I have seen many things in my days but I don't believe that a cross-dressing anime is one of them. Sure I've seen cross-cosplay at anime conventions (the man-Yuna at this year's Anime Boston was particularly frightening) but a show that revolved around the concept? Not so much.
Princess Princess is a twelve episode animation that was originally a manga and aired in 2006. Created by Mikiyo Tsuda the show features a trio of guys who attend an all-boys school where the student body has a longstanding, and odd, tradition. It would seem that due to the lack of females the prettiest boys are picked to become princesses. Basically they are dressed up like dolls and paid to trot around school looking nice and making the boys fall in love.
With a dose of yaoi thrown into the mix it's safe to say that Princess Princess isn't for everyone. Watching boys make googly eyes at the princesses will make some people uncomfortable though really this is a show about fantasy. Deep down the boys just want a girl and considering there aren't any on campus they have to make due with what they've got. The meaning of "being a man" is brought up quite a bit and each of the characters struggles with the fact that they are dressing up like a girl.
The show focuses mostly on newly enrolled student Toru Kouno who just arrived at the school trying to forget his family problems. His parents are dead and he's living with his uncle though that's not going particularly well. Considering this school is the most elite in the area he wants to do whatever he can to be successful; even if it means strapping on a wig, a dress, and blowing kisses to blushing boys. He struggles with the though of it at first but once he finds out that he'll be paid and treated like a queen he realizes that maybe being a princess isn't such a bad thing after all.
Toru embraces it quickly enough and becomes friends with Yujiro and Mikoto, who are the other princesses. Like Toru, Yujiro accepts and seems to enjoy being a princess. He has long blonde hair and remains "manly" despite the fact that he bats his eyelashes to and fro.
Mikoto was probably my favorite character because he constantly protests about being a princess. You see, once you are selected to be one you have the option to either do the princess thing or be expelled. Needless to say Mikoto dresses up reluctantly though most of his foot dragging has to do with the fact that he has a girlfriend who doesn't know about his "job". Once Toru becomes a princess he and Yujiro work with Mikoto to help him get into the princess thing a little more.
The four episodes here deal with the three main characters and their issues. It follows them through the halls and at various events where they have to appear as a princess. In many ways the series handles the concept differently than you'd expect with the twist thrown in that the boys really just want a girl. The show is also not afraid to make fun of itself calling its characters Miko-chan and T-boy just to get a reaction.
If you're looking for an off-beat series with some light yaoi elements and a cross-dressing backdrop then Princess Princess may be worth checking out. The quality of the writing, character development, and story are such that the show does transcend that particular interest group but it's not as widespread as more mainstream comedy anime. Rent it if you're looking for something off the beaten path.
Presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer Princess Princess looks pretty smooth on DVD. The show features attractive character designs coupled with fluid animation and is really a nice looking show in the end. The DVD offers some fine image quality as well with very little grain, no compression, and only a few moments where aliasing was noticeable. Overall things here are crisp, clean, and vibrant with little to complain about.
Like many Media Blasters releases lately Princess Princess does not receive an English dubbing. That means you can only watch the show with the original Japanese language with English subtitles. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though without the English dub it does feel like we're missing something. In terms of quality the stereo presentation is put out like you'd expect that it would be with a limited presence on the soundstage and virtually no directionality. Technically speaking there were no flaws so distortion and drop-out are nowhere to be found.
Nothing is included on this release for extra features. There are a few Media Blasters trailers but that's all you'll find.
Princess Princess is an interesting show with likeable characters and some funny dialogue. Watching Toru, Yujiro, and Mikoto go through the daily life of a princess was amusing in some ways and unusual in others. It's safe to say that this isn't a show for everyone but if you have an open mind when it comes to cross-dressing and yaoi stuff then you might find a comedic trip worth taking. In the end I'd have to say that Princess Princess is probably better off as a rental though.