Rise from your grave, hime! (and kill shikabane)
With the 2012 Winter Anime Season coming to a close, I’ll soon find myself being buried under a backlog of series I need to blog on, so I should probably get this one out of the way first. Yeah, “get it out of the way.” That about sums up my feelings on Corpse Princess as an animated series. Released as two separate seasons, Shikabane Hime: Aka and Shikabane Hime: Kuro, it’s more or less a continuous airing of a single series, since the timeskip between seasons is minimal (about six months of in-story time). That said, it moves pretty quick on its own … but to nowhere in particular.
Corpse Princess follows Kagami Ouri, an unassuming middle school student that was raised as an orphan by his adoptive older brother, Tagami Keisei. Though not especially perceptive to his surroundings, Ouri slowly begins to discover strange events surrounding his brother, particularly in regards to a girl, Hoshimura Makina, who seems especially connected to Keisei. In due time, Ouri finds out that the lovely Makina is actually a reanimated corpse that fights on behalf of the Kougon Sect, a mysterious organization dedicated to the eradication of other undead corpses. When a human dies with strong feelings of regret, they are reborn into the world as Shikabane, defiled corpses that exist only to destroy. Ironically, the only beings truly capable of defeating these Shikabane are girls like Makina — Shikabane Hime. When a Shikabane Hime manages to destroy 108 other Shikabane, their defiled spirits are purified and they can enter heaven. As the Shikabane Hime contracted to the Kougan Sect monk, Tagami Keisei, it is up to Makina to rid the world of Shikabane and earn her eternal rest.
It’s a great concept, though suffering from the “bad guys exist only in Japan” sort of deal. The scope of the sect is rarely seen beyond the city that Makina and Ouri live in, and what major effects the Shikabane actually have on the world at large. It’s this minimized scope that severely weakens the narrative and pockmarks the overall plot with little holes that make the series difficult to stomach. Makina is extremely stoic and — to be frank — a complete and utter bitch at times. I’m not entirely sure if this is intentional or not, but it goes way beyond the traditional ice queen protagonist. In that respect, I will give major props to Luci Christian, who voiced Makina in the English dub (which is what I watched).
Luci Christian, for the uninformed, was the English language actress for the extremely soft-spoken Nagisa from Clannad as well as Tenma from School Rumble. Having heard Christian voice a more mean-spirited character, I can safely say that she’s a very talented actress and I look forward to her other performance if I happen to cross them.
Having seen the English version, I think that Corpse Princess is a prime example of a series that actually suffers from trying to maintain its ‘Japanese authenticity.’ There’s actually a lot of Japanese names and titles that are used in the English version without any real explanations to their meaning as accompaniment. I found it a bit jarring, even with my more-than-average understanding of Japanese. I would assume that it would completely bewilder some viewers. Just something to consider as far as English localizations go.
The biggest issue with Corpse Princess is that there is no goal in sight. The scope of the Kougon Sect is never fully seen, despite how much of an implication an organization like that could actually have on the world at large. At the end of the day, the series seems to boil down to a monster-of-the-day chase on the road to 108 dead Shikabane, at least for the first season. The second season tries way too hard to try and forge a meaningful connection between protagonists Makina and Ouri, while still trying to support Makina’s icy and unyielding personality. What results is one of the most lopsided partnerships in any anime that I can think of, and I’m not even talking about a strength/power/magical-girlfriend comparison — they really don’t seem like they should ever even be on the same planet, much less being able to tolerate each other enough to make a lasting friendship. The pivotal relationship of the series simply does not click, and the entire series suffers so much for it.
It’s a shame, too — the primary antagonists are well-designed and their powers are pretty interesting, to say the least. On the other hand, about 90% of the Kougon Sect are bald monks that wear the same clothing … Not so good for unique character identification.
Corpse Princess actually fares pretty well in its action scenes. Like I said, the primary antagonists are designed very well, so the action is always unique and interesting, especially when it comes to larger-scale group battles. It’s just that to get to these scenes, you have to sit through the drab narrative and feigned character development.
As for the ending … I won’t bother trying to avoid spoilers because …. there’s nothing to spoil. There is no ending. It was as if episode 24 of season 2 was any other episode: only resolving itself internally and not addressing anything beyond that single episode. If you check the series information, you’ll notice that there are 25 episodes. That’s because the last episode is just a side story. I went into it expecting the series resolution, and I got absolutely nothing.
Even Madoka had an ending. I feel even more trolled by this series than School Days.
But there was no Nice Boat waiting for me at the end of Corpse Princess.
Character Ranking – Corpse Princess (Shikabane Hime)
- Yamagami Itsuki
- Kagami Ouri
- Hoshimura Makina
- Amase Saki