Shinichiro MikiTakashi KondoScrapped PrincessTakahiro Mizushima
Scrapped Princess
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2003
Director: Soichi Masui
Writer: Ichiro Sakaki, Yukinobu Asami
Studio: Kadokawa Shoten
Actor: Fumiko Orikasa, Sayaka Ohara, Shinichiro Miki, Ayako Kawasumi, Kaori Mizuhashi, Takahiro Mizushima, Takashi Kondo
Keywords: anime, fantasy, post-apocalypse
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 24 episodes
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 21 April 2006
Pacifica Casull is a brat. She's whiny, she's demanding and she has no discernable skills. Maybe she'll become a more rounded person when she's older... or then again, maybe not. According to a prophecy, on her sixteenth birthday Pacifica will destroy the world. The whole kingdom wants to kill her. Sorry darling, nothing personal, but that's what the prophecy says. Her adopted elder siblings, Shannon and Raquel, have become her personal bodyguards, but Pacifica's life is still scarier than that of most fifteen-year-olds. In her darker moments, she contemplates death and wonders whether the world would be better off without her.
This was a tremendously popular show when it aired in Japan. However I think it's an odd one. It feels humourlessly grim at times despite having quite a few laughs, which is probably due to the set-up. Watching it I was impressed, yet I ended up giving away my discs. Overall I'd describe this show as strong and worthy rather than sparkling or inspired. It's built around a fascinating moral dilemma, it has one of the best-constructed story arcs I've seen in a full-length anime series and I definitely wanted to know what would happen next. However having completed that journey, I find myself not particularly looking to revisit it.
The world of Scrapped Princess is an important feature. It's a fantasy setting but with post-apocalypse hints that are surely bound to be part of the backstory. Raquel is a magician, yet there's technology from the old times too. The setting has depth. It's not just a cut-and-pasted Dungeons and Dragons adventure, but a world with history, politics and the occasional surprise. I don't want to give anything away, but look out for some of the names, particularly those of the gods. There's an unusual naming motif that's one of our earliest clues.
The story is strong too. Pacifica's situation is horrible and our heroes are occasionally forced into extreme decisions. They meet enemies and allies along the way, not all necessarily trustworthy. And throughout there's the central question... "What if the prophecy is right? Do I have the right to risk the world for the sake of one life?" When she's not being bratty, Pacifica displays a bleakly scary maturity in considering this question. She's neither a saint nor a squawking idiot, but instead a completely believable fifteen-year-old in a horrendous situation. Some of her behaviour strikes me as almost a defence mechanism. If she hadn't built a few walls around herself, she'd have gone mad. All things considered, her level-headedness and compassion are actually impressive.
The construction of the 24-episode story arc is unusually good too. A full season is a long time to spend telling a single story and so most shows cheat. Maybe they'll tread water with filler episodes and monsters of the week. Maybe they'll go really slooooooowly. Scrapped Princess flirts with both of those possibilities, but I'd call its pacing deliberate rather than slow, while its basic dramatic hook is so strong that one always gets the impression that the story is or might be moving forward. Arguably it's faint praise merely to be saying that this show gets one of the fundamental basics right, even if the anime industry tends to be lazy on that point, but one shouldn't underestimate the pulling power of a good story. The ending doesn't cheat either, but manages to provide a climax that's complete, satisfying and consistent with what went before.
My only reservation is that the show isn't always much fun. There are amusing character moments, but by and large the story takes itself and its premise extremely seriously. The drama can get dour. Pretty much by definition, the happy ending of any particular episode will be implicitly undercut by the prophecy and Pacifica's impending sixteenth birthday. No matter what our heroes do, that can't go away. You'd think that maybe the incidental characters could provide fun and/or lighter moments, but the narrative stays so focused on Pacifica and her guardians that even the side-stories about the people they meet tend to come back to her.
The girls are usually buxom, but we never see naughty bits except, oddly, in the closing credits. The show carefully avoids nudity. Overall, despite my ambivalence towards it, Scrapped Princess is impressive. It has a compelling core concept and a serious-minded script which does justice to it. I wouldn't recommend it if you wanted comedy, despite quite a few surreptitious laughs, but it's definitely a solid piece of work.