Scrapped Princess Vol. #1 (also w/ Artbox + Limited Edition Figure) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98/49.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Scrapped Princess

Scrapped Princess Vol. #1 (also w/ Artbox + Limited Edition Figure)

By Chris Beveridge     March 15, 2005
Release Date: April 26, 2005


Scrapped Princess Vol. #1 (also w/ Artbox + Limited Edition Figure)
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Pacifica Cassul is known as the "Scrapped Princess." According to prophecy, she is the poison that will destroy the world on her 16th birthday. In order to avoid being killed, she must secretly wander the lands along with her two siblings who vow to protect the princess every step of the way. But being the Scrapped Princess means you must stay one step ahead of your enemy. Just how long will they journey before time runs out?

The Review!
One of the fan favorite series from 2003, Scrapped Princess is a welcome return to an intriguing and well paced fantasy setting that avoids some of the basic clichés of the genre right from the start.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. While a lot of the show is fairly quiet and dialogue driven as it keeps to the small cast as they travel and interact with locals, there are some really good action sequences that utilize the forward soundstage well and move across it. The opening volume has some fun scenes, such as when Leo first arrives and rolls across the screen or during the glass valley fight where the crinkling sounds come from all over. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The materials here for the most part are pretty good but the series does suffer in a few areas, some quite noticeable. One of the most blatant areas and one that made me leery of the release in general was the opening shot when the Japanese logo comes up with all of the dot crawl all around it. This actually lessens with each episode, so much that the third and fourth episodes barely display any, but it wasn't the best way to open things up. There's also a fair bit of cross coloration in small areas throughout the episodes along with some shimmering lines from areas where the artwork is very tight, such as the opening of the cart where Pacifica continually sticks her head out of. The best way to find this is the simply watch the shot of the cart in the menu itself and then watch the same areas in the show and you'll see it. The shows colors in general look really good with the backgrounds and they mostly maintain a solid feel though there are some occasions where the gradient becomes more pronounced than it should.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a slightly different border surrounding it, the image is one that really does showcase the show well with a simple piece showing Pacifica and Raquel together on the cart driving along, close to each other, as the scenery of the land passes them by. The logo is kept relatively the same kind of style by translated for the main part while the subtitle is left in Japanese and the only other addition to the front is the basic logos and volume numbering. The back cover has a fairly standard fantasy style layout with scrolls and line work with a very descriptive summary of the premise. A few shots from the series are attached to the episode listings and the discs features are pretty clear and easy to find. Though not a full technical grid, something resembling the start of one is there along the bottom. Likely due to this being an early review copy, we did not receive an insert with this release.

Menu:
The menu layout for the series is similar to the front cover a bit in that it has an elaborate frame around it while a bit of animation plays through the main window with clips of the scenery fading in and out. It initially starts with a shot of the carriage with the trio riding in the front but that clipped animation shifts down to the lower right and was probably a poor choice for inclusion since it features a fair bit of cross coloration and aliasing in it, which is not the kind of image you want to produce on the first actual bit of the show you see. The layout of the selections is pretty standard with instant episode access and navigation is easy. The disc makes out good in another area by properly reading our players' language presets and playing accordingly.

Extras:
The only included extra on this release is a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Scrapped Princess, a twenty-four episode series set in a fantasy land, quickly fills a hard to fill niche in anime in recent years by focusing on a fairly serious storyline set in a fantasy land without falling quickly on a number of the usual clichés that are found in such tales. It's straightforward manner and generally serious tone alone set it apart from the bulk of series that come out these days.

The show kicks off with things already in the road trip mode and we're introduced to a trio of travelers riding a very well packed carriage. Wearing a seemingly soldiers style uniform with a cloak, the group is lead by Shannon, the elder brother of the trio. He's ably assisted by his sister Raquel who also wears a similar style outfit. Both of them are set to protect their younger sister Pacifica, a girl who apparently only showed up somewhat recently in their lives but has changed everything. As we learn along the way, Pacifica was born under a cursed sign fifteen years prior and her birth signaled that on her sixteenth birthday, she would become the poison that would destroy the world. Events led to her seeming destruction at the hands of the soldiers at that time, but she had miraculously survived that fate only to turn up some time later and to meet her brother and sister. That tale has gone unexplained so far, but the result of it is that it appears their parents are dead and the three siblings are now on the run with Shannon ensuring that he'll lay down his life to protect his sister until he knows for certain what the fates have in store for her.

Their journeying from town to town, trying to keep ahead of a few different forces that may be coming after them, ends up usually causing more trouble than they expect. With Pacifica's return to the continent, the rumors of her and her role in the world as told by one of the visions of Grendel has spread and people are fearful of her. Some of them take arms against her when they find her, generally it seems those who are very much in the thrall of their god Mauser and the religious officials who promote it. The trio have a mixture of success in avoiding or dealing with these threats as they move on, but each encounter only raises the stakes and inevitably causes more trouble in the town they're in than they want. At the same time, with Shannon being the main warrior of the group, his attempts to not cause bloodshed only makes it more difficult. Raquel attempts this as well with her incredible magic powers though she is a bit more playful with her skills.

Pacifica herself has seemingly accepted much of what is going on and has resigned herself to at least parts of it, but she's undergoing a very strong internal emotional debate about everything when left to herself. Her quiet nature and the way she expresses herself is revealed in a few of her spoken thoughts on the subject as she questions those close to her whether she should really be alive and if they'd all be better off if she was simply dead. At times she seems willing to be slain at any moment to bring an end to things but then she just as quickly finds something new that sparks her interest in whatever location they're in and her eyes sparkle with unbound energy and life. Pacifica isn't a deep or complex character at this point, but right from the start she's already someone who avoids a lot of the traps of a teenage fantasy heroine, meek or strong.

While the focus is on the main trio, it does get rounded out in an interesting way. Along their journey they encounter a group of bandits. While Shannon is simply weary dealing with the lesser villains like this, the encounter goes awry when a "valiant knight"-like young man arrives named Leo, who is light comic relief in that his first attempts to save the day lead him on a wild chase. He ends up in more of the awkward situations and just tries too hard but is a generally nice guy. He also instantly falls in love with Pacifica and pronounces his engagement to her, though this kind of goes over her head, but he's soon to be following along and a help to the others. His addition to the group isn't forced, but rather well blended since his own journey matches theirs at the right time.

The most intriguing additions to the show come in the form of those who are chasing them though. Initially, we see only a young boy named Chris who is wearing a very clear soldiers uniform and cloak who has some very well trained skills with weapons who intends to either capture or eliminate Pacifica. My initial reaction to him wasn't good, as I hate hearing characters with my own name plus he has the look of a typical first year high school student character but just in a fantasy setting. I dislike this particular cliché but I will say that as he made his encounters with the group, he bothered me less and even his fairly standard background story fit in well enough that it wasn't so bad, but it was really in how people like Shannon reacted to him that made me like him more. The truly strange ones though that are added are those from the Church side of the storyline who have a vested interest in eliminating Pacifica, as their attempts are not the same as the government/kingdom's attempts since they go far further in what they'll do to eliminate her, which apparently will almost set the two sides against each other.

Visually, barring the couple of problems with the transfer, this is a very good looking show. It's focus on the lushness of nature and the sounds of it are very strong and it provides a great backdrop to the journey, be it the full blown outdoors or some of the travels through the towns and paths close to them. The character designs themselves are also really good and they avoid a lot of heavy fanservice with them, though they are designed enough to provide some enjoyment. The mixture of standard fantasy clothing along with the near-military styles and cloaks is highly appealing to me and with the high collars and mostly stern looks of the cast, it's something that looks good on just about all of the characters, even the women. Pacifica's character stands out the most among all of them, mostly due to her blonde hair, but also because her design is just given some extra emphasis, especially when she's between the two darker figures of her brother and sister.

The show has a bit of a slower pace to it but it does ratchet up things nicely when the action is required. What really struck me about the show though is how it does avoid some of the things that really plague fantasy shows or series like this in general. One of them is that since we know Pacifica is a person of power by nature, she doesn't end the first episode by doing something massively powerful and hooking the viewer by that fact. That's pushed off much further into the opening of the series and we're left instead at first with seemingly normal albeit slightly powerful people in a dangerous situation. The other really big plus is that while there is humor, it's not outright slapstick that's driving it. Leo does have some goofy moments as that's his role, but the rest of the casts' humor is much more subtle, such as Shannon continuing to do the laundry while the bandits threaten them or the way Pacifica gets Shannon to do all the work at the inn and he just does it. Avoiding the super-deformed and slapstick helps to keep things much more grounded here and lets the serious nature of the plot really take hold instead of being sidetracked by wacky adventures.

In Summary:
Scrapped Princess quickly fills a niche that has been a long time in being filled I think with a straightforward and fairly serious fantasy oriented adventure. The characters are almost instantly likeable and the premise is given enough to hook you into it while still leaving plenty to be discovered over the course of the next twenty episodes. Combined with great looking visuals both in characters and settings, this looks to be a series that will avoid a number of the usual clichés of the genre and provide a very entertaining journey that may result in the death of a world. How can I not be interested in that? This first volume does a great job of setting the stage and introducing the basics and it's got me looking forward to much more of it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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