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.
In the second volume the princesses worked their way through the summer by cheering and whatnot. In between all the hoopla someone from a modeling agency appeared and was stalking the girls...er, I mean boys. Mikoto was still dealing with his feelings about dressing up as a woman which was amusing to say the least. Things got interesting when the green-haired enigma known as Akira invited the princesses to his home. A rather standalone episode finished things off as a new director at the school attempted to destroy the Princess program.
The final installment for Princess Princess picks up at a point where the cultural festival is about to get started. These festivities last for most of this installment and in between each of the boys have plenty of things to deal with. In the first episode the princesses are getting ready for the festival and they are preparing for different events. There are some fun moments here though I have to say that the best of this disc is yet to come.
Things got much better and more hilarious with the second episode. Throughout this show Mikoto has been my favorite character and in many ways he has felt the most developed. His awkwardness and distaste for being a princess has alluded to many comical moments and when his girlfriend Megumi and sister Makoto show up at the festival things get wild. The three have some great scenes together and it's safe to say that I wound up liking Mikoto even more after watching him go through the ordeal.
After Mikoto had to deal with family issues Yujiro and Toru have to do the same. Yujiro's family shows up and the reception doesn't exactly go as he had expected. Much the same Toru's family arrives and his step-sister is relentless in her pursuit of him. It's a little awkward to say the least but like the Mikoto segments it led the way to a fair amount of humor. These four episodes culminate into a somewhat bitter ending though I suppose it's appropriate for how the show has gone since it started.
Princess Princess is a weird show. It is off-beat at times with yaoi elements and has a sense of humor and style that are constantly at war with each other. In nearly every episode I was charmed, repulsed, and confused all at the same time. I suppose you really just have to have an affinity or appreciation for the subject matter because there certainly isn't a lot of mainstream appeal here. There is a lot to like about Princess Princess thanks to the self-abusing sense of humor and quirks of the main characters as they deal with the cross-dressing aspect. If you're in the mood for something different I suggest that you give this one a rental; you might be surprised!
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.
If you want clean versions of the opening and ending animations you'll be happy but otherwise there's nothing to see here.
It is one of the weirdest, funniest, and off-putting shows to come along in quite some time. Princess Princess isn't your typical anime and it wears that fact like a badge of honor (or a tiara of honor if you will). If you're in the mood for something different there may be just enough charm and humor to endear this program to you. However if you prefer anime that is more traditional chances are good that you won't get into the show. Either way there is enough quality here to warrant a rental in order to see if it tickles your fancy. The final four episodes have plenty of good bits and if you have watched the show to this point you'll find the ending bittersweet.