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"Murder Princess Complete Series": Just a Flesh Wound

by on June 2, 2009

Murder Princess is one of the most straightforward shows I’ve watched in a while. The purple-haired Falis is a low-caste bounty hunter who is off hunting wolves (with her partners, Dominikov and Pete) in the forest near Forland Castle. Inside the castle, meanwhile, a coup d’etat is unfolding: Dr. Akamashi, a former scientist to the crown, is using his two child-like androids and an army of synthetic beasts to invade it. The princess, Alita, whom the Doctor is trying to capture for a not-yet-disclosed reason, flees the castle, and ends up nearly skewering herself on Falis’s sword. The two of them fall off a cliff. That’s a near-death experience, so their spirits begin to leave their bodies; but, but they survive, and the spirits have to go back in; but, but, they get mixed up, and before you can say “Freaky Friday”, the two girls have switched bodies. Back to the castle they tramp; Falis, you see, is a very accomplished swordswoman, even in the princess’s body, and the princess, in Falis’s body, makes her promise to save her (the princess’s) kingdom, giving the bounty hunter her undying servitude in exchange. (Still with me?) Falis kicks the rebels out of the castle, but they escape with their lives, and the bounty hunter is forced to remain in the princess’s body long enough to be crowned queen, in order to give the Forlanders a symbol of hope to rally behind despite the rebellion, and to protect the real princess (who has taken the guise of a servant) from the rebels. At least, until her brother Kaito comes home from the battlefield.

All this is by the by, of course. Murder Princess exists to do two things: to be a traditional “sword-and-sorcery” style show) despite the androids and other mechanical objects), and to put Falis/Princess in as many badass situations as they can possibly squeeze into. The producers succeed overwhelmingly in the second goal, at least; Falis is pretty damn cool, even when we know how hard they’re trying to make her so. The show makes good use of timing and movement in combat, which make the fights look cool despite the show’s awful animation (pay attention when the characters start to run). As for the first goal, well, it comes close to succeeding. Murder Princess‘s biggest problem is that, at a measly six episodes, it’s just too short. We meet the characters and get acquainted with the plot, but just as we really start to get into it, it ends. If you can look past the short length, the plot is actually quite interesting, and the characters are interesting and entertaining. But you can’t help but think that they could have done more with it. The whole thing feels rather squished, as if the creators knew they wouldn’t have much time and wanted to get as many plot points out of the way as fast as possible.

Ah, but back to the characters. The first thing that struck me about them was the diversity and originality of their designs: the artwork is great, even if the animation is not. The characters themselves all fall into pretty standard clichés, but the writing (not to mention the fantastic performances by both the dub and sub casts) saves them from feeling too contrived. In addition to the Alita/Falis duo, we have a nice bunch of supporting characters: Dominikov and Pete, Falis’s assistant bounty hunters; Jodu, a dwarfish advisor to the throne; Dr. Akamashi and his little-girl-shaped androids, Ana and Yuna; and finally, the true villain of the story, a dark-skinned woman who shall remain nameless. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before (not even the little girl robots, actually), but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. Again, time works against the show in this respect; the characters are fun, and there are several allusions to complicated back stories for some of them, but the short running time means we don’t get to see enough of them; particular offenders are the two androids, Yuna and Ana, and Prince Kaito.

The show’s music deserves special note; it’s an interesting hardcore rock style that oddly fits the action. The opening theme also uses this type of music, along with what is probably the best animation in the whole show. The ending theme has a more faux-medieval tune, but it also has some very nice visuals. The crew seems to have guessed that a lot of people wouldn’t want to pay twenty bucks for a six-episode show, so they tacked on a commentary for the last episode as well; this is a fairly entertaining extra. (It is also the only real extra on the DVD, so… yeah.)

Really, Murder Princess‘s simplicity is probably one of its strongest factors. If you’re just looking for a consistently entertaining (and frequently awesome) diversion, then look no farther. It’s a worthy series, though I still can’t help but reiterate that it could have been much better.

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