The cast of characters in Shinovi Versus. And cast just keeps on growing from there.From left to right Top Row: Murakumo, Minori, Ryouna, Ryoubi, Yagyu, Hibari, Haruka. Middle Row: Imu, Yozakura, Shiki, Katsuragi, Ikaruga, Hikage, Yomi. Bottom Row: Murasaki, Miyabi, Yumi, Asuka, Homura, Mirai.
Being born into this world, living to protect it to the end, so is the way of the ninja
Beautiful and brave, pushing our bodies to their limits, confusion blooms
Our days are nonchalant and full of laughter
Our nights filled with fear and uneasiness
Hidden from sight in the shadows, to prove that we are alive we rise, toward a vivid light.
— Shoujô-tachi no shinei (Portrait of Girls) Opening.
Senran Kagura is a series of fanservice-filledBeat 'em Upgames by Marvelous Entertainment. The premise involves different schools of ninja (commonly referred to as "shinobi" in this series), generally split into two factionsnote Depending on the translation, light/good ninja and dark/evil ninja, who primarily differ in their methods of teaching and executing their employers' orders., facing off against each other, as well as against entities called "Yoma", as they deal with the rigors of ninja training and their daily lives as a shinobi. The ultimate goal of most of these schools is to produce the best shinobi they can, as well as to eventually raise the ninja who will become a "kagura", a high-ranking shinobi who specializes in Demon Slaying.The focus, however, is on the large amounts of equally large breasts on the majority of the gals, so much so that the series prides itself on this facet, calling its genre "invokedthe Hyper-Battle of Bursting Breasts" (emphasis theirs). The games, of course, include copious amounts of bounciness, Clothing Damage, and Male Gaze, among other relevant fanservice tropes.Yet, despite of all the attention the series garners for its well-rounded, bouncy aspects, Senran Kagura also blends the elements of school life comedy, cute girls doing cute things, and the drama of the harsh world of shinobi, sometimes to great effect. Of course, this leads to the series having somewhat of a schizophrenic presentation, as the director likes to flaunt the fanservice, while the writer is known for writing material darker than what one would expect from a series like this (see the Trivia tab for more information).Eventually, the director's stance on which aspect of the series to focus on changed. He stated that the series has branched out since the first game's debut, and has been attempting to strike a balance with the fanservice and the more serious story elements. He also specifically mentioned that the 3DS titles will be more story-driven, with the fanservice elements taking a back seat, while the Vita games and other spin-offs will focus on being Lighter and Softer affairs with more of a focus on the fanservice.As for the gameplay, most games in the series have a focus on attaining high combos while mowing down groups of foes. Missions set up the stages, while the action is broken up by the occasional Visual Novel-styled cutscenes and narration, which provide more details on certain parts of the storyline. During battle, characters are able to perform a "shinobi transformation", changing them from their regular attire to their shinobi form, which gives them more varied combos and the ability to perform devastating special moves called "Secret Ninja Arts". Taking too many hits, however, induces Clothing Damage, causing costumes to lose their HP and defensive bonuses. Costumes can eventually be completely removed by taking too much damage, leaving a character in her swimsuit and with no defenses. However, players can choose to activate "Frantic" mode, which discards all clothing (except the swimsuit) and defenses in order to boost offense significantly. Be warned though, it's much easier to die while in Frantic mode.The early 3DS titles were side-scrollers, but the Vita game Shinovi Versus branched the gameplay out into a fully 3D battlefield, akin to games like Dynasty Warriors. The sequel to the 3DS games carries over some of this aspect from Shinovi Versus, while introducing new concepts such as tag teams. The sequel is also the first in the series to have playable male characters (earlier games had male characters as NPCs).When Marvelous later desired for the series to be brought to international markets, XSEED Games took up the call. Senran Kagura Burst was localized and sold in North America as an eShop download title in 2013. Burst had sold well enough that XSEED decided to continue localizing the series, with Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus for the Playstation Vita being their next title to work on, along with, interestingly, the Rhythm Game of the series, Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit.The official Japanese site can be visited here, but be wary of NSFW content, given the premise. The official site for the localized Senran Kagura Burst is here.Aside from the video games, two manga adaptations were released, and an anime aired in the Winter 2013 Anime season.
Games in the Senran Kagura series:
Senran Kagura: Portrait of Girls (2011; 3DS; Japan-only)note A 3D side-scrolling Beat 'em Up game.
Senran Kagura Burst: Crimson Girls (2012 in Japan, 2013 in North America, 2014 in Europe; 3DS)note An Updated Re-release of Portrait of Girls, featuring another storyline that follows the Hebijo School girls.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (2013 in Japan, 2014 in North America; Playstation Vita)note A 3D brawler, similar to games like Dynasty Warriors.
Senran Kagura: New Wave (2013; Mobile Phone Game; Japan-only)note A mobile card game featuring many new characters
Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit (2014; Playstation Vita)note A Rhythm Game involving cooking.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (Projected release in 2014; 3DS)note Meant to be the first "true" sequel to Portrait of Girls, combining elements from the first game and Shinovi Versus. Introduces tag-teams and playable male characters.
Affectionate Parody: You have some of the most serious tropes generally associated with a ninja work of fiction... in an highschool setting and with a lot of humor, cute and sexy girls, hot-bloodness and the power of friendship. See also Pastiche below.
Animal Jingoism: The emblem of Hanzō Academy is a frog; Hebijo's emblem is... well, a snake. No slugs to be seen, though.
Bit Part Bad Guys: The delinquents from early in the original game and the Hanzo story of Burst. Not remotely dangerous, and more or less disappear entirely once Hebijo becomes an issue in the plot — they're there both to ease you into the game with enemies less threatening than even the Mook Hebijo students, and plot-wise as an example of what the Hanzo students had actually been facing prior to their clash with Hebijo.
Buxom Is Better: A given, considering the main fanservice appeal. A few characters even invoke this on purpose.
Cast from Hit Points: The Limit Break, which creates an explosion around the character to knockback surrounding enemies, a la the Mega Crash from Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. It costs 10% of the the character's health to use.
Hebijo students before battle:I sacrifice myself to the will of evil!
Child Soldiers: Students are asked to throw off their student mentality when entering a ninja school; from now on, they are expected to conduct themselves as shinobi.
Justified Trope: The harsh rules of the world of shinobi exists for a reason: to prepare shinobi students for their principal duty, fighting against youmas. During Rin's first mission, her group of 50 (including a kagura) were slaughtered by 10 youmas in a few minutes.
Clothing Damage: Taking damage (regardless of how much health a character actually has) wears down a girl's clothes and will eventually leave her in a defenseless bikini if too many hits are accrued. It's also the only visual way to tell that the characters are actually trying to kill each other, as actual bloodshed is rare.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Interestingly, this applies to both Hanzo and Hebijo. When there are tons of Hebijo mooks the Hanzo gals defeat them easily. When the Hanzo gals try to gang up on a single Hebijo girl, the Hanzo gals are in danger of losing badly.
The five Hebijo snake girls are far from being on the level of your ordinary Hebijo mook, though.
Justified Trope: It is explicitly mentioned that the light faction handpicks the talented while the dark faction accepts anyone.
Crapsaccharine World: On one hand, death walks with the shinobi. Most of the characters have lost at least one loved one. Training can be deadly. The girls perfectly accept that the fights are No-Holds-Barred Contest which can leave them dead and try in all earnest to kill each other. They know they can be finished by the winner. Failure during a mission can means death. And then, on the other hand, not only are the generally cheerful girls capable of simply acting like normal teenagers most of the time, but when all is said and done, the level of violence is equivalent to say, One Piece and nobody ever dies outside of backstories or otherwise off-screen deaths (which can sometimes cause ambiguity as to who's actually dead). Overall, it's the seriousness with which the girls take their duty as shinobi and the grim backstories that most of them have which paints a really dark outlook on the franchise.
Creepy Cool Crosses: If you look at the Hejibo Academy's logo, you notice its an upside-down cross with two snakes wrapped around it.
Curb-Stomp Battle: In a story sequence, Ikaruga ends up having to fight her resentful brother and never lays a finger on him. ... Because she doesn't have to. He's so hopeless at ninjutsu, and her so comparatively skilled that she defeats him easily without ever having to attack him directly. Which is the reason she was adopted and made a shinobi in his place in the first place, and the reason for his resentment of her.
Determinator: True to their etymology, all of the shinobi. But especially Asuka and Homura.
Dirty Old Man: Averted with Kiriya-sensei, who does his job professionally and doesn't blink when the fanservice presents itself. While Hanzo usually acts like a doting grandpa toward Asuka despite her many shortcomings, he still has shades of this, especially in the anime. However, he's very low-key about it and is never shown to be completely depraved about it either, especially when compared to how Dirty Old Men are usually depicted in Japanese works.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Several examples throughout the franchise. The most obvious is the constant image of a girl with something inserted between her breasts, be it scrolls, sushi rolls, or whatever. To say nothing of the random positions some characters take in the anime and the manga, as well as when Clothing Damage occurs in the games. Bon Appetit, being a non-serious Rhythm Game, takes it Up to Eleven due to it being a cooking game as well.
Dysfunction Junction: All the girls have some malfunction, see Dark and Troubled Past above. It's a miracle that the Hebijo girls aren't at each others throat, if only because their anger is directed at someone or something outside the group.
Eldritch Abomination: Yamata no Orochi... Where to start? It seems to be one-third humanoid giant, one-third dragon, and one-third Humongous Mecha. Four of its five necks have no heads on them, instead ending in great masses of bloodstained katanas. It has two bizarre mechanical appendages that can only be described as giant tennis rackets covered in bloodstained katanas. On its central neck is the head of a mecha-dragon, covered in bloodstained katanas, and in the head's mouth is a human face, contorted with rage. Oh, and the sound of its roar is mixed with a baby crying.
The Yoma in general follow this trope to a tee, with many of them combining human anatomy with monstrous designs.
Elite Mook: In Crimson Girls there is a tall dummy mook with the highest health of any enemy in the game, with two katanas and a gun that shoots shurikens. Unlike the other Giant Mooks these guys are so tough they only ever appear one at a time.
The game takes off the kiddie gloves with Hebijo's final mission where you have to face Daidouji backed up by four robo-dummies.
Rin when it is revealed that she is Suzune-sensei.
Fake Longevity: 100% Completion in Burst requires clearing every mission on each story with the initial 5 characters, getting every character (including the secret ones) to level 50, clearing every mission at least once with an A Rank and once in Frantic Mode (thankfully not with every character) and will take upwards of 70 hours. Beating the main story for both sides combined only takes around 10.
Although the focus of the franchise seems to be big-breasted pretty girls, it may be interesting to note that the protagonists are equally as sexually objectified (with the signature blending of clothes ripped and breast jiggling of the franchise) as they are depicted as physically strong, courageous (bordering on reckless; but it's expected of ninjas), and without the need of being protected by a male character.
Senran Kagura passes the The Bechdel Test. In fact, in the whole franchise there was only a short hint of romance at the beginning of the first game, but it was more of a Red Herring; to show what the girls are prepared to lose, how much they are willing to sacrifice a normal youth to become shinobi.
Fond Memories That Could Have Been: In the first game, Homura and Asuka passing some time as friends, dining at Hanzo's restaurant before the final assault on Hebijo academy and knowing that they will then have to fight. Asuka asking Homura her reason to follow the way of the ninja may qualify as a stealth Tear Jerker.
You Can't Fight Fate: Not that Asuka, as a ninja, isn't ready to put down Homura if she is ordered to; but now that she knows a little more about the snake girls and, putting aside the 'good' and 'bad' labels, the fact that Hebijo and Hanzo students are basically the same, she can't help but ponder about the absurdity of the situation.
Forever War: Between the good/light shinobi and the evil/dark shinobi.
Grey and Gray Morality: Probably the point of the plot of the first game and its deconstruction of the 'good ninjas vs evil ninjas' trope, as both groups are shown to have similar circumstances, and ultimately, whatever his or her affiliation, a shinobi is someone who have to kill or be killed. As Hanzo puts it: Light needs darkness to exist.
Good Is Not Soft: A ninja has to be ready to do anything it takes to defeat an enemy, and could expect nothing else in return from an enemy. It's a form of courtesy toward an enemy to give everything you have to bring him down.
Golden Super Mode: In Burst, the "Life or Death" (Frantic in the localization) mode gives the user a surging golden aura the longer they fight. When Katsuragi uses it, the aura combined with her golden hair and green eyes makes her look very much like a Super Saiyan.
The Heartless: Orochi in the first game and Burst, the final boss born from the pain and suffering of the dead snake girls.
Has become a major plot point in Shinovi Versus: such monsters are knowns as youma and only shinobi can fight against them. The catch being conflict between shinobi and blood spilled in shinobi kekkais are precisely what such entities feed on.
Improbably Female Cast: Technically, it's not as if men couldn't be shinobi too. It's just that the whole cast happens to be female.
Instant-Win Condition: For the fights that require you to obtain an item or defeat a certain number of enemies.
Invisible to Normals: One ninja technique is invoking a barrier to allow fighting while invisible to all but other ninjas. This is how the girls can fight in the open in areas like shops without drawing attention.
US localization website:A little violent, a little sexy, and a ton of fun!
Joshikousei: Invoked. The shinobi schools are all located alongside regular schools, so the shinobi have to wear their school's uniform in order to blend in and prevent the normal school populace from suspecting them of being anything other than regular students.
Katanas Are Just Better: The number of girls who favor katana is disproportionate (looking at you, Homura), even though shorter blades would be easily concealed.
Keigo: Ikaruga speaks in a very formal tone and style.
Killed Off Screen: How the franchise handles when secondary characters kick the bucket: as the plot is told in a Visual Novel fashion, a wall of text allow for more ambiguity than a gory CG. See Inu's group or Tsumuji for examples.
It allows for some neat Never Found the Body tricks, too - The Hebijo girls in the first game are exhibit #1, but Dougen must be pretty glad for it. Well, or for all the good it did him at least, as Homura didn't miss him in SV.
Know When to Fold 'Em: Ikaruga's big brother eventually give up on taking the mantle of the ninja clan, instead focusing on what he's good at: being a shrewd businessman. This is after Ikaruga makes it clear that he's outclassed and Hattori gives him some sobering small talks.
Licking the Blade: Hikage licks her dagger a lot, doing it every time she uses a Secret Ninjutsu, as well as as part of her post-level victory pose.
Lighter and Softer: Both the anime and the manga adaptation. The original games have a taste for the dramatic for a fanservice game, to convey the point that even if the girls are highschool girls trying to live a 'normal' and happy school life, the ninja world they have chosen to inhabit can be terribly dark and violent.
Magical Girl Warrior: What the shinobi are (pretty girls with transformation sequences and magic costumes!).
Magic Skirt: Present on the anime where the skirt never moves even when the girls are hanging from the ceiling.
Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication: Played With. As shinobi, the girls use violence as a mean of communication with an energy one would expect from a Shōnen manga. On the other hand, communication is pivotal in the anime adaptation finale in order to avoid Total Party Kill of both sides. Hibari's true power is explicitly a form of communication.
Mood Whiplash: Extremist in case of the games, as pertaining to a franchise featuring plenty of comedic hijinks and boobs jokes set in the Crapsack World of modern shinobi. Usually, each instance of Katsuragi groping another girl, Yagyu having a nosebleed over Hibari or the Hanzo shinobi fooling around in bikini is followed by a dramatic flashback on how a character lost a beloved one (parents on the run for failing to kill themselves after a failed mission, dead little sister, relative murdered by an opposing faction, decapited mother, etc), melancholic musings about the meaning of life as a shinobi, and No-Holds-Barred Contest between highschool girls. The melodrama can be quite heavy, at times. See Lighter and Softer above for the anime and manga adaptations.
Yet Nobody Can Die: So far none of the girls, from any of the school, has kicked the bucket. There must be some weird comedic/moe-moe invulnerability shield at work here. Also, see the Pastiche entry below.
Ninja: In-universe, the proper term is shinobi.note The term "kunoichi", meaning "female ninja", is never used in the franchise, though, as it is sexually connoted and suggest ninja who use exclusively female techniques. Senran Kagura's characters are fighters, above all else.
Noble Demon: The Hebijo girls are far from being as evil as they seem; in fact, the game goes to lengths to show that they are in fact really close to the Hanzo girls while being much more aware than them that they chose to live in a dark and violent world.
Homura: She fights to feel alive and to protect her Hebijo comrades.
Mirai: She just want to be recognized, preferably as an equal.
Hikage: She has multiple opportunities to eliminate Katsuragi, but she never follows through.
Haruka: She genuinely wants to be friend with Hibari.
Yomi: Apart from her fixation on rich ojou-sama, she's probably one of the sweetest and most friendly of the Hebijo girls. But you have to be a good listener with an affinity for bean sprouts.
Not Quite Dead: While each of the Hebijo girl seems to meet her end fighting her Hanzo counterpart during the final invasion of Hebijo Academy, the silhouettes of the snake girls can be seen in the distance among the ruins of the school when the fight with the last boss is over.
Since then, Burst has confirmed that Homura and her friends survived the fight: They have become runaway ninja after defeating Suzune-sensei and appear in Shinovi Versus as a whole new, independent group named Homura Gurentai, The Crimson Flame Corp.
Also, Hebijo's Suzune-sensei: She was initially a student of Kiriya-sensei supposedly KIA during a mission years ago.
Not So Different: Part of the theme of the game is how the two sides aren't that different in terms of people; only in who's killing who and the name of the side printed on their business cards.
There is a very high possibility that the names used by the heroines are Code Name, and not their real names; in Shinovi Versus, when Kurokame adopts his grand-daughter, he explicitly tell her that from now on her ninja name is 'Yumi.
Katusragi confirms in Burst that her name at the very least is a codename for identification and she very much treasures the name her parents gave her. This implies that every other Shinobi's name is also very much a codename. The fact that Rin so easily changed her name to Suzune further implies this.
In a flashback, Asuka remembers when she received this name.
Order Versus Chaos: What good and evil shinobi are more about. Good shinobi aim to protect this world but are rather stern and strict, while evil shinobi are depicted are more tolerant and individualists, but also more aggressive.
When trying to apply real-world politics to Senran Kagura, we have the good ninjas as being elitists and conservatives with shades of aristocratism (all ninja students come from a good ninja family) while bad ninjas are egalitarian/liberals (everyone have his/her chance) with Darwinism being the ultimate rule of law.
Panty Fighter: More like "Jiggly Fighter" in this case, especially when every character can have her clothes worn down to her bikini (or less in certain games).note Since all of the characters wear swimsuits under their clothes, none of the panty shots seen are actually of panties.
Pastiche: Of serious ninja flicks; the melodramatic mannerisms of the series are fair and good, but when all is said and done, it's still a franchise about boobs, cute girls, strong yuri overtones (see YMMV) and the Power of Friendship never failing to save the say.
It varies from faction to faction, though. While Hanzo ninja are reluctant to kill unless absolutely necessary and relies heavily on the Power of Friendship trope, Hebijo ninja are much more faithful to the traditionnal depiction of the pitiless shinobi and shown to be willing to kill to accomply their mission.
During Haruka's mission to infiltrate Hanzo school in 'Burst', most of her reconnaissance squad ends up being possessed by the power of the ninja scroll and Haruka has to order Mirai to be ready to kill any of their former allies who would pose an obstacle to the success of the mission; Mirai is distressed by having to kill her comrades, and even Haruka is far from being confortable with the situation, but they end up doing it anyway.
On Shin Hebijo route in Shinovi Versus, Miyabi's group killing most of the others schools' characters is heavily implied. Yet as Ikaruga at least is shown to having survived her fight with Murasaki and has the opportunity to warn Yomi, their fate is ultimately anyone's guess.
The Power of Hate: The main theme of the Hebijo school, each student is motivated by a past grudge she can't get over.
Subverted in Burst as it's the The Power of Friendship which allow Homura to save the others Hebijo girls from Orochi.
Psychotic Smirk: Mastered by Suzune, for example when Haruka seems confident they can defeat the Hanzo girls, or when Miyabi tells her her objective is to restore 'Hebijo's pride'.
Public Domain Soundtrack: In Shinovi Versus, The Death Cram girls' themes are all arrangements of classical music. The themes are references to their name, design or character (for example, 'Shiki' translates as 'Four seasons').
Yumi: Requiem Mass in D minor, by Mozart, and Piano Sonata No. 8 (Sonata Pathétique), by Beethoven
Murakumo: Scythian Suite Op. 20, by Sergei Prokofiev
Yozakura: Piano Sonata No. 14 (Moonlight Sonata), by Beethoven
Shiki: The Four Seasons, by Vivaldi
Minori: The Nutcracker, by Tchaikovsky
Rank Inflation: You can normally get ranked A through D for mission performance. Beat a mission in Frantic mode and it gets bumped up to a star.
Rule of Sexy: One of the distinguishing features of the franchise being clothing damage when enough attacks have landed. One of the other distinguishing features of the franchise is the fact that almost everyone has large breasts, even if/when it makes little sense.
Schoolgirl Lesbians: Warning, Foe Yay galore (see YMMV): in Senran Kagura, rivality tends to lead to the creation of very strong emotional bonds— and maybe more than this. Those girls are strong, and yet they live in a world different from the average people, it's no great wonder that they bond with each others intensely.
Secret Identity: In Shinovi Versus, Hanzo must have been delighted to play the role of a teacher for the girls-only school of Gessen; he was asked to do it by his friend/rival Murokame, feeling remorseful to have forced his beliefs about a pure and good shinobi world where evil has been extinguished on Yumi's group and want them to find their own way.
Stupid Good: Unexpectedly, the evil shinobi of Hebijo have shades of this trope. As mentioned under Equal Opportunity Evil, they pride themselves on accepting everyone, while good shinobi only accept a select few. This even applies to people who they have reason to suspect are joining specifically to betray the school, or people who are explicitly joining to kill one of the other students.
Technicolor Ninjas: Very few of the characters have outfits that resemble something a ninja would actually wear, and yet they are just as effective at their craft as any standard black/dark colored garbed ninja.
Tomboy: Katsuragi seems like one. She goes around without buttoning her shirt or wearing anything underneath.
True Companions: Naturally. One chapter of the manga has Asuka drawing up a little family tree made of her classmates.
Updated Re-release: Senran Kagura Burst: Crimson Girls, which is an updated version of the first game, Senran Kagura: Portrait of Girls. It's biggest update is a story mode that follows the antagonists of the game, the Hebijo school girls.
Vague Age: The English localization of Burst, which lists birthday, blood type, height, and the three measurements, leaves out their age. The Japanese games, having different standards, averts this.
Victoria's Secret Compartment: The franchise puts much emphasis on the fact the girls use their ample cleavage to hide their secret ninja scroll.
Shinovi Versus takes this trope a little farther as it will allow the player to customize the hair of the characters, put some accessories, etc.
Visual Novel: Some parts of the story are delivered in this fashion, complete with artwork.
Vocal Dissonance: Look at Shiki's face. Those sharp eyes, the Beauty Mark, even her transformation showcasing a Grim Reaper theme, her ninja costume which seems to be made of garterbelts only, none of this would prepare you for the voice she has - it sounds younger than most of the other characters, like that of a small child.
World of Action Girls: Falls in line with the premise. Although male shinobi exist (Kiriya and Hanzo are two retired shinobi, for example), it's implied that there aren't any that are active in the schools depicted so far. Senran Kagura 2 actually adds in a playable male character in the form of Ikaruga's brother, Murasame, who gets the same Rule of Sexy treatment as the girls.