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Majestic Prince Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Majestic Prince Collection 1 HeaderMecha action-comedy that rewards the patient viewer.

What They Say:
The original reason for creating genetically enhanced humans was to explore outer space; but when the alien Wulgaru attacked using vastly advanced technology, the Evolved Children were instead turned into Mankind’s last line of defense. Which, for the members of the newly created Team Rabbits, means that their only hope for survival is to do the impossible: to somehow master an entirely new generation of weapon systems in the middle of a desperate war. To become a team and keep each other alive, even as Earth’s defense force repeatedly throws them back into the slaughter. And, between the battles, to uncover the secret motivations behind the mystifying actions of both the Wulgaru and Team Rabbits’ own command. Izuru, Asagi, Kei, Tamaki, and Suruga may have been created as cannon fodder, but in the end, their will to survive may be the only thing that can save the entire human race in MAJESTIC PRINCE!

The Review:
Audio:
This set offers English and Japanese audio in 2.0 only. There is no 5.1 mix. I watched Majestic Prince almost entirely in Japanese with English subtitles. The Japanese track sounded just fine; all the voices and sound effects synced up perfectly with the visuals. However, I found the subtitle font to be garish and off-putting. The font used for the series on the Crunchyroll app is more subdued and easier on the eyes. Majestic Prince boasts some aurally pleasant sound design. Both the weapon sound effects and the filters placed on the Wulgaru voices while they were inside their mecha remained pleasant and interesting throughout the show’s runtime. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the English voice acting. Apart from a few mildly fun performances (Tamaki!), the show’s English dub doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself. Most of the voices are one-toned and stiff. While the dub is by no means horrifically bad, fans looking for memorable English voice acting will be disappointed.

Video:
Majestic Prince’s strongest point by far is its visuals. The series is full of tremendously animated and sharply directed CG mecha battles. TOHO animation truly outdid themselves here. Even when other elements in the series are plodding along or petering out, the action scenes manage to remain exciting and even produce some dramatic tension at times. This makes the second half of the series even more of a treat because the battles are coming thick and fast. If you want to have the best possible experience of these visuals, though, you’ll want to purchase the series on Blu-ray. This release is in the standard NTSC DVD ormat: 480i, 16×9 anamorphic. As such, some of the colors and lighting effects are a bit muted. Watching Majestic Prince on DVD doesn’t ruin the fun, but, if you’ve seen the 1080p streams back when this series first aired in 2013, you will notice a difference.

Packaging:
This release comes in economical packaging. All six discs fit into a single, standard-sized DVD case with two flip trays. No insert art or manual comes with this set. The art used for the box is alright, but I actually preferred the covers of the previously-released half-sets, which used more dynamic character art.

Menu:
Much like the packaging, the menu is quite bare bones. Each disc features a still shot of a different MJP pilot posing in front of their mecha and beside selectable episode title blocks. Once you’ve selected an episode title, the disc will continue playing the remaining episodes until you manually return to the menu. I originally found the lack of a Play All feature to be confusing and assume consumers will too. Below the episode title blocks in a smaller font are the language options and, on discs one and four, special features. Curiously, there is no option in the menu to watch the show in raw Japanese. The viewer must chose English with no subtitles or Japanese with English subtitles. Once you’re actually watching the show, though, you can select whichever combination of audio and subtitle tracks you want, but the lack of such an option just contributes to the overall low-rent feel of this collection.

Extras:
Trailers for other Sentai Filmworks titles are the only extras to be found.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Spring 2013 anime season was something of a surprise in that it offered audiences three brand new mecha titles: Kakumeki Valvrave, Sousei no Gargantia and Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince. Given the relative dearth of robots shows around that time, fans of the genre were elated to see one original IP get made, let alone three. What promised to be a satisfying mecha oasis proved to be merely a mirage, however, as Valvrave and Gargantia ultimately proved to be disappointing. While those shows floundered, though, I thought Majestic Prince got better as it went. For me, it was easily the most fun show of that bunch. I enjoyed it when it first aired, and, after revisiting it on DVD, I believe it holds up fairly well as fluffy entertainment despite some bumps in the road.

Majestic Prince’s story is pretty well-worn territory. The MJP Program is developing soldiers to combat an invading alien menace known as the Wulgaru. Team Rabbits–referred to by their peers as the “Fail Five”–is an inept group of robot piloting MJP students who are inexplicably selected to pilot super weapons known as Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Devices (AHSMBs) in humanity’s desperate battle for survival. These AHSMB units come equipped with the mysterious JURIA System, an apparatus designed to integrate with the pilot’s DNA in order to enhance the AHSMB’s abilities. In keeping with these cliches, the ragtag Team Rabbits slowly matures into a group of pilots worthy of their mecha, the troubling origins and potentially toxic nature of the JURIA System are revealed and humanity wards off the invaders.

Though this outline is a trite one, it is just an outline of the series’ plot, and the true entertainment value of Majestic Prince lies between the bullet points. Having said that, the show does itself no favors by stumbling out of the gate with a lackluster attempt at in medias res storytelling. The viewer is thrown into the mix without much in the way of context, relying on the show to dole out bits of explanation along the way. Unfortunately, the early episodes don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Rather than feeling swept along by the story, content to let it explain itself in its own time, several questions that cropped up in the first episode (“Why do these kids get to drive mankind’s last, best hope?”) continued to gnaw at me throughout the first quarter-to-third of the series. Instead of feeling intrigued by the mysteries behind the MJP program, I merely felt frustrated that the show wasn’t addressing what seemed to be a couple of obvious elephant in the room.

Once the show actually does get around to answering some of these questions, it starts to hit its stride. The more time you spend with the main cast, the more those kids grow on you. Izuru is an aspiring, though not very talented, manga artist fascinated with superheroes; Asagi is a worrywart and the group’s perpetual straight man during the show’s comedic moments; Kei is a pretty girl who can’t cook; Tamaki is a heavily endowed ditz; and Suruga is a gun otaku. The Fail Five is certainly a collection of one-note archetypes, yet their group dynamic and interactions with each other make them more fun and interesting as a collective than any of the individual members alone. Team Rabbits is a group that is easy to root for.

On the other hand, the treatment of some of the side characters left me a bit unsatisfied. A couple of them felt undercooked and could’ve used a bit more development. Amane is a talented military officer working under incompetent leadership. In the beginning of the series, you’re invested in her plight, but she gets promoted to a leadership position so quickly that it makes me wonder what the point is of giving her an arc at all. Once she becomes captain, the show doesn’t really give her anything else to do for its final two-thirds. They could’ve gone in many different directions with Amane but chose none of them. Also, consider Ange. Ange is a late addition to Team Rabbits, joining the group about halfway through the series. While being quite timid most of the time, Ange becomes a loud, aggressive, fouled-mouthed soldier once she is in her AHSMB. And, well, that’s kind of all there is to the character. The writers do nothing more with her. I’m not opposed to joke characters on principle, but Majestic Prince isn’t an out-and-out comedy. As such, Ange feels quite out of place when the show isn’t in one of its comedic moods.

Speaking of comedy, that is another area in which the show doesn’t deliver initially but rewards the patient viewer. At first, the comedic bits it tries are hit or miss, but right around the time the story becomes less opaque, the comedy starts to be more consistently funny. In fact, some of the show’s most memorable character moments take place during the downtime between major battles, when Majestic Prince lets itself be a bit silly. Since Team Rabbits is Earth’s great hope, it’s members are treated almost like an idol group–giving press conferences and doing photo shoots–and this proved to be a lot of fun. In general, the writers show a knack for both running gags and also the ability to take an entire episode to tell a single joke, bit by bit. I don’t think they are as successful at writing rapid-fire banter, but a lot of this takes place early on, when the show is still finding its way.

While its comedy is indeed a strong point, the best thing Majestic Prince has to offer is its mecha battles. Mecha designer Hiroshi Tani’s AHSMB and Wulgaru units are fairly visually interesting. The designs bear something of a resemblance to some of Shoji Kawamori’s more recent work; however, Tani’s creations have the benefit of being better animated. I don’t recall thinking at any point during Majestic Prince that the robots were looking silly or moving unnaturally, despite their speed of movement. The action remains fast and fluid throughout, always injecting excitement into the current episode. Also, neither the pace nor scale of the battles compromises their ability to effectively communicate information to the viewer. In many modern mecha series featuring large-scale battles, it can be easy to lose the thread if you aren’t paying close attention. The fight scenes here, though, are directed so well that, without putting in effort, I always knew exactly what was happening.

The battles can also be refreshingly unique in that they are often squad-based tactical combat. Even in the most venerated shows of the genre, large-scale mecha warfare often boils down to the outcome of one-on-one duels. Majestic Prince is not completely innocent of this either, but for most of the series, Team Rabbits engages in strategic battles that require a high degree of teamwork. Now, this show is by no means the first robot show to employ this technique, but it does stand out to me in that it doesn’t quickly abandon it. The Fail Five have to work smartly together in order to succeed until basically the final battle, which pits Izuru against the Wulgaru prince, Jihart. But, that fight looks so spectacular that I’m willing to forgive the show for straying from its uniqueness.

All of these robot battles are not without thematic context. The MJP project both manipulated the genes and erased the memories of the members of Team Rabbits in order to mold them into the best possible soldiers. The Wulgaru are a race that harvests genes from other species in order to revitalize their own. Team Rabbits’ lives very much revolve around their enhanced DNA–a feature of their lives they have no control over–and how it can benefit others. As the pilots learn more about themselves, they discover that they are more than just soldiers, that they have their own sets of values. Yet, the JURIA System eventually will cause their AHSMBs to awaken, suppressing the pilots’ humanity and turning them into beings whose only desire is to fight. This process will have lasting consequences for the pilot beyond the battle, changing their personality and shortening their life.

Majestic Prince wants to make a statement about human freedom by placing Izuru’s will in direct conflict with the fully awakened JURIA System. I think the show does a fine job of not shoving its message down your throat while simultaneously making it easy for the viewer to piece together. The show’s message is of a piece with many of its other elements in that it isn’t particularly original or groundbreaking but works well enough.

In Summary:
Majestic Prince is not great from start to finish. It stumbles at the starting line with a clumsy attempt at in medias res storytelling, doesn’t consistently nail its jokes in the early going and fails to fully develop its secondary characters. Despite these issues, the show eventually finds its feet and rewards the patient viewer. It has such a likable main cast that you can’t help but root for, some truly exciting and well-executed squad-based mecha battles, and the comedy even improves as the series goes along. The show is worth a look from mecha fans, provided they are willing to give it time.

Features:
Japanese language 2.0. English language 2.0. Trailers.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: D

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 15th, 2015
MSRP: $79.98
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 36 “1080i HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 720p.

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