Teppei Arima lost his parents to a car accident, and has now been adopted by his extremely rich grandfather, the head of the multi-national conglomerate Arima Group. And with that adoption comes a hot new fiancee, a chance encounter with a sexy princess, placement in an elite school with a fiery student council president, and a pretty young maid watching over his every need. What could possibly go wrong?
For about a year I've made it a habit to start watching the first episode of every new series that comes out each season. No more than one episode, since I'm only sampling, and if catches my interest, I try to remember it and watch it when it comes out in the States or finishes fansubbing. It's a difficult survey to finish, not only because of the sheer length of time it takes, but also because most of it is forgettable junk. It always seems that only a third of any new season is worth investigating further, if that. And it doesn't help that I can reliably tell if what I'm watching could be interesting simply by looking at the promotional material. Yes, just like you I was raised not to judge a book by its cover, but in anime fandom that can be a tool to maintain your sanity. Most otaku-centric fare, and that's the bulk of what comes out today, is interchangeable and repetitive, and can wear you down if you keeping watching it. So when I turned on the first episode of Princess Lover!, I knew what to expect and steeled myself. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find myself enjoying the first episode, largely because of some amazing animation in an exciting chase scene. I later found out that this series is the first outing of a new studio, GoHands, and made a mental note to check it out in the future. What I found was a series that was still fairly routine, but a pleasant watch thanks to its energetic animation that seems dedicated to making every shot look as interesting as possible.
One scene in particular stands out: a chase scene that involves a horse drawn carriage with the titular princess inside, a car full of hoodlums, our fearless hero diving into the fray with a scooter, and butler who gets so angry at one point he snaps a loaded gun in half. For those few minutes, everything moves, and has an energy to it we'd normally expect from bigger studios. It's both absurd and captivating, and sold me on following the rest of the series. In fact, I can't remember what other anime aired that summer, but I've always remembered that sharp, funny chase from Princess Lover! And even when the animation slows down it's still interesting to watch: the animators seem to enjoy using high and low angle shots not so much to exploit their cast's assets, but because it adds more energy to each scene. There are other memorable of beautiful animation: the dance in the final scene, several great sword fights, and the climatic finale on a train. The soul of animation is movement, and Princess Lover! tries to embody that.
And thank Tezuka for that: the story is so lazy I doubt any of the staff actually cared about it. A major plot device is dropped and what suspense there is from Teppei adapting to life as the heir to a shifty corporate world is drained in favor syrupy sweet storylines of his school- and love-life for the first half of the series. The characters don't fare much better- they are lockstep bishojou cliches, void of anything to make them memorable. They're not hard to like, but considering that these cliches are calculated to be just that, it's hard to hold that up as something in Princess Lover!'s favor. The second half of the story gets more serious and a lot more trite, but to its credit, it's hardly sincere. Director Hiromitsu Kanazawa armors it all with a sense of irony, and because of that the series finishes with its dignity intact. I would love to know what would happen if these folks were given better material to work with, because they made this series better than it had any right to be.
Frankly, if bishojou anime weren't so set in a routine, Princess Lover! probably wouldn't seem so special. Great animation can only take you so far when your story is so dull and your characters so vapid. But I can detect a kind of reckless energy coming out of GoHands that I like. Their new gag anime Seitokai Yakuindomo looks to be step up, with sharper jokes and better characters, even if it is just as dirty as their first outing. These new kids may be young but they really want to impress, and that's charming, especially in an industry clogged with series that are as limp as a dead earthworm. Right now, that counts for a lot.
Great technical merit but a weak story and characters. Add a star if you really like bishojou anime or if you know what sakuga anime means and love it. Skip it if neither applies.) — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: These babes got serious back and jiggle, and this cartoon makes sure you know it. There's also mild violence, but following our weird social mores about what is "appropriate," that won't be anywhere as big a deal as the T&A, so use that as your yardstick for whether this is something you should watch.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Princess Lover! © 2009 GoHands
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