This Article Might Be NSFW
Let’s not mince words here. Breasts. Boobs. Tits. Only humanity has developed them the way they are, and they’re one of the staples for fanservice, next to the oft-repeated panty shot. It’s general knowledge that the bigger they are, the more they’ll be played for sexiness. This goes double if the director is Hiraku Kaneko. Yet, for all their forward presence, it’s only a select few anime that have focused exclusively on breasts. One of them is Qwaser of Stigmata, which is just as much about chemistry and action as it is about breasts. It’s good for what it aspires to, but I feel the series after it is worth examining deeper, looking into the peaks and valleys of what makes it not just fanservice, but fanservice with a point. This is Manyuu Hikenchou
Manyuu is as much a period drama (jidaigeki) as it is a fanservice series, though it’s more along the lines of alternate history. Not in the Oda Nobuna sense, but the very foundations of the world are rewritten. Men are still primarily the ones in power, but social standing is determined by breast size. As the introduction states, those with big boobs are royalty, and small boobs are the lowest caste. Normally, such a thing would be left entirely up to random genetics, but this is a period piece with some magic built in. A ninja technique that can remove breasts from those who betray their rank, all while keeping them natural. If the world had this kind of magic instead of plastic surgery, it would be a very different place.
The syllables chi (乳) and mune (胸), both meaning “breasts”, will come up a lot in character names. This is a world that works entirely on the premise of boobs. The only thing even remotely like it is the Boobs War visual novels from softhouse-seal, and in those games, those with washboard chests are considered human, they just live in another country. That’s the world, but not the plot. And to see the plot, we need look no further than our protagonists.
Robin Boobs and Little John (Sorry, Kaede)
Folklore often places Robin Hood as the Earl of Huntington. Chifusa Manyuu is of somewhat similar origin, being a person from a noble family who became an outlaw, a person who steals from the rich and gives to the poor (though she’s working on the latter part), fighting against a tyrannical king. As you can likely guess, all of this involves breasts. Chifusa is the only holder of a secret scroll that shows her the Breast Flow technique, with which she can not only take breasts from other girls, but add it to her own. It’s a veritable Law of Conservation of Fat. She’s tomboyish enough to be a warrior princess, but has some of the biggest displays of femininity in the whole series.
I believe that a female protagonist in a traditionally male-oriented genre (see also Ichiko Sakura, Madoka Kyono) is a great thing, and Chifusa stands out as one of the best protagonists I’ve encountered. She’s active in her beliefs, but with enough flaws to keep her interesting and she has a great comedic chemistry with Kaede. Along with a few other kinds of chemistry. She’s not against the concept of large boobs themselves, but she thinks that they shouldn’t be used to impose an unfair caste system on the world. She’s also very knowledgeable in the field of breasts, which makes her a worldly person by Manyuu standards. The qualities that make her unique, but also that make her a good person, are balanced in an appealing way.
Chifusa wouldn’t be as fun to watch if Kaede wasn’t with her, though. If Chifusa is the heart of the series, Kaede is the soul. She was a native of the world, living amongst it as one of Chifusa’s servants before, for betraying the Manyuu clan, she had her breasts sucked out, rendering her flat. Kaede is very heavily into Chifusa, admiring her to the point of keeping track of her bust size, but even she gets a character arc. She’s also fighting against the world, but her reason for doing so is different from Chifusa’s. She doesn’t necessarily want to “right” the world, she just wants to reclaim her position in it. A less than noble goal, but despite this, Kaede is the most practical. She knows how to use Chifusa to keep some money in the group’s pocket, and understands the customs of the various villages they go to fairly well.
The possible lesbian tension between these two actually makes them more interesting, I think. Kaede and Chifusa both have moments where they show they might be interested in men, but they spend a lot of time around each other, doing very intimate things. Kaede is obviously eager to do it, partly out of jealousy and partly in the belief that Chifusa can help her get her boobs back, and Chifusa is eager to keep Kaede around because she does know what she’s doing most of the time. They have an inseparable relationship. That’s not to say the other characters in the series aren’t interesting.
Shadow of the Cleavage
Throughout the series, we meet two people who Chifusa stole the breasts from, at least personally. The first is her own sister, Kagefusa. The other is Ouka. One is a probable heir to the Manyuu line, the other a commoner, but the way they react after losing their breasts shows a lot about the different ways this series explores the conundrum of the chest. It’s worth noting that these two also share a DVD special, which I will cover below.
Kagefusa, right down to the “shadow” in her name, is Chifusa’s foil, someone who, at first, represents everything she’s fighting against. A person with a massive, bouncy chest who uses it to lord over everybody else with impunity. It’s fitting that the first “kill” Chifusa makes in the series would be her, setting off an arc of redemption that has Kagefusa also coming to try and right the world, even if she arrives at it through a different means than her kin. Midway through the series, Chifusa is undergoing a training exercise at a temple, because her breasts have gotten too big. That’s one thing I do like about this series. For as much as it gives a sizable amount of big breasts fanservice, it is willing to acknowledge that there are limits on how big a girl’s chest should get before it starts to make life difficult. (Also, Chifusa is basically making an erect nipple on top of a round hill that will eventually lead to a squirting fountain. The series is never not on motif.) It’s here that she meets Kagefusa.
When a flat-chested girl wants to appear more mature for her age, she pads her bra. That’s just what Kagefusa’s been doing, wearing a set of fake, inflatable boobs that make her appear to live up to her old glory, but Chifusa, savior of the land, quickly reveals her sister’s false pretenses. After this episode, whenever we see Kagefusa, she’s at peace with herself. In a way, this puts her a step ahead of Kaede. It helps that Kaede is a main character, and thus her change over time would be more gradual, but this arc of redemption is a well-worn jidai geki plot, shaped to fit the theme of this world. The thing that brought Kagefusa peace? Seeing how beautiful Chifusa’s own boobs were. Kagefusa learns that what’s in your chest is at least partially defined by what’s in your heart. That sounds cheesy, but it ties into a greater theme of the show.
The other person who Chifusa comes across is Ouka. Like Kagefusa, Ouka is someone who Chifusa stole breasts from, but what separates Ouka from Kagefusa is that Ouka is one of the first people in the series to use her sword as an actual sword, designed to cut flesh and armor, rather than to cut the nebulous concept of breasts. She’s also one of the few people in the series who’s able to take back some of Chifusa’s breast mass. Unlike Kagefusa, Ouka doesn’t quite become a good guy, but we see that there’s a good side to her. She has someone she looks up to, someone who cares for her, while Kagefusa has mostly been on her own. There’s probably more that goes on in the manga, but I’m analyzing this from a strictly anime perspective.
The ABCs of DEFs
The characters are well defined for their roles, with enough variance to make stories interesting. The stories themselves are samurai period pieces with a twist. What I like the most about Manyuu Hikenchou is the concepts. Expanding a seemingly flat, one-note premise into something rounded requires having lots of stuff to sink into, something soft enough to endear those who seek comedy, but firm enough for those who desire drama. As a fan of breasts, I can say this series shows everything about why breasts are great, but also how things can go wrong with them.
I’ve already talked about the series’ attitudes towards sizes, and how it realizes there is an upper limit before things become uncomfortable. That has to do with attitudes, too. Except for Chifusa, many of the big-breasted characters the duo meets at the start of the series are haughty, such as the assassin sent after them in the bath, or the women who participate in the contest that draws Hatomune’s attention to Chifusa in the first place. The assassin in particular. Her breasts are floppy, having succumbed to the will of gravity, seemingly without a bra. This is a real problem in terms of physical appearance and back pain, and is the first sign of Chifusa wanting to help out everyone, regardless of breast size.
The most notable instance is Oiso, a diver who lets the duo stay with her for the series’ mandatory beach episode. She’s busty, sure, but having such bouyant breasts is a troublesome for her as it will later become for Chifusa. She’s grateful that she has her breasts taken, as having a more slender form grants her more mobility in the water. (And allows her to defeat a giant octopus, but that’s neither here nor there.) The world of the city, created by humankind, is designed to be privileged for women with huge chests, but nature and the properties of water work differently. The Breast Flow itself goes against nature, transferring what should be the effects of puberty over many years into a single stroke, or removing it in an instant. Though Chifusa wants to return every pair of breasts she took, I don’t think Oiso would want hers back – she probably wishes she’d been born like Kaede currently is.
Getting the world to recognize the value of flat chests doesn’t rest solely with Chifusa. Episode nine is perhaps the series’ sole Kaede focused episode, and also one of the only ones about flat chests. These are definitely related. Kaede comes across a painter who, in contrast to everyone else in this world, only creates art of girls with no breasts to speak of. This makes him an outcast in the world, but he’s proud of his profession, and plays a major role in helping Kaede accept her current self. Kaede decides her mission is more important, but she goes away from it with a greater sense of self worth, having realized that her current body isn’t ugly, no matter what society may think of it. While her flat chest isn’t natural, it feels natural, so for the time being, accepting it is the best thing she could do.
The best part of the series is that it never forgets what humans have breasts for. They’re socially considered a sign of appeal, for various reasons. Some think they were designed to be a frontal counterpart to the buttocks. But their primary function is nurturing young and helping life forward through the natural growth that comes from pregnancy, and the breast milk that follows thereafter. A similar motif prevailed in Qwaser with breast milk/soma being considered sacred, but it’s even more important here.
Episode five is the first sign of this motif, where Chifusa helps out a group of kids who have been attacking the villagers. The reason is that they miss their mother’s breasts and their warmth, which causes Chifusa to remember her own mother. Chikumi (which is one character away from “Chikubi”, or “nipple”, in keeping with the motif). This, and episode 7, which introduces Ouka, leads into the final episodes, where Chifusa returns to her mother’s hometown and learns that a “mother’s heart” is necessary in order to use her technique.
Chifusa ends up learning this by letting her baby cousin Hazuki suck on her breasts, even though she has yet to produce anything from them. Not that this stops anybody. The OVA series which, I will not deny, is much more fanservicey than the main show, and also much heavier on Kaede/Chifusa yuri, has this be a recurring motif, though it began all the way back in episode two of the series. After Chifusa’s breasts engorged at the hot springs, a faint trickle of milk leaked out, which Kaede immediately attended to.
In the OVA specials, Kaede (and Kagefusa) continue to believe that drinking Chifusa’s (nonexistant) milk will get their own breasts to enlarge, and so continue sucking on them. Chifusa hesitantly agrees, but even she has her limits. It should be noted that this doesn’t work. It’s likely an old wives’ tale from the world, similar to the belief that drinking milk will increase your breast size in the modern day, but with the intimacy and worship of big breasts from the Manyuu universe factored in.
All of the above points considered, lactation must be held as much in high regard here as it is in Qwaser, but it doesn’t show up nearly as often. Mostly because Manyuu is probably the only breast expansion focused anime on the market. But it does get it in, in one notable instance. An OVA on the third volume, focusing around Ouka and Kagefusa for once, has the two of them at the hot springs.
Kagefusa’s breasts are large, and naturally so in this dream, so Ouka’s probably going off her memory of her. After massaging her bosom, Kagefusa’s nipples burst forth with a shower of milk, which she seems to enjoy. This was all Ouka’s dream, influenced by outside sources, but dreams are at least partially influenced by one’s culture, and being worried about Kagefusa not only outstripping her in size, but also in milk production, hints at something about this world.
Some of this is probably director Kaneko’s personal fetish (he’s branched out lately, but I won’t say much more), but he is exactly the man for a series like this, and it certainly doesn’t make it any less valid. It’s a fascinating alternate history.
Over Mountains and Valleys
I can completely understand why Manyuu Hikenchou is overlooked. On the surface, it appears to be a fanservice series, and it is, but there’s more to it than that. Not all the shots of breasts are meant to be titilating. Chifusa’s scene with Hazuki is closer to heartwarming, and some of the early big-chested women are almost grotesque, their attitudes not helping matters. But what makes it work are the characters, and the story and its themes.
Chifusa is a well-rounded protagonist, with conflicting motivations and a talent she still doesn’t know how to fully use. Some part of her may even like the attention her breasts bring her and how useful they are, but she fights for justice. Kaede may be somewhat scatterbrained and breast-focused, but she’s also a competent strategist and a loyal friend who learns a few things about herself.
The plot, if the breast elements were removed, could make for an above average jidai geki plot, with intrigue, conspiracy and long family legacies. But since the breast elements can’t be removed, they must be considered against the backdrop of the world… and in a caste-based system like feudal Japan, they actually work very well.
The show doesn’t forget that breasts come in more than just big and small, that having them too big is more trouble than it’s worth, and that they’re meant for a mother’s love above everything else.
I stand by my support of this show, because with a hefty premise like this, it needs all the support it can get.