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R1 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 17 December 2008 00:00
Scrapped PrincessScrapped Princess gets its inevitable box set outing. At first glance it appears to be a fantasy hack'n'slash story about protecting a girl on the run - that's only part right, though, as there's a lot more going on than there first appears to be. Intrigued yet? You should be...

Pacifica Casull's facing a difficult future - she's the 'Scrapped Princess', who prophecy says will destroy the world on her sixteenth birthday. That's not far away now, and the closer the date comes, the more people are lining up to try and kill her, under orders of the Church of Mauser. Fortunately, she has her protectors - her adoptive brother and sister, high-level magic user Raquel and skilled swordsman Shannon, have done a pretty good job so far of keeping her alive. As her birthday approaches, though, her enemies become ever more devious, her allies ever more numerous, and the world she finds herself in ever more different from what she thought it was...

Shannon and PacificaZephiris

PeacemakerPacifica turns killer

A part of me grew thoroughly tired of fantasy settings many years ago, after one too many late-night Dungeons & Dragons sessions. A webcomic spoof of Lord of the Rings changed that, more through accident and design, and so Scrapped Princess came down from the shelf where it had been sitting for quite a while. Without wanting to spoil too much, there are aspects of SutePri (as it's officially abbreviated by the creators) that decidedly aren't fantasy, but you have to wade through a lot that is before you get there. Like the first disc or two.

You'll initially think you've seen it all before, too - fugitive girl, highly-skilled protectors, challengers trying to kill her each episode - some one-off baddies who are embarrassingly easy to kill, some who are more of challenge and will clearly be long-running adversaries, and a little bit of comedy along the way. So far, so generic. Characterisations aren't anything particularly special, either - Pacifica's likeable enough, Shannon's almost mono-syllabic, Leo's a typical comic-relief-in-love character... You get the picture.

BarrierDivine Retribution

Planning something sneakyDevastation

From that, you'd think I was wasting my time. But there are only so many stories in anime - at the end of the day it's execution that makes one show's take on an idea stand out against another, and there's just something about the way that SutePri all hangs together that makes it very enjoyable to watch. The way Raquel can incant a spell so quickly that you barely get time to blink (and does it in such a polite way); the little pointers here and there that the world the show's set in isn't all it appears to be (and the characters are as blind to this as the viewer, at the start); and the feeling that there genuinely is something about Pacifica that's going to kick in on her sixteenth birthday - the question is just whether it's going to be as devastating as rumour would have you believe, or just devastating for those in power. There are also pointers along the way towards the lengths that the Church of Mauser will go to to get her out of the picture, and we're not talking the actions of a caring church here...

The introduction of the Peacemakers marks the arrival of Pacifica's real enemies, and the first confirmation that we're not dealing with your normal fantasy setting here - rather, we have a far-future Earth who have fallen under the control of alien invaders. The invaders themselves are no longer present, but the Peacemakers represent their scheme to keep human technology below a 'safe' level. It's ostensibly in the interests of keeping warlike humanity from damaging itself - all in your own best interests, you understand - but the Peacemakers are programmed to deal with any threat to the control and restraint system with deadly force, and Pacifica represents just such a treat.

Under observationMother

MauserDefeating prophecy

See, it's not the general public that need to fear what will happen on Pacific's 16th birthday, it's the Peacemakers themselves. They're used to having complete control of the populace - a word or a thought from them, and a human being will do what they're told, even if that means going to their deaths. Pacifica's power? The ability to break that control - and render any humans under that effect immune to further control. That power has already begun to manifest itself, and come her 16th birthday, it will be fully awakened, and the rule of the Peacemakers will finally be broken. At least, that's the plan.

From there, the story develops through the usual ups & downs, successes & defeats as Pacifica's birthday approaches, and for the most part it's enjoyable stuff. There's a bit too much plot exposition in places, with too much time devoted to explaining the ins & outs of the Peacemakers' control over the Earth, the history of that control, and the ways it's been opposed in the past. There are also far too many characters on show, especially when some of those characters don't really serve a purpose. What useful role have Leo and Winia played over the course of the series? Leo is an object of fun as a result of his unrequited love for Pacifica, while Winia has had even less of a role to play - they're just there, and that's about it. Similarly, huge swathes of time are devoted to special ops commander Chris and Prince Forsythe, Pacifica's natural brother, only for them to play almost cameo appearances in the final episodes (although Forsyth's at least had major implications). It all convinces me even more that the series should have been a 13-episode one, as there's so much scope for filler to be removed that it probably could have been easily done in half the time.

That said, the final two episodes close out the series in style, with just the right mix of action, surprises and explanation to make sure that you're not left wondering about unanswered questions when it's all over. The mix of high technology and fantasy that has made the series' setting that little bit different from the norm is used well to cover the how's and why's of Pacifica's world, and also plays its part in closing the story out - the late Arthur C Clarke once said that any significantly advanced piece of technology could appear godlike, and that's the level of technology that we're dealing with here. Once everything was explained and worked out, I found that I'd enjoyed what I'd seen.

I just wish there hadn't been so much filler along the way. Parts of the series dragged horribly, there were times when it was all exposition and nothing else, and other times when things moved along at a fast enough pace to really keep attention - that last of those is good, but the other two aren't. The idea was there, the source materials were there (Scrapped Princess is based on a series of novels), but the pacing was definitely off. For all that's good about the series - and there's plenty - there are enough flaws that you may want to try before you buy. A good ending to a series that could have been so much better.

For full episode summaries and screenshots, check out the reviews of the individual releases:
» Volume 1: Family Ties
» Volume 2: Melancholy Wagon Tracks
» Volume 3: Traveling Troubles
» Volume 4: Spells and Circumstances
» Volume 5: Prophecies and Parents
» Volume 6: Pacifica's Destiny

Rating - ***

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