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Spotlight: Princess Resurrection

by Jason Green,

When you hear the phrase “horror comedy” paired with “hot blonde girl killing monsters,” your first thoughts might be of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but this stylish new series from famed anime Studio Madhouse is a far cry from the hip quips and Hellmouths of Sunnydale. Based on the manga by Yasunori Mitsunaga, Princess Resurrection (known alternately as Kaibutsu Oujo, or Monster Princess) is an entirely different twist on the formula, starring a heroine every bit as creepy as the beasts she fights and the hapless young boy who is trapped as her immortal servant.

Anime News Network brought you the exclusive news of the new distribution deal between ADV Films and licensing company Sentai Filmworks; the 24-episode series and its two standalone side stories are due to hit North American stores beginning on March 17, 2009. Here's a look at what to expect.

The Flame of Life

Orphan Hiro Hiyorimi was living on his own until his sister, the sweetly ditzy Sawawa, scored a job as a maid and caretaker of a creepy old mansion, and invited her middle school-aged brother along for the ride. When he shows up, he finds his new home looking empty and un-lived in, and sets off into town to find his missing sister.

What he finds instead is the mansion's new tenant: a gorgeous girl with flowing blonde hair, a tiara, and strange gothic clothing. Unfortunately, he's got no time to be smitten, as seconds later a construction accident sends a mass of I-beams plummeting toward her. Leaping into action, Hiro shoves her to safety but is crushed to death in the process. As he fades into unconsciousness, the last thing he hears is the girl, smirking as she says he makes a “nice corpse.”

Imagine Hiro's surprise, then, when he awakens later that night on a slab in the morgue. It turns out that Hime, the girl he rescued, was no damsel in distress, but a princess of the monster kingdom imbued with the ability to resurrect the dead. Hiro is granted “half immortality,” a second chance at life that must constantly be reignited using Hime's flame of life.

What at first seems a blessing is really a curse, with Hiro now forever trapped as Hime's servant. Soon, he finds himself sucked into a bizarre world he never knew existed, following his mistress as she battles everything from werewolves, mermen, and vampires to carnivorous plants and scalpel-wielding doctors. But at least he's not alone in his predicament, as quickly Hime builds up her own eccentric Scooby Gang featuring her diminutive yet super-strong robot maid Flandre, the hot-headed half-werewolf Liza Wildman, the deviously devilish vampire Reiri, and even her conniving little sister Sherwood. Together, the ragtag group fights to protect Hime from a slew of assassins sent by her siblings, who must kill her to gain the throne of the monster kingdom.

Bringing the Resurrection To Life

Based on Yasunori Mitsunaga's original, still-ongoing manga (published in English by Del Rey), the 24-episode Princess Resurrection TV series was launched in April 2007, with production by Madhouse, the animation studio behind such hits as Death Note, Trigun, and the films of Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Paprika). The staff featured a host of Madhouse regulars headed by director Masayuki Sakoi and art director Yuka Okamoto (who previously collaborated on Strawberry Panic!), while the ornate gothic designs of Mitsunaga's manga were skillfully captured by character designer and chief animation director Kazuya Kuroda (Vandread, Chrono Crusade).

Veteran voice actress Ayako Kawasumi (known for roles ranging from Samurai Champloo’s Fuu to Ai Yori Aoshi’s Aoi, among countless others) leads the Japanese voicecast as Hime., while the role of Hiro went to relative newcomer Fuyuka Oura, an actress who has mostly played minor and supporting roles in series like Aishiteruze Baby (Mai Motoki) and Gakuen Alice (Yuu Tobita). Rounding out the virtually all-female cast are Yūko Kaida as Liza (Ikki Tousen’s Shimei, Kurau: Phantom Memory’s Ayaka), Yūko Minaguchi (Sailor Saturn, and Dragon Ball Z’s Videl) as the gentle Sawawa, and Mamiko Noto (Negima!’s Nodoka) as vampiress Reiri.

The North American release of Princess Resurrection is the latest result of the newly-formed partnership between anime industry vets ADV Films and licensor Sentai Filmworks, announced last month by the retail news site iCV2. Under the agreement (which also includes the upcoming release of Kyoto Animation's Clannad), ADV handles both localization (under their Amusement Park Media arm) and distribution of the titles, while Sentai Filmworks handles the licensing and merchandising end of the deal. ADV has already announced plans to stream subtitled episodes of Princess Resurrection online, as well as air the series on Anime Network in advance of the DVD release in March of next year.

Princess Resurrection straddles a fine line between humor and horror; any series that features a three-foot tall robot maid who can swing a tree like a baseball bat, has a giant Phillips-head screw in her head, and only says one word (the gibberish “Huga”) obviously doesn't take itself too seriously. But the show also has its gruesome side, with gross-out moments a regular occurrence. (A multi-eyed succubus that bursts from its victim's mouth is a near-vomit-inducing highlight.) Each episode guarantees an ingeniously brutal kill, with Hime wielding axes, sledgehammers, and even chainsaws as she fends off every manner of beast that goes bump in the night.

If you like your horror served up with just a little bit of a lighter side, be sure to keep an eye out for Princess Resurrection when it arrives this Spring.

Princess Resurrection © Yasunori Mitsunaga, Kodansha/Princess Resurrection Production Committee.

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