by Theron Martin,

Murder Princess

GN 1

Murder Princess GN 1
The kingdom of Forland is under attack by the mad scientist Professor Akamashi and his twin androids Anna and Yuna, who are intent on taking over the kingdom. With the King dead and older Prince Kite out of the country on a diplomatic mission, it falls to younger Princess Alita, the new ruler, to escape and seek help. In the process she (literally) bumps heads with bounty hunter Falis, somehow initiating a transfer of souls. While the real princess, in Falis's body, pretends to be the granddaughter of the royal butler Jodo, Falis must play the role of Princess Alita to lead and defend the kingdom until a way to undo the soul transfer can be found. Though uncouth and ill-mannered as princesses go, Falis proves quite capable of using her warrior skill and nifty sword to put down most threats to the kingdom, along with her long-time companions, the brute Pete and the shinigami Dominikov.

For all its dramatic-sounding edge, Murder Princess is nowhere near as dark and bloody as its title suggests. It is instead a silly, action-intensive fantasy romp centered on the classic switched-bodies gimmick. How such a simple act as bumping heads caused the soul transfer is not explained in this volume, but that is probably for the best since the circumstances under which it supposedly happened are so ridiculously contrived that one must just accept that the gimmick has been used, not think about it much, and go on trying to enjoy the series.

Naturally the two individuals involved also have radically different personalities. Alita is well-mannered and genteel, in every sense the perfect princess; Falis is anything but that. Whereas Alita is much more timid, however, Falis is a take-charge, kick-butt-and-take- names-later kind of gal, and her confidence and skill make her into the ideal princess for defending a kingdom against marauding threats. Far less suited is she to addressing Alita's subjects, however, as her first such endeavor abundantly proves. Despite being an equal participant in the soul transfer, though, Alita quickly takes a back seat to the much more colorful Falis, who is the focal point of most of what happens. That is, of course, because it's so much cooler to watch a young lady in full princess regalia acting ill-mannered and swinging a katana with great force and precision. The fanboys out there also get their share of moe and general cuteness content from the android twins, but beyond them and the butler Jodo, the rest of the cast just fades into the background. This is much more a one-woman story than an ensemble cast piece.

Once the premise and mostly silly tone have been established, about 90% of the story content is readily predictable. The random mix of anachronistic elements gives the content a fresher feel than it actually has, and you certainly will not find any evidence of depth in these pages. The story does move along at a brisk pace, so much so that it skips over many of the normal complications of body-transfer stories, but this is clearly not a story interested in delving into the minutiae of anything. Take it solely as a light diversion that might induce a few laughs and it can serve its entertainment purpose well enough.

The artistry represents a blend of classic manga elements and a more American cartoonish style. Manga-ka Sekihiko Inui clearly focuses the bulk of his effort on designing and depicting Falis-as-Alita, which does lead to nice touches such as implying Falis's lack of refinement in the very unprincess-like way she sits or eats or presenting a marked visual contrast between Alita-as-Alita and Falis-as-Alita. The two androids gets the overkill-cutesy treatment, down even to opposing ponytails to make it easy to tell them apart visually, but the rest of the designs are just simplistic caricatures. The background art gets attention only in a handful of scenes, but the actions scenes are handled well enough to make it easy to follow the movements. Although a few limbs and heads get chopped off here and there, actual gore is kept to low enough that the title only carries a 13+ age rating. Surprisingly, fan service is limited to a single panty shot; female characters stay well-covered otherwise.

Broccoli Books has given this one the deluxe treatment, with a sharp cover and color interior portrait. Excellent binding and a heavier-than-normal page stock contribute to strong overall production values and a weight which distinctly exceeds a normal manga tankoubon. Original sound effects are retained with unobtrusive accompanying translations, and an additional translation notes page can be found at the end to clarify a few other matters. Also included is a two-page Afterward, bonus character art, a seven-page preview of the next volume, and more than the normal number of advertisements.

Murder Princess can be a fun read, but one should definitely be fully aware of what it is and isn't before sitting down to read it. (And unfortunately nothing on the cover at all implies how light-hearted it actually is.) Otherwise you'll be in for quite a surprise.

Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B-

+ Nice physical production values.
Overly silly at times, highly predictable.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Sekihiko Inui

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