Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale
喧嘩番長 乙女～恋のバトルロワイヤル～ (Kenka Bancho Otome ~Koi no Battle Royale~)
Shoujo – Comedy, gender bender, reverse harem, romance
SHIMADA Chie (story & art), Spike Chunsoft (original story)
2 Volumes (complete)
Hinako has one goal for high school: make friends. But on her way to school on the first day of classes, she bumps into a guy — and he says he’s so injured, he can’t go to school! The boy, Hikaru, looks a lot like Hinako, so he convinces her to take his place at his all boy’s school. However, Hinako’s about to find out that Hikaru’s school is no ordinary learning institution: it’s an academy for delinquents, where fights break out every day!
Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale does well in its main goal: getting people interested in the original game. Unfortunately, that means little when the source is not available in English.
Kenka Bancho is a series of beat-em-up games where the player character tries to become the top leader of delinquents (bancho) and make his school the strongest and most powerful. One PSP game was released in English for PSP (Badass Rumble). While new Kenka Bancho games have been made over the years, none of them have gotten a Western release. Then, in 2016, Spike Chunsoft (whom you may recognize from games like Zero Escape, Danganronpa, and many anime-related games like J-Stars Victory VS), released an otome game spin-off appropriately called Kenka Bancho Otome. While the English branch said they’d consider bringing it over, it obviously never happened. The only chance of Kenka Bancho Otome being playable in the West is to wait until it’s inevitably ported to Switch and then hope that the Otome Armada has supported the current English Switch otoge market enough for Spike Chunsoft to translate it.
If you’ve played any visual novel before, you’ll know they tend to involve a lot of text. It may not be surprising considering how story-driven they are, but a true/main route can take 10, 20+ hours to complete and still have some important details skipped. Even putting that aside, two volumes is extremely short for a harem series. In Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale, Hinako has the four main guys, the “secret character” hinted at at the end of the first volume who plays a rather large role in the second, and, of course, the meeting and setup with Hikaru. There’s only eight chapters here; you do the math.
So with a limited amount of time, of course not everything is going to be answered or covered. In the very first chapter, Hinako discovers there’s a reason why she and Hikaru look so much alike: they’re twins. Only Hinako’s been raised in an orphanage and Hikaru is the son of a yakuza head. Why was Hinako abandoned? Was the twins’ father some sort of chauvinist that doesn’t see any value in raising girls? Was there some sort of accident while their mom was giving birth that caused them to be separated? Did someone try to steal Hinako, but something happened during the attempt for her to end up at a home? Who knows! Maybe Kenka Bancho Otome explains, but Love’s Battle Royale sure doesn’t. In fact, while one chapter explores their familial bonds, Hinako never expresses a desire to learn the truth about her heritage or see her parents. For a girl who has never had any family or friends, it’s shocking she wouldn’t demand answers before continuing to pretend to be her brother while Hikaru takes her place at Hinako’s school.
Regardless, Hinako is better suited to be at Shishiku Academy despite her gender. At this school, it’s tradition for students to fight in hopes of being declared the top fighter. Hikaru is expected to uphold the family tradition of being #1, which is why he sought out Hinako to take his place: she’s picked up a lot of skills battling bullies. Her strength is why she’s had a hard time making friends, but her power punches and naturally kind nature finally earn her some.
So much of Love’s Battle Royale is about introducing the love interests, showing how they become friends and/or develop a crush on “Hikaru”. Considering these guys also happen to be the top fighters at the school, this fits in nicely with the reason why Hinako is at the school in the first place. Hikaru, happily fitting in at Hinako’s school, checks in with his
fanboy caretaker through the manga, and a couple of side characters take an important role as the series moves into typical high school events.
Unfortunately, you know that feeling when all of a sudden an anime or manga suddenly has to throw in a crisis to create an ending? That happens here. When you’re reading this manga, if you didn’t know this was only two volumes, you would have no idea the end was rapidly approaching since there’s no buildup, just deepening feelings for “Hikaru” as “he” takes a break from knocking down the top fighters. The manga also sets up the Kenka Bancho Otome sequel, but there is no follow-up to the manga outside of a bonus in Japan. So there’s no real resolution outside of “the days go on”.
But as for the actual story, it’s hard to dislike Love’s Battle Royale. Hinako is one of those protagonists who gets stronger and braver when defending her friends, but at least it makes a lot of sense considering her history. Still, she forgot a major detail from her past, one that is really hard to believe.
As you might expect, the guys tend to fall in the usual harem love interest categories. One is the friendly brawler who keeps blushing around “Hikaru”, there’s the blunt and seemingly cold one, a flirt, and a mysterious senpai. But Hinako’s admirers do not fit the mold exactly; in fact, they flip the script in some areas. For example, the flirt is an idol. That may seem typical, but remember that he’s also a student at Shishiku. You wouldn’t expect someone who is featured in magazines to attend a school like this. Totomaru seems like an idiot since he’s blonde, the always-friendly type, and can’t hide his red face, but he’s better in academics than the headphone-wearing, snarky guy he’s always bickering with. The author does a good job of trying to insert moments with each of the characters even when one of the other guys is the star of the chapter. Readers get a little insight into everyone’s past, but it’s only the character who is the star of the ending that we get a better idea of their homelife. Again, this makes me want to go out and play Kenka Bancho Otome to learn more about them.
Shimada’s art is good overall. It reminds me heavily of Oresama Teacher, which may not be a huge leap considering both involving fighting girls and delinquents. I haven’t studied the game’s artwork much, so I can’t really compare Shimada’s designs are, but her art is a familiar shoujo style even if the eyes look a little big for the faces at times. Hinako, like most female protagonists in gender benders, keeps looking feminine to the people around her, and this is often the source of much of the manga’s humor. Despite the setup, Love’s Battle Royale isn’t very graphic. We see a lot of downed bodies, but actual punching is mostly limited to more exaggerated comedic blows than violent ones.
No honorifics are used. This includes terms like “onii-chan” or “senpai”. Despite being in the title, I don’t think the word bancho is ever used in the manga, but it might not have been used in the original script either.
Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale is a good entry to the series, but the fact that it leaves a tantalizing taste for readers without a way to get the full story
Crunchyroll streamed the anime adaptation Kenka Bancho Otome ~Girl Beats Boys~ while Funimation released it on Blu-ray.