Princess Princess Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, April 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, May 01, 2007



What They Say
Tooru Kouno leaves a sad family life at home to live at a prestigious all-boys boarding school. But from his very first day, he feels like he's fallen into another world. Class President Sakamoto, who is mysteriously bowed to by everyone - even the upperclassmen - shows him around, and the boys in his class seem to be strangely interested in his pretty-boy looks.

Tooru even catches a glimpse of an enchanting red-headed Princess. A graceful blonde named Shihoudani finally reveals the school's secret: to inspire the student body, campus pretty boys are required to dress up as girls... and Tooru is on the list!

The Review!
When Tohru arrives at his new all boys school he finds that he's been selected for a special position with some very special privileges.

Audio:
Media Blasters has opted to provide only a single Japanese language track for this release, which is in stereo at 192 kbps. The show is basically a dialogue piece with little in terms of directionality or placement outside of some music cues. There isn't a lot of depth to the scenes either as the characters are all generally at the same placement. While it's not a mix that will excite in terms of what it presents, it is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Similar to other shows such as Gakuen Heaven, the show is designs with a lot of soft backgrounds, strong vibrant colors in the character designs and not a lot of movement at times. With it being dialogue driven and all about looking pretty, it succeeds in that area for the most part. The transfer in general looks good with solid if soft backgrounds and clean looking character artwork. Where the main issue lies with it is in the various pans and zooms that occur in that there is some rolling and line noise. Some of it is fairly distracting while other instances are pretty minimal but still noticeable.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork and framing as the Japanese release but brightening up the background to make it more appealing, the cover certainly promotes the pretty boy and attractive girl aspects. Tohru's design looks great here in both forms though his student uniform version has him looking particularly evil with the way his face is done. The back cover continues with the light colors with a few shots from the show framed nicely alongside the summary. The discs production information and technical information fills out a good portion of it and is well laid out and easy to read. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu takes various elements from the cover and uses the light style with a dash of vocals from the series. The right half has the cover artwork from the Japanese release while the left side features the navigation menu. The font used for the title and navigation is a bit awkward though certainly stylish. With nothing on the disc besides the show and some trailers, navigation is simple and easy. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets though I'm sure it was a non-issue anyway due to there not even being a sign/song track on here.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Mikiyo Tsuda that originally appeared in Wings, Princess Princess has spawned several adaptations. In addition to this twelve episode anime series, there are two live action TV series that have been produced. As niche as the show may appear to be it certainly has its appeal oversees. Going by the first four episodes here it's certainly to have some appeal to a segment of fans here as well.

The show starts off by revolving around a high school student named Tohru Kouno. He's had a bit of a rough life in that he's lost his parents and has been taken in by his uncle. While they've taken care of him, he's always felt a burden and has worked hard to remove that from their lives. He's been accepted to a rather elite all boys school and is excited to be able to head off there. Not only is he able to feel like he's making things better for his uncle but he's also able to feel like he's getting underway with his own life. Little does he know that one of the reasons he's been selected to go there will cause a sizeable shift in his life.

The school is like most other elite all boys schools in that it's filled with earnest young men who live, study and play across a pristine campus. Also similar is that the student council tends to lead the way in things and set various policies. One of the policies is that in order to inspire students and keep them focused a small group of students will done women's clothes and take on the role of "princesses." These students will cheer on the various clubs, allow themselves to be photographed and generally give encouragement to the student body at large. The perks are quite good though, particularly for someone in Tohru's position. He gets a free lunch everyday, has special privileges associated with his room and bathing as well as getting a portion of picture sales for an allowance.

But he has to wear maid outfits, pretty dresses, make-up and sometimes even a nurses outfit The entire concept makes him weak at first and he steadfastly refuses to participate. When the pluses start to be revealed though and he realizes he can be even less of a burden for the year that the position entails, he's all for it and goes at it with gusto. Alongside two other students, Yujiro and Mikoto, the trio learn about each other while Tohru learns about the life of a school princess. Each of them have a different approach to things, such as Mikoto not liking the entire process and trying to get out of it or Yujiro who seems to enjoy most aspects of it and gives plenty of fanservice to the student body.

With the school being behind the policy and with it being an on-campus only thing, Tohru realizes that it's pointless to fight against it. It's his throwing himself into the entire thing that makes the show work rather well. If the attitude that Mikoto has had been used as Tohru's, it's easy to imagine it would lose its appeal quickly. Watching someone trying to get out of the situation and complaining about it constantly has been done repeatedly and generally in a poor fashion. Tohru's acceptance of it followed by his enthusiasm over it allows the show to take on an entirely different tone. Between him and Yujiro, they almost seem like they get into it too much but they have some good moments where they unwind and talk about it in a way you'd expect someone in that position would.

With a minimal supporting cast where only the student council president has any real personality, the focus is almost entirely on the three leads. Their duties are covered in different ways, from the photo shoots before summer break to the cheers required to encourage each of the fifteen different sports and cultural clubs. There are some good moments during the summer break episode where Yujiro and Tohru stay on campus and do some bonding in a non-sexual manner. In fact, it's that lack of sexual tension between the three leads that helps immensely as it puts them all on the same page. While you get the stares and adoration from the students in general, the three of them don't look at each other oddly or have any surprising feelings towards them. It's almost like a stranger version of Here is Greenwood in some ways.

The designs for the show are great looking. The three obviously take on a pretty boy look for most of it but they balance that with comical versions of them when the situations get weird. Their fashion versions are the best though as they move between various outfits that are beautifully designed without being all about showing skin. In a lot of ways it's actually pretty demure in how they do it, tantalizing more with the idea of what they represent than going for the real thing. Princess Princess has a lot of restraint to it in its approach which could make it a good crossover title. It has a certain kind of comedy to it that just clicks well. Some of the best moments come when Yujiro and Tohru go off girl hunting and reveal what they like in women.

In Summary:
Princess Princess could have gone for the obvious route but instead it tries to do something just a bit different with a worn and tired concept. It's not exactly fresh but it doesn't feel like other shows that we've seen, even though its designs do. At first blush it's easy to write the show off as yet another crossdresser piece but once it starts to get going you can see the tweaks made to it. These little things go a long way towards separating it from the pack and making it quite enjoyable. Between the low price and decent episode counts, it's an easy one to try on a whim to see if it tickles your fancy.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 19.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Princess Princess