Yoichi Karasuma is a young man from a small mountain village looking to become a great samurai. Having trained exclusively with his father, he has little knowledge of the outside world, and his father (who hides the fact he simply has nothing left to teach his son) sends him to visit the friendly Ijuruga clan who train in the same style.
Rarely has a series title so aptly summed up a book. Yoichi ends up living with 3 gorgeous sisters (plus one very junior sibling, who the blurb includes in the description "babelicious" - which is a bit dodgy to say the least!), and he soon falls prey to a series of mishaps, accidents, misunderstandings and fights mostly arising from his ignorance (or pure bad luck).
The four sisters are:
- the self-appointed head of the family, she's kind and dedicated to keeping the family dojo running,
- self-conscious and shy, Ayame has issues with Ibuki, who constantly (though unintentionally) overshadows her
- a 15 year old professional mangaka, she's the most forthright and has no problem manipulating the others for her own amusement.
- an elementary school student who has great talent at cooking
The first volume concentrates on Yoichi's arrival and his naivete when it comes to city life. He meets his first rival, a student brawler named Ryou Washizu, who has strong feelings for Ibuki and has no interest in Yoichi short of pounding him into the ground. His utter bewilderment at Yoichi's attitude fuels much of the comedy within the first volume, but you know they'll end up having to partner up eventually...
The artwork, it must be said, is gorgeous. The lines are very crisp, with attractive characters and fantastic poses. The tone is less over-the-top than the recently reviewed Sumomomo Momomo, otherwise the themes, featuring martial arts, romantic misunderstandings and love rivals is very familiar. I'd say Sumomomo's ridiculous antics give it the edge for comedy, but I warmed more to Yoichi and friends as characters.
If it weren't for the predictable nature of the plot and slightly pedestrian setup (it wasnt even fresh when Ranma did it!) then I could wholeheartedly recommend the series to fans of slightly smutty comedy. As it is, Samurai Harem provides some solid enjoyment, but unless it deviates from genre conventions in later volumes, it'll be quickly forgotten.