Princess Resurrection Review
There's definitely a kind of old-school retro-feel to Princess Resurrection, both in terms of the relatively more simple character designs that have Osamu Tesuka eyes and Leiji Matsumoto oval faces with sharp chins, but mainly in its choice of using horror genre monsters and creatures that belong to the tradition of classic Universal Pictures horror movies of mummies, vampires and werewolves rather than the mythological creatures of Japanese legends and folktales. In at least one other respect however, the series has a definite anime feel to it. There's a young man at the centre of the story surrounded by a household of sexy young females, even if their interest in him probably doesn't initially appear to extend to much more than a lust for his blood.
The young man who falls under the thrall of these dangerous creature is Hiro. He has come to the town of Sasanaki to visit his sister - the exceptionally large-bosomed Sawawa - who has been employed to work as maid in a large spooky gothic mansion that sits atop a hill just outside town that seems exist permanently beneath an ominous swirl of dark clouds. Hiro is a timid boy, but he dives to save the life of a young woman from falling beams, and is killed in the process. Fortunately, the young woman he has saved is none other than Hime, the new Mistress of the mansion where Sawawa is maid, and - as you might have picked up from the title of the series - she has a special talent for reviving the dead. Well, granting half-immortality at least, which means that Hiro will die again unless he remains in the service of Hime. It's the beginning of an unusual relationship.
Hime is the Princess of a Royal Family which has an unusual tradition of determining succession to the throne by a fight to the death between the siblings. She however is reluctant to enter into such a contest and has consequently moved to Sasanaki, but it will not mean she is immune to attack from the other Princes and Princesses, who have enlisted the services of legions of the dead and the most fearsome creatures of the night to further their claim. Hime only has the protection of her personal android, the diminutive Flandre, whose vocabulary may not extend beyond the word 'Huga' but she can be quite expressive with it and is certainly more than capable in the strength department. In addition to Hiro becoming a servant in her ranks, her little team grows to include a few other unusual figures such as half-breed werewolf Liza Wildman and teen schoolgirl vampire Reiri, but Hime can also - for the moment - depend on the assistance of her younger sister Sherwood and her android Francesca ("Huga!"), while a temporary truce holds between them. It's still not the most peaceful of households since they would all appear to be natural enemies, but they find they have something in common with the Princess, helping to defend her from the growing severity of the attacks from her other siblings.
It's difficult at first however to get a sense of the larger picture of the Royal Family's disputes, as the series for the larger part tends to focus on Hiro, and it consequently feels somewhat episodic. There's a little bit of a Black Butler relationship in reverse here - and Princess Resurrection shares a similar feel to that series, particularly in its favouring of traditional western horror themes - as Hiro self-sacrificingly defends his Mistress from the attacks of werewolves, vampires, mummies, witches, zombies and triffids, with the series also even taking in such familiar horror traditions as mad scientists (or a mad surgeon anyway), headless horsemen, lost villages and ghost ships. Hiro's devotion to his Mistress in defending her from each episode's creature-of-the-day is only matched by Hime's almost complete disregard for his dignity, his well-being and, well, his life really. Or half-life then. It starts to look as if it's becoming a case of 'Oh my God, they've killed Hiro!' in each episode, but there is a strange quality to this fatalistic fascination that Hiro has with Hime and the rest of these true femmes fatales that he shares living quarters with. Or should that be half-living quarters? (And in that case does that not make them eighths?).
The nature of their relationship changes however as the series progresses, Hiro proving himself to be worthy soldier rather than just being a disposable servant to Hime as the underlying theme of the Royal Family struggle for succession starts to come through. Even so, this development only really extends to a few episodes quite late in the series, so Princess Resurrection relies more on the quality of the individual episodes and, fortunately, it's strong enough in this respect. There's a good dynamic between the characters that are gradually introduced, there is always an interesting new creature for the team to pit themselves against, and there's a good sense of humour towards the situation with plenty of quirky running themes, from wonderful Flandre's inexpressive super-strength to Sawawa's love for strawberry parfaits, with Hiro's suspicious classmates, jealous of his home set-up among a group of gorgeous strong females and the bitter rivalry between Reiri and Liza, all of which extend the range of the series a little out into the wider world, and give it a character of its own.
The series also has a character of its own in the animation style. It's very basic animation indeed for the earlier episodes, with perspective being slightly off and some rather awkward jerkiness in movements, but once the series starts to finds its feet - the second part of the series undoubtedly being handled by a better studio at a later date - the quality of the animation is also raised considerably to coincide with the tighter storyline and the considerably softer characterisation of Hime. The animation becomes more fluid and elegant with greater shadowing and dynamic to the action and battle sequences, making good use of CG where appropriate for ghostly effects. The simplicity of the designs ends up working well with the innocent nature of the series itself, as Princess Resurrection is very much a good old-fashioned horror series, with a variety of fun and likeable characters who you find yourself gradually growing fond of as the series progresses.
Princess Resurrection: Complete Series is released by Manga Entertainment on DVD only. The entire series of 26 episodes is spread across a set of 4 dual-layer DVDs. The release is in PAL format and encoded for Region 2.
The image quality on the DVDs is reasonably good, and it's only really the rather simple line drawings of the animation itself that make the series look older than it is. The colouration is strong, there are no noticeable issues with interlacing or colour banding, and the lines are clean, stable and unbroken. There appeared to be a jerkiness to pans - both vertical and horizontal - in the earlier episodes, but I didn't notice this at all later in the series. It's not an exceptional transfer by any means, but it's more than adequate, and certainly looks better as the series progresses.
The same can be said about the audio options, which give you the original Japanese track in Dolby Digital 2.0 and an English dub also in DD 2.0. Both are fine and there's not much to choose between them other than your own personal preference. I went with the English dub and was quite happy with it. Half-way through after changing discs I inadvertently watched a few episodes with the Japanese track (it comes on as the default track) and didn't even notice that I'd switched over. The subtitles are white and bold and relatively close to the translation in the dub, although not exactly word for word.
The only extra features are on Disc 4, and they consist of a Clean Opening and Closing Credits, which means they barely qualify as extras at all.
The charm of Princess Resurrection is in its very simplicity. It's not the most sophisticated in terms of plotting, characterisation or animation style and takes rather a long time to get around to developing the underlying story arc, but it makes the most of the rich history of horror creatures at its disposal for individual episodes and does actually manage to find a fun and intriguing new way of its own to bring them together that doesn't rely either on the old creaky horror scares or the graphic demon-slaying of Japanese anime. You're likely to find yourself becoming quite fond of the series and its quirky characters by the time we get to the end. There may be nothing spectacular about the series or the presentation on DVD, but there's good entertainment value in the full 26 episodes of Princess Resurrection's good old-fashioned horror.