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.

Inspiring the troops with her moe tendencies.

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.

Guan Yu and Cao Cao as you've never seen them.

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.

Author: moritheil

One might be forgiven for thinking that Moritheil is a postmodern literary critic who started reviewing video games in 2001, and spent the early 2000s learning at the right hand of con staff and fansubbers. However, those rumors are spurious: Moritheil is actually a distant relative of Genghis Khan who stands poised to conquer the world via the Internet. Follow along at http://twitter.com/moritheil.

13 thoughts on “Koihime†Musou

  1. You shouldn’t really have to be in touch with the source material in order to like the show. Ikkitousen did the same thing and, for the most part, was still enjoyable. This was not. Although yuri is always a plus.

  2. Can’t see how Koihime beats Ikki Tousen in the fanservice department though. The episodes I’ve seen so far are positively tame compared to Great Guardians.

    Though vampy Cao Cao is indeed awesome.

  3. Wow, I didn’t know that Cao Cao tidbit. It’s not much different from what my Robert Greene book said, too (“Our army is low on morale and I need to make you a scapegoat and cut off your head. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your family.”)…

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    Omisyth – Well, otaku generally like references to other anime. So is referencing historical works different?

    Snark – This is true. 😀

    schneider – Ruthless general is ruthless.

  5. I’m rather late, but what’s actually funny about Cao Cao in this anime is a bit more complicated.
    You did get the story about Cao Cao as a fugitive right, but don’t forget his famous quote, the one that truly exemplifies his villain form in RoTK: “Better to wrong the world than have it wrong me!” Of course, Cao Cao’s reputation as an evil tyrant is largely based on the novel and not actual history.

    As for Guan Yu and Cao Cao, they weren’t actually mortal enemies. Quite the opposite for a little while, actually; Cao Cao recognized Guan Yu’s strength shortly after the three sworn brothers (Liu Bei, Zhang Fei) left to make a name for themselves in the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Cao Cao very strongly desired Guan Yu to serve him, because he had the insight to know that he’d be one of the most powerful warriors in the Three Kingdoms next to Lu Bu. For that reason, he was willing to make any offer to keep Guan Yu in his army, but during the battle of Guan Du against Yuan Shao, Guan Yu saw Liu Bei, who was fighting under the enemy’s command, and decided to leave to join his brother. Cao Cao basically dragged his feet about the paperwork and official business of letting him leave the army, so Guan Yu got fed up, wrote a farewell letter, and left. Cao Cao told his generals to let Guan Yu go, but they didn’t follow his directions and several of them were slain by Guan Yu on his own as he made a very famous ride in the story to leave Cao Cao’s territory.

    After this point, Guan Yu in the story met Cao Cao in person one more time, after they were enemies. He swore an oath to slay Cao Cao despite them being former lord and vassal. However, when he caught Cao Cao fleeing from the battle of Red Cliffs, he was unable to force himself to kill Cao Cao and let him escape, promising the next time he wouldn’t be so merciful.

    So anyways, the importance of these stories is that Cao Cao and Guan Yu weren’t mortal enemies, and Koihime Musou is doubly hilarious in that Cao Cao’s heavy respect for Guan Yu and determination to keep him as his servant suddenly became hawt yuri sechz.

  6. Cascade – Thanks for the extended explanation.  It’s been some time since I looked at RotTK.  You’re right in that Cao Cao’s villainy is largely a matter of interpretation; this season there’s an anime out that portrays him as a hero instead.

    I knew that Guan Yu and Cao Cao were not always enemies, but to me, it was funnier to look at Koihime†Musou as fulfilling the “enemy lust” fanfic trope than to look at it as turning a friendship sexual – though that is also common in certain kinds of fanfic as well.  Strictly by timeframe, I agree that your explanation is more accurate, as the scene coincides with RotTK Cao Cao’s desire to have such a powerful fighter in his own forces.

  7. Romance of three kingdoms is a very good deep book. The anime itself is very courage but I still can not take Guan Yu and Cao Cao in that way. ^^

Comments are closed.