Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jun 4th 2009
DVD - Collection 2
Headless horsemen, shape-shifting blobs, and the usual assortment of werewolves, vampires and robots—life is pretty much the same as always for put-upon half-immortal Hiro Hiyorimi. Every day is a battle with yet another supernatural menace to his master's life, and as always he proves utterly useless even as he takes the brunt of whatever violence is to be had. And when it isn't monsters, it's his jealous classmates trying ignorantly to usurp his position as the house punching bag. But a guy can get used to just about anything, even semi-regular kidnappings and a home life that would make the Marquis de Sade smile. His unpeaceful peaceful routine can only last so long however. There is, after all, a war for succession going on, and war is never a pretty thing. Especially when evil vampire royals, immortal werewolves and zombie armies are involved.
You know how they say that there's always room for dessert? Well, the same goes for brainless fun. And Princess Resurrection is certainly as brainless—and almost as fun—as anyone could want.
A little darker and perhaps a little more serious, these thirteen episodes are nevertheless exactly as airy and silly as the thirteen preceding them. They may let a couple of the villains survive more than a single episode, and even finish with a two-parter that actually advances Hime's bid for the throne, but they haven't more than an ounce of meat on their Halloween-candy bones. Any extra depth that the series throws at its leads slides cleanly off of their shiny, one-trait backs, and it holds to its brainless monster-of-the-week formula with a zombie death grip: a little silliness to start things off, a monster, a fight, and a win for the good guys—all in twenty minutes and with no messy spillover into later episodes.
Not that anyone who has been watching up to this point will be expecting anything different. The series has made it pretty clear from the get-go that audiences expecting intelligence can go to hell while the rest of us break out the beer and let the monster mash-up shut down our synapses one by one. The somewhat darker and more serious tone does cut into the series' supply of fun—after all, no one tunes in to watch Hiro have a crisis of faith or Liza and Reiri form a reluctant bond—but there's still enough blackly funny slapstick on hand to keep even the most leaden episode afloat.
But frankly, being able to keep leaden episodes afloat isn't nearly as desirable as not having them in the first place. For a series with nothing but moths in its cranium, Princess Resurrection is awfully determined to be taken seriously; resulting in dramatic clunkers like Liza's transparently tragic friendship with a shark woman and Reiri's short-lived banishment from vampire society. Serious stuff, and dull as hell. Higher aspirations are wonderful and all, but if you don't mind your limits, you're going to end up with dead spots. And spots of this are dead indeed.
Those dead spots wouldn't be quite so dull if the series looked a little better. Some top-drawer action, for instance, would have gone a long ways towards salvaging the Liza/shark woman episode. But top-drawer is a long, long way from the reality of Princess Resurrection. Between this and Strawberry Panic!, it's beginning to look like Masayuki Sakoi is in charge of some kind of ultra-cheap second unit at Madhouse. The series displays none of the studio's usual energy and skill. As with Strawberry Panic!, Sakoi wrings some interesting expressionistic imagery from his apparently non-existent budget, and pumps every cent he saves with his simplistic animation and frequent use of stills into a few key scenes (usually Hime's bursts of balletic violence). Sharp editing saves a few of the other action scenes, but for the most part this is a remarkably stiff, clunky production.
With the exception of the fan-service, that is. Character designer Kazuya Kuroda is famous for his luscious female designs, and rightfully so. Every female in the series positively leaks pheromones, while his male designs look wan and uninspired in comparison. He also serves as chief animation director here, and his below-the-belt preferences betray themselves in the loving care with which he animates Liza's epic abdomen and Hime's lean physique.
If further proof is needed as to the potential rescuing power of higher production values, watch the final episode. An OAV episode with a marginally higher budget and as pointless a plot as any in the series, it's a perfect example of the series at its stylized popcorn-fare best.
Whatever else can be said about Sakoi—and much of it isn't good—he's got fine taste in music. The hard-driving opener gets each episode moving and Mikiya Katakura (composer for the Ali Project) does his level best to keep it going with an interesting mix of atmosphere, energy, and bouncy fluff. He doesn't always succeed, but that's not really his fault.
It's pretty much impossible to hate Princess Resurrection. It's easy enough to chafe whenever it does a face-plant while attempting narrative acrobatics far beyond its meager capabilities, but then Hime creams a galloping ghost with a baseball bat and everything's all right. Sure it has lazy visuals, a huge substance-vacuum, and a tendency to let its dark humor lapse to tedious effect, but it also perverts a classic shonen-romance scenario into something truly nightmarish, has the courage to feature an unapologetically ruthless female lead, and regularly kills its stereotypical harem hero. Hard to hate, right? Of course, being madly in love with Ayako Kawasumi's magnificently disdainful Hime helps.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ A more-or-less flawless duplication of the first half's mix of black humor and lightweight horror; occasional jolt of fantastic fan-service; Hime.
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