I've really enjoyed most of Manga's releases of late. Their own lineup was already pretty top drawer but their linkup with Kazé has seen a wider variety of anime come to the UK, covering every genre from horror through to romance. Each title I have watched recently from them has been different, and it's been really interesting to see series I'm not too familiar with or those with a different focus to the usual action titles. Princess Resurrection is another I didn't really know anything about when I started watching it, but it soon seemed all too familiar.
Princess Resurrection focuses on Hiro Hiyorimi, an
average schoolboy who moves to a new town with his sister Sawawa when she takes
up a position as a maid in a mansion there. Her employer is a beautiful
but aloof woman known only as Hime, a woman who Hiro pushes out of the way of
some falling girders, getting crushed to death in the process. However,
Hime is no ordinary aristocrat, she is a princess of the monster realm and has
the power to grant the flame of life to the recently dead, resurrecting them as
immortal soldiers honour-bound to protect her. After his foolhardy but
heroic action Hime decides to grant the flame to Hiro, resurrecting him as her
servant and exposing him to a whole new world of supernatural creatures and
danger! As a member of the Royal Family, Hime is pitted against her
siblings in an all out battle for the throne - only one of them can become ruler
of the monster world, and they can only ascend to the throne when they're the
last one standing. This means that each royal is constantly under attack
from the others, and as they are no stronger than a normal person until they
reach maturity they need to surround themselves with a retinue of hand-picked
warriors for both protection and counter attacks. Hiro's immortality has a
big drawback, the flame of life only lasts for a limited period and once it
burns out it needs to be replenished quickly or he'll die for good. Royals
are the only ones who can restore the flame so if Hime dies, so does Hiro.
He's life is inherently bound to hers but with werewolves, fish demons and
vampires all out for her blood, not to mention the constant threat of
assassination by other members of her family, Hime is going to need more
protection than just Hiro and her android servant Flandre can provide...
Princess Resurrection is another foray into the world of supernatural action for Manga, with an everyman character thrown into a strange new world by a beautiful but enigmatic woman. This kind of escapist fantasy action isn't exactly new territory, series like Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho and 3x3 Eyes start with a broadly similar premise, but Princess Resurrection throws a vast array of Western horror movie staples into the mix. Over the course of the series we get vampires (high school and traditional), werewolves, mummies,
zombies, triffids, Creature from the Black Lagoon-style fishmen, an invisible man, a headless horseman and a mask-wearing mass murderer, and there's also the Japanese staples of ninja assassins, giant robots, demonic animals and the inevitable catgirl. As you would probably guess with this established setup and wide variety of familiar creatures originality is somewhat at a premium, so the story and characters have to be good enough to set the series apart. Sadly though, the dearth of originality is apparent there too. Hiro is a pretty uninspiring lead, a bog-standard courageous schoolboy who'll sacrifice himself for others, whilst his sister Sawawa is a buxom, good-natured airhead who remains unaware of the chaos going on around her. We have the half-werewolf Liza Wildman, a standard anime tomboy who takes pride in her strength but has a secret sensitive side, the vampire schoolgirl Reiri, a scheming and mysterious girl who seems to work to her own agenda, and Hime's younger sister Sherwood, a bratty pre-teen girl who harbours a massive crush on Hiro. Hime herself is probably the most interesting of all of the central cast, remaining ruthless, aloof and enigmatic throughout. Her motivations are frequently unclear, and her story has the most mileage to it as she struggles against her equally enigmatic siblings.
There are some decent ideas in Princess Resurrection
despite the overarching lack of originality. The fact that Hiro's
immortality has to periodically be renewed is a clever twist, as it binds his
fate to Hime's and effectively gives her complete power over him. He has
to protect her and stay by her side, as well as keep her favour, and there's a
lot of scope to focus on the impacts to his independence and how he adapts to
his new life. The battle between the Royal princes and princesses is an
intriguing idea too, it's like the Highlander in reverse - the Royals
become immortal once they reach maturity so to leave a single ruler they have to
kill each other off whilst they still can. Considering this fate
Princesses Hime and Sherwood form what can only be described as a doomed
alliance, whilst there are intriguing hints at secondary stories, such as the
mysterious events that led Hime to move to the town, what happened to Hiro and
Sawawa's parents, and the difficulties Liza has faced growing up as
half-werewolf. The series also shares an intriguing element with the
classic 3x3 Eyes, as in both series becoming immortal doesn't confer any
other special powers or abilities. Hiro may not be able to die and his
injuries may heal almost immediately, but he's no stronger, no more resilient
and has gained no innate skills. He's basically still an ordinary guy, and
whilst 3x3 Eyes cleverly played on this with Yakumo finding ways to use
his immortality to his advantage and striving to become stronger, Princess
Resurrection doesn't really develop Hiro beyond what he is at the start of
It's this lack of development that really holds the series back. Hiro remains uninteresting throughout, and the hints at past trauma for Liza and Sawawa are never explored beyond a few throwaway comments. Reiri is annoyingly smug, and on the couple of occasions where her composure does slip - such as when the characters encounter zombies - the story doesn't really delve into why. The series has a lot of potential which remains untapped, you learn very little about Hime or her battle, and Hiro's newfound immortality and servitude
doesn't prompt much soul searching or question on his part. The use of recognisable movie monsters does lead to a few homage moments, but it also doesn't help the story to flow. With the main villains (Hime's siblings) remaining largely unseen each episode feels like a self-contained 'monster of the week' story, with different tones and little continuity from one episode to the next. Some of the stories are quite clever, but most generally end up following a similar formula and there's only a handful that deviate from pretty standard anime tropes. However, one nice twist on the usual style of these series is that the main character is brave but largely useless, whilst the woman he is trying to protect is an intelligent, composed, cunning and ruthless swordmaster who often personally dispatches the various assassins sent to kill her. Sometimes with a chainsaw.
Princess Resurrection is something of a frustrating series. The story doesn't progress anywhere near as much as you would expect and most of the characters remain pretty two-dimensional throughout. There's some good action scenes and the animation is decent enough if uninspired, but it is clichéd, unoriginal and has very few surprises or twists to really inject it with any spark. The frustrating thing is that the series has plenty of potential to be good, it introduces a varied world of supernatural beings as well as a parallel monster world which we don't see nearly enough of, and it hints at some emotional issues and past demons for the characters to overcome without really delivering on them. Hime is a good character and really holds the series together, but you always feel that there's a lot more story that could be told and this leaves everything feeling quite superficial. There's a few decent moments of drama, and even some effective comedy and horror, but overall the series feels like a missed opportunity. Maybe there will be a second series at some future point that will expand some of the themes overlooked this time or bring back the gorier tone of the original manga, but as it stands this one is a bit of a disappointment.
The usual textless credit sequences, which is a bit disappointing for a full series collection. However, the strangest thing about this series is the fact that each disc starts with a title screen with a single option on it, and you have to press enter to get to the normal title screen with the play option, episode select and audio options. Weird.