“Corpse Princess” promises mediocrity and gives even less

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“Corpse Princess,” an anime published by Square Enix, made its way to America in November of 2010, thanks to Funimation Entertainment. It was recently released on Netflix. The basic plot of it is that the main heroine, Makina, is a hunter of reanimated corpses called shikabane (pronounced “shick-a-bon-eh”). She works with other shikabane-hunting monks in order to fulfill her contract to kill 108 of the undead monsters and get into heaven because she in fact is a walking corpse herself. She and her kind-of-hot teenage zombie-hunting girls are called shikabane hime.

The main traits of the undead are that they can usually look like, and sometimes even continue to live like, the normal people they once were, but they are prone to violent, homicidal mood swings, and they also are characterized by becoming obsessed with some kind of strong regret that they had when they died. They can also become gnarly monsters so that fight scenes can be cooler. Some even have super powers, which makes killing them even harder. In order to kill them, the brain has to be destroyed, or the body has to be blown apart to the point that it can’t regenerate. I hope you enjoy this explanation of these things, because in the anime these points are repeated to the viewer just about every three episodes, even though the anime is 26 episodes long.

Getting into the anime is hard mostly because of the dense main character that the anime follows around. He is dumb. He is slow. He is boring. His name is Ouri, and you will learn to hate him. The first episodes are of him wandering into Makina and then stalking her as she tries to hunt down the undead of the week. The audience then gets the joy of hearing the explanation of what a zombie is and why they should be shot to little icky pieces. But Ouri still doesn’t have a clue what’s going on and insists on stalking along doing nothing but looking stupid on the sidelines and now and then asking stupid questions about the monsters.

This also leads to another problem with the anime. It is the “start-talking-about-plot-exposition-in-the-middle-of-a-fight-or-time–sensitive-situation” disease that plagues so many animes, and it hits this one hard. There could be 12 monsters charging at the protagonists, but as soon as someone starts talking, all of a sudden the monsters decide to sit back and let her finish her speech about the bad guys and why they are bad for the fifth time.

Fortunately the anime does get better after the first five episodes, and the plot does draw you in. The action’s pretty cool, and the animation most of the time is smooth. There are some points when the quality lowers, but never to something terrible. Some of the character designs are very interesting and creative. How do they make a scary villain out of someone with balloons for a head and a voice full of helium? By making that balloon guy hang an entire high school student body with balloons. And throw in the fact that all of the kids are happy and giggling while being strangled to death.

But on the other hand, the comedy is terrible. Do you find tits bouncing really badly to be the best kind of comedy? Or Ouri’s brother stashing porn all over his bedroom to be hilarious? How about characters talking about their collection of magazines, anime, posters, and dolls filled with the theme of young girls in skimpy outfits? Hilarious? How about if most of the girls look about ten years old? Still no? It might be comedy gold in Japan, but an American audience finds a 37-year-old man talking about how these new action figures are going to be his “special friends” for the night to be creepy. Very, very creepy. Even when a big-breasted lady with cat ears talks about it, which she does, it is still creepy. And that is all of the comedy. There is no other kind of comedy in this anime. So be prepared for the cringe-worthy schlock that they try to pass off as funny. Also, this show has gore and violence that makes it seem targeted toward adults, but this comedy makes it seem that it was targeted for 13-year-old boys.

This anime is good enough to get interested in, but there is too much badness to make it worth watching. It is just too hard to try to figure out what this anime wants to be. The premise of the story and characters is pretty good and very interesting, but it constantly trips over itself with stupid plot exposition at bad times, repetition of that plot exposition, bad flow of the storytelling, and an overall failure to fulfill its potential.