Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD - Complete Collection
Middle schooler Hiro Hiyorimi has lived apart from his older sister Sawawa since their parents died, but now Sawawa has a job as a live-in maid and is being allowed to have Hiro live with her at the mansion. Hiro gets killed on the way to the mansion when he tries to rescue a blond-haired young Goth woman from falling steel beams, only to soon discover that said Goth girl – Hime, who is also Sawawa's employer – has revived him using her Flamie of Life power, effectively making him one of her half-immortal servants/guards. (He must remain with her, too, as his continued existence is dependant on regular doses of her Flame of Life.) Turns outs that Hime is a genuine princess, one of the Royal Family whose members rule over the Royal (Monster) Kingdom, and she is caught in a struggle with her siblings over future ascendancy to the throne. Though she cares little for the throne, she nonetheless must protect herself, and her indomitable pipsqueak android Flandre and the hapless Hiro aren't enough, so she wins the begrudging allegiance of the half-werewolf Liza Wildman and the pureblood vampire Reiri, who is a fellow student at Hiro's school. She also forms an alliance with her younger sister Sherwood, who adores Hiro. Hime needs all of the help she can get, too, when the threats which beset her include invisible men, doppelgangers, fish people, cat girls, other vampires and werewolves, haunted boats and villages, and even forbidden zombies.
ADV Films originally released this 2007 manga adaptation in two subbed-only sets in 2009, while its successor Sentai Filmworks released the entire series subbed-only in a Complete Collection in 2010. This newest Complete Collection release is the first to have a dubbed version, but it offers nothing else that previous releases didn't have; the Extras - only clean opener and closer - are exactly the same, as is the inclusion of the special episodes listed as episodes 25 and 26. This time, though, they use the irritating single-stack cases. Thus if you care nothing for dubs then this set offers you nothing to justify double-dipping if you have either previous release.
If you do care about English dubs, though, then this one is certainly worth a look. Sentai has done a great job of casting this one, and some performances may exceed the originals. Blake Shepard gets the wimpy voice just right for Hiro, while Monica Rial and Luci Christian are natural fits as Hiro's dingbat, parfait-addicted sister Sawawa and the volatile Liza, respectively. Up-and-coming dubbing star Emily Neves (Guin Saga's Rinda, Angel from Angel Beats!) plays Reiri silky-smooth except on the rare occasions when her composure gets rattled, while longtime veteran Shelley Calene-Black uses the same kind of soft, dignified tone for Hime which worked so well for Noir's Mireille - both excellent and suiting interpretations. The script is as tight as can reasonably be expected, too. If the dub has a flaw, it's that certain easily-recognizable voice actors gets recycled a little too often in the bit parts, but that is a minor quibble.
The series' overall quality is another story, however. It undeniably has some appealing hooks, including the notion of an elegant, proper Goth princess who occasionally resorts to weapons like chain saws when forced to confront threats directly (although she uses them far less often than the frequency of the chain saw motifs in the opener and closer might suggest). Its exploration of monster-related threats also runs the gamut of classic monster types and monster-related premises from both Western and Japanese lore, including multiple references to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, apparent references to Dawn of the Dead and Creature From the Black Lagoon, and one episode which seems to take place in an abandoned village borrowed straight out of When They Cry - Higurashi. Watching Hime calmly tackle one threat after another can also be a treat; in one late episode one character mentions that her composure is Hime's greatest weapon, and that is almost literally true. Occasionally the series' attempts at humor actually work, too, such as Liza's ill-fated attempts to rouse and train a beast army from the local dogs.
Beyond those elements, though, the series frequently stumbles. The vague, underlying structure about how Hime is unwillingly caught in a deadly struggle with her siblings gives only the barest shell of an overarching plot, one which is dealt with directly only at the beginning, in the last few regular episodes, and on a handful of other instances in between. That isn't necessarily a problem, but the episode which gives a partial resolution to that storyline (i.e., episode 24) is the series' most rushed and awkwardly executed installment. Most of the rest of the episodes are standalone stories or ones which only vaguely spin off of the central premise, and their quality varies dramatically but leans towards the low side. The best episode by far - the one where Hime must resort to extreme measures to contend with half-immortal werewolves - is also the darkest and most disturbing, a stark contrast to the more high-spirited tone which pervades most of the content. The Higurashi rip-off is actually one of the few other bright spots, but it is more than balanced out by the awful panda recruitment episode. The attempts at humor also far too often fail to be funny.
At least the series does not resort to typical harem antics despite a classic harem set-up. Hiro may be the milquetoast male lead at the center of the circle of hot girls (something which makes his male classmates dangerously jealous), but he is much more a victim than a center of attention. In fact, only one girl shows any romantic interest in him, while the rest just toy with him or order him around.
The technical merits also stand out as a weak point. Madhouse Studios produced this one, but it is one of their least visually impressive releases in recent years. The red monster eyes that Hime and Sherwood have certainly stand out, as does the appearance of a phoenix in a late episode, but the character designs otherwise have a rough, unrefined edge to them and the background art fares little better. The animation is even worse, with some fights primarily consisting of collections of freeze-frame scenes linked by minor amounts of animation and non-combat animation not doing consistently better. The graphic content seems to have been toned down markedly from the manga and only a couple of episodes even have hints of fan service. The musical score does better, with “Blood Queen” providing an enthusiastic, up-tempo beginning to each episode and “Hizamazuite Ashi o Oname” by Ali Project providing an equally lively and vaguely creepy closer. In between the soundtrack makes a good mix of creepiness, intensity, and playfulness.
Princess Resurrection showed some promise early on, but unfortunately never consistently advances beyond that stage and falls far short of wrapping up the story at the end. Don't expect much out of it and it can be entertaining, but it could not fairly be called a good series.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : B+
+ Hime, homages to classic horror movies and monsters.
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