Monday, May 4, 2015

Merry Month of Manga Review: MURDER PRINCESS

Well, let's keep things in the 'trying too hard' vein with a mostly forgotten title from a mostly forgotten company.

MURDER PRINCESS (Mada Purinsesu), by Sekihiko Inui.  First published in 2005, and first published in North America in 2007.


Forland is a land in revolt.  After the passing of King Xenos, the mad Professor Akamashi attempts a coup d'état with the help of his android servants Anna and Yuna.  Princess Alita manages to escape the castle in the hope that she can reach her brother, but she falls off a cliff.  Luckily, she manages to land on Falis, the rough, rude, and rowdy leader of a gang of bounty hunters.  Somehow their collision causes the two of them to switch bodies, so Falis has to try to pass as the princess while keeping Akamashi and his forces at bay until she can find a way to switch her and Alita back.


It's kind of a shame that Murder Princess turned out the way it did.  The bodyswapping idea has potential, but it's hamstrung by adding a lot of stupid or pandering stuff that detracts and distracts from it.

As vague and silly as a magical bodyswapping can be, it's not a bad one and it can be used for the sake of good comedy.  It was quite enjoyable watching vulgar Falis try (and often fail) at playing the part of a genteel princess, and Alita adapts with shocking ease to pretending to being a servant.  I suspect that she's mostly glad to not have all this pressure on her shoulders any more, and Falis is more than willing to take on any pretenders to the throne.  While neither could have planned for it, they do make a surprisingly good and functional pair of partners, with Falis's gang of goons serving as support.

Of course, it's easy for them to defend against such goofy villains.  It's not that they are comedic, it's just that they are ridiculous and completely ineffective.  Akamashi barely says a word or lifts a finger, leaving all the hard work to his (*sigh*) twin loli battle androids, who are entirely annoying and completely incompetent.  It's never explained how or why this world still operates around kings in castles and knights in shining armor but also has enough tech to allow for battle androids and ballistics.  I'm guessing that Inui was simply operated on the Rule of Cool.  I also presume that's the same reason Falis can have a gang of shinigami and similar large, hulking creatures - he just threw in every idea he had and kept everything that stuck, whether it made sense or not. 

Murder Princess might have a slightly ridiculous title, but the core concept is solid.  It's just that the rest of the cast and the world around them isn't thought out nearly as well and that the villains are too ridiculous to take the least bit seriously, so everything else kind of falls apart around them.


Thankfully, the art style does make up to a degree for what the story lacks.  The characters are somewhat simple looking and cartoony, but there's plenty of variety of looks and expressions.  Falis-in-Alita's body likes to strike a lot of dashing, dramatic poses, her long hair and flowing dress serving as contrast to her expression of demonic glee as she slashes and hacks into her foes.  The action is drawn cleanly and crisply, with only the barest hint of speed lines used.  While the action scenes are kind of stiff, the poses from panel to panel are strong and dynamic and he uses a lot of low angles for dramatic effect, which helps to counter it.  Really the only thing the art lacks is a sense of setting, as backgrounds tend to be rarely seen and rather sparse even when they are.  Still, the artwork is definitely Murder Princess's saving grace.  It's not the most brilliant manga art you'll find, but it's skillful, simple, and well matched to the story.


No one is going to mistake a manga called Murder Princess for anything meant to be deep or thoughtful, but it's got a decent heroine, a decent set-up, and some nice art, and sometimes that's enough to make the whole thing work well.

This series was published by Broccoli Books.  It is complete in Japan in 2 volumes.  Both volumes were published, and both are currently out of print.

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