Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 20th 2006
DVD 6: Pacifica's Destiny
The remaining Peacemakers have hit the reset button, leaving Shannon and Zefiris to desperately try to prevent them from destroying the capital of Leinwan and most of humanity thereafter. Help is on the way, though, as Princess Senes and her henchmen arrive with the Gigantes to join the fray, while Raquel and Leo fight Rally Points at street level. Pacifica's life still hangs in the balance, which incites Chris and his Obstinate Arrow team into action. Though the Casulls are eventually brought together again, the danger is still great, for Pacifica's 16th birthday is now only hours away and both humans and Peacemakers alike are maneuvering for a final strike against Pacifica and her defenders. So why has Pacifica's twin brother, Prince Forsyth, chosen this of all times to meet her? And what will happen when Mauser herself becomes directly involved? Will Pacifica survive long enough to prove whether or not she truly is “the poison that will destroy the world?”
The final four episodes of Scrapped Princess get off to a rousing start with spectacular fantasy-styled mecha battles and a generous dose of (occasionally bloody) swordplay, magic, and BUG action, not to mention some battle wagons that are every bit as goofy-looking as the warships seen in earlier volumes. In any other series the battles might be the highlight, but Scrapped Princess has never really been an action series; it has always been a fine balance of action, drama, and a bit of comedy, and doesn't abandon this successful approach just to wrap up its story. It is a series about a girl who must live with a potentially awful destiny and the people who are drawn to her, for good or ill, and it stays true to its nature and (most especially) its characters to the very end. The conclusion the series comes to is every bit logical and sensible given what has happened so far, been revealed about how things are set up, and the way Pacifica has been portrayed. Its complete wrap-up should be eminently satisfying to most fans, especially American fans often frustrated by the Japanese predilection towards providing open-ended stories. Although the characters remain interesting, no one will walk away from this series feeling like they're missing something or that there's more of consequence to tell.
In the previous three volumes most of the truths about the nature of the world and Pacifica's role as the Providence Breaker were revealed, but a few mysteries still remain as the volume begins. What, exactly, will happen when Pacifica turns 16 is a thought on the minds of everyone, including Pacifica herself, and the way it turns out may surprise many viewers. The exact nature of the world when seen from the outside is also a tasty little tidbit, as is the real identity and motivations of Mauser.
As good and fresh as the storytelling is, and as well-paced as the plotting is, though, it's still the characters which make Scrapped Princess such a great series. Essentially incompetent heroines serving as the peaceful center of a maelstrom of activities have been done before in anime, but it's Pacifica's bratty yet sensitive nature and positive outlook in the face of all her troubles which continue to make her such an appealing leading lady. She's more than just the central character; she makes the series what it is. The strongest supporting role this time around belongs to Chris, who for the first time in his life finds himself acting on his own initiative rather than on someone else's orders, but the sincerity of Shannon's words when he declares that his sword exists to defend his little sister's life or take it, depending on what she decides, also runs deep. This is a series with no shortage of excellent characterizations.
Scrapped Princess does not rank among the better series when it comes to its depiction and animation of horses, but its greatest artistic strength has always lay in its sharp, distinctive character designs and most especially in its even sharper use of costuming. The final volume also provides some interesting mecha designs, although the Second Class Divine Punishment forms of the Peacemakers bear a significant resemblance to the Dolems seen in another certain popular series produced by BONES. Backgrounds and supporting artistry are also well-drawn and everything is vibrantly – but not garishly – colored. Overall the artistry seems one half-step shy of being completely refined, but that is another trait that Scrapped Princess shares with other BONES productions. The animation is at its best in the flashy and busy mecha combat scenes but is generally good elsewhere, too, although Pacifica seems to be the only character who blinks.
Scrapped Princess has never lacked for quality music, and in this volume, it's is at its best. Whether it's the orchestrated battle music, the gentler piano pieces of the quieter dramatic scenes, folksy filler music, or battle-related sound effects, everything in its sound production is done exceptionally well. Bookending the music are a solid closer and one of the best openers of 2005. English voice work is also done satisfyingly well, with performances consistently capturing the emotions of their characters in the more demonstrative scenes and the flavor of their characters in general. Casting is appropriate, although those used to the Japanese voices may take a little while to get used to Crispin Freeman as Shannon and Kari Wahlgren as Pacifica. The English script is more concerned with keeping the meaning intact than the exact wording, an approach which always keeps the series on-topic and almost never results in significant discrepancies; the only one in this volume is the name of the mecha used by Senes and her henchmen being spoken as “Gigantes” in English but “Gigases” in both the subtitles and original Japanese.
As good as the series is, Bandai Entertainment's production of its DVDs leaves a lot to be desired. Cover art consistently uses screen shots from the anime instead of original art and everything about the menu screens is exactly identical in each volume. Those are quibbling details compared to the total lack of extras beyond company trailers in any of the volumes, though. (Excepting the figurines for which one had to pay extra, of course.) The opener was also tacked on to episode 23 despite the episode not having it originally and one short line in episode 21 was, for some reason, not dubbed even though it appears in the subtitles. Once again there's additional minor spelling/grammatical flaws in the subtitles, something which might be excusable in a fansub but has no place in a professional production. Beyond the voice acting, Bandai's release gives all the feel of a rush job. The only favorable point is that the original closer is retained, with English credits following at the end of the volume.
Stories of heroes rising up to save the world have long been staples of fantasy media in any form or country, but Scrapped Princess offers a refreshing alternative: a story where the protagonist is seen as the villain rather than the hero and may, in fact, be the doom of her world rather than its savior. Excellent pacing and balance, great characters, attractive costuming and character designs, and a satisfying conclusion all add up to one of the best fantasy anime series to date. If you like Fullmetal Alchemist, this is the other fantasy series you should be watching, and if you're already a fan of the series then the final volume is a must-have.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A
+ Satisfying conclusion which stays true to its characters, great fantasy mecha battles.
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