Anime Review: Corpse Princess Shikabane Hime Parts 1 & 2
Gretchen is an anime junkie who spends far too much time reading manga and searching for that elusive new favorite series. She lives with her cat, and raises tomato trees.View all articles by Gretchen Lee
Ouri Kagami can't help but worry and be a little suspicious when his older brother, Keisei, starts coming home injured. It's generally not in a Buddhist monk's job description to get hurt, especially when he runs an orphanage. Then there's the dead girl Ouri finds in their temple…who isn't as dead as she should be. Makina is Shikabane Hime, a Corpse Princess. Unable to let go of her regrets, she refuses to die, and makes it her mission to take out evil undead souls, with Keisei's help. In return, Makina has been promised the opportunity to avenge her own murdered family and finally find peace. What Keisei does is his own business, and Ouri knows there's a reason he shouldn't get involved, but attempting to protect the only family he has left outweighs his common sense and his brother's wishes.
The first part of Shikabane Hime is a nicely paced creepy story of monsters, duty, family, and hot dead chicks with really big…guns. The set-up, the characters, the shady organization, all of it is tantalizing, working up to a climax that promises good treats, like fights and magic and lots of bullets. The tension between the two brothers highlights the danger involved with Keisei's job and Ouri's suspicions. Makina's anger and protectiveness of Keisei, along with escalating undead violence around Tokyo make for a real gore-fest of ghoul busting. With Ouri dangerously close to the truth, and the revelation of a possible hitch in Makina's plans for vengeance coming into play, the mid-point is so good, it could almost be the end of the series. And it probably should have been, with a little tweaking to tie up loose ends.
The series, however, carries on with a sequel. The second part isn't bad, it just isn't as strong as the first half. After the set-up from the previous thirteen episodes, the second half is a bit of a let down. Storybuilding and interesting characters are replaced by a lot of mystical explanations, new, underdeveloped characters, and a dysfunctional heroic duo who search for the power of friendship. Thrown into the mix are several Nefarious Plots. And boobs. Lots and lots of boobs. And they aren't even drawn well! It feels as though the fanservice is compensation for a less than thrilling story. It's one thing to include breasts and bums; fine, titillate me. However, including girly bits as compensation for plotting issues is insulting. Fanservice aside, the second part gives the distinct sense of having lost its way. The story rushes from one plot point to the next, and not all of it seems necessary. Sort of like the result of a late-night brainstorming session, where all the ideas seem good at the time and it's too hard to pick just one. In some cases, less is more.
While it isn't always wise to cram so many great ideas into those last thirteen episodes, the convoluted plot certainly keeps things lively. Even if that liveliness consists of me going, "Oh, come on!" at the TV. At least it kept me awake and interested. And a little creeped out at times. The series does atmosphere well, especially in the beginning. Shikabane Hime isn't perfect, but it's worth watching for the first half. The second half does answer some questions raised by previous events in the series, so it's not a waste to watch. This is a decent series for renting, especially with Halloween coming up, but I wouldn't buy it.
A note: Shikabane Hime is rated TV-MA for a reason. The creepy dead-people imagery is enough to freak out little ones and that's not cool. It's also rather violent in that undead kind of way. We've already covered the fanservice.
Details: Part 1 contains episodes 1-13 on two dvds and Part 2 contains episodes 14-26 on two dvds. Extras for Part 1 include episode 12 commentary, textless opening and closing, and trailers. Extras for Part 2 include episode 24 commentary, textless opening and closing, and trailers.
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