Murder Princess is a two volume manga written by Inui Sekihiko. During that tail end of the manga’s run, it was adapted into a six episode OVA. Which was produced by Marvelous Entertainment, a company primarily know for video games, and animated by Bee Train, the company behind a good chunk of the .Hack anime franchise. This is one you may or may not have heard of since it’s not obscure but not really well known either. So, is it worth looking into?
Our story opens with a coup. In the kingdom of Forland, a scientist under the monarchy’s employ decides that it’s time to take things over for reasons that are a spoiler and I shan’t get into. During the coup, the king sends his daughter, the Princess Alita, out through a hidden passage to safety. She and her escort are attacked by monsters in the forest and she barely manages to escape and meet the bounty hunter, Falis. The two fall from a cliff which causes their souls to swap bodies because… magic. Alita entreats Falis to save her kingdom, offering herself as collateral. Admiring her determination, Falis agrees, not completely realising what she’s getting herself into.
On the positive side, the narrative is compelling. It keeps several mysteries throughout the main story that keep your interest and the eventual payoff for them is pretty good. This is also one of those rare series that manages to combine sci-fi and fantasy elements in a sensical way that adds to the world instead of having the world suffer from the clash between the two as is often the case when you combine advanced technology and magic. The pacing is very close to perfect with the plot moving very smoothly and steadily. It’s never rushed or slowed to a crawl. The ending is great with some real emotional substance.
Now, to the problems with the series. The main problem is with the body switch. There are some good story reasons for it, but they don’t do much with it. Falis has no trouble adjusting to fighting in Alita’s body, which is apparently as well trained as her body was contrary to all logic. Neither one has much trouble adjusting to their new role either. Alita easily falls into a subservient role for the “princess” and Falis only has minor troubles adjusting to aristocratic comportment. It also bothers me that everyone consistently refers to Falis, in Alita’s body, as “princess” when she does act as the queen for a time. It’s, admittedly, a minor issue but it’s annoying to me when a work of media calls the land’s ruler “princess” when she’s doing the duties of a queen and it happens all the time. Whether it’s the Mushroom Kingdom, Mobius, Equestria or the Moon Kingdom.
The primary characters in this, Alita and Falis, are really well developed and fleshed out characters. They also get some great interactions both with each other and with the secondary characters. The supporting characters vary a lot more. Dominikov and Pete are pretty good characters, Dominikov especially. But a lot of the other secondary characters are not very interesting. The antagonists have incredibly flimsy motivations. Then we have the characters who are there more to serve a function than to actually act as characters; Jodo, Ana and Yuna being prime examples.
The art is pretty spectacular. The character designs are all pretty creative and interesting. The action sequences flow well, in spite of the occasional motion lines scene, and have a very dynamic feel to them. The details are very nicely done in terms of backgrounds, background objects and the like. I also like that the series is pretty subdued about showing violence. It shows what it needs to, but keeps the more graphic parts off-screen. The only criticism I really have for the art is that some of the designs do look a bit cheesy.
Our main protagonists are voiced by the impeccable Paku Romi, in one of her rare roles as a female character instead of a young man, and the talented Koshimizu Ami, who also played Kallen in Code Geass and Claes in Gunslinger Girl. They also got some really talented people in secondary roles like Namikawa Daisuke, Toyoguchi Megumi and Saito Chiwa. The music used throughout the series is really strong.
There is certainly some les-yay in this series between our two main characters. Which is odd given that they’ve swapped bodies. Although, to be fair, the scenes that show chemistry between Alita and Falis focus on the emotional connection between them and how they’re drawn to one another on an emotional level rather than a physical one. Which does help their relationship not seem narcissistic. And the dynamic between them is quite adorable. The ho-yay factor is going to be a 7/10.
There are a lot of things to recommend Murder Princess. The narrative is compelling with a lot of unique facets. The main characters are really well written. The art and acting are both superb. It is held back somewhat by weak antagonists and some issues with the story telling, but it is a good watch if you’re looking for a good action adventure series. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Next week, Chokotan.