"Petite Princess Yucie Vol.1": FLCL for the Kids
Gainax, the long-time mavericks of the anime industry, have done it again. This is a company whose series have rewritten the playbook for anime (Nadia, Evangelion, FLCL and Ebichu) and radically changed the Japanese game industry with its daughter-raising simulator Princess Maker, which effectively launched bishoujo (pretty girl) games into the mainstream in Japan. Now they have combined the two by turning the Princess Maker games and turned it into an anime series. But not content with merely adapting the games to animation, Gainax has taken the Princess Maker concept, a bit of a mahou shoujo element, and the sharp comedic timing they honed on FLCL, and woven it all into a series that will work for all ages. Petite Princess Yucie may be the most universally enjoyable title Gainax has yet put out—though young girls will probably love it most—but it sacrifices none of the quality of story and character Gainax has used in their heavier works. Put simply, it seems they’ve nailed it.
We start with a little backstory. A noble knight fights an evil demon who has set everything ablaze. The knight is victorious, and suddenly a light falls from the heavens into the forest in front of the knight. He runs toward it as quickly as he can and he finds a baby girl, glowing in a clearing in the forest. That girl is Yucie.
Flash forward: It’s another wonderful morning for Yucie, what with the little dragon on her windowsill visiting for a little food. However, it would seem that her servant, a good demon by the name of Cube, told Yucie’s father, Gunbard, that she’d be home all day since it’s her birthday. Yucie doesn’t want to dawdle around all day, so she manages to get out of hanging around by doing the errands in the city that Cube was going to do. Along the way, she runs into some old acquaintances, and we learn that although Yucie may look ten years old, she’s actually seventeen. She’s not aged for the past seven years and she doesn’t know why. After she gets the errands done and finishes off her birthday feast, her little dragon friend guides Yucie and Cube to Lord Drago, a sea-monsterish dragon friend of Yucie’s. Drago tells her that the queen is holding audiences so that she may find Platinum Princess candidates. Whoever succeeds in becoming the Platinum Princess will get the Eternal Tiara, a magical item that grants its wearer any wish. Yucie decides to steal the tiara so that she can wish to finally grow up and be an adult. However, she is caught in the act by the queen herself. Rather than jail Yucie, though, the queen gives her a pendant, proof that she’s a Platinum Princess candidate. Will Yucie be able to face the challenges involved with being a Platinum Princess candidate, such as schooling, part-time jobs and a very malicious classmate who happens to be the Princess of Demon World? Only time will tell, but with the help of Cube, her friend Cocoloo and her generally kind and righteous heart, Yucie has a good shot.
In all aspects Yucie is a complete delight. It is as vibrantly executed as anything Gainax has ever done. The story itself, both in its pacing, characterization and emotional content is well-done and accessible to all audiences. The story also includes some of Gainax’s classic coming-of-age metaphors in it, so it’s got some depth to go along with the light comedy. The animation is quite fluid most of the time, eschewing obvious cheats. The music is light and bouncy, and the opening theme, “Genius of Smiles,” is catchy as all get out. The Japanese voice work is spot on and accentuates the humor immensely, while in the dub only Yucie’s Rei Ayanami-esque best friend, Cocoloo, falls a little short.
The DVD is quite well done too, with everything looking crisp, clean and glossy. The audio is pristine and the menu is cute and cleanly lain out. It’s even got a great episode count (five of ‘em). More bonuses would be nice, but the textless OP and ED and character design sheets are pretty good. It’s not ADV’s best release, but it’s certainly grade-A.
Basically, if you like comedy and/or you like a good shoujo anime, check out Petite Princess Yucie. Besides, even the kids need a little Gainax-style insanity.