Impressions: Campione! Episodes 1-6
It's Good to Be the King
Campione! is an action harem comedy with some beautiful animation, epic battles that aren’t, a good sense of pacing, and fabulous fashion sense. The story centers around unlikely adolescent hero Godo Kusanagi, who ends up acquiring one of the powers of a god and inadvertently garnering the protection of a knight while attempting to return a stone tablet (grimoire) for his ethnography enthusiast grandfather. Kusanagi stumbles into a fight between two rogue gods, or “gods who have broken out of their mythic plane.” Instead of fleeing, Kusanagi embraces the power he was given and uses it as leverage to effectively persuade one of those gods into a temporary partnership. Once Kusanagi slays the rival god, he inherits the abilities of its 10 forms as well as its Golden Sword, which can strip divine beings of their divinity. Thus Kusanagi becomes a campione (god slayer/demon king), one of seven destined to protect the world from rogue gods. But an adolescent male cannot protect the world alone, and this is where his harem comes into play.
Initially, Kusanagi is aided solely by Erica Blandelli, an Italian knight of the magic-based Copper Black Cross organization, whose heart and aid he won for his determination, resilience, and potential battle prowess. But this is a harem show, so more women find their way to Kusangi’s side one by one. How does that help him? Well, since the Golden Sword’s true ability can only be unleashed when enough is known about the enemy at hand, Kusanagi must draw from many a well of experience in order to have a chance at victory. It is here, to shaft the prudish notions of all the harem shows which preceded it, Campione! employs a device that parallels Mysterious Girlfriend X. To acquire such intimate knowledge about the gods he has to often fight in chance encounters, Kusanagi is aided by the saliva tongues kisses “injections” of magic from his personal knight/doting lover, a princess shrine maiden, another knight (two knights!), a great mage (his grandfather’s former mistress ... oh yeah), and probably more to come. That’s right: this hero gets all the girls.
While battles involve gods from disparate myths and a big to-do is made of making sure Kusanagi gets his injection of knowledge to be able to fight each, who the individual gods are doesn’t carry that much importance aside from imagery presented and avatars involved. Really, viewers can just space out and watch the warfare, which involves a goodly blend of action and magic with decent enough backing music that quickens the pulse. The monster of the week mentality is actually quite a shame given the opportunity the show has to really develop a more involved take on man vs. god, but this is a harem show, so its main focus is the desire that builds between those comprising the harem and Kusanagi and vice-versa.
I like that each harem member is attracted to Kusanagi for different reasons — his potential as campione, his kindness and humility as a king of kings, etc. — and that those reasons are shown instead of told in most cases. It also helps that the girls’ personalities are not all role-specific. Each has, if not a little bit of defining backstory, a range of emotions that are far from one-note in any given situation. And despite the obvious skin service, I have to say my favorite part of the character designs is the tasteful, sleek, and strikingly sexy fighting outfit worn by Erica. Similarly impressive, the seemingly effortless use of scale in rendering characters against backgrounds very effectively evokes a feeling of being dwarfed by an obstacle or emphasizes the impact of a battle on the surrounding area.