One of the least talked about Gainax series that I can think of, Yucie goes for the a more children's oriented series that breaks away from just about everything else they've been producing lately.
What They Say
Seventeen-year-old Yucie can never be taken seriously. How can she, when she's been cursed to be trapped in a ten-year-old's body? But her life is about to change forever when she becomes a candidate to become the Platina Princess, an honor which will allow her ultimate wish to be granted!
Petite Princess Yucie came from a time when ADV Films would do 5.1 mixes for shows that didn’t need it, resulting in this show having a Japanese stereo mix encoded at 224kbps and an English 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps for marketing value. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix to it that has some decent moments of directionality across the forward soundstage throughout it but it still doesn't really feel like all that of an immersive mix. It comes across well though and there aren't any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback, but it doesn't have any oomph to set it apart from any other series. We listened briefly to the English mix which is in 5.1 and other than being a bit louder and a bit more defined in vocal location, it sounded roughly the same.
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release is made up of the original six discs that were released so we get a 5/5/4/4/4/4 release that’s identical to the 2004 DVD release. The source materials here look really good but not exactly what you'd normally expect from Gainax in general. It doesn't have quite the same vibrancy as some of their other releases, but the show is angling for something a bit more fairy-tale oriented and with its fantasy setting, something that doesn't stand out quite as strongly. The transfer in general does look really solid though and free of most problems like cross coloration and aliasing as well as any notable blocking. Sometimes Glenda's legs look like they have some slight cross coloration going on with a bit of green showing but it’s pretty negligible overall for the few times it appears.
Any time you have a title with Princess in it, you’re not going to get a lot of sales. So with that understanding, I’m not surprised that the “Petite Princess” part got much smaller here while “Yucie” takes up most of the logo space. Unlike past releases, the cover artwork here really does go for a great princess fairy tale feeling as it features Arc and Yucie together dancing under the moonlight in this illustration. There’s a real earthy tone to it that’s very appealing and the costume design for Yucie really stands out beautifully. The back cover is more traditional with a big group shot on the right and several shots from the show towards the bottom above the production redits and technical grid. The summary is short but to the point with a sense of fun that comes through it. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover for this StackPack release that holds all six discs on a mini spindle.
The menu layout for this release goes for the simple approach with just a couple of shots of Yucie in different outfits for each menu and a different color design while some static flower petals are scattered around. Each episode is accessible directly without any direct scene access, which is fine since there are only a few basic chapters anyway. Access times are nice and fast and the menus load with my player's language presets without issue.
The only extras for this series, which are spread out across the volumes, is a set of production sketches and the clean versions of the opening and ending sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When ADV Films released Petite Princess Yucie back in 2004, about two years after its airing in Japan, it was one of the least talked about shows from Gainax that I can think of. When I began looking for information about it, hardly anyone seems to even know it was licensed and anything about the show was minimal at best, especially in comparison with other Gainax shows airing around the same time period. With its appeal aimed towards the younger set as opposed to the typical teen/post-teen audience that gobbles up most of Gainax's shows, that doesn't come as too much of a surprise. Yucie is definitely something that harkens back to the simpler shows like Nadia but without trying to reproduce the same thing.
We're introduced to Yucie as she seemingly comes from the stars and lands in the middle of the forest. Her arrival was seen by a master swordsman named Gunbard who searched for the shining light he saw only to find Yucie at the end of it. Taking her home, he raised her as his own but never hid the truth that he wasn't her father. Yucie knew something was different about her for awhile though. Now at the age of seventeen, her body has seemingly stopped growing around the age of ten and she looks exactly like she has for nearly seven years now. Whether it's a curse or something else is unknown, but her desire to become an adult is her main goal.
Her other goal is to hopefully see the Prince someday again so that she can repay him for saving her when she was lost in the forest a number of years ago. While she hasn't taken on the mentality of wanting to marry him to repay him for his kindness in helping her out of a stick situation, you can easily imagine that she'd want to become normal in her appearance first before thanking him properly. So when Yucie learns that the Queen is meeting with girls from the city so that she can choose someone to be a Platinum Princess candidate, she becomes very interested.
The Platinum Princess is the one who holds the Tiara of Eternity, an item that will grant any wish at all. Through a bit of luck and her own magical nature, Yucie finds herself selected as one of the candidates for this and is enrolled in the Princess Academy. It's here that she has to learn a wide range of things in her quest to become the real Platinum Princess. She's surrounded by a number of different girls, most of whom are really fancy in their nature to begin with, such as arriving on elephants or red carpets and the like. Before she gets to deal with any of them though, she finds herself saddled with a Rival.
Glenda, the princess of the demon world is also a Platinum Princess candidate. She and Yucie are like oil and water right from the start, particularly since Glenda can't believe anyone else but she could be the Platinum Princess. Her goal of wanting to take over the world rides on acquiring this Tiara so she can wish it all under her control. Glenda also seems to suffer from the same kind of problem as Yucie in that she's stuck in a smaller body but that doesn't serve as a bridge between the two. Rather, they're much more intent on fighting and messing each other over, so much so that their teachers complain and there's threats of dismissing one of them.
What a lot of these episodes focus on once the school starts is the extracurricular activities. The school principal has set things up so that the girls all get plenty of experience that a proper princess should have in knowing how people really live and make their lives work. Since most of those here are somewhat spoiled or come from influence, it helps to get them in touch with the common folk. To build up these credits through their pendants, they have to take on jobs that are posted on their bulletin board. Some involve just one person, others involve three or more. So Yucie and her friend Cocoloo often go together and sometimes Glenda even gets involved, be it working in a sweets shop and learning how magic chocolates are made or doing some really hard labor at a flower nursery. Each of these episodes stands alone and you can imagine how they play out with the rivalry the girls have and the general chaos that can ensue from it.
For quite a bit of the series, the focus is primarily on the three main girls with Yucie, Glenda and Cocoloo. As time goes on, a couple more get introduced with Elmina from the world of Heaven and Beth from the world of Fairies. While I understand their inclusion and the importance to the overall storyline, I felt that both of them took a bit away from the show’s focus with the other three and added somewhat useless characters. They have their importance at times and they’re integral parts for bringing everything together for the Eternal Tiara, but they never really felt like they were connected as tightly to Yucie as both Glenda and Cocoloo were, nor did I find them to really gel together as a really good group except at the end when they had to justify everything for the Final Scene and its importance overall.
There is a whole lot to like about the series though even if I didn’t find these particular pieces to fit together too well. Yucie’s relationship with Gunbard is a really nice change of pace, but Gunbard himself is well explored as time goes on as well. His past and his connection to Queen Ercell is quite poignant and adds a lot to the show, especially in how Ercell deals with this particular batch of Platinum Candidates. Gunbard really does step up to the plate in this series and while he’s an affable father for a lot of it, when the past comes out and when things step up, his position as the Hero really comes into play. And similar can be said of Arc/Prince Arrow for a lot of this as he flits about the scenes, gets involved with Yucie in a mildly romantic way and searches for truths that help provide the catalyst for how it will all come together.
Petite Princess Yucie took time when I first saw it to charm me, especially because of how all the girls were stopped from growing at age ten and their personalities bore a lot of that as well. But as it went on, I grew to enjoy it a lot. Going into it now some five years later with a different mindset and knowledge of the show, I was able to see it all come together a lot better and enjoy the flow of it. While it does have a lot of gaming moments to it with the jobs that the girls take throughout, they do it in a way that genuinely feels fun and enjoyable rather than a true chore. This is the kind of show that while aimed at younger fans it can transcend as well because it is so good natured and happy for the most part. There is a really good story arc here that plays out across the entire set and everything is tied together perfectly at the end, making it a memorable show that I wish we’d see Gainax get more involved with sometimes.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Production Artwork, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.