Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Dame×Prince Anime Caravan
Ani is the princess of Inaco, a tiny rural country bordered by the military giant Milidonia and the theocracy of Selenfallen. When her parents send her to Selenfallen to sign a peace treaty with the two nations on their behalf, she doesn't expect to find that the princes of the other nations are as weird as they come – narcissistic Narek and holier-than-thou Ruze are definitely more than she bargained for. Unfortunately for her, they both are favorably impressed with Ani, and before she knows what's happening, she's swept up in a series of crazy road trips with them, plus a few other eligible bachelors. Isn't there a tall tower without a door she could hide in somewhere?
You know the story – a lone princess surrounded by a host of handsome, eligible males ranging from princes to knights, all of whom desperately want to attract her favorable attention. It sounds nice on paper, but what if the men were all utterly and confoundingly bizarre and you weren't sure that you wanted anything to do with them? That's the situation Princess Ani of Inaco finds herself in in the reverse harem/otome game parody Dame×Prince Anime Caravan, an adaptation of the game DamexPrince. While it may be funnier if you have some familiarity with the basic tropes of the reverse harem genre (or have played otome games), the generally goofy air and ridiculous situations Ani ends up in are entertaining no matter your knowledge of the root story.
The plot begins when teenage Princess Ani is sent by her parents to sign a peace treaty. They're concerned that their militaristic neighbor Milidonia may be gearing up to attack the tiny farming nation, so they want Ani to go to the theocracy of Selenfallen to ensure that a properly witnessed treaty is drawn up. Ani and her knight Teo (who may be the only knight in Inaco and doubles as a farmer) set out, only to be confronted by the fact that Prince Ruze of Selenfallen and Prince Narek of Milidonia are total weirdos. Angelic Ruze is completely dependent on his prime minister, ending every statement with a variation of “That's what Chrom says,” while Narek is utterly consumed by his own image, staging his entrances and trying to give away portraits of himself. To say that Ani is put off would be putting it mildly; Princes Charming these guys are not.
Naturally that means that Ani will be thrown into their company for the duration of the series, along with Ruze's twin brother Mare, a shut-in otaku, and Narek's friend Vino, a Milidonia duke and playboy. The idea that she's way too smart for this show is part of where the humor comes from – Ani is the straight man to the zany princes, and it works very well. She plays the role of the reverse harem skeptic, the regular girl who suddenly finds herself surrounded by guys who try to call her cutesy nicknames (which freak her out), insist that being with them is an honor (she begs to disagree), and strike uncomfortable poses to impress her. (She's not.) Every time Ani points out the ridiculousness of the boys' actions, she's taking down the genre in a fun way, making the show self-aware in a manner that really works.
The side effect of this, however, is that Ani becomes something of a bit player in her own story. Much more time is devoted to the guys simply because their over-the-top antics and character types are the basis for the series' humor. It largely works, especially since we don't really think that Ani's interested in any of them romantically, even though by episode nine it's abundantly clear that they are all interested in her. When everyone gets shrunk down to child size in one episode, Mare and Vino take full advantage of that fact to sit on Ani's lap or snuggle with her; a trip to Inaco for the local festival results in everyone falling all over themselves to ask Ani for an important dance – there's nothing that they won't screw up in trying to win her affections. For her part Ani is mildly amused or largely put off by their efforts, when she's aware of them at all, causing everyone to double down on their attempts. While it isn't full-bore escalation, it's enough that the humor doesn't wear out its welcome and remains consistently entertaining for the entire twelve-episode run.
It does, of course, stumble in a few places. Mare's descent into total creepiness in episode seven doesn't always work, and Teo is completely sidelined for swathes of story. More troubling is the outdated and offensive gay-man-as-pedophile stereotype in the child episode; fortunately this is the only time the show's attempts at humor backfire so badly. The efforts to add in a more serious plot towards the end of the series also don't work quite as well as when everyone is just swanning around in as silly a manner as possible; in part this is because, despite a few moments of foreshadowing, the serious plot is just stuck on in the final three episodes and ultimately doesn't have much impact on the series as a whole.
Honestly, it doesn't need to. At its heart, DamePri is a parody of an established genre and its tropes, from Ruze's amazing natural sparkly censorship to Chrom translating from Melodramatic Villain to English (well, Japanese) to Riot's amazing cabbage disguise. It never takes itself or its characters too seriously, even allowing potentially irritating mascot Grimaru to serve as a satire of his character type and having three different ending themes sung by different combinations of Ani's potential suitors. While there is no dub, the Japanese cast does a wonderful job of conveying the insanity of the story, with Sayuri Yahagi's Ani balancing things out with her understated performance. These princes might be enough to make a princess wish for a locked tower to hide out in, but if you're in need of a good laugh, following their adventures just may be what you're looking for in a no-good prince.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Funny parody of the reverse harem genre, Narek's confetti minion steals the show
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