HomeAnimeANIME REVIEW | Learning of Life & Love with "Kunoichi Tsubaki"

ANIME REVIEW | Learning of Life & Love with "Kunoichi Tsubaki"

ANIME REVIEW | Learning of Life & Love with "Kunoichi Tsubaki"

With Teasing Master Takagi-san, author Soichiro Yamamoto brought readers one of the most sweetest and funniest rom-coms around. But could he bring that same formula that made Takagi and Nishikata a joy to watch to someone just discovering love? The answer to that question is a resounding yes, thanks in part to his latest series In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki!

Adapted by CloverWorks (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, My Dress-Up Darling), In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki focuses on its titular character (Yuko Natsuyoshi), the leader of Team Dog in the Akane Class. Her village consists of all women, with nary a man in sight. In fact, practically no one here has seen a male figure in their entire life, with some even fearing them. But Tsubaki is too curious to be frightened, as she takes every chance she can to learn about the opposite sex.

Of course, she can’t always think of guys; she has her ninja training to focus on as well. As the best student in her class, many fawn over Tsubaki and her skills. Her teammates Sazanka (Miyari Nemoto) and Asagao (Sayumi Suzushiro) are almost always by her side, with the former having feelings for Tsubaki that are more than just “sisterly”. The later addition of Rindou (Konomi Kohara) to the team not just adds more skills to Team Dog, but also precious knowledge that only Tsubaki is desperately interested in!

But where does this fear of men come from in In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki? The answer resides in the head teacher Hana (Yuki Uchiyama), who reveals the secret to Tsubaki behind why there are no male ninja in their village. This realization blows Tsubaki’s mind, but must swear to both Hana and their other teacher Konoha (M.A.O) not to tell any of the other kunoichi. Despite having such a big reveal to herself, Tsubaki is understandably eager to talk more about guys. Fortunately, that’s where Rindou comes in.

Formerly of an all-male clan, Rindou was trained to act like a boy so she could fit in. Of course, upon arriving in the all-female village, some have doubts about her actual gender. After some help from Tsubaki, the newcomer finds the most peculiar way to prove that she’s a she and not a he. The end result is a moment that’ll leave many people snickering, with the entire ninja student body gleefully shouting a dirty word to the embarrassment of Tsubaki.

There’s a big challenge that comes with talking about In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki, as the cast of characters here is quite massive! The show consists of twelve teams of 2-4 kunoichi, with just about every one of them having a moment to shine in this series. Team Boar’s strong-yet-stupid personalities give way to some funny physical humor, whereas Team Ox has a habit of babying their cutest member Ajisai (Aoi Koga). Each team has their own unique personality and fighting style, much of which is used for great comedic fodder.

But since Tsubaki is the main character, Team Dog takes up most of the time compared to the others. Sazanka’s lovey-dovey attitude towards Tsubaki can sometimes be a tad overbearing, but her moments of anger bring forth a delightful amount of comedy. Then there’s Asagao, whose love of food can surprisingly be a show highlight whenever her stomach takes over. As for Rindou, her knowledge and cuteness brings out a good amount of silly shenanigans for both Team Dog and the rest of the kunoichi.

Surprisingly, the main plot of In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki takes more of a backseat than when it’s actually focused on. Much of the anime tends to highlight the growth of these teams, as they overcome their weaknesses in both battle and survival. The show also does a pretty good job sprinkling little lessons here and there for its viewers to ponder over, in ways that correlate to real-life that one wouldn’t expect. Sure, we have seen situations like this in Naruto or Dragon Ball, but, well, it sure looks a lot prettier here than any of the big shonen series!

Which leads me to CloverWorks’s production of the show. When a battle or even a chase scene is presented, the level of detail in the characters and their surroundings are gorgeous to behold. Yamamoto’s original character designs also showcase a big dose of cuteness (yes, even the big foreheads, a staple of the author). However, it’s clear that some corners were cut when characters are just sitting around having a conversation, as mouth movements and expressions are a tad choppy.

With its near three-dozen characters, the voice actresses of In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki deliver plenty of cuteness and personality in their performances. But much of the show rests on the Team Dog seiyuu, with Natsuyoshi’s Tsubaki delivering the right amount of confidence and fluster-y embarrassment when the time calls for it. Nemoto’s snappy attitude brings a good dose of humor in her presentation of Sazanka. As for Suzushiro’s Asagao, her dialogue has a great mixture of hunger and excitement in every line uttered.

Its soundtrack — composed by Yusuke Shirato — puts a lot of focus on traditional Japanese instruments, with the shamisen playing a major role in the tone of the show. Said instrument can bring a level of excitement and humor in the right context, something that Shugo demonstrates strongly in the score. Rockers the peggies continue on their hot streak of great anime theme songs, with opener “Highlight - Highlight” being lively, bouncy, and just an all-around fantastic song. Each kunoichi team takes a turn at the show’s end theme “Akane-gumi Katsudou Nisshi”, with every version being more unique than the last.

Still the question remains: is In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki just as good as Teasing Master Takagi-san? It’s quite hard to say, as Yamamoto’s other series has had plenty of time to grow and evolve into the rom-com juggernaut that it now is. For now, this new show has some catching up to do, solely for the reason that Takagi and Nishikata were given a chance to breathe onward outside of a single season. (If it gets renewed, there’s a strong possibility it’ll run shoulder-to-shoulder with its predecessor.)

Nevertheless, In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki is one fun anime to watch. The characters are great, and the situations they’re placed in are very entertaining. While the animation quality can go up and down depending on the scene at hand, it makes up for it with the sweetness and humor every one of these ninjas brings to their viewers. Love may be a complex thing to learn, but In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki demonstrates why its knowledge is both fruitful and satisfying.

Voice Acting:
Final Grade (not an average):

In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki can be viewed on Crunchyroll and VRV. It has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-10 were observed for review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)