When I started to cover entertainment on this site, I told myself that trying to cover the latest thing would not only be economically infeasible, but also give my reviews the shelf life of grocery store fruit. As someone who owned what could be called a “collection” of [insert one of the things that I cover] before starting to buy entertainment for CotBF. Speaking of shelf life, I do try to go back from time to time and cover things that I enjoyed years ago and see if they still hold up. That could not be truer than with 2006’s Princess Princess, a sizable portion of my early heavy anime viewing.
Princess Princess was directed by Keitaro Motonaga, director of Katanagatari and the Kikaider and Magical Knight Rayearth OVAs. (When I said that Princess Princess was part of my early viewing days, this was tied to my big stint with mangaka Mikiyo Tsuda’s works; which used characters from two of her previous manga, The Day of Revolution and Family Complex in Princess Princes.) I begrudgingly admit her humor based heavily around pretty characters causing exaggerative results were a heavy draw to me when I was younger, for better or worse.
The story starts with Tohru Honda who just got off the bus to his new school –Academy when he is surprised by an eloquently dressed woman jumping out at him from a campus tree. The woman meets Tohru’s eyes for a moment before she is chased away by school boys yelling “Hime” (Japanese for princess) in her direction. Tohru walks off to class and while conversing with his teacher, he looks out the window at the student body, a sea of males exercising and playing sports, which instills in him that this is truly a boy’s only school with that woman a moment before just being a fluke. Once inside the classroom, he meets the feminine blonde Yujiro Shihoudani, almost mistaking him for a woman. Tohru ends his day by being shown around the campus by a calming class president Akira Sakamoto, while being given weird looks from the rest of the students.
Later that day, Tohru discovers that the woman he met earlier was actually a student in his year named Mikoto Yutaka, who with Yujiro, are known as the campus hime or idol. Tohru meets with student council president Arisada, the head of the student organization, to discuss a proposition. Arisada wants Tohru to become a hime with Yujiro and Mikto, with tasks including dressing up in dresses as the school’s hime and keeping a soothing air to support – elite school student body. The campus as a whole is under the impression that since Tohru is a very pretty looking guy (I thought it was just because his hair is not a natural color but whatever), that he will fit perfectly. All Tohru has to do now is agree to Arisada’s terms to become a hime and we can get onto an actually quite subdued (by comparison) comedy.
Because of what is on its surface, Princess Princess is usually lumped together with many fan service for girls shows that having a plot about boys cross-dressing would bring upon its head. Heck, both the Mikyo Tsuda boys-love friendly origin and the fact that shows like Loveless and Gakuen Heaven have trailers in this release only pushes that catnip-for-girls notion further. In an attempt to not date myself, we live in a world where Hetalia and Miracle Train exist where pretty boys are paraded around in a more senseless fashion then the at times effectively dramatic Princess Princess. That venire of sparkle and frill seems to make it hard to convince people that this show is capable of more.
Pros: Comedic elements are able to pass the expected cross-dressing cracks to leave some rather funny low-key dialog between characters often not seen recently in anime’s big wake of off the wall comedies. I tend to pull up YouTube and listen to soundtracks of the series I cover if they, like in the case for Princess Princess, stick out to me. But unfortunately Princess Princess’s smooth and dramatic soundtrack filled with piano melodies cannot to be found on YouTube and thus did not accompany my writing. The voice acting for the three lead characters was spot on, perhaps elevating the humor in the process of such great voice acting.
Cons: Suffers heavily from what I am calling City Hunter Syndrome, which harkens back to watching City Hunter and even if the episode itself was poorly animated and people where constantly off model, the close ups of main character Ryo’s face would still look gorgeous, like half of the episode’s budget was spent on these close ups. Beats the cross-dressing plot into your head every moment it can in the first few episodes.
Princess Princess has a rather cheap Complete Collection put out by Media Blasters, and I bet you can find it if you look. I learned a lot from revisiting a show like Princess Princess; learned that the music was great, the character animation was constantly off model, and the comedy stayed fresh. I suggest picking this one up, for while it might look like cheese-cake on the surface, it is actually deeper than what it parades on its cover.