Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD 2: Melancholy Wagon Tracks
In the wake of events in Taurus, a bounty is placed on the head of the Scrapped Princess. One assassin, a troubadour known as Silencer, comes calling on the Cassuls to try to collect. In the process Pacifica gets poisoned, and only a journey to the retired knight Doyle Barrett by Leo and Raquel has a chance to save her. When the truth comes out about Pacifica's identity, though, how will both men react? The Peacemakers themselves also decide to get involved directly in the hunt for Pacifica, leading Zefiris to appear again and reveal something of her true nature. Complicating matters further is the stray little girl Shannon picks up while shopping one rainy day.
Meanwhile Chris, having taken a new position under orders from his new superior, befriends Prince Forsythe while on an assignment to investigate the truth behind the 5111th prophecy of Grendel, the one which proclaimed the Scrapped Princess as “the poison that will destroy the world.”
With this volume, which covers episodes 5-8, Scrapped Princess takes a more dramatic bent, fully emphasizing character and plot development at the expense of humor (although there is a little) and elaborate action scenes (there is some suitably dramatic action, but it is used minimally). The story is so well-paced and well-laid out, and the characters so well-portrayed, that it's hard not to get wrapped up in the travails of Pacifica and her siblings. In this block of episodes we get another reminder that Raquel, despite her flightiness, has a coldly practical side that is trifled with only at an enemy's peril, and a further sense of exactly how much Shannon cares about his little sister and how deep his commitment to protecting her runs. Pacifica's sensitivity over the impact her life has on others is also plain to see. The most interesting character growth is in Leo, who must struggle mightily with the meaning of “justice” and “chivalry” when he learns that Pacifica is the Scrapped Princess. Doyle Barrett's reaction to the truth about Pacifica, and the way Pacifica reacts to him, is also very well-handled. Chris, the axe-wielding Special Forces member who attacked the Cassuls in the first volume, continues to be a significant cast member, though his path in this volume takes him down a side track from the main storyline. Also back is Galil, the godlike Peacemaker who stirred up trouble in the first volume, and the mysterious girl Zefiris. New characters in this volume include Prince Forsythe, who is Pacifica's twin brother, and the Baroness Bairach, a practical but meddlesome older woman who becomes the new head of the Special Forces. Two female Peacemakers are also introduced and their nature is explored a little more.
This volume does not offer much additional insight into what, exactly, the Scrapped Princess is and why she is regarded as such a threat, although it does become clearer that she is somehow immune to the direct influence of the Peacemakers, and that this is a very important detail. Viewers do get to learn more about who and what Zefiris is, though, and get to see one of the Peacemakers transformed into his mecha-like combat form for the first time. In fact, several elements brought up in this volume have a distinctly sci-fi flavor, suggesting that this may ultimately be a sci-fi/fantasy series rather than a pure fantasy tale. The big revelations about What's Really Going On will not come up until the next volume, however. Do pay attention to references to a Princess of Giat when they come up in episode 7, as those will also come up again in the next volume.
The artwork, produced by Studio BONES, uses a bright and varied palette of colors for character animation and foreground art against finely-detailed but more subdued backgrounds. This frequently results in imperfect integration between character and background art, a problem which is a little more prominent in this volume than it was in the first volume. Distance shots of some characters in some scenes also look very rough. Close-ups of characters are well-detailed and pleasingly designed, though, with well-conceived costuming that favors prominent shoulder pieces and high, stiff collars. The costuming, which uses a mixture of medieval European and high fantasy styles, is distinctive and practical enough that the outfits for some characters would be excellent for cosplay. (Shannon and Raquel would work especially well and, I imagine, would be relatively easy to do.) The animation, which avoids use of most common anime shortcuts, continues to support the artistry and storytelling quite well. The excellent opener and closer remain unchanged.
The soundtrack does an outstanding job of supporting the action and drama in this volume, always hitting exactly the right note and volume for the given scene, and sounds especially good on a home theater system. Dub performances are uniformly well-acted and do an excellent job of capturing the essence of the character in the situation. I am not entirely sure that Dave Wittenberg was the best choice for Prince Forsythe, although he does sound the right age, but other new roles in this volume are well-cast.
The English script, though more verbose than the subtitles, never substantially strays from them. Some quibbles must be made about both, however. The subtitles use some odd word choices at times, such as using “sensual” during Raquel's explanation of magic use when “intuitive” (the word used in the dub) would make far more sense in context. They are also prone to spelling errors and inconsistent on the use of “Providence” vs. “Law” in Galil's speeches in episode 6. The dub consistently uses “Law” in place of “Providence,” a move whose merits I question given the specific importance of the word “Providence” later in the series, but perhaps the dub script for later volumes will account for that. The dub also calls the little girl picked up by Shannon in episode 7 “Ciz” while the subtitles use “Cin,” which is what it sounds like they're saying in the original Japanese. Admittedly these are picky points, but they are also indicative of a sloppy production. Bandai Entertainment normally does a cleaner job than this.
As with the first volume, extras are minimal, including only a clean closer and company previews in the regular edition. The original Japanese opener and closer are retained, however, with the English credits provided separately at the end of episode 8.
The second volume of Scrapped Princess continues to deliver one of the best fantasy stories currently available in the American market. It carries the plot and character development along well, delivering occasional bits of action and humor but mostly concentrating on convincingly telling its story. It is an engrossing and highly entertaining title whose minimal use of common anime conventions should make it very accessible even to those who don't normally watch anime. If you like the first volume, you'll love this one.
SIDE NOTE: After my review of the first volume, the curious naming conventions of the series were pointed out to me. For your amusement, note how many characters in the series have names that are partly or completely derived from the names of guns. (Winia Chester = Winchester, Casull, Armalite, etc.)
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : A
+ Superb storytelling and characterizations, original premise.
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