Normally, I’m not a huge fan of translated titles, but I like the word ‘corpse’, so I’m willing to roll with someone referring to this as ‘Corpse Princess’.
Although I do wonder if that will lead to mix-ups with Murder Princess.
Having watched Shikabane Hime: Aka on Hulu, I’m a little behind everyone else on watching it. But I really like the Hulu service and heartily recommend it to you – the quality of the picture was clean, I didn’t have any load errors (except for when I was using an airport wifi, which just sucked anyway), and I felt warm and fuzzy inside because I was watching it for free, but also supporting it economically by viewing the commercials which were embedded in it. Quick note on the commercials: you’ll sometimes get the option of watching one long commercial before watching the video, and then having no interruptions, and even with commercial interruptions, there are only three or four thirty-second spots per episode.
Now, onto the show itself.
I have to admit that I’m surprised SH didn’t really seem to garner much popularity in the intertubery. While I would certainly agree that SH isn’t terribly original or groundbreaking, it had a very solid execution, and the somewhat clueless adolescent male managed to somehow not become obnoxious within five minutes of appearing. The technical aspect was also good – clean animation, well-differentiated character designs, and a good soundtrack. However, I do suspect I know why it seems to not have performed terribly well in the court of public opinion.
SH is unsettling, honestly – the show it reminds me the most of is Vampire Princess Miyu; I would argue that in some sense SH is the spiritual successor to it at least in terms of mood. Vampire Princess Miyu did not have the degree of fanservice and didn’t have the degree of gratuity in violence that one associates with firearms (although VPM certainly is not for those with weak stomachs), but the unpleasant overall feel to it is very similar – both shows feature innocent people coming to gruesome ends at the hands of monsters, something I think is truly unsettling to most people. While the anime viewer might argue that he or she is better at rolling with things that shows throw at them, I think this is one area where that overall does not apply. (I would also like to mention that SH reminds me a bit of Boogiepop Phantom, or as I like to call it, Fuck-me-up Phantom – but sans the mind fuckery and depth.)
SH manages to take a fairly run-of-the-mill shounen story, and add in this degree of creepiness that I feel is not normally present in the genre. And I really do think it ended up cutting into their potential audience by quite a bit. I love this kind of show, but even I felt bothered by the fates of the nameless victims throughout the proceedings. While something like Jigoku Shoujo at least gives a sense of catharsis, here one did not get that feeling, particularly as often the initial victims then became the monsters themselves.
Anyway, I enjoyed SH quite a bit and have already started in on the new season. I wasn’t very happy with the gratuitous fanservice, as that grated on me when the show was trying to be serious, but then giving us breast-grabbing gags, but I was glad that they managed to resist the temptation to give us skeevy shots of Makina, as I think that really would’ve done in the show because she was such a serious character in her temperament. One other point that I found a bit annoying was how obvious it was from the outset that Keisei was going to die – I had it figured out by the second episode, although I will admit I think this also bothered me because Makina clearly had a crush on him, and she has a crap fate, so… well, I don’t know, she’s a corpse, so it’s not like they could’ve gotten together anyway!
Already enjoying the second season, and I hope it continues to be as good as the first.
By the way, Autumn 2008? One of the best seasons I’ve ever seen overall. Just saying.
EDIT: By the way, was my lead-in creepy enough or not?
That’s really the thing – if we look at Bleach, a large part of the show’s popularity is making the unfamiliar familiar. Yes, there are all these supernatural entities running around, but they are also into comedy, drinking, fashion, eating sweets, etc. When they aren’t, their motivations are still understandable: they want power, social advancement, revenge, and so forth. That isn’t really the case in Shikabane Hime – in fact, even the humans can be pretty inhuman at times. The overall effect is one of alienation and paranoia rather than camaraderie and a spirit of overcoming the unknown.
I’ve just been talking to Shin on twitter about imouto, so your opening here didn’t even register on my creepiness detector – I’d have to recalibrate it to notice! 😛