r#139 – corpse princess: aka

Hello! I is Fred, the crazy old fart who can’t keep his clothes on in his own blog. I’m going to do an experimental guest blog for #moe404. If it works out maybe there’ll be more. I’m going to talk about Corpse Princess, season one, also known as Shikabane Hime Aka. It was based on a manga written and illustrated by Yoshiichi Akahito in 2005. Gainax decided to make an anime of it which came out in 2008.

Let’s do this.

synopsis – shikabane hime aka.

Ok, so you’re dead. Usually that’s the end of it. Next stop, Heaven or Hell.

Not so in this anime. If you are really obsessed or maybe have heavy duty unresolved issues, you can persist as a shikabane aka. an undead. You look just like you did when you were perfectly happy and nobody will notice. There’s just one tiny problem. It doesn’t take long for this undead creature to become a monster once it is no longer moored to its humanity. Amoral and superpowered. A lot of people can die.

It is a ‘secret’ that only some know about it. The central government knows about it. The institutions who deal with death know about it. Somehow almost the entire population are in the dark about it. Go figure. You’d think that dead people getting up and walking away would tip the public off about the undead —but they are clueless.

Enter the Kōgon Sect. They are an organization of priests dedicated to eliminating shikabane. If a hospital or mortuary or church reports a corpse is walking away, these dedicated men swing into action to protect unsuspecting humanity. They are highly skilled in magical arts but the most important tools at their disposal are shikabane hime they created specifically for the purpose.

A shikabane hime is a regular shikabane that has been restrained before it goes bad. Women of a certain age are the only undead suitable for conversion by a secret ceremony. It looks like the range is from middle school to young adulthood —one loli and a mix of high school and college looking ladies. Of course, they are all beautiful and mostly large breasted. Works out well for the monks who are all guys except for one, a hugely endowed lady monk.

These ladies had a ‘choice’ in the matter. They died normally and came back because they were too obsessed to die. The choice is given to either contract with a monk and stay under control or be put down. They are told they have to kill 108 evil shikabane before they will be allowed to go to heaven.

Some may actually believe this. I’d personally have doubts.

The ladies are quite strong and agile, though not always as strong as those they chase. The pattern is to be almost defeated but then win after a comeback. They are durable but when they are severely damaged they have to be replenished by a specific monk they have a contract with. The monk is the weak link. When he takes damage, she feels it.

Most of the artificial ladies don’t have huge levels of superpower and depend on firearms to re-kill their enemies, even though there is one exception; you have to destroy a shikabane’s brain to defeat it. It isn’t always clear where that brain might be.

This sect has good people in it but the sect as a whole is completely amoral in pursuing their objective. Some priests fall for their girls and others don’t. The official line is to consider them ‘defiled’ and cannon fodder. I don’t like that word but it describes the disgust and disdain some priests have for they themselves created.

The girls are forbidden to kill a human … well except for one girl. Someone has to go after the traitors and heretics. Otherwise only shikabane are fair prey. Oh yeah, there’s a traitor out there creating new shikabane as fast as he can in the hope of destroying the sect. He joins up with a group of intelligent shikabane who have evil intentions towards the world.

This anime is the story of a pair of MAC-10 machine pistols that can be completely hidden in a short schoolgirl’s skirt, have no recoil at all and almost never run out of ammunition. To carry all the ammo one would need to do all that shooting one would need dozens of magazines. I’ve never seen more than two or three. Except for the main shikabane hime we’ve been talking about, there are also a civilian boy, a talking cat, priests, evil shikabane, other shikabane hime, strange magic, lots of other firearms, and bad guys … though they are all upstaged by the machine pistols.

script and its cast.

Our male protagonist is Ouri Kagami. He was a foundling picked up by the monk Keisei Tagami when he was 3 and cared for at the Kōgon Sect ‘s orphanage. The boy couldn’t even eat or dress himself, couldn’t even show no signs of emotion until he made the acquaintance of a cat. When the cat was run over by a car, it brought out his very first tears. Ever since, Ouri has been fascinated by death.

The female lead is Makina Hoshimura. She’s dead … or undead, depending on your terminology. A group of evil shikabane killed her, her family, and everyone who came to help and burned their home down. She is so po’d at the ones who killed her she came back as a shikabane for revenge on them. The monks investigating discovered her and she voluntarily contracted with Keisei as a shikabane hime so she could continue to fight and kill her attackers.

His full name is Keisei Tagami, he is the monk who contracts with Makina. The two have a very close emotional bond. I’d call it love but without the romance part. More like a father-daughter bond. They fight shikabane together.

He is also the big brother and father figure to Ouri Kagami. He likes nothing better than to force sexy figurines and media on the boy. He keeps making up stories and telling the boy not to get involved, trying to keep the undead killing part of his job a secret. Ouri accidentally sees him rejuvenate the dead Makina from severe injuries she has sustained and nothing can keep him away.

Akasha Shishidou is a bad guy. Actually, the one living bad guy. He is called the “traitor monk” because he is doing his damnedest to destroy the sect but we don’t yet have a real clue why. He’s the main face of the organized shikabane, who wasn’t supposed to be able to exist, but is super-duper powered undead known as the Seven Stars. Their logo seems to be the Big Dipper constellation with an extra star in the handle. Season one doesn’t get into too much detail on them though.

There’s also a talking cat that Ouri has been seeing since his original cat died. It is invisible to anyone but him. Others can see it but only if the cat wants them too … and it can walk thru walls. When he asks it what its name is, it just says, “I’m you.” The cat leads him into trouble of a shikabane kind, always saying, “This is what you wanted, isn’t it?”

What we are watching over the first season is a very long setup for the second season. There is lots of action, many shikas are destroyed, but the plot itself is slow. Ouri starts out as a typical orphan with friends at school and a big brother he loves and admires. For some reason, at 16 he is much older than the other orphans. The orphans are cared for primarily by a woman named Rika but you don’t get any backstory on her. She’s usually smiling, never questioning, and almost always has her eyes closed.

Little hints get dropped along the way that Keisei isn’t just an ordinary monk. He comes back from his trips badly damaged and blames it on motorcycle accidents. Nobody has that many accidents and the injuries aren’t consistent with that story.

One night Ouri happens to be in a temple when he spies a beautiful girl name Makina, covered in injuries lying in front of the altar. He rushes to check her condition but she is dead. No pulse, no breath. At that moment Keisei enters with two other monks, so Ouri hides to see what is going on. Big Bro is covered with wounds as well. He picks up the dead girl and affectionately embraces her. Suddenly she is alive.

Makina and Keisei are in love with each other. That much is painfully obvious. It remains a platonic love, very much like a father-daughter relationship. Other monks and their shikabane hime are obviously in love as well. Yet their sect demands the hime be considered ‘defiled’, as in something sacred that has been infected by evil; a holy thing that has been made a vessel for the unholy and is defiled.

Side note: “Defiled” was once also used to describe a woman who had intercourse with anyone she was not married to, by rape or by choice didn’t matter. It is a very old usage associated with the notion that virginity is the greatest possible virtue in an unmarried girl and fidelity in a married woman. All to prevent a male from being cuckolded, in a male-dominated world.

Ouri has further encounters with the girl. Encounters where she ought to be killed. She is surprised he isn’t bothered by her deafness. His interest only deepens despite obvious danger and being warned off repeatedly by Keisei and Makina. Little by little he extracts the truth of what is going on from Keisei. There is a terrible price to be paid for sticking his nose where it wasn’t wanted.

visual and arts.

The animation quality is so-so. Adequate. On the other hand, it is an older anime. It was animated by Gainax and was released in 2008. By some people’s definition, the anime is ancient history. I was looking for detail in backgrounds, exceptional faces, and fluidity of motion, especially action scenes, and I was looking for dramatic lighting and interesting use of color … I didn’t get any more of that than was necessary to tell the story. Not a high budget for the creative end.

There was a fair bit of fan service here. A lot of oppai, sometimes overwhelming and even pendulous. Though, Makina’s are closer to a reality for a well-endowed girl. The lady’s clothes get blown away and shredded into interesting patterns *yawn—

The voices weren’t anything to write home about either. Not bad voices. They told the story and kept me listening. I listen to expressiveness, tonality, and range. Like I said, adequate, not at all objectionable but not great art either. The OP and ED were also perfectly functional but not memorable. I heard them the first time so I skipped past them from then on. Not music I’d want to hear again and again.

closing – fred’s final verdict.

I think I mentioned that this first season looked like a setup for the second season. Introducing the monks, the other hime, the bad guys, prepping Makina and Oura for what comes next. Though it sounds and supposed to be in the horror genre, I didn’t feel it. I ought not to be too hard on them for a well-done horror in anime is both difficult and rare.

Perhaps instead we should call it Monster of the Week. Every fight feels formulaic. Makina always gets beat on and always comes back to kill the monster with a spectacular spray of bullets. For 13 episodes, the only character development happens in the last two to four episodes and a few backstory segments. Oura gains limited knowledge about what is going on but stays unchanged in his level of maturity. Nobody develops or evolves.

This is not the anime for you if you want drama.

Also, why is this just happening in Japan? Do only Japanese corpses have wills? Shouldn’t the whole world be overrun with shikabane? How were they controlled before the shikabane hime ritual was invented? Machine guns seem barely able to do the job today. How did paleolithic peoples fight them?

Makina is using a MAC-10 Machine pistol. It comes in .45 cal, 9mm and 9mm short (.380 cal). I believe she is using 9mm. A low-end rate of fire for this machine pistol is 15 rounds per second. Those are 30 round magazines. Should be empty in 2 seconds. And because of the recoil, it is impossible to hold them on a target for more than 2-3 rounds. Not a matter of strength, it is a matter of body mass. You could clamp it in the hands of a steel frame girl and as long as she was free standing and weighed 120 lbs, the recoil would still knock it way off target.

This is not the anime for you if you want a logical and consistent premise. This is not the anime for you if you want realistic combat.

However, there are important philosophical questions raised from watching this. What does it mean to be human? The Kougon sect seems to think that not staying dead itself disqualifies one from humanity. I, instead, interpret it as having a strong enough will that one refuses to die, a very human condition. The Kougon are so wrapped up in dogma and ritual and leader worship that I think it calls their humanity into question.

The Kougon are Buddhists. No mention is made of a soul simply moving on to the next iteration, being reincarnated. Is it Nirvana or nothing for the hime?

In this anime it is obvious that the hime are as human as anyone who hadn’t died. Their minds think like a human’s. They feel emotional pain like a human. They fall in love despite their subhuman status. They are soft and warm to the touch and laugh and cry. They act like they are alive and want to stay that way. If it looks like a duck, it talks like a duck and walks like a duck..,..

Shikabane hime understand the nature of sacrifice and are willing to die to protect their monk, even if they haven’t got their 108 kills to go to heaven. What part of that is not human? Do great strength, rapid healing and unlimited life span make one subhuman? I thought it made you a superhero. And maybe, just maybe, the free will of the shikabane is far more important than the priests give them credit for.

These philosophical issues are presented by the anime but never discussed, They are just there, hanging over everyone’s heads. Also, this might just be the anime for you if you like big oppai fan service, a little bit of emotional connection with the characters, and wildly violent combat.

It started out slow and picked up towards the end. There was enough there to keep me interested but nowhere near enough for a second viewing. MAL gives it a 7.31 and I give it a 7.

additional pieces of information.

external links: aunatural.org
official site, official site (Gainax), Wiki (en), Wiki (ja), Amazon, Allcinema, Anison, Syoboi, ANN, and MAL

Hei, nesha here, the editor of this blog. Thanks for reading this review, this is Fred’s first time doing a guest blog here on #moe404 and it has been fun working with him. I really like his write-ups, and if you haven’t noticed yet, he’s actually a very productive person and can write a lot. I really hope he would keep writing on #moe404.

Give this post a like if you think this review is useful, also don’t forget to give your opinions about the anime, whether you have watched it or you plan to watch it now after reading this. Also, what do you think about this Fred’s first review? I’m sure he would like to know what you think.

Okay, keep watching anime, and we will see you again soon! Baaiii~

© written by fredheiser

2 responses to “r#139 – corpse princess: aka

  1. I had a much more positive view of this series. In fact, it’s one of my all time favorites. Character and theme can off-set a lot of other considerations, and in this case, I found the plight of the Shikabane to be wildly compelling.

    I’m also a sucker for a series that pits idealism (like Ouri’s) against a supposedly religious leadership’s cynicism. Ouri’s (and Keisei’s) devotion to Makina made the show something personal. I was really pulling for them.

    There was a shot early in the second season where several Shikabane Hime were waiting outside the temple because they were “defiled” and not allowed to enter. Ouri was furious — and I was hooked.

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