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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Anime review: Majestic Prince (DVD)

Review by Harvard L.

There's a certain glee in Majestic Prince which sets it apart from most other offerings in the mecha genre. While esteemed directors have long been mixing the namesake giant robots with politics, philosophy and melodrama, Majestic Prince moves that all to the side and instead focuses on some truly glorious space combat backed with comedy and slice of life elements. It's an odd mix, sure, but give the first episode a watch: if the first battle sequence doesn't have you on the edge of your seat, then not much else will.

The story centres around an interplanetary conflict between humanity and a mysterious alien race known as the Wulgaru. In the distant future, Earth no longer adequately supports the human race and thus humanity has constructed multiple off world colonies. Frequent attacks from the Wulgaru have staunched these efforts, and so the government have established the MJP unit - a military project which trains youth to be mecha pilots to defend against the aliens.

The series follows Team Rabbit, five pilots in training dubbed the "Fail Five" by the rest of the academy. From their very introduction, in which the team squabbles amongst themselves and are met with a barrage of training paintballs, it's clear that Majestic Prince will chronicle the development of the five from novices to experts in combat. In a twist of fate however, Team Rabbit are the first group selected to pilot MJP's new line of mecha in a live mission against the Wulgaru, and despite the team's disrepute the battle is a resounding success with no civilians left behind. An interesting dynamic develops between the relative inexperience of each pilot and the technological prowess of their robot, each of which is attuned to the pilot's personality via DNA sample. Expect to see Team Rabbit both win and lose fights in spectacular fashion.

The one real highlight of Majestic Prince is the eclectic pacing of each space battle. The animators clearly have a love for the mecha genre, carefully designing each robot to look unique while playing a key strategic role in each fight. Majestic Prince is no paragon of hard sci-fi either, as the conflicts in the depths of space are bright and noisy, showcasing an excellent use of CGI which is unobtrusive and stays coherent with the anime's art style.

When the action is not focused on the war effort however, Majestic Prince takes a look at the mundane side of the pilots' lives with slice of life subplots which nicely flesh out each character. The team's leader, Izuru, is a shameless fan of heroism found in manga. His teammates embody quirks as well: Toshikazu, the assault pilot, is a stoic while the boost pilot Tamaki is ditzy and energetic. Mission controller Kei is a quiet, contemplative girl while the Ataru, the gunner, is boisterous and eager to show off his engineering knowledge. The diverse mix of personalities makes the team's initial difficulty in cooperating so much more realistic, and the slice-of-life antics serve as a welcome breather between combat sequences. The subplots also share an interesting humanistic quality as the five reconcile with their role as the defenders of humanity, touching upon everything from social media problems to the development of identity.

Unfortunately, between Team Rabbit's academy training, the Wulgaru backstory and the slice of life elements, Majestic Prince seems to be juggling many plot threads with a worrying lack of focus. There are glimpses that the overall plot will take a more dramatic turn in the next half, although the pacing of the first twelve episodes can feel a bit awkward with some being non-stop action and others being slower character studies. Both styles are fairly well done, but I would hope that in its second half Majestic Prince would develop a strong core plot which unifies the space combat with the characterisation we've gotten from Team Rabbit's many days off.

As for the voicework, the Japanese voice actors all give excellent performances which fit each character nicely. The English dub is not awful, with the main cast being fine, but the side characters have their moments of awkward inflection and delivery. All in all it's a serviceable dub, but most fans will want to stick to the Japanese original. The soundtrack is mostly dramatic, orchestral music which complements the space battles nicely.

Originally released in 2012, Majestic Prince was always a little overshadowed by mecha giants Gartantia on the Verdurous Planet and Valvrave the Liberator. While its story is nothing new, Majestic Prince offers high production values and stunning combat which will surely impress mecha fans who might have missed it the first time round. Rarely is a mecha series so energetic, optimistic and unashamedly fun.

- Harvard L.

This DVD can be purchased through Hanabee in Australia
Anime review: Majestic Prince (DVD)
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