05 Sep 2012
Sometimes things come along in pairs, like buses or this newest example - comedy horror harem anime shows, as hitting the shelves on September 10th comes both Rosario & Vampire (from MVM Entertainment) and this complete series from Manga Entertainment: Princess Resurrection.
Princess Resurrection follows Hiro (no, not a time-travelling super hero), an ordinary boy in every sense of the word. In fact, he’s such a non-entity that you’ll rarely notice he’s even there. We meet up with Hiro as he travels to his new home where his sister has gotten a job as a live-in maid. On his way he sees an elegant noble woman in danger of being crushed by falling girders. Without thinking he pushes her out of the way, being killed himself in the process before.... well, I think we all know where this is going! The next thing we know, we arrive at twenty-six episodes of classic monsters re-imagined as either cute young girls or grisly monsters, served up with comedic deaths and some pseudo-fan service.
Hiro functions basically as an introduction to the world contained within the series, and allows us to meet its more colourful characters from Hime, Hiro’s master and employer who is engaged in a murky war with her family to Reiri, a vampire whose character design was developed solely to do a Maria-sama ga Miteru gag in her first episode. It’s as colourful and varied a cast as you could hope for in this kind of series and you have to give them credit for the androids (one of them is owned by each member of Hime’s family) from the colossal Flanders to the brilliant Flandre who works with Hime - she’s small and wears a fairly gormless expression through the whole series but her single word of dialogue is used to great comic effect and she steals pretty much any scene she’s in.
The problem with the show's story is, simply, that there isn’t enough of it. Most of the series is spent in a monster-of-the-week format and it’s a big shame as the few episodes that focus on more serious issues work brilliantly and show some really strong ideas and character moments - the solution of how to get a werewolf through a village of vampires in particular is ingenious and should have been given much more time to develop and sink in. These outings also make the comedy stand out much more than the straight-up comedy episodes. There’s also the typical problem of the series stopping with no resolution at all (only twenty-six episodes were made and there’s no sign that the subsequent OVAs have been licensed outside Japan yet).
The animation in the show is something of an eye-opener as it really shows how spoiled we’ve been recently. Coming to the UK in the wake of shows like K-ON, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and streaming fare like Kokoro Connect, to have a series with this kind of late-1990s animation feels somewhat "off" despite the fact that not too long ago the series would probably have been classed as having pretty decent production values. Now it all feels very basic however, with re-used elements up the wazoo, simplistic CG morphing effects and some very dodgy mouth-flaps.
Vocally the series is great fun to listen to, with both Japanese and English casts seeming to have a bit of fun giving voice to what are, at the end of the day, some big stereotypes and the opening and ending themes are fun enough to distract from the fact that the incidental music consists of about three tracks repeated over and over again.
This is a tricky show to review as it's very middle of the road. There are a lot of flaws but somehow they are all balanced out by what’s good with the show. The average episodes are matched by some really good ones; the poor animation is matched by the fun characters and the almost non-existent music is matched by a fun cast. Princess Resurrection couldn’t be any more average if it tried. It’s certainly watchable, but you probably won’t really remember all that much of it afterwards.