Monday, October 24, 2011

Anime Review: Murder Princess

Is there a cooler name for an anime than Murder Princess?  I have seen my fair share of anime with badass titles: Darker than Black, Soul Eater, Princess Nine (Shut up! I like what I like!).  However Murder Princess tops them all!  It’s so out there and invokes a lot interesting images just by hearing it.   I’ve been hoping to watch this anime for a long, long time based solely on the name.  Yeah, yeah; I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or whatever but have you seen that title?   It’s awesome!

Based on a two volume manga by Sekihiko Inui Murder Princess was adapted into an anime in 2007 by Marvelous Entertainment and Bee Train…Bee Train of course being the company responsible for El Cazador de le Bruja.  You know, that anime I hated because it was as boring as the day is long.  In fact Murder Princess came out right before that atrocity series.   Honestly this show seems to share some thematic similarities with the Triple G Trilogy (That’s “Gay Girls w/ Guns Trilogy” for you newcomers) in that it stars two women, one of whom is a trained killer, and that they share a strong bond.  Apparently this show is considered a Yuri anime (i.e. “Girls’ Love”) by some sources but honestly it’s mostly ambiguous at best and I wouldn’t put too much stock in it were I you.  Anyway it was licensed by FUNimation Entertainment in 2008.

Also this anime is an OVA or Original Video Animation and thus only six episodes long.   As I’m pretty sure this is my first time reviewing an OVA I’ll briefly talk about a bit about them. OVAs are straight to video (Or DVD nowadays) anime.  Which isn’t at all uncommon here in North America, of course, but we don’t usually think very highly of such releases as they tend to a bit on the cheap-ass side of things.   However in Japan OVAs are much more popular and tend to have higher budgets and better production quality than their television counterparts likely due to its (Usually) short episode count and longer production time per episodes (Which can in some cases can last years between releases).

Full review after the jump.


THIS is what I was expecting to get from the whole series
 The Kingdom of Forland is in serious danger.  Dr. Akamashi, former royal scientist, has begun a coup d'état.  The king has been mortally wounded and last breath sends his daughter Alita out to find and bring back her older brother Kaito who had earlier gone off to war.  During her escape she literally runs in the merciless bounty hunter Falis and the two end up falling off a cliff.  When they awake they have somehow switched bodies essentially turning Falis into the crown princess of the land who happens to be a brutal and violent swordswoman.

No matter what else you might say about this show it is always good to see strong female protagonists in anything.  Plus it’s neat because both the leads kind of represent the two sides of what I like to see in a female main character.  Alita is not physically strong but she’s incredibly determined and strong willed willing to do anything and everything for the greater good of her kingdom, be it permanently giving up her identity or even dying and she never second guesses herself.  Falis is just a badass, who is likely the most powerful warrior in her world, who would never be the damsel in distress archetype because she’s too busy kicking ass.

Speaking of the world of Murder Princess on paper it seems pretty damn interesting.  This is primarily a fantasy setting but it’s very clear in the first episode that there are plenty of modern and even futuristic technology floating around. In theory I really like that sort of thing as I’m something of a fan of “Swords and Guns and Sorcery” themed worlds, which is why I buy Final Fantasy games (But the reason I don’t enjoy the Final Fantasy games I buy is because of they tend to be pretty damn stupid).  The cast of characters are fine for the most part, or at least there’s no major problems.  For a short series like this the people we need to care about are developed well enough, I guess.   I particularly liked Falis’ fellow bounty hunter Dominikov although I don’t understand why no one in the entire show seemed to think it was odd for a bizarre skeleton man to be walking around.  At first I assumed it was a common sight but once he explains his origins I just became confused again.  The character designs for a lot of this show seems to be typical fantsy but some key characters look like a cross between something out of Soul Eater and something out of Osamu Tezuka’s sketch book…which is not as cool as it sounds.

I AM THE PUMPKIN KING!!
The villains are kind of a problem though.  Doctor Akamashi and his cohorts start out okay but by the second episode they’ve become somewhat ineffectual and start suffering from “Team Rocket Syndrome”, where they become less of a threat and more like a joke (Though that was almost certainly intentional).  However the other antagonist, Cecilia and the Dark Knight, are absolutely without any meaningful motivation for their actions and it pisses me off.  Their goal, which I won’t spoil for you, is one that’s so dire that it needs to have extremely good reasoning behind it but Cecilia’s motivation appears to just be “I’M EVIL” (Plus we never find out exactly who or what she is) while the Dark Knight has a reason but never explains how he came to that conclusion other than “Humans are jerks, apparently”.  Bottom line the villains are boring.

The biggest problem in this anime is that the tone just doesn’t go far enough into the violent and darker territory.  Now I’m not always a fan of dark and violent fiction but with a title called Murder Princess and the description I originally read I was expecting things to be significantly more intense than what I got.   The first episode was pretty damn violent and some pretty depressing shit happens but once we get into the rest of the series it gets significantly more lighthearted and is more of an action comedy.   This is very evident in Falis who starts of as a cold blooded bounty hunter who only cares about herself but becomes a champion of justice in record speed.  True there’s some character development involved to be sure but these are some pretty drastic changes that happen very quickly.  I wanted over the top violence that would borderline on the ridiculous at times and, yeah, maybe that wouldn’t have been the deepest  or best show in the world (Tough it still could have been) but it would have been interesting if nothing else.  As it is this show gets kind of boring after that initial episode.

Additionally the animation is surprisingly average considering it’s an OVA made in 2007.   While not bad it’s below what I would have expected for this medium, looking not that different from a show four times its length.  Also the characters aren’t’ bad but they’re only a bit better than being two-dimensional.  This is especially true with the two leads since there’s sadly not that much to their personalities or if there is we don’t get to see it.  Plus the plot is pretty predictable and the big reveal of the series is easily figured out much earlier.  These aren’t huge problems in the grand scheme of things but they are issues that make this show just an average anime.

STOP!  In the name of love!

While still heads and shoulders above it’s immediate descendant, El Cazador de le Bruja, Murder Princess is still something of a disappointment.  What we have here is a serviceable anime that, due to its low episode count, can be watched to completion in a short amount of time.  However it is absolutely nothing special which is a shame when you have such a cool name for you work.  It’s not bad, it’s simply not great.   If you really like fantasy anime it’s decent enough but there are a lot better out there.  Perhaps if this anime had a lot more actual murder and less “Friendship is Magic” then things might have been a bit different.  Alas.

I give Murder Princess 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.



Pros

-Strong Female Leads

-The world is kind of interesting

-Possibly has the best title in the history of awesome

Cons

-The meet of the series can be a bit dull and predictable

-The characters could stand for a bit more development

-Sub-standard animation for an OVA

-Villains are pretty goddamn boring 


If you have any suggestions or requests for an anime review let me know in the comment section or shoot me an e-mail at betaisdead@gmail.com.

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