Buried Treasure
Elf Princess Rane

by Justin Sevakis, Apr 3rd 2008

I don't need to introduce Akitaroh Daichi. You already know him, or at least, you know his work. Kodocha. Fruits Basket. Animation Runner Kuromi. While he's proven himself capable of drama (with Now and Then, Here and There and more recently Bokura ga Ita), the guy is clearly most at home when he's making ridiculous, spastic comedy. And he's frickin' amazing at it.

At some point I'll write about what I consider his magnum opus in this vein, Sexy Commando Gaiden. But first, I wanted to cover his directorial debut, an unabashedly silly and insane 2-part OAV called Elf Princess Rane.


Elf Princess Rane

Anime comedy is hard to do. For every success, there are at least 5 total failures, and a handful that kinda work but don't age very well. Elf Princess Rane (Yousei Hime Ren actually translates to Fairy Princess Rane, but good luck getting Americans to buy something called "Fairy Princess" anything) is one such success. I was pleasantly surprised to find out recently that despite being 13 years old I still find it nearly as funny as I did years ago.

The ridiculous mess of a story involves high school student Go Takarada, an Indiana Jones wannabe who's taken to looking for treasure constantly, everywhere. He's also got about 40 identical twin sisters, who seem to turn up everywhere. As we first meet him, Go is trying to decode a large pile of runes at a shinto shrine (his art class is on a field trip) when the pile starts to give way and becomes an avalanche. Before long, Go is running off the sides of buildings, opening up a stupid-looking "freaked-out-bird" paraglider (which disintegrates instantly), and being rescued by one of his sisters.

It's then that Rane appears before him: a cute, 18-inch-tall blonde fairy, bringing tidings of joy from another world. The problem is that fairy language seems to consist of randomly reassembled Japanese words, so these tidings come out as lines like "a taxi runs in my tummy, delivering sheets with that look. This weed is cooked round and chewy." She's apparently come to Earth to find a magic object called The Four Hearts.

But no matter. Go is convinced she's the key to finding the secret treasure of Salmandara. He explains all this to his female friend Mari, who tries to keep up but is ultimately left in his manic wake. That's when a second fairy, an angry forgetful nymph named Riin appears before her, hell-bent on killing Rane for reasons even she's not too clear on.

Meanwhile the town is run by a shadowy agency known as the Yumenokata Foundation (headed by Mari's father). Their operations manager is a svelte, handsome man named Takuma who's in love with Mari and plans on turning the town into a giant hot springs amusement park as a dedication to his beloved. He also spouts nonsense. And raps. (Go's sister Natsuki is his assistant, understands his gibberish, and is in love with him to boot.)

THEN, there's the town fire department, who's tracking and trying to stop the Yumenokata Foundation. Run by Go's sister Haruki, this often leads to bizarre confrontations between the sisters that land somewhere between the cold war and an episode of the Real World. Go's antics end up in the middle of all of this, all while he's getting chewed out by Mari for forgetting her birthday. Oh, then there's a long hot springs scene, just 'cause.

One of the reasons Elf Princess Rane, and indeed most of Daichi's comedies, work so well is due to his strong sense of rhythm. There's the humor of discovering a loony line in otherwise anticipated dialogue, the humor in the speed and consistency of delivery, and finally the surprise of an unexpected breaking of the rhythm (usually the skipping of a beat). All these elements combine to form a very smart, edgy sense of comedy. Comparing his work to other anime comedies usually feels like comparing the fourth or fifth seasons of The Simpsons or South Park to the comparatively slow first seasons.

When Elf Princess Rane first hit the VHS fansub scene back in 1996 or so, it was an instant hit and fans were often heard quoting the show's nonsense catch phrase, "gatcha ba goose!" echoing the show's penchant for gibberish dialogue. Harder to imitate were the myriad sight-gags, such as a character turning blobby and super-deformed when surprised, then slowly "inflating" back to normal proportions.

The dub of Elf Princess Rane was handled spectacularly by Coastal Recording's Scott Houle (who informed me recently that he's back open for business). Keeping the spastic energy going without resorting to having voice actors shouting in a constant monotone all the time can be a real challenge, but Houle keeps both the weirdness and Daichi's sense of comedic rhythm going, and the result is more or less flawless.

As with many OAVs of the era, the show had the plug pulled on it after it bombed in the Japanese home video market, and as such, there is no proper ending. (The teaser for the next episode cavalierly notes that the next episode might come out "someday".) It hardly matters -- the proceedings are so random that any attempt to tie together loose plot threads would likely raise more questions than answers. Still, it's a real shame that the series met with such a speedy demise, because I would have loved to see more. Just one more series to throw in the "missed opportunities" pile, right on top of Dragon Half.


Obscure-O-Meter™
A Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.
C Common. In print, and always available online.
R1 US release out of print, still in stock most places.
R2 US release out of print, not easy to find.
R3 Import only, but it has English on it.
R4 Import only. Fansubs commonly available.
R5 Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.
R6 Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.
R7 Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.
R8 Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.
Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.

How To Get It: Elf Princess Rane is still ridiculously easy to find online, and as it was marked down to $9.95 a few years ago, there's really no excuse not to buy this.


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