Gender-bender. The topic as risque and slippery as ever. Creating a good series with gender-bender as one of the leading motives is possible, as it has been proven by this year's Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo (can it be considered gender-bender, though? Not quite sure, but you catch my drift), but it's definitely hard. In Kämpfer's case, the whole gender-bending topic isn't that much of a problem. It can drive some people away from watching it, sure, but that's all. The series, however, has more important problems to deal with. For the sake of you, readers, I've gone through the utter terror of watching both Kämpfer and Kämpfer: Für die Liebe, which adds up to 14 episodes, 24 minutes long each.
Let's start off easily. The overall look of this anime isn't really bad. The way it's all drawn, the animations and basically how most of the anime looks is actually pretty good. I've been looking for the frame errors to no avail, with only a few misdrawn faces or weird animations spotted. It's a really good score. The sad thing is, all of those mistakes have shown up towards the end of the anime, which shows that there was less effort put into it compared to the beginning. Or it's just money problems. At any rate, one thing deserves my high praise, and it's the design of one particular character. This character being... Sakura Kaede. While the character was what it was (read more below), the design just hit all the spots for me. The combination of her subtle hair color with mint eyes, decorations and clothing was a sight for sore eyes (at least from the GFXer's POV), and so was the look of whole character. Mostly all of the animations containing her were well-executed, and the character itself is just really nice to look at, so I had something to look forward to at the end of each episode. So, let's get it a 0/20 for the beginning, +4 for all the errors and -2 for Kaede. I intentionally skipped the obligatory transformation scenes as a possible homage for Sailor Moon. Don't really want to go there.
Whoosh. I nearly forgot I'm reviewing a bad anime there. Let's try to be more harsh here, then. Well... I can't. The soundtrack overall is a generic, unique set of melodies that resemble the ones found in other anime in its own way. So... normal soundtrack is normal. Some melodies/songs were hard for my ears to handle (including both openings and endings), while others just called for me to google them up to hear them clearly (just like that rock-metal-ish melody used for fighting). Not to make this paragraph too long - the soundtrack was nothing special, but it had its good points. Let me just mention one last thing - the cast of voice actors was as generic as it gets, but the plushies' voices were the soothing piece I needed. Call me a sick person, so be it, I just liked the voices the creators gave them.
To write about the plot, I'll have to pause my In Flames playlist and switch to something nice. Let me just... okay, done. The plot about this anime revolves around Kämpfers - the fighters that were put in pairs to fight against each other, watched over by the Moderators. Why? We get the answer later on in the anime, but it's just as much nonsense as most of the things here. The main character is a guy called Natsuru Senou, a student of the co-ed school that separates the girls from the boys (because plot convenience). One day he finds out he can transform into a girl and has the ability to shoot fireballs, then finds out about the fighting going on between reds and blues (both being the Kämpfer pairs). Why does he transform into a girl? Because Kämpfers have to be girls. Why? I have no goddamn idea. Well, let's move on then. The Kämpfers all possess one Entrails Animals plushy that can talk (a Messenger), a gift from a girl named Sakura Kaede (whom Senou has a crush on). Now, something smells fishy, and it's not my sushi. With a setup this obvious, how is it possible nobody suspected her early on... I have no clue. Can it get any better? Well, depends. Most of the anime is just a slice of life/comedy/ecchi mix, most of which concentrates on Natsuru and his ability to change genders. Once you get used to that, you'll get through that with no cringes at all. Or at least I did. Then come the random fights, new encounters, and all of the people he meets generally fall for him in either his male version (standard shounen anime, duh) or female version (yuri lovers, unite). And then, in episode 11, comes the great-rushed-finale, great-rushed-final-battle which doesn't settle anything... and the last, 12th episode, believe it or not, is a full-of-nonsense filler. My eyes bled on this one. Is Kämpfer: Für die Liebe any better... considering that for the most part it's just two-episode-long filler intended to bring girls closer to Natsuru, nope. Just... nope. So, to summarize. 20/20 for nonsense, -1 for well-executed, clever fanservice, +3 for fillers, +5 for creators not being able to finish it at all.
We're slowly getting there, aren't we. Let me just say a few words about each of the characters. Senou Natsuru, a generic dense-as-fug male student, over the course of whole anime ignored the flirting of any female character, being 'devoted' to his crush, Sakura Kaede, who didn't show any interest in him, but instead decided to try and conquer female Natsuru. Did it suit him? Apparently not, since all the time he tried to find the opportunity to escape from her. Because reasons. Now, I'm not sure about you guys, but to me, Sakura had the potential to be a good secondary character. Instead, they forcefully made her the turning wheel of the series, and introduced her evil self towards the end, which absolutely didn't make any sense at all. The rest of the characters didn't really have much to say in this series either. Pretty much all of them are generic stereotypes seen in any other harem anime. We have miss seito kaichou, who despite her cold outside is a caring, loving character, who's not afraid to show her feelings (one of the rare positives in this one), a shy megane, whose character gets reversed after transforming, a globetrotter osananajimi, who can only cook ramen... do I even have to continue? I'll just take a second to mourn about the wasted potential this anime had. We nearly had a good, romance plot, interesting characters, genuine feelings... and instead we got this good-for-nothing mixture of fighting and ecchi with daily life as the main motif. And now, the harshest pill to swallow. I had high hopes about this anime, ever since Shizuku took the lead in the romance aspect of the anime. One of the not-so-standard setups in a harem series, with Akame ga Kill! being one and only I recall going all out with it. And then it just sort of happened that it finished in the most generic, harem setup you can imagine. A sin. A shameful sin. 15/20 for overall feeling about it, -2 for good intentions... and a tasty +5 for wasted potential and +6 for the worst sin I've seen in years.
Overall, I must admit, for the most part this anime was a relief from all the bad anime I've recently seen. Sadly, the ending messed with my head enough to prevent me from writing a positive review. Among all the bad things I have mentioned, there were many great points. For example, really cool homages/tributes/references. The easiest one to spot was episode 9's use of famous Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's quote. There was also Zero's suit in episode 5 (Code Geass), episode 7's break image featured a Miku Hatsune cosplay (duh), and in Kämpfer: Für die Liebe we get to see a Naruto reference with "Leaf Secret Finger Jutsu" that Shizuku performs on Mikoto (which was actually one of the tributes I didn't expect to see, at least in the form it had). The one I liked the most, though, was in episode 8. Chissoku Norainu (or Choked Stray Dog), said the famous line from Jigoku Shoujo: "Ippen shinde miru?". The catch is, both Ai from Jigoku Shoujo and Norainu were voiced by the same person.
So, to make this a bit shorter. I enjoyed the show for the most part, I enjoyed the homages, but I find it crude to waste the potential like they did, and the unbearable last episodes were absolutely cringeworthy. A solid 20/20... but I can't do it.
Total score: 75/100