What’s it about? Fudō Nomura transfers to a school where girls carry weapons to rule mercilessly over the boys. Shortly after transferring he becomes a target of Rin Onigawara, a member of the Five Ruling Swords that commands the school. In order break free he must defeat the Five Ruling Swords.
Source: Anime News Network
After watching this show I immediately put it aside to get a good night’s sleep before tackling a review. I can tell you right now that it’s almost definitely going to be the lowest in our rankings. Armed Girls Machiavellism has misogyny baked into both premise and execution, and it soon becomes truly offensive. Both ‘misogyny’ and ‘offensive’ are words I avoid because they’re like dog whistles for a certain sub-section of our commenters, but this anime goes out of its way to earn them.
I actually enjoyed the opening. There is a dramatic, samurai drama-esque introduction to the ‘Five Swords’, fighting girls who seem to rule their high school. Sure, their character designs are on the silly side of distinctive, but there are no panty shots and no enormo-boob (and later on we learn that the boys’ school uniforms are pretty silly too). They discuss how best to deal with a new transfer student, who started a riot knocking out 40 guys at his previous school, of which he was the most badly injured. So far, so fine.
That lasts three minutes. Three minutes of girls in impractically short skirts failing the Bechdel Test, sure, but nothing to prepare me for what came next.
My reaction exactly.
Let’s take a step back. How did we get to a school where all the girls are armed with batons or blades and all the boys wear make-up?
Turns out that when this all girls school became co-ed the girls were so scared of the boys that they chose to take up weaponry to protect themselves, apparently school-sanctioned. These girls became so successful at breaking the will and identity of young men that other schools began to send their male delinquent students there for “correction” (which in this case means being forced to perform femininity by wearing make-up and adopting female speech and mannerisms) in the name of “coexistence” (which in this case means complete submission to female students out of fear of physical harm).
In summary: women use violence to intimidate and emasculate men as a form of self-defence, and society at large approves. Obviously, this is the feminist dream. (For those people who like to screencap my words out of context, that was sarcasm. This show is anti-feminist to its core.)
There are actually ways to tell this repellent story in a somewhat feminist way, but Armed Girls Machiavellism has taken every precaution to ensure it doesn’t accidentally slip into a feminist perspective at any point.
- Challenge the girls on their fear that every boy is violent?
No, let’s make sure they encounter only the most violent boys in Japan instead.
- Explore the implications of addressing fear of physical harm with threat of physical harm?
No, let’s just make it school policy to give a few girls swords and carte blanche to use them then leave them to it.
- Raise the idea that make-up is simply decoration and not actually emasculating at all?
No, we’ll frame the decision for boys to wear make-up as “Throw away your dignity as a man and live as a woman”.
- Have the new guy on campus prove that their fundamental assumptions about men are wrong?
No, we’ll make sure he escapes from the swords via looking up some girl’s skirt and announcing her underwear colour to the entire class.
It goes on and on, getting worse and worse, until – spoilers, if you care – we have a chibi version of our main swordswoman trying not to cry as she threatens to castrate our hero for an accidental kiss that broke the symbolic oni mask right off her face.
At least there’s no fanservice of these teenage girls, I guess?
No doubt some of our harshest critics would object to this review. “The girls are cute but physically strong and respected, what is there for feminists to complain about?” they protest as the viewer self-insert protagonist is rewarded for mocking and overpowering these women against a backdrop of transphobic representations of broken men. Hilarious! And that’s before you even consider the potential trajectories of this story. Will our rascal protagonist beat down the little girls with swords one at a time until they realise he’s just plain stronger than them? Will he become a school hero and lead a revolution of male students reclaiming the masculinity these girls stole from them? Will one or more of these girls fall for his manly charms and rethink their views of gender roles? There are so many possible outcomes, none of them remotely feminist.
You could write an essay tearing this woman-hating otaku power fantasy apart, but it’s a lost cause and I have other shows to review today. Suffice to say that there are elements in this show that I could have liked, but the misogyny and transphobia oozing out of every pore of its smug, oily face made it impossible to enjoy any of them. If it’s strong women with swords you’re after, there are other shows this season I recommend.