Genres: action, comedy, drama, horror, supernatural
Plot Summary: A world where the dead do not always slumber, Shikabane roam preying on innocent lives for their own regrets. The only ones that can stop them are Shikabane Hime and their contracted monks…although Shikabane Hime are themselves still Shikabane, a prophetic 108 slayings of the true monsters is said to bring them peace. We visit a strange man named Ouri Kagami, who already has an attachment to death, under the care of a Contracted Monk named Keisei Tagami, and yet despite Keisei’s attempt to shield Ouri from his own past, Ouri constantly is involved with Shikabane and especially one particular Shikabane Hime named Makina Hoshimura. Despite Makina’s early disdain towards Ouri, something is building inside her that will have grave decisions upon all who are close to her….
Story – 4.5
Ah yes…a classic in the making. Corpse Princess is a show that does it all, from emotional roller-coasters, to fun fighting scenes that are often twisted, to a deep story that deals with great morals. Of course, there is its fair share of fan-service that earns this title its MA rating, so don’t rush for your kids to watch it.
Since I already mentioned it, lets start with the Moral Category: Language appears throughout the show. Mostly, names of dogs and the like are used, but nothing too severe for its category. There is also the stupid sneak peek of the back-end on the Heroine from vantage points (there is a legitimate question whether the undead woman even wears undergarments), and this became somewhat disruptive to the overall flow of the show and had nothing to add except for fan-service. Seriously, the only one who notices this is the viewer. And even when you finish the show, the credits themselves are have some racy stuff there…unacceptable. The show does tone down all of this a bit into the Shikabane: Kuro half of the show, I’ll grant that. There is also an annoying monk whose Shikabane Hime is almost equally as pervy, and leads us to some more embarrassing poses, though nothing is shown in these cases. Also, I would be completely amiss if I did not mention the “Breast Goddess” in the series, although that remains more humorous than anything else…even if it makes me a little uncomfortable writing about it. Ultimately, the inclusion of so much sensual work unfortunately degrades the rating and prevents series from breaking the epic 4.8 barrier.
The very beginning of Shikabane Hime: Aka (the Japanese name) was very impressive. I liked how it didn’t take long to figure out Ouri was one strange dude, nor that he and Makina would probably be seeing each other a lot. Makina is of course a Shikabane Hime…Shikabane are those who died with an intense regret and come back alive, only now with their tragic regrets slay innocent people. However, Shikabane Hime are those who were contracted with a Monk and are spared from the wickedness of their natural state as long as they are fighting with the Contracted Monk. I really liked this analogy the show paints for us, since everyone is inherently corrupt…its called sin…the truism was a great topic. To the young orphaned man named Ouri, being a Shikabane Hime, means no difference to him and I liked that about him. Of particular note was just the second episode when once again Ouri runs into Makina off trying to hunt down three children who turned into Shikabane. I was impressed by the command with which the series performed its moral insights and presented a truly touching scene between Ouri and Makina.
Ouri manages to find the three Shikabane children before Makina but is seen hesitating to give up three Shikabane, and Makina is clearly agitated over why he can have pity towards a monster. So when her Contracted monk Keisei explains, it really shows you the kind of character that Ouri has…”well, Ouri wouldn’t have given her up if not for you having a gun. Because even though he knows she’s a monster, he sees her as just a child still. So because you had some authority, it gave him a way out. And that’s why he thanked you…..that’s just the kind of guy he is.” That really impressed me how realistic the scene was to life, and instantly sealed your love for Ouri and Keisei alike.
Naturally, Ouri is told he should forget such things by his older “brother” Keisei Tagami, who essentially adopted him, but does that keep him out of trouble? Heck no. Time after time Ouri manages to be led to the scene of the crime and usually beats Makina to the spot. I liked the initial frustration Makina has with Ouri always being around, although this more of an interest in why Ouri still saw some humanity in her. At one crucial point at the end of the series, a very noble scene occurs where Ouri recalls Keisei mentioning how Monks are for the living and not the dead. As long as a Shikabane Hime shall live on, there is always redemption possible.
Yes, obviously Makina is a girl…we are told that is so…but since Makina is a Shikabane Hime, she also is dead and reeks like them. Yet despite all this, Ouri doesn’t seem to be bothered by this truth. Throughout the series there is much discussion what it means to be truly a soul, and Ouri’s compassionate character not only wins the hearts of all the Shikabane Hime he meets, but ours as well. Just because your dead (not that we ever can experience this), doesn’t mean you have no soul. Sure, all the Shikabane pay for their just crimes…but their killers are walking corpses being treated often times little better by their own Contracted Monks, and Ouri has a problem with that. As long as they are able to think like any soul has, then they must be treated as real souls too. It’s a strong theme in the series, and the mesmerizing affection you have towards our hero and the Shikabane Hime I thought well done. Also, you have this hunch that something is up with the whole seemingly arbitrary 108 Shikabane number, but for the time being nobody has an alternative and the quest carries on.
Around episode 5 we meet the remainder of Ouri’s school buddies, and a mysteriously cute girl named Itsuki Yamagami who amazingly shows interest in our hero to the dismay of his friends. While you’re not sure where this is going, the show reels you into the dismal life of the Shikabane’s existence as a particular nasty Shikabane forms itself into a car and essentially forces all those who enter in it to kill one another to the last one standing. Boy, was that a trippy episode. Watching from the outside while one by one each student is pressed up against the wall having been slain was creepy enough, so when Ouri ends up in the car along with Makina and the strange girl, you felt the chills coming from the anticipation. Naturally, Itsuki is another Shikabane Hime, and I liked her progression in the show.
When it comes to realism, Corpse Princess did it very well. Consider the arc about Minai Ruo…man was that a sad arc. Minai is a Shikabane Hime who quickly forms affection towards the ever sweet Ouri, who treats her just as the girl she is. It’s just a shame her Contracted Monk doesn’t see it this way and only is attracted to her for her body. Sure, you get the feeling from the monk of the disconnect of the Kogon sect’s teachings regarding Shikabane Hime, but this isn’t enough to keep him from insulting the wrong people. A most particularly distasteful scene erupts when the monk is kidnapped and slain by some gang members he had beaten up earlier, and we watch in horror as Minai is able to survive but is slowly turning back into a Shikabane in front of our Hero. What Ouri does to attempt to save her is nothing less than noble and sweet, so it is with great sadness that he isn’t able to do so from the Kogon sect’s interference. These moments are truly spectacular and further cemented the distrust in the greater teachings of the Kogon sect…surely these are souls and not just cursed beings.
As we turn towards the ending, the sheer brilliance of the series is shown by how much the show successfully ties its loose ends. Keisei has died, and Makina has Ouri as her Contracted Monk. However, despite leaving for training, Makina is struggling to accept this bond while the Seven Stars are ever closer to achieving their goal of wiping out the Kogon sect. For one thing, I was much impressed with the secret of the purification chamber…I don’t want to take away from it much, but it appears the salvation promised to the Shikabane Hime who slay 108 Shikabane is nothing more than an illusion. In fact, those that do turn back into an even worse fate than the Shikabane themselves….boy was that dark. Actually, it’s at this tomb that we see how much Ouri has benefited from his training as a monk. The results of his training was so satisfying. Just seeing his moon-shaped attack coming out of that staff of his was way cool, and you felt satisfied for having to wait all this time for Ouri to hit the grand stage.
Now Ouri’s past, it turns out that Ouri himself is basically half-dead already, and yet much alive. What a neat idea of the author. Even better, the strange Cat that always follows him turns out to be his brethren! In the same episode where this is revealed, one of the Seven Stars is revealed to be Ouri’s brother, and when recounting what their Shikabane mother did, was it creepy seeing him eat all the dead children.
Nearing the shows end, there are several conclusions to the fight with the Seven Stars. It was twisty to see how the accursed traitor monk Akata, who was partially complicit with Keisei’s death, is using the Seven Stars to achieve his own ambitions. I thought his story compelling, tragic, yet not so much so that you miss seeing him perish in his own selfish pursuits. What was amazing was the leader of the Seven Stars, Hokuto, who was supposed to be a Shikabane without any regret, is transformed by Akata into the a Shikabane Hime as a way of getting his old Hime back. Seeing the tragedy of a selfish man being hasty and throwing aside Hokuto as soon as he sees his lover alive again, was very powerful. So it was with pity and disgust that Akata earns himself a quick death from the now-betrayed Hokuto.
It is true that the show delves into the history of Hokuto, so the realization of her potential salvation isn’t out of the norm. I liked how the show always rooted for the salvation of the living, be they Shikabane or not. And branching from there, let us not forget the change with Makina and Ouri. Apparently, Contracts are not required entirely for the Shikabane Hime to exist, for the Shikabane’s feelings can themselves form the contract connection. I really liked the twist the realization the Shikabane Hime pick their contracts, and there is a resounding pride in seeing Makina avow her commitment to Ouri as her one and only Contracted Monk.
The whole ending of Corpse Princess is incomplete in itself. Sure, the way the Seven Stars meet their defeat was really cool, but now a predicament comes: Makina can’t be saved by the Kogon Sect, and the sad realization that she must be doomed to walking the earth or turned into a worse creature was intense. I won’t spoil it as what that translates into, but suffice to say the preceding scenes are nothing short of a masterpiece.
From beginning to end, Corpse Princess does itself proud in presenting the right view of life, of innocence, and of what justice really means. While it’s definitely not going to be a happy ending for many people watching the show, the series ends with a nice touch and I hope the manga will finish the tale in due time.
…and hey, maybe even one of the Seven Stars might even be redeemed in the process.
Emotional Draw – 5.0
Humor in the show occurs at a regular basis, except where the fighting is thickest, of course. Mostly, it some wordplay and embarrassing moments whenever Ouri says something that makes one of the Skikabane Hime feel like they are being treated like normal humans. Those are some of my favorite scenes, not only because of Ouri’s well-bred manners, but also because Makina makes some great faces when she is shocked or embarrassed. And of course who can forget Keisei’s attempt to “make a man” out of Ouri by lending him all those silly Anime figures and adult magazines. Ah, the power of embarrassment makes some of the greatest moments in Anime.
Some people say that dead people can’t have feelings, but Corpse Princess shows even the undead can have emotions. I quickly fell in love with Ouri and his interactions with the Shikabane Hime, and especially with Makina. While the romancing at first is one-sided, the grown-up statements and pleasantries that Ouri’s chivalry towards Makina was so sweet and funny. Makina insists she isn’t alive but is a monster, yet Ouri confounds her with his candid interest and for him always seeing her in a good light. The episode before Minai died, they had defeated a Shikabane with Makina’s help, and since she had saved his life once again, Ouri very casually and candidly tells her how she’s “my hero”. Just seeing her face turn whiter with shock and embarrassment was as humorous as it was insightful. Really, the romancing was very legitimate in taking its time to flesh out the feelings of the characters as would be natural.
But more so, taking your time of the romancing was proper as Keisei himself is a great man. While Keisei never saw Makina in a romantic light, the pair would have made a great couple, so it seemed only natural for Makina to have time for closure since Keisei had meant the world to her. This respectability for the characters, I was impressed by, and I think it’s one of those things your actually glad it takes its time. Ouri becomes better as a person as he figures out himself, and just like God’s providence only releases the two when the time felt right.
Speaking of Keisei, boy was his death powerful! The whole episode start to finish hit all of the right notes, culminating in a very sad and tragic ending. I loved the use of a soft sad melody as you see Makina cry her heart out, it was amazing. And much like Ouri, in this show, it’s not just Keisei that you feel strongly for, it’s also every other significant death that occurs. Be it Minai, a random stranger, the “Breast Goddess”, all of their deaths were very strong in its presentation.
Lets take the Breast Goddess’ death. Her name is Nozomi Kasuga, and as we established, she is infatuated with death and escaping from her ultimate ruin as nature will take her. She sees Shikabane Hime as an escape, as a way of keeping beauty forever, and so quickly falls prey to one of the Seven Stars’ seduction with some strange balloons. Apparently, the balloons suck out all the happiness in a person in their delusions and at the peak of happiness, well, they die. Nozomi Kasuga, who given that ridiculous nickname by one of Ouri’s classmates, actually goes as far as trying to slay her friends in her desperation for happiness. You feel along side Ouri in feeling the pain of the pride (better defined as a slice of superbia) of Nozomi and the pain and murderous spree she has caused together with the Shikabane. So when Ouri finally reaches Nozomi and convinces her to stop, it’s actually too late. Separating herself from her own large balloon turns itself into a monster, but once the thing is destroyed before it can eat Nozomi, she literally loses all will to live and dies shortly after.The shock at seeing Ouri unable to save Nozomi from her own madness was fantastic, and it made quite the memorable scene in the series.
Seriously, if by now you haven’t gotten hooked on the series, something might be wrong with you. Especially of note was the season’s exciting finale where the Seven Stars are responsible in manipulating Ouri to do a most dreadful thing in stabbing his own brother Keisei (who really just adopted him in the orphanage they live together in)! Everything about that arc was fabulous in how despairing it felt watching Keisei slowly slip away from his mortal wound. I can still hear the silent cries of Makina as she smiles for Keisei before he goes in fear for him and then at the moon in her melancholy .
I loved how much Makina is affected by this all, it felt very heartfelt. The show speeds up 6 months later where Makina is being held in a large purification chamber, with weird black water that has miniature Shikabane spirits roaming body-less around. The explanation for the “water” is truly aghast in its horror, and ought to fire up anyone’s sense of justice. Despite Ouri being made the new Contracted Monk for Keisei on his deathbed, Makina will not accept Ouri as her new contracted monk because she doesn’t want to lose Keisei. Instead, to Ouri’s credit she is using his personal rune or life-force unlimited and it’s killing him slowly. I loved how mature Ouri again appears when even when the attempted separation of the bond is tried on Makina, our hero is totally with Makina in letting her live the way she wants to. The result is a strange life-bond where Makina can use up Ouri’s very Rune that keeps him alive for great power against the 7 Stars, despite that Makina does not really consider Ouri’s life much at this point. Naturally, the tale changes this horrific situation, and I felt Makina’s avowing for being Ouri’s one and only Contractor really struck some nice strings….man, is there anything this show does half-hearted?
And lets not forget the ending itself: Akata’s demise was as tragic as it was a masterpiece. He ate off more than he could chew and tried to double cross Hokuto even after changing her through his own craftiness. Seeing him being blown away and for Hokuto herself to also have mixed feelings thereafter was striking. And related to this ending we turn to the scene where Makina is invited to step into the old Foster House…seeing her hesitate to enter was so sweet with Ouri’s reassuring hand and scene made more powerful when Makina decides she doesn’t want to essentially be an other Nozomi. You know, aside from being a marvelous scene, this kind of conclusion is very proper. Fallen life is definitely a vain place to live in, and being stuck unchanging in a world where everyone and everything is falling apart would truly be a worse condemnation than anything. The conclusion to want to live out her days or find heaven is worthy of great praise. I love stories that always promote what is excellent. What I love Is that as a viewer, you were already ok with her just living in the house, so seeing Makina jump from there to even wishing Hokuto’s salvation was amazing. I can’t tell you how many times cheered watching this show…just amazing.
The last thing in this category I want to mention is Hokuto’s presence in the show. Because she is the only one of the Seven Stars to not have a regret and no nature, there was always this vested interest in her from a distance. Sure, Hokuto has committed some atrocities and is worthy of death, aren’t we all? There is nothing more tragic than a soul lost remaining lost, and the author knows it. But as was stated the show does a great job at building empathy…and seeing Hokuto being so troubled after she has been turned into the enemy like Makina, seeing her own troubled state was both justified and yet tragic. And again, it’s always about repentance. It’s that American/Christian spirit of offering a hand to even the despicable that makes you shout at the screen in triumph! Who cares that the story hasn’t ended yet, wherever it takes you, you know the Heros and Heroines “gotcha covered”.
Sure, Corpse Princess may have a few problems with its fan-service, but it’s not in this department. The thorough investment into Ouri and Makina both emotionally and intellectually truly make Corpse Princess into the hit that it is. So it is without any hesitation that I give it such a high score, because it is just that solid.
Characters – 4.8
Makina Hoshimura – 5.0
A strange undead woman who became a Shikabane in order to avenge her death from the Seven Stars, Makina Hoshimura becomes more conflicted by her past as she is what the future holds for her. A slightly cold but good-hearted Heroine, Makina quickly steals your heart with her story. And frankly, that is so because of Lucia Christian‘s excellent performance. Her empathetic scenes were candidly superb, and had great chemistry with the two Contracted Monks our story centers on.
Ouri Kagami – 4.5
The child of a distant horror, Ouri was found by Keisei who has brought up the now young man in a quiet foster home. Ouri has an attachment to death, and so he and Makina meet and history unfolds very quickly for our Hero who is having to grasp the extent at which the horrors of a Shikabane and Shikabane Hime alike must suffer…can he save anyone? Aaron Dismuke does a great job on our main Hero, and I think was very consistent through much of the series. His ability to produce the emotions were somewhat weak in the early portion of the series, but by the time Shikabane Hime: Kuro comes around, he ought to be a fan favorite.
Keisei Tagami – 5.0
Is there anything this man can’t do? Once again Mr. J. Michael Tatum knocks your socks off with his excellent acting skills. You want comedy? Got it. Serene scenes? Tatum excels here. Oh, how about one of the best sad scenes before maybe Steins;Gate? Yeah, Tatum rocks your socks off here too. Keisei is very noble though slightly pervy Contracted Monk who befriended Ouri when he was but a small child. Keisei knows something about Ouri’s past, and vainly tries to keep him away, resulting in the worst possible outcomes for our man. Without a doubt, Keisei was one of my favorite characters….so sad he has to go away.
Hazama – 4.9
Not too long ago in 2011 our Christopher R. Sabat won an award for his voice acting in his Dragon Ball Z Kai performance. And really, you can see why in this production. Always sounding just right for when the time comes, Hazama the character also is one of two surviving Seven Stars. He’s a grotesque Shikabane in his power much like a giant centipede, so don’t be deceived by that well-worn mustache.
Hokuto – 5.0
The greatest of the Seven Stars, Hokuto has no regret…at least, none that appear on the surface. She is the product of the same Hoshimura family, and although she looks rather innocent, don’t let her catch an interest in you or you’re dead. I liked Brina Palencia for the role as I felt she felt appropriately innocent when needing to and also able to switch roles to her wicked self as she rips out the guts of her interests. Really though, Brina did a great job, nailing the last scene especially well and that helped a lot in terms of switching from disgust to empathy for the lost Shikabane that shouldn’t have been.
Creativity – 4.6
The World of Shikabane Hime or Corpse Princess was very pleasant with some great scenes of the skies. Equally so was the artwork on all the characters. In terms of drawing, Corpse Princess is very pleasing to the eyes when it wants to be and equally gross when a Shikabane shows up. Aside from the Shikabane in the shape of a car, which was grotesque, Corpse Princess kept each on different from each. I know the Aka series was slightly predictable in its drawings, but rest assured the ending of that season and Kuro’s entirety was just pure brilliance.
The whole idea behind the Shikabane was well thought through and I liked the regret aspect of each Shikabane. The fighting was very cool, especially when Ouri gets in on the action. I really felt the choreography was great except for one thing: The “buttage”. Yes, I said it. While other shows like to show sneak peaks at girl’s undergarments, Corpse Princess solves this problem by never giving you a proper view so that instead those sweet cheeks come out undisturbed from the weird fan-service. Seriously, there are way too many peeks like this, it just got annoying because half the time you were wondering if any of the Shikabane Hime even wore such equipment…
The music in Corpse Princess won’t necessarily knock your socks off except at its finer scenes, but it was great throughout. I think that’s always a sign of a great show is how much attention they have to the details, and music is a much under appreciated success factor for films and shows alike. When your able to be massaged into the right mood, everything just pops out more accurately and for the most part I felt Corpse Princess did well here.
Opening Song is “Beautiful fighter” by angela. It’s not the greatest song per se, but I think it fits well enough for the series to begin with. Actually, its angela’s second song in the series that really hit great notes to help you ponder what just happened (if you’re not distracted by the extra fan-service via ending credits). “My story” by angela sounds like there is some tragedy in the air. A third special ending called “Beginning” by angela finishes off the first season well.
Shikabane Hime: Kuro has just one song that is different, and that’s the ending for most of the series. “Hikari, Sagase Naku tomo” (光、探せなくとも) by angela feels so right for such an ending as Corpse Princess gives us, and I felt that angela strikes well in her solo performance for the series.
Ending Score: 4.73
(Corpse Princess is a masterpiece in its performance throughout. It has strong morals, great characters, and undead girls at your disposal. While not for everyone because of the mature content and excessive fan-service content, Corpse Princess is sure to be a favorite.)