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Animefringe Coverage:
Real Bout High School
By Adam "OMEGA" Arnold

Meet Ryoko Mitsurugi, an energetic teenage girl who's being stalked by everyone from girls giving her boxed lunches to crazed boys who record her every waking move on film. How did Ryoko get into this bizarre predicament? Simple, she just blazed a trail of consecutive victories in her school's one-on-one martial arts matches known as K-Fights. The K stands for Kenka, which means street fight... got it? Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the basics for now.

Real Bout High School is based on the original manga series by Reiji Saiga and is brought to full animated life by Studio Gonzo which is famous for works such as Vandread and Blue Submarine No.6. The series ran from July 30, 2001 to November 24, 2001 on Kids Station in Japan and features a strange yet refreshing blend of street fighting, fantasy creatures, school hijinks, and an abundance of panty shots. In many ways, Real Bout seems to have started out as a spoof of Street Fighter II that evolved into something totally original, in much the same way that Tenchi-Muyo! did. Part of that reason is because of the absolutely lovably fun characters.

The anime series begins a year after the conclusion of the manga series, as Ryoko continues to suffer through her days as a tenth grader at Daimon High School. Ryoko seems at first to be a girl just trying to get through the day without anything weird happening, only to be disappointed when she ends up being saddled with the chore of fighting whoever comes and challenges her to a K-Fight. It's funny in a way, because Ryoko hates the fact that she could be in the middle of a class (or worse, a test), and she has to drop everything to accept the challenge. The ironic thing is that the school she goes to seems quite accustomed to this and they end up having huge tournament every single time. Each fight comes complete with a full commentary brought to you by the over-the-top school reporter, Tamaki Nakamura and humble school principle, Todo.

When Ryoko's not off fighting, she's hanging out with her best friend Hitomi Yuki, with her number one male stalker Daisaku Kamiya in tow. The thing is, Ryoko one day found a blue, jeweled necklace in her locker. It seems to have this weird power to transfer her to a bizarre fantasy netherworld called Solvania, where she is known as the Demon Lord of Yenen and has to fight a ton of dragons. The catch is, to everyone around her, during the time in which she is conscious in Solvania she appears to be unconscious in the real world, so Ryoko ends up thinking that it is all a dream.

If K-Fights and fainting weren't enough, Ryoko has this crush on the Kendo Club captain, Tatsuya Shishikura, and she has to deal with the sadistic Azumi Kiribayashi as a rival for his affection. Still, Azumi's not all that bad,because she ends up helping Ryoko get a cool apprenticeship at a shrine. At the shrine, she can master her own fighting style and maybe even learn a new one.

Things really start to heat up when the roughneck Shizuma Kusanagi shows up at Daimon High School to challenge Ryoko to a rematch. With this powerhouse around, pretty much anything can happen - which means a lot more work for Ryoko, if she can manage to survive the year.

Obviously, the cast of Real Bout is really diverse. It adds to the series by making it a heck of a fun romp, with a lot of great fighting and some really cute girls.

Real Bout features a really sweet Japanese sub translation, featuring the likes of Ikue Kimura as Ryoko and a slew of other seiyuu greats such as Satsuki Yukino, who plays Azumi, and Tomokazu Seki, who plays Kusanagi. The English dub isn't too shabby either, as it features the vocal talents of a number of familiar voices from such series as El-Hazard, Tenchi-Muyo!, Dual, Magic Knight Rayearth, Cowboy Bebop, and countless others. Yes, the wonderfully talented Wendee Lee provides the voice of Ryoko, but it's Julie Maddalena who seems to steal the show as the insanely energetic reporter Tamaki.

What's truly interesting is how the unique vocal talents of each person in the dub version brings the particular characters that they play to life in much the same way the Japanese cast does. Even in the midst of heated battle, the characters still show some essence of three-dimensionality that is lost in other fighting series, such as Street Fighter II V.

Interestingly enough, Real Bout is part of a cross-platform release by TOKYOPOP which will not only see the release of the anime on bilingual DVD, but also the manga in unflipped trade paperback format as well as the full anime soundtrack. The first DVD even features a rather unique set of DVD menus that are set up like an actual fighting game complete with health bar and timer. The main menu has background animation taken from Ryoko and Azumi's match, and choices made affect the outcome. Plus the extras great as well, since the after-episode Japanese seiyuu segments called "Special End Corner" are included for the first four episodes in addition to a ton of TV commercials.

On the print side of things, the Real Bout High School manga takes place before the anime and follows Ryoko as she learns about the school she is going to and starts her long trail to becoming her school's K-Fight champion. If the anime and the manga weren't enough, the Real Bout High School Official Soundtrack is also coming, and features 40 tracks of Takeshi Yasuda's (of Ah My Goddess! fame) anime score. The CD is a mix of songs ranging in length from three minutes to fifteen seconds and run the gamut of musical styles, ranging from the vocal opening and ending theme songs to electronica fighting music to even some oriental and western tracks.

Real Bout High School is a series that strives to meet the taste of a large number of diverse audiences. It succeeds in having the right mix of cute girls, powerful guys, strange places, great music, and awesome fighting.

Ryoko Mitsurugi

Ryoko is a student at Daimon High School and the current K-Fight Martial Arts Champion. She is a very accomplished swordfighter, but she has a lot to learn and has taken an apprenticeship at Hiten Shrine.
Hitomi Yuki

Hitomi is Ryoko's best friend and is generally the first person that Ryoko goes to if she needs someone to talk to. Hitomi is a bit of a klutz and is often the one who unintentionally leads Daisaku to Ryoko.
Daisaku Kamiya

Daisaku is by far Ryoko's most obsessed fan. He can always be seen with some type of camera, which he uses to record Ryoko's every move. He will go to any lengths to get the perfect shot so he can sell it later.
Azumi Kiribayashi

At first glance, Azumi seems shallow and self-centered, and she is, but she also tends to surprise people at times. She is in love with Tatsuya Shishikura and is often seen coming to blows with Ryoko for his attention.
Shizuma Kusanagi

On the outside, Kusanagi seems like a major ruffian, but he actually has a soft side that he shows to Miyuki. He is a very powerful fighter with some secret powers. He was once the reigning K-Fight champion, until Ryoko defeated him.
Miyuki Onizuka

Miyuki is a very quiet and reserved 14-year old girl. She had a traumatic childhood, and she wishes that she had died in the place of her mother. She currently resides and does chores at the Hiten Shrine.

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