Anime Reviews: Scrapped Princess
Some Basic Information About the Series
Title: Scrapped Princess
Series Length: 24 episodes
Air Dates: 4/8/2003 to 10/7/2003
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, mild language)
Summary: The 5111st prophecy of Grendel states that the female twin child of Queen Elmeyer must be slain or she shall become the poison that leads the world to its destruction, and so the infant child is thrown into a ravine. However, beyond all expectation, the child survives and is adopted by a commoner family. Now, 15 years later, the "Scrapped Princess" Pacifica Casull flees her hometown along with her older siblings, fearsome swordsman and unceasing cynic Shannon, and the bubbly, talented mage Raquel. Possessing neither formidable sword skills or any talent in magic, Pacifica feels self-conscious about her inability to fight for her own freedom, often wondering if she would've been better off never having been born. Because the prophecy states that the Scrapped Princess will unleash her mythical destruction at age 16, the adherents of the Mauser faith have begun to hunt Pacifica down in full force, with less than a year to avert this alleged fate. Can Shannon and Raquel protect Pacifica from the myriad threats bearing down upon them, or will the Scrapped Princess be cut down for the safety of mankind?
The Good: Clean, bright artwork; top-tier opening theme; lovable cast of characters; extremely ambitious storyline...
The Bad: ...that ends up going nowhere because the writers bit off far more than they could possibly chew; many characters lack background detail; awkward character designs
The Ugly: The sheer wasted potential is going to infuriate me for, like, a month
What brought me to this series?
I love me some Studio Bones anime, folks. I've made it my personal mission to see every anime they've produced, and so the time has come to cover Scrapped Princess, one of their first big projects, which I couldn't help but notice has fallen through the memory hole of the anime community for reasons I did not yet know. It was time to find out why. I knew basically nothing going in, and I can safely say that there were surprises at every turn with this title. Not all of them good. Some of them extremely exciting. So, was Scrapped Princess worth digging out of the storage closet of history, or should it have continued its existence as a makeshift shelf for other forgotten items? Let's discuss.
What redemptive qualities does this long-forgotten series possess?
As became their trademark in the early 2000s, Bones infuses their anime with very clean, professional animation, and Scrapped Princess is no exception. From the unique iconography of the Mauser faith to the lush, green mountains our heroes traverse through, there are very few moments in the series that don't look great. The shot compositions are well thought-out, the color palette is on-point, the action is quick and heavy...all of early Studio Bones' best qualities are on display here, and it makes for an anime that's nice to look at. Which is always good.
The music and voice acting are perfectly serviceable, nothing outright spectacular (except for the presence of Our Lord and Savior, Crispin Freeman, playing the role of Shannon Casull) but still quite effective, but the opening theme, "Little Wing" by JAM Project, is astonishingly good. Its pipes and acoustic guitar give the listener the feel of wide expansive fantasy highlands and the looming sense of excitement and adventure, all while being a damn good tune that will probably forever be stuck in my head. It might not be in my top 10 anime songs list, but it's certainly not far below that threshold.
But the major draw of the series, and the thing that kept me going all throughout, is the strength of its main cast. The sibling dynamic between Pacifica, Shannon, and Raquel is instantly relatable and pulls you in immediately with their clashing personalities and familial warmth (or comedic lack thereof). We're introduced to Pacifica's struggle--her trying to decide whether she has any place in this world that abhors her and where she can't even defend her own right to exist--in the first minutes, and so getting behind her plight, as well as her siblings' dedication to protecting her, is instantaneous. The fact that they're endlessly likable helps, too, I guess. And as we journey along, we meet other fascinating and multi-layered characters like the naive knight-in-training Leo, a former special forces knight turned investigator Christopher, the introverted inn-maid Winia who has lived a lonesome life, the duplicitous bard Kidaf, the kind-hearted heretic hunter Bergen, and a personal favorite of mine, the uncouth and beastly Giat Empire princess Seness. This is a Grade-A cast that single-handedly elevates Scrapped Princess from...well, we'll get to that.
The last of the good points I can mention is that Scrapped Princess was ambitious. Like, incredibly ambitious. The premise as already stated above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the crazy journey the series' first half goes on, leading up to an incredibly hype sequence in which the series seems to want to transition hardcore from medieval fantasy to space opera, and the truths revealed during this time open up tantalizing possibilities for the show's second half, and I was salivating at the thought of where these sci-fi elements were going to go. Like the last two episodes of Gunbuster, I was starving for the next major set-piece...
...and what makes me want to throw it off a cliff?
And then they screwed it all up. We don't get to go to space until the last episode, and even then it's just low-Earth orbit. That last episode finally shows us some of that sweet, sweet imprisonment mentioned all those episodes ago, but only for a brief moment. Right after we receive the eye-popping revelations about the nature of the world and what the prophecy of the Scrapped Princess really means--y'know, where the anime was about to explode into pure awesomeness--the story slams on the brakes, pulls us back down, and demands we be happy with what we got. Then we get a mind-rotting arc about Pacifica losing her memories and growing attached to some rando for three episodes, and the series concludes with a wet fart not long afterwards. You've gotta be freakin' kidding me. You promised me a sky-high apocalyptic space opera for the ages, but managed to only deliver a lukewarm, half-baked, anticlimactic pseudo-sci-fi bran muffin that someone dropped on the floor of an auto repair shop?! And you expect me to be satisfied with this?! Worst. Second half of a promising anime. Ever.
I could go on an extremely inappropriate expletive-laced diatribe to go along with the above, but that'll probably get me demonetized, so if you ever see me out in the wild, ask me there! :D
On a much less infuriating note, we don't learn very much about the characters' backgrounds. That's pretty annoying. We know that Shannon and Raquel are combat badasses, but we don't know where they learned those skills. We also don't know why the Casulls had to leave their hometown in the first place. Was it raided? Did people begin to talk? Who knows! We hear bits and pieces about the Genesis Wars, but no details, especially not from the average townsfolk's perspective. We know nothing about the knighthood Leo aspires to, we know nothing about Winia's life up to this point other than "sad orphan origin story #24," and Christopher was apparently born with an axe in his hands, I guess? Point is, the show won us over with these characters' personalities and arcs, but never gave us anything about their past other than the barest of bare-bones basic details of where they came from or what their lives were like. Laaaaame.
And then there's the character designs. The art and animation teams did an admirable job trying to make them work, but they don't work. Not only is everyone wearing the goofiest fantasy outfits imaginable, complete with hilarious shoulderpads that were already mercilessly lampooned by Excel Saga 4 years prior, but whoever designed the women specifically has no idea what boobs look like--I can't claim to have much authority in this matter, myself, but I'm fairly certain the female breast does not have the shape nor physics behavior of a 1930s-era zeppelin, and I can be even more certain that clothing will tend to rest on top of them rather than slide unobstructed between them. Also, neck-protecting collars not attached to anything in particular. Also, tight, movement-preventing mantles with no visible buttons. Also, bangs not attached to the head. Whoever came up with these designs just needs to be slapped a few times.
So, what's the verdict?
I can't, in good conscience, recommend Scrapped Princess. Sure, it's not what I'd consider to be a bad anime, but everything spectacular about its narrative comes with crippling weights that drag it back into the depths of mediocrity--excellent characters marred by vague origins, and high-flying, ambitious story elements ruined by shoddy plotting that causes the series to spin its wheels until the engine dies. Up through the first half, I was almost indignant that such a promising anime could be discarded and left to rot in the dustbin of history, but by the time I reached its conclusion, I was mad enough to not only throw it in the dustbin once again, but take a blowtorch to it and burn the frustration away. Scrapped Princess could have been a legend, a monumental juggernaut that rocked the anime landscape for generations, but instead soiled itself at the two-thirds mark and waddled uncomfortably to the finish line with little brown lumps splurting out of its pant legs as it went. Watch only if you absolutely must devour any and all fantasy/Studio Bones anime in existence.
Final Score: 5.5 out of 10. With its ambitious setup and attaching cast, Scrapped Princess could have set the anime community on fire, but severe mishandling of its plot and the subsequent squandering of all its potential drag it down to the murky depths of mediocrity.