The saga of the Tamayori Princess continues with betrayals and plot twists abundantly sprinkled about. Too bad most of them are utterly predictable.
What They Say:
Her fate is in the hands of five guardians who will die for her. And her heart possesses the most powerful magic in the world. But is one young girl enough to fight the force of the darkness?
After battling dangerous creatures once existing only in legend, Princess Tamaki begins to deal with her uncertain future as the new Tamayori Princess. Once she claims her rightful place as the protector of the universe, high school will seem like a breeze – but whether she lives to accept that future is another matter altogether. Her five guardians – handsome, powerful young men of great power and undeniable loyalty – have vowed to sacrifice everything to protect her. But are any of them able to deal with a traitor in their midst? And how can anyone deal with such important issues while still maintaining a high GPA?
Sorcery and school conflict collide in the gorgeous and thrilling Hiiro no Kakera – The Tamayori Princess Saga!
Audio: For this viewing, I listened to the 48 kHz 224 kbps 2.0 Dolby Digital English track. The audio is usually well balanced and the mix was even decoded nicely to make some use of the rear speakers in my setup, better than many actual 5.1 mixes I’ve heard recently. There were no notable dropouts or distortions during playback.
Video: Originally airing in the last quarter of 2012, the show is presented in its original aspect ration of 16:9 with anamorphic playback capability. In general the video is fine. It probably helps that the 13 episodes are spread over three discs (4/4/5), which gives plenty of room for the video and two audio tracks. The colors maintain good consistent tone throughout the series, which seems like it has a strong preference for amber and rust hues giving the show an autumnal feel. It is pretty clear, however, that one is watching video that is being upscaled for playback on a high definition device from a standard definition MPEG 2 encoded recording, as some scenes feel as if they lack a certain level of definition, but overall the picture quality is good. No noticeable artifacts were visible during the viewing session.
The cover features a picture of the six prominent males of the series in poses and expressions appropriate to their personalities. They surround Tamaki, the princess of the title who is their center and focus.
The disc art uses images of the guardian characters in their school uniforms, except for Suguru who is in his usual traditional Japanese outfit, two per disc. The discs are in a single normal-sized DVD keepcase with two discs on a flippy hinge holder and one disc mounted on the back.
Menu: The menus have static images of the guardians on the right and the menu choices on the left. Load times are quick and the menus serve their purpose well enough. A section of the opening theme loops on the main menu.
Extras: Not too much in the way of extras. The first disc has the usual helping of trailers and disc authoring credits. The second disc contains the textless versions of the OP and ED animation, as well as an art gallery which comes with a spoiler warning as some of the images do give away future developments that occur in the final episodes of the season. The final disc, which contains one more episode than the other two, has no extras at all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For full details on the first season, please see my review of it.
Based on the visual novel aimed at the female market by Idea Factory, this release contains the second half of the two-season adaptation. The first episode is largely taken up with recounting the events of the first season, like many a clip-filled recap episode, only moving events forward in the last few minutes. From that point onwards, the show moves forward at a fairly brisk pace.
Tamaki Kasuga has finally become the Tamayori Princess, but apparently she has not completely awakened to her powers, so the dangerous sword, the Onikirimaru, is not permanently sealed. In this situation, the previous Tamayori Princess, Tamaki’s grandmother Shizuki Ugaya, decides that the old method of sealing the sword is required: a blood sacrifice. At the same time, Drei, the magician who serves Logos, the mysterious outfit desiring to get the sword for their own unstated purposes, begins putting his own plots and plans in motion.
At this point, the show continues on a fairly paint-by-numbers path, but desperately tries to avoid being a walking cliche by doubling down on certain cliches. There is not only one traitor among the Five Guardians, but two: Shinji Inukai and Suguru Ohmi both betray Tamaki and join Logos, though separately and with different agendas. It comes as little to no surprise that both of them come back onto Tamaki’s side, with Ohmi’s betrayal having been a ruse all along to regain the binding artifacts Logos had stolen in the first season and Shinji’s treason owing to the fact that he wasn’t meant to be a Guardian in the first place, since he is not a real descendent of the Inukai family.
Of course, that means that there is a real Inukai out there and it turns out to be the gruff and aloof Ryou Kutani, to the surprise of no one. If talking about all of this really counts as spoiling the surprises, then you haven’t been paying attention from the first season where just about all of these things were telegraphed beyond any doubt. There are plenty of other predictable revelations which I will not mention but are no less able to be “guessed” if you pay even the slightest attention.
And that is where this show loses what interest it might have on the general viewer who isn’t watching it for the reverse harem elements. Oh, and ignore the catalog copy on the back of the cover as there is just about no action that takes place at school in this season. All subsequent events play rather weakly as a fairly superficial fantasy of a not-very-remarkable lead character being surrounded by a harem of hotties with supernatural powers who together manage to defeat all of the evils of the world and live happily ever after. The betrayals, both real and fake, are predictable and what should be intriguing plot twists come across as expected moves. Even who gets to be the Final Boss is not hard to guess if you’ve been paying attention since the first season.
At the very least they could have made the final battle much grander than it was, but in the end it was rather disappointing as the Princess and her Guardians take down the enemy quite handily once they make up their minds to do it. So, all it took to defeat the Big Bad was wanting it badly enough? I didn’t realize power came so easily. In that way, this show suffers from the same shortcomings as the first season, which also showed poor execution at times. The whole story goes off as fairly generic, but perhaps this can be traced back to its origins as a game, where what’s most important is the player character-objects of affection interaction, not the strength of the plot. The production values, as the animation and music are of a respectable quality, merit it a grade barely at the B-level.
The dub continues to be a fairly serviceable affair directed and adapted again by Steven Foster. There really isn’t anything to add to the comments I made about the first season.
Hiiro no Kakera: The Tamayori Princess Saga showed some promise in the first season, but gives much of that promise away in the second season by following an unimaginative path along the way to a much too neatly wrapped up conclusion with an utterly predictable result. The twists and turns, the betrayals and redemptions, are all quite expected with no surprises at all. If anything, the “surprises” are often lamp-shaded or signposted well in advance. At least the production values are halfway decent.
English 2.0 Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0, English Subtitles, art gallery, trailers, clean opening and closing animation.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG 2
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.