Genre: Dark Fantasy/Action
Year Released: 1996-1998
Distributor: Anime Works
Running Time: OVA, 6 Episodes, 30 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Fate/Stay Night, Night Warriors: Darkstalker’s Revenge, Madoka Magica, Buso Renkin, Shadowhunters, X TV
-Shamanic Princess has an atypical continuity. Episodes 5 and 6 are actually a prequel to the events in the first 4 episodes.
-This review reflects the original DVD by Central Park Media and the Japanese language track was used during the review process.
-This is an original screenplay by Mitsuru Hongo who directed Outlaw Star and World Trigger.
-There has been some confusion on whether this is a CLAMP-related series. That’s not the case. The character designs were done by Atsuko Ishida who animated the TV adaptation of Magic Knight Rayearth, but that’s where the connection ends.
Yes, this is a short OVA that involves a majority female cast with magical powers. If you think this is anything like Sailor Moon or PreCure, then you’re watching the wrong anime.
I see Shamanic Princess as a dark fantasy anime that just happens to use some magical girl tropes, but doesn’t rely on that sub-genre at large. Sure, there are some transformation scenes and the main character has a talking animal sidekick, but the similarities are skin deep.
Shamanic Princess deals with the main character Tiara and her ferret partner Japolo being transported from the Guardian World to Earth on a mission to retrieve the Throne of Yord which is a major energy source with some deity-like undertones (it makes sense in context) to the Guardian World. Opposing her are rival magician Lena, her loyal partner Leon, and the thief who stole the Throne of Yord known as Kagetsu. Not to mention Tiara and Lena are undercover as college students and are in the same class.
I will say that I partially expected this to be some typical fantasy/action/adventure at first, I will say that I was proven wrong. While there are plenty of impressive fight scenes to go around, there is way more depth and characterization than most anime or even live action series in this genre. The characterization is way more complex than that with the different relationships between the characters. Tiara is a brash woman who is way too headstrong and can even be arrogant at times. Sure, she’s very brave and can easily kick butt, but she doesn’t win all the time and gets called out on her flaws by Japolo and Lena. Speaking of Lena, I actually liked her character the most. She could have easily been this typical rival magical girl villainess, but she’s quite sympathetic and relatable. Lena is jealous of Tiara despite being adored by her classmates on Earth where she’s class president. She also dealt with (minor spoiler warning ahead) being considered an outcast back in the Guardian World and wanted to prove that she’s competent. Even Kagetsu, the man responsible for stealing the Throne of Yord has a very defensible reason for doing so and no one can fault him for it despite doing something dubious. I also liked how he’s not portrayed as some stereotypical villain or even a villain at all. The relationship between Tiara and Japolo is far from the typical one. They constantly argue and Tiara even belittles Japolo, but they surprisingly care for each other especially later on in the major story arc in the first few episodes. Come to think of it, Tiara and Japolo are kind of interesting in the Japanese version since both of them were played by Outlaw Star cast members with the former being played by Twilight Suzuka’s voice actress (Sayuri) while the latter is played by Jim Hawking’s voice actress (Rika Matsumoto). Also, I find the Tiara and Japolo partnership to be somewhat funny since this wouldn’t be the last time a mage had a ferret familiar with her. (cough**Lyrical Nanoha**cough).
The animation has aged very nicely. Things are hand drawn, the fight scenes look fantastic, and the artwork by Atsuko Ishida is quite good and much better than her previous work in Magic Knight Rayearth. The only quip about the animation is the obviously dated CGI tree that shows up in the opening theme song. Everything else looks good though.
Speaking of the music, it also stands out. The background music mixes some orchestral pieces, Eastern European melodies, and some quiet numbers for the softer scenes. I wasn’t a big fan of the opening theme “Inori no Asa (Morning of Prayer)” since it did fit more in a typical magical girl show, but I liked the first ending theme “Omoide no Mori (Forest of Memories)” how it was a guitar driven indie pop song with some brief spoken word interludes in the beginning. The real standout song for me was “Kaze no Matsuri (Festival of Wind)” by Mongolian singer Wuyontana. I like the slow build up before it has a tribal feel where it mixes some Asian and Native American rhythms and melodies. It’s featured not just in episode 5’s ending, but it becomes inserted in the middle of episode 6 where the characters in the Guardian World have the annual Festival of Wind which was a nice touch.
The plotting has some ups and downs. The plot twists with the Throne of Yord and the character development with the main characters are well done, but the chronological order will confuse unsuspecting viewers. As mentioned in my notes above, this does not have a linear continuity. In theory, you can start with episode 5, then 6, then episodes 1-4, but that would be too much work if you have the DVD. If one watches it from beginning to end, then episode 5 could come as a shock even though it explains some things leading up to episode 1. The college subplot went nowhere with the other students. I get that Tiara and Lena needed to be undercover on Earth, but that storyline could have been nixed or at the very least expanded on if there was any point with the other students. There are some plot holes with why the elders in the Guardian World needed the Throne of Yord despite all the crazy things that it can do.
Shamanic Princess is worth your time. Though it’s not as intentionally deconstructive as Madoka Magica or as zany as Kill La Kill, it still tells a solid story. The animation, characterization, and artwork still work despite being over 20 years old. Fans of some darker edged anime should check this out. It’s only 6 episodes, so Shamanic Princess is a short investment in watching it and the whole thing is on one DVD, too.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like dark fantasy elements
Subtract 2-3 points if you must have everything with a clear beginning and end
-Quality hand-drawn animation
-Great plot twists and character development
-Impressive score and ending themes
-Some unresolved plot holes
-Continuity may throw some people for a loop
-Mediocre opening theme
Final Score: 8/10 points
Content Warnings: Definitely teens and up. It may look like some typical shojo fantasy series, but it gets hardcore at times. The violence gets intense with people bleeding, getting choked out, and there is some body horror involving Graham who shows up in the last two episodes. One character even cries bloody tears in one of the fight scenes. The magic used can be a bit too occult-like for some, so don’t expect anything like Harry Potter here. There is some fan service especially with Tiara who has a skimpy skin-tight outfit and that’s not even going into her empowered form. Some scenes have brief nudity like the theme song credits where they are mostly covered, but there is frontal nudity with a character in episode 5.
Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Shamanic Princess is property of Anime Works. The DVD cover is from Right Stuf and is property of Anime Works.