Hundreds of years after the apocalypse, a quasi-fantasy setting with some lost technology sets the stage for a power play.
What They Say:
In the kingdom of Forland – the stronghold of an ancient and powerful magic – a bloody coup led by Dr. Akamashi and his supernatural cyborg minions pushes the royal family to the brink of extinction. Forced to flee in the hopes of preserving her noble bloodline, Princess Alita crosses paths with the infamous bounty hunter Falis – a collision of souls that will alter the course of their lives forever.
Murder Princess gets a rather nice audio mix overall but the English language presentation makes out much better. The original Japanese language is done in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. It works well enough and conveys that show as originally intended with clean and clear dialogue and some areas of very good placement and depth at times. The English language mix gets a 5.1 mix done at 448kbps and provides a good bit more directionality throughout but particularly during the action scenes. It also comes across as louder in general which gives it a different feeling to be sure when doing direct comparisons. But the action moments are where it shows off the upgrade the best and makes it worthwhile for those that like to get something a bit more immersive. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2007 in six individual installments, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Murder Princess looks good overall as it has a good budget to it with some solid animation and designs, but it also has what seems to be some intentional noise in the background at times, particularly with the sky blues. It’s not terribly distracting but it was noticeable enough early on before it started to blend more. Beyond that, the show looks very good with bright clean colors which are generally solid throughout. The animation has a good smooth look to it and it’s captured well here with hardly any line noise during panning sequences or cross coloration. While there are TV series that are of higher overall animation quality, this one is a very good looking OVA series that left me pleased with its visual presentation.
The packaging for this release isn’t one that really works that well for me as it’s far too dark and murky, though it does have a violent feel to it. A feeling that’s really not as strong in the show itself. The front cover has the central image of Alita with her gown in tatters, warrior expression in her face, fighting against the shadowed enemy in the background which really looks awkward with the layered yellows and blacks behind him. With the logo blending a bit into the background overall, it’s simply a piece that doesn’t’ catch the eye nor does it highlight the characters in an engaging well. The back cover is a bit more appealing as it features Alita close up with her costume torn and the slightly wild look to it but it’s brighter and has a cooler look to it. The top strip has a small collage of character pieces from the show while the bottom has the technical grid that lays everything out clearly. In between is the very small summary and a breakdown of the discs episode numbers and titles as well as the extras. The keepcase is clear and we get a piece of artwork on the other side that’s really nicely done as it has Alita on one side and Falis on the other with a shadow bridging the two of them. The expressions are spot on and it has a very slick feeling to it, one that I wish could work as the front and back cover and not just here. It would lost a lot of its impact if it was cluttered up with text though.
The menu design uses the back cover artwork of Alita in the same manner which is really a plus as here, with the framing used on the left side with the menu navigation, it looks suitably dark and sets the mood just right for the show itself. The menu is fairly standard material in terms of layout and accessibility – long gone are the days of creative menu choices- but it’s solidly functional and it looks good. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast with no interstitial animations included. As is the case with FUNimation’s menu design, player presets are not used when the disc starts automatically so you have to use the menus or change it on the fly if you want the Japanese language.
The extras on here are a bit more than I would have guessed for this acquired release as we get an English language commentary track on the last episode in addition to the clean openings and closings. It’s a nice inclusion for the English language fans that I wouldn’t have expected for a short single disc release like this.
Based on the short two volume manga by Sekihiko Inui which started in 2005, Murder Princess is a straightforward six episode OVA series that adapts it with a solid beginning, middle and end. Murder Princess is a fun little self-contained show that delves into the realm of a fantasy series, but in the way that so many do these days in that it has a science fiction angle to it. Unfortunately, true “pure” fantasy series seem to be very rare these days so when we do get one like this, you almost have to just accept the things that break out of the traditional mold. This one does things fairly well and they manipulate things nicely enough to make it consistent, but I still long for the day for a good hard fantasy series.
The premise for the series revolves around the kingdom of Forland which has just had something quite tragic happen as the castle has been attacked and its king lay dying on his throne. With his last breaths, he instructs his daughter Alita to flee into the woods and to the border so she can escape and bide her time until her older brother, Kaito, returns from his journey to another kingdom. When he returns, he’ll be able to set things right and she will be safe and alive until that time. When Alita flees to the woods, she ends up in the midst of a fight between a bounty hunter and a creature that she’s hunting which then spirals to the bounty hunter and Alita falling off the side of the cliff together. Of course, there’s more to Alita than meets the eye and we get a bit of magic and a touch of soul transference.
Suddenly, Alita finds herself in the body of the bounty hunter called Falis and Falis is in Princess Alita’s body. Thankfully, all of her skills transferred over as well and suddenly the body of Alita is a very skilled swordswoman. Alita sees this as a way to do something good for her kingdom and she begs and deals with Falis to get her to go back to the kingdom and to try and get rid of those that attacked it. Falis needs a bit of convincing since it means giving up a good amount of her bounty hunting time and the money from it, but Alita manages to convince her and the pair returns along with the two companions she has, Dominikov and Pete. Both are pieces of the science fiction side as they’re not entire human looking cyborgs made from old technology that has survived in the centuries since the time of war and destruction. They’re sometimes called synthetic beings, but they’re basically the muscle and companionship of the series and a good bit of its heart too as we see how Falis works with them.
Murder Princess has only a few episodes to really work with its story but it does it well if you look at it as a decent length movie. The series runs just two and a half hours with the opening and closing sequences and episode previews. Looking at it as a single movie experience, it works through the storyline well by introducing the basic concept, giving us some time to get to know the characters while their situation changes and then reveal some big twists along the way (that aren’t really all that big or that revealing) before delving into the final epic battle to save it all. Murder Princess is a very traditional show when it comes to the core storyline it wants to tell and it does it well by tying the past, when there was a much more advanced civilization running about and causing its own destruction, to the present where forces are seeking these powers and the tools needed to control them.
What allows it to rise up a little bit above the norm is that we do have a fun cast of characters to watch with it. The body switching aspect is done to form with very opposite characters, but they don’t spend a lot of time really talking about getting back to who they are. They come to an understanding about their positions, more for Falis than Alita since Alita reveals a heavy burden, but it’s a burden that Falis takes on with no real reservations once she spends a little time in the role. The two women don’t get the kind of depth that you’d want from a show considering its length, but they do well enough with the short time frame that they have. Coming back to viewing it as a movie broken into six parts, it starts to flow better that way. In a way, this is the kind of show that I wish FUNimation would have done in marathon form.
While I would have preferred a more pure fantasy series, Murder Princess is a basic kind of fun little show that does what an OVA series does best. It tells a very short self contained storyline without a lot of the fluff that populates a TV series. Murder Princess has the hallmarks (or clichés if you prefer) of this particular kind of storyline but it’s execution and its cast, along with its very enjoyable and well done animation, make it all good fun. While it may be mostly forgettable in the end, it’s a solid production through and through. It simply lacks that extra oomph to really make it stand out. There’s nothing I really disliked about it and there’s a lot I like, but it’s just not something that stands above other shows. This was also the only show I believe that FUNimation nabbed in its deal with Sojitz of titles that were going to be released by ADV Films that wasn’t actually handled by ADV Films. While other end shows and collections have been done using what ADV Films did, this is entirely a FUNimation project from start to finish. They did a solid job with it and it’s a title I can easily recommend if you’re looking for something that doesn’t require a big commitment and is well produced and enjoyable.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 6 Commentary (Caitlin Glass, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Monica Rial), Textless Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 12th, 2009
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.