Corpse Princess has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It's dangerously cool sounding and just screams popcorn munching action overloaded anime. For the most part the first season of the show actually delivers on that. Clocking in at 13 episodes, Corpse Princess Part 1 has recently hit DVD thanks to FUNimation and it's time to see what this dead girl is all about.
Originally airing in 2008 the first season was produced by Gainax and was actually based on a manga by Yoshiichi Akahito that began coming out in 2005. The show takes place in an alternate present where the dead are capable of coming back to life as monstrous beings known as Shikabane. They come to possess powers similar to what they believe, which essentially makes their dark desires come true. They are dangerous and prey on the living and the only thing that can stop these Shikabane is another one of a different sort. The Shikabane Hime, otherwise known as Corpse Princess, is a soul brought back to life by a monk in order to bring the bad Shikabane to rest. Once she destroys 108 of these beings the Hime is able to gain entrance to heaven.
Corpse Princess follows the exploits of a Shikabane Hime named Makina Hoshimura. Makina was murdered in her former life and was brought back to life by Keisei Tagami, a Buddhist monk with ties to a group known as the Kougun Sect. Together they fight the Shikabane and seek to open the gates of heaven for Makina. It's a pretty straightforward concept that's easy to grasp and the show actually does quite a decent job of explaining things right out of the gate.
Many of the exploits in Corpse Princess are seen through the eyes of Ouri Kagami, who is a boy that happens to live with Keisei. Ouri witnessed Makina being brought back to life and some time later came upon her battling a Shikabane. Naturally he was a little shocked at first, but since he lived in a Buddhist temple spirits and the dead never really bothered him. As seen by the fact that he sees the spirit of a cat and hardly blinks an eye when he realizes that Makina is in fact deceased.
The show introduces all the players in the very first episode and from that point on it takes a while for the story to really get going. The series starts out with a monster of the week theme as Makina and Keisei go after some Shikabane or another. Close to the midway point another Shikabane Hime team is introduced and the show really heads down a fascinating path. The episodes leading up to the end of the series build a climax that causes the final episode to be satisfying and absolute.
Few anime set things up for the second season the way Corpse Princess did, but this first season leaves the door wide open for the sequel. At first while watching the show I must admit that I wasn't really impressed and found things to be a bit dry, but once I got over the hump close to the midway point the series really won me over. It's heartfelt, packed with action, and really develops the plot and characters in a way that few other shows of this sort do.
If you're in the market for a new series with loads of action and a supernatural concept keep Corpse Princess in mind. It's not a piece of high entertainment, but it's a strong series with nice development that really kicks in towards the end. Ultimately I was satisfied and am going to rate the show as a strong recommendation.
Corpse Princess is presented on DVD with 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has a very polished design to it with detailed artwork, smooth animation, and an overall unique look. Some of the Shikabane really stand out for their design aspects. As far as the presentation is concerned the show is no slouch either. Bold colors, rich black levels, and strong contrast are everywhere in this series. Since Corpse Princess features a tale about the undead the action takes place mostly at night and there is some grain that lurks its way into the picture. It's not bad by any means, but it does leave the show looking a little murkier than it probably should.
Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 Dolby Digital are the sources of audio for Corpse Princess. As usual with FUNimation the dub quality is pretty good and the cast is on par with the Japanese. Personally though, I felt the Japanese had the slight edge. The English took the cake with regards to the action, however. The added presence on the soundstage worked well for some of the actions sequences and the music, though it did little for the dialogue with was front-centric. English subtitles are included.
For bonus features there is an audio commentary with the English cast for the twelfth episode, clean animations, and a selection of trailers.
Corpse Princess was packed with action and supernatural mystery. The show had a nice horror ring to it without being overbearing in that regard. My overall impression with the first season is quite strong, however, I must say that the second half is far more enjoyable than the first. Still, it's all necessary I suppose and it leaves the door satisfyingly open for the follow-up. Hopefully the second half will not disappoint, but until then you can consider this one strongly recommended!