Koihime†Musou is an even more vapid excuse for fanservice than Ikkitousen, with essentially the same premise – recast Romance of the Three Kingdoms heroes as teenage girls. But Cao Cao is a pretty, pretty princess, and that alone redeems the show.
Explanation is in order. The legendary Cao Cao is more nightmare than man, best described as one of the most ruthless killers in five thousand years of Asian history. The story which perhaps most exemplifies his way of living is this: once, he was on the run from the law, and took refuge with a friend. He fell asleep and woke up to voices on the other side of the door to his room saying, “Do we tie them up and kill them, or just kill them?” At this, he woke his fellow fugitives, and together they burst through the door and slew everyone. Only after the killing stopped did they get a good look around and realize that the people there were servants and members of the household, and they had been referring to some pigs and chickens, not Cao Cao’s group.
At this point, they made to flee, but then Cao Cao stopped them. “We have to go back and kill the lord of the house,” he said.
“What? But I thought he was your friend!”
“He was, but after this he’ll want my head. So to be safe, we should kill him first.”
This perfectly exemplifies Cao Cao’s approach to life – he lived by the sword, by paranoia, and by treachery. This sort of desperate violence and brutality are as far as one can get from cuteness. Thus, the juxtaposition of the person of Cao Cao with the appearance of a pouting, twin-tailed princess in a short skirt is a thing of tremendous – even delicious – absurdity.
Furthermore, the character Sousou (Cao Cao)’s predatory sexuality in the show only heightens the absurdity. By extorting Kan-U (Guan Yu), she slips into bed with her, trading on the long-standing fanfic convention that mortal enemies secretly hold passionate, burning lust for each other.
That’s not to say this show is all good, or even all watchable – far from it. Much has already been said about the show’s premise, execution, and style. But for those who have some familiarity with the original material of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the sheer uproariousness of a vampy Cao Cao is worth the price of admission.