With a name like Murder Princess, one might expect this title to be a moody, dark violence-ridden experience. However, and much to my delight, the title is a bit misleading. Based on a manga by Sekihiko Inui, the material was transformed into a six episode OVA series by Marvelous Entertainment. The big news here is that Funimation has acquired the rights to the full domestic DVD release.
The set, which consists of all six- OVA episodes, comes packaged as a single disc within a standard-sized DVD case. Total runtime comes in at 150 minutes and language options are nice and thorough as well: English language recorded in Dolby Surround 5.1 and stereo Japanese vocals (with English subtitles is so desired). Extras are pretty solid as well and included a commentary track with the English voice actors over episode 6, textless songs, and Funimation trailers.
The story goes something like this: The kingdom of Forland is under attack by one Doctor Akamashi and his horde of baddies including an adorable but nasty pair of androids Anna and Yuna.
The story opens with the death of the king and his son (Prince Kite) away on a diplomatic mission. As such the throne falls to the younger Princess Alita, who is anything but ready for the weight suddenly placed upon her shoulders.
In the process of fleeing the castle in disguise, the new queen smashes into a rough and tumble female bounty hunter named Falis. As the pair tumbles toward their inevitable doom, they swap bodies. Now the real princess, in the bounty hunter's body, assumes the role of a handmaiden to her body, which is now occupied by Falis until a means of undoing the transfer can be found.
As far as rough around the edges princesses are concerned, Falis proves capable of using her bounty hunter skills and blades to whip many seemingly overpowering threats to the kingdom while the real princess remains in the shadows as a mere servant.
Sure body swaps are nothing new in the realm of entertainment and the fantasy setting has been done to death but somehow the formula works here. As stated above, the name Murder Princess is derived from the fact that the always meek and mild princess returns to the throne a brash and skilled killer and her reputation as such quickly spreads.
The character models are very reminiscent of those made famous in fantasy/ technological video games like the Final Fantasy series: Think monsters the size of buildings, towering knights with ridiculously oversized swords, and robotic humanoids who ride choppers. Fortunately, the use of technology within the fantasy setting is explained quite believably here, as the timeframe is in fact the future of mankind once technology has utterly destroyed society. In effort to rebuild from the shambles, humanity has, in a sense, started over despite the fact that bits and pieces of tech (like cyborgs, missiles, and machine guns) have found their way into the new-old renaissance.
Pacing is spectacularly swift which I suppose is to be expected in a six-episode series. Visuals are crisp and clean and the dub work is perfect. My only complaint is twofold: First, the material is intriguing enough to warrant a continuation of the plot (at least 13 episodes would have been nice) and second (spoiler warning) I'm not sure if the fact that the two lead characters never end up swapping back to their original bodies fits in with the "fairy tale ending" shows like this thrive on.
The TV 14 rating is very conservative as well. The violence is limited to the hacking and slashing of monsters and mythological bad guys and there is no nudity to speak of. Language is limited to the typical non-offensive cussing.
In all, critics seem to come down pretty hard on Murder Princess, faulting it for relying upon body-swapping gimmicks and a cliché setting to make up for a lack of depth but judging it accordingly misses the point. This is a fun-filled fantasy romp with a solid cast of characters and some interesting explanations for the merging of technology and mythology. This is good clean fun that could have succeeded for seasons to come.