What They Say:
Makina Hoshimura is already dead, but she can’t let go of this twisted world. She burned to death along with her entire family in a fire started by freaks that wouldn’t stay buried. Makina knows she doesn’t belong among the living, but that won’t stop her from unleashing the full fury of her twin MAC-11 machine guns on the rotting remains of those who refuse to die.
She’s hell-bent on filling every empty grave she can find with the monsters that should be six feet under. Makina is a Shikabane Hime – a Corpse Princess – and it’s her job to finish off the undead leftovers haunting the dark corners of a city that used to be safe.
This release of Corpse Princess contains a 5.1 English track as well as a Japanese 2.0 one. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and the track itself is a fine one with a good balance between the loud and quiet parts so that the volume range does not appear to be extreme nor is dialogue lost. The track also does a nice job of balancing things so that the appearance of depth to the track complements the onscreen action nicely.
Having originally aired in 2008 the series is presented in 1.85:1 ratio and in anamorphic widescreen. The video isn’t quite as fortunate as the audio as there are a good number of issues present. Throughout the feature there is a pretty significant level of noise that the grain can’t quite hide. The real buffet of issues though include some banding/color shifting at points, some ghosting, dot crawl, aliasing, a touch of interlacing at one point but most obnoxiously some pretty big distortions with the color pink and some black spots that occasionally float into certain frames-and usually when they do they are front and center of prominent image. Luckily many of these become less obvious or present as the series progresses as some of the video presentation changes a bit as it goes along, probably related to budget.
Corpse Princess is a title that has a pretty high production value overall but suffers in some hit or miss areas. The first episode in particular seemed to be throwing everything it had budget wise up on the screen with its action shots (which is rather surprising on a rewatch are less in number than they initially felt like). In this a number of Gainax flairs are notice including some Gurren Lagann moments with motion shots though this actually created a disconcerting feel as it seemed the series was throwing everything at the wall to see what style would stick and created some discord in the beginning-and the video issues noted previously didn’t help it either. Once it got past that stage and settled down one winds up with a rather slick looking show that plays nicely into all the action.
One issue that isn’t related in any way to video encoding-at least on FUNimation’s part-is that at times it seems the video continuity checker got lazy as some objects are shown way off model from time to time with objects being distorted in appearance from one shot to the next.
The feature comes with a very stylish looking cover as the balance of the red and black background with Makina poised in an action shot front and center is very eye catching. The back continues this look and mixes in a bit of white for the catch line while also using some really effective changes in font from the copy to quotes to help change up to help shake things up subtly without disturbing the flow. To also help the title stand out when book shelved the spine is black with the title and character silhouette in red which gives it a rather distinctive look. All of this artwork and coloring is mirrored in a very slick looking sleeve that the DVD comes packaged in.
The case itself is transparent which shows off that there is an alternate cover on the other side of the cover sheet which has a standing image of Makina. The opposite side has a track listing of all the episodes and which disc they are on written in a red on black scheme. The discs themselves are on plastic flip trays so that no disc overlaps and the track listings and alt Makina can be seen without having to remove any disc first. The discs also use the red and black colors with Makina’s silhouette present for all four discs.
The menus are rather simple in presentation but fairly well functional in nature and contain different static character art images on each screen while an instrumental track from the series plays in the background. Selections are noted by their changing from either white or black to red when highlighted and the menu responds quickly to changes in selection as well as the implementation of them.
The extras present on the release are clean openings and closings for the series as well as English commentary on episodes 12 and 24. While clean open/closes are standard it is a nice touch that FUNimation chose to do some commentary tracks again as this is an extra that has fallen to the rare side of things in recent years.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ouri Kagami hasn’t had the most normal of lives given that he was raised in an orphanage, but it is balanced out by the fact that he is well loved. Ouri’s life would be rather normal and happy except for one minor annoyance- a talking cat that only he can see and hear. While this is the kind of thing that ranks rather high in the “not good signs” category he has managed to adapt so far without it being too much trouble- that is until the night when it helps wake him up and he finds a strange girl with multiple lacerations lying dead in the temple part of the orphanage he lives in. He hears voices coming and hides before Keisei-the man he sees as father, brother and best friend-enters the room also bearing deep wounds. From his hiding place he watches as Keisei embraces the girl and is stunned when she starts to move.
Months pass since that point and Ouri has decided that he has to move out on his own despite the amount of work he will have to work to live on his own as seeing Keisei injured has been rather traumatic. Ouri will discover though that fate can track you down even if you don’t submit a change of address form to the post office. During the day the rumor mill is enflamed with talk of a strange man who killed all the women he was living with which his classmates are eager to share information on, though what they aren’t interested in sharing is the work Ouri will be doing in moving and they bail on him. That night as he is moving his stuff alone he is surprised when a dead body falls from the sky that turns out to be the same one he saw the previous year. With either an astounding lack of fear or common sense (or both) he embraces the girl as Keisei had done and he isn’t surprised when the corpse becomes animated again.
From this point Ouri will find himself drawn into a strange world where not all corpses stop moving and when they don’t they take on monstrous forms and activities with their death if they have exceptional levels of regret of desire. He will also learn that the girl he keeps seeing is named Makina Hoshimura and she is a Shikabane Hime- a corpse who works in partnership with a monk to put these monsters down as they are unique weapons in the battle of the not immobile dead and that in Makina’s case she partners with Keisei. As Ouri starts paying attention to the world around him more closely he will find himself encountering Makina and other Shikabane Hime as the current society seems to provide plenty of opportunity for people to die with regret.
While for most people a brush with the supernatural would cause them to freak out things are worse for Ouri as there is a secret that Keisei has never shared with him about how the met and why it is that Keisei won’t share what is going on with him. As events continue to happen around him-some by chance and some that the talking cat guides him to- he will become immersed in the other world no matter how fervently those around him may wish otherwise as the dangers mount on many fronts.
When events take a sudden turn as a traitor makes his move Ouri may find out far more about what his brother does and also about the world of Shikabane Hime as the objects of Makina’s rage return and his role changes to a less passive one. With the veils parted he will come to learn of this strange world with its members who don’t always look kindly on the Shikabane Hime they work with and he will learn of the tragedies he had no idea could exist beyond death. With lies surrounding him and a sinister plot being unfurled he may find he has only one person to turn to for help- and that person may have no interest in having anything to do with him.
When the cover has a shot of a character carrying a pair of Uzis front and center as well as some scenes with fighting and a supernatural tone on the back one expects that a good deal of the series will revolve around these issues and they largely do. What is kind of unusual is that though it shows a bunch of images that look to play up the erotic nature/imagery the show largely decides to be far more subtle with its exposure which is a bit of a surprised as Gainax coined the term “fanservice.” Instead of a visual barrage of cheesecake the writers go with more of a mental version as they continually tease ideas and introduce new information throughout the series.
While the action stays high throughout the series much of what makes the series special is in the layers of secrets and character development chances that get presented and then peeled away during it. While it is a bit trite and cliché to say nothing is quite as it appears it is also largely true here as every answer actually seems to lead to a new question. This works for much of the series but sometimes it just feels like it is too much and kind of like the audience is being trolled somewhat in the information as it is meted out, or that the series maybe trying to be too clever by…well, not half…maybe a third or quarter.
Also while watching I oddly found myself engrossed in a particular episode but when the episode ended that I tended to wander away far more than usual when it comes to my watching patterns. I was initially unable to determine why other than the series felt like it had an odd pacing but looking around I think forum member Hayate Kurogane nailed it when he pointed out the two leads in the Japanese dub come off flat a good deal of the time. I found that I really wasn’t connecting to Makina as well as it seemed I should and I was dismissing Ouri as a typical throwaway spineless anime male when he wasn’t. Given the importance of proper voice acting-particularly from the erstwhile leads-it really causes an unnecessary stumbling block to enjoying the feature.
If you are looking for a series with more intrigue, action and twists than your average spy novel and which also includes the walking (and fighting) dead this may be the perfect series for you. With this you get a series that combines a bunch of elements in a fresh and unique way to keep the viewer on their toes-and then knocks them off them as they challenge the assumptions developed and emotions raised through the trials of its characters as they are developed. While the series has a bit of an odd pacing at times it delivers a powerful story and is well worth the addition to the bookshelves of those who love any of the elements listed in the first sentence-and even for those who may just casually like those elements as well.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentaries, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.