust, they would do anything (kill, kidnap, help him take over the world) just to get a chance of a one nice word coming from him.
    • The original Faust. He would prevent Ieyasu from rescuing Lorelei just to get her for himself. This ambition of his unfortunately continues to live through his clones via Brain Uploading.
    • The Mesopotamia. It killed almost all the people inside the ship (6 men were lucky to get into the emergency ship and survive) out of possessive jealousy towards Lorelei.
  • Lover Tug-of-War: Inevitably happens to Otaru a lot.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Bloodberry's favorite method to draw Otaru's attention.
  • Marry Them All: At the end of J, it seems this is the only solution to Otaru's romantic dilemma, as he loves the three girls as much as they love him. In J to X this is subverted when the marionettes's become Artificial Humans and Otaru takes them as his daughters.
  • Meaningful Name: The ship sent to colonize Terra II is called the Mesopotamia. In our Earth, that was also the place where the first civilizations were born.
  • Mordor: Gartland. The fact that it resembles Nazi Germany don't help matters.
  • One-Gender Race: The human population of Terra II — and arguably, the Marionettes.
  • "On the Next Episode of..." Catch Phrase: "Otaru, I love you!". It's mostly said by Lime, in a informal and childish way. Cherry says it in a formal and respetful way while Blodberry goes for the informal, slang way. In the preview of the episode when he understands his feelings, Hanagata says it.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: Aparently not an option.
  • Out of the Inferno: In both a heroic and villainous manner. The former when Lime rescues Hanagata's brother Yumeji from a burning building, the latter with Faust's Saber Beast Leopard, once it acquires Cherry and Bloodberry's maiden circuits.
  • Parental Abandonment: Whoever Otaru was cloned off never shows up.
  • The Power of Love: Marionettes with maiden circuits mature faster and became stronger, via the love and concern of their beloved.
  • Power Trio: Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry; Tiger, Luchs, and Panther after their Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Psycho Rangers: The Saber Dolls for the J series. The Sexa Dolls for the R OVA.
  • The Reveal (Several of them.)
    • The first of them, at least in the Anime: Why do you think that Lime, Cherry, Bloodberry and the Saber Dolls have emotions? Answer: they have a maiden circuit.
    • Then, several episodes later, again, at least in the Anime, we discover the true purpose behind the Japoness' (and Gartland's) marionettes' construction: to serve as a replacement for Lorelei aboard the Mesopotamia when said circuits reach full maturity.
    • And what about Marine? Simple: she was built with an anti-plasma system and plasma manipulation abilities, which were given to her to prevent the menacing disaster towards Terra II... even at the cost of her life. She survives that, though.
    • And finally, who the hell was Hess? Answer: the first man in the face of Terra II, or the original Gerhard von Faust, depending on the Continuity.
    • As for the R OVA, all Romana Viceroys are clones of the original Romana King, including Star Face — except for Junior, who is an actual son of the previous viceroy and born to a human mother. It's enough to drive Star Face into suicide.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Ponta-kun's babies.
    • Kaiju: The Ponta-kun mother.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The marionettes are always built as women, even if they're only capable of functioning as glorified cash registers.
  • Robot Girl: The Maiden Circuit marionettes.
    • Fembots: Every other marionette falls into this trope despite mostly appearing as human, because their behavior pushes them into the Uncanny Valley.
  • Roofhopping: With super-powered robots playing Samurai in Ninja Town from the first episode, there's naturally plenty of this happening.
  • Running Gag
  • Samurai
  • Satellite Love Interest: Enforced on marionettes with Maiden Circuits because of the Love at First Sight programming. However, it's a key plot point that the circuits develop by Lime, Cherry, and Bloodberry interacting and forming bonds with characters besides Otaru. The Saber Dolls were emotionally stunted by Faust, but develop past this trope near the end of J.
  • Sensual Spandex: Lime and her sisters awaken wearing this; Lime and Bloodberry have this as major parts of their normal outfits.
  • Shōnen
  • Slasher Smile: Lime in the R OVA when she's in overdrive.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun
  • Squeaky Eyes
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: The definition of a "Saber" marionette is being either armed and/or powerful enough to use as a weapon, despite being still more or less human in appearance. The Marionettes with Maiden Circuits are naturally extremely powerful.
  • Terrible Trio: The Saber Dolls in the original Saber Marionette J, and the Sexadolls in the Saber Marionette R OVA.
  • Techno Babble: Anything to do with marionettes, "maiden circuits" and plasma energy.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In Gartland, Otaru had to kiss Luchs to prevent her rebooting the principal CPU. Of course this angered his three own marionettes who demand him to kiss them as well. Otaru then say that of the kiss was on the past and they should accepted it as men. Cue Lime's:
    Lime: (sad) But I'm not a man.
  • Theme Naming
  • There Was a Door: Lime, and to a lesser extent Bloodberry, when very focused on something, always pass through Otaru's paper door.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: The Sexadolls in the R OVA.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Lampshaded and played Straight. In the Broke Episode, Lime spins an elephant on an umbrella to advertise for a burger stand while smiling. Guess what people are paying attention to? The smile.
    "Marionettes can't smile!"
    • Apparently only a handful of people can recognise the main cast, who save the entire planet and bring the only woman back to Terra II.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Marionettes are seen as mere machines; even three who behave the same as humans are not exception.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In the episode when Otaru catches Acquired Situational Narcissism from his celebrity as the hero who saved Japoness, several secondary characters — such as Gennai and Obiichi — call him out for how much of a jerk he's being to Lime, Cherry, and Bloodberry. When Otaru has his Heel Realization and abandons an important performance when he realizes the trio ran away, the secondary characters help him to escape his managers, while warning him he's next if he does anything like this to the Marionettes again.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When Cherry gets tired of Lime being a Moment Killer in her first episode after awakening, she drafts a random gang of street punks she fought to stage a kidnapping to allow for a Rescue Romance moment. The plan encounters some problems with poorly staged fake fighting and the punks forgetting their lines, and the entire plan collapses when they all stumble across a real gang and their Humongous Mecha.
  • Yaoi Guys: Loving marionettes is considered taboo, so the only "right" love is towards another man. Otaru is the only who finds it creepy and would prefer to continue loving his three marionettes despite (or rather because) of Hanagata's affections towards him.