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[Sister Princess]
AKA: SisPri
Genre: Weird harem show
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Licensed by ADV Films
Content Rating: 10+ (some adult themes)
Related Series: Sister Princess Re Pure
Also Recommended: Comic Party, Love Hina, Mamotte Shugogetten, Tokimeki Memorial
Notes: Based on a popular dating simulation game. The sequel to this series actually landed in the top 10 anime series of all time according to a recent poll in Newtype Magazine, proving once and for all that popularity among Japanese fanboys is a very weak barometer of the actual quality of an anime title.
Rating:
 

Sister Princess

Synopsis

Wataru (incidentally, the name of every other dating simulation game protagonist since End of Summer) has done the unthinkable. Despite being #1 in his class, he flunked the entrance exam for his high school of choice and is suddenly whisked away by his rich family's personal Gestapo to some boarding school on a remote island that looks vaguely like a nightmarish theme park. To make matters worse, he's lost his glasses in the sea! But he meets several attractive girls and they all seem to be interested in him. Too bad they all turn out to be his long-lost little sisters - but hey, they're still cute. (Um, yeah.)

Review

This anime has problems.

Apparently, being attracted to one's sister is all the rage in Japan right now - see Angel Sanctuary for further details. Eww.

Unfortunately, the weird premise doesn't even begin to cover the problems that riddle this title.

For starters, the storytelling and pacing are incoherent and haphazard, weaving from plot point to plot point like a drunk wandering the backstreets after closing time. Much of the early part of this series is surreal to the point of being completely unintelligible - I had to watch some scenes twice just to figure out what the story was supposed to be.

As for the setting, I found myself caring less about the mystery of the island than goggling at the improbability of its very existence. Maybe I should've put "fantasy" in the genre for this - it's certainly a Fantasy Island (minus Villechaise and Montalban, unfortunately).

All in all, not a good start, but that pales in comparison to the aim of this show. And quite frankly, I can't figure out what Sister Princess is supposed to be. The failed sight gags and rather stupid premise indicate that this is supposed to be a comedy. But it fails at that. Then there's the main character's idea of romance, which is to blush uncontrollably when asked to go shopping. Of course, they're really his sisters, so it fails at that. But maybe it's supposed to be a drama - but this series is so immobilized by its inherent weirdness that any sense of dramatic tension floats away like the brain cells in these characters' heads. Strike three.

And while inadequate storytelling is often counteracted by exceptional characterizations, this is most definitely not the case here in the world of Sister Princess. The main character, Wataru, claims to be intelligent, but anyone who only applies to a single high school in the cutthroat educational machine of Japan has got to be a moron. He does almost nothing to deny it, either, and for the most part, he could easily be replaced by a cardboard cutout without changing this anime a single bit. The "sisters" are hopelessly bland, subservient stereotypes with fewer brain cells than the average potato, which really makes you wonder about what young Japanese boys expect their wives to be like when they grow up. (I think we blundered upon The Stepford Wives by accident.) And the protagonist's "competitor" (or the Random Weird Guy), Tataru, wants to be Saber Marionette J's Hanagata really badly, but fails to realize that he is the ugliest anime character to grace the screen since Mikami Reiko dispatched ghosts with her hideous hag face.

Not even the animation is particularly great - 3D computer graphics are wasted on houses (very inconsistent when one considers that every other building in the series is rendered traditionally), and a few questionable character design choices make this a startlingly unappealing entry into the harem genre. (Even the "SD" mode looks terrible.) Besides, when the main character's harem claims to all be his younger sisters ... well, we guess this is one of THOSE islands.

But at least they're cute.

Despite my most valiant efforts, I'll have to side with my wife on this bizarre "wish fulfillment" series. While marginally better than Kokoro Library or To Heart, the vast majority of this show belongs squarely in the burnable trash. Only a few humorous scenes raise this one from the bottom ... and only just.

I'm not a psychologist, so I don't feel obligated to hear about someone else's paraphilias. Yick. Otherwise, a thoroughly unremarkable dating sim-based comedy that isn't worth the dollops of praise I've seen others bestowing upon it. Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: While the whole potential-incest angle is going to mess with a lot of people's heads, there is no sex or violence in this show. Nothing much of interest, either.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (3/26)
Sister Princess © 2001 Media Works / TV Tokyo