Scrapped Princess Vol. 1
In its first volume, Scrapped Princess isn't sure what it wants to be. Like a high-schooler trying to decide whether to become a stand-up comic, a rocket scientist, or a television producer, Scrapped Princess tries on a few different hats. Thankfully, by analogy, it's one of those talented teenagers who could really do almost anything once the course is set. With cute designs, enjoyable characters, and a bit of goofiness, the show starts out as a light (if inconsequential) romp in a non-descript fantasy world. But midway through the third episode, the tone changes, things get a lot darker, and all of a sudden it becomes a program that might become truly interesting given the whole of its 24-episode run.
Pacifica is the Scrapped Princess. Long ago, Saint Grendel made a prophecy that the Scrapped Princess should be destroyed at all costs, for if she reached her sixteenth birthday, the world would see utter destruction. It's hard to live with that kind of weight on your head, but the blond fifteen-year-old beauty manages just fine with the help of her adopted brother and sister, Shannon and Raquel. They are on the road constantly, trying to keep at least a step ahead of those who would kill Pacifica to appease the great god Mauser. Betrayed by family and trusting no one but themselves, the threesome has made a pretty good run, but how long they can keep Pacifica under wraps is a big question. Along the way, they pick up a lunk of a knight, Leo, who falls head over in love with the princess; they also are continually trailed by Chris, a soldier of Mauser who is determined to rid the world of her...unless his conscience gets in the way. But even Chris does not realize just how far his superiors will go to stop the prophecy, even if it means taking out half the population of their own world in the process. And if that's not enough, there's a magical world lurking on the borders that enters in just enough to let us know that they may be other forces watching...
While Scrapped Princess was still made on a television budget, it skips a number of the common cost-cutting tactics seen on modern shows. The result is quite pleasant to watch. The characters are right on that realism border...any more cute, sweet, and beautiful and they'd be unrealistic. But somehow the show seems to manage that line just fine. The music is OK, but nothing I'd buy a soundtrack too. The only area that suffers is a lack of strong detail in the artwork, but that's forgiveable.
Scrapped Princess really shouldn't be quite as fun and enjoyable as it is. The world they live in, while definitely falling in the fantasy realm (note the giant dragon-frog in the second episode), is not at all rich or unique in comparison to, say, Lodoss or Cephiro. There is no backstory on Mauser or Saint Grendel; we really just see modern events without any sense of history. Meanwhile, the characters aren't unique; Pacifica is the slightly spoiled if effervescent girl, Shannon is the silent grumpy brother, Raquel is the reserved but trustworthy beauty, and Leo is comic relief. They're entertaining yet predictable, and most (not all) of the scenarios they find themselves in are predictable as well. There are a number of bathing and swimming scenes in this disc, too. There is no nudity, so my beef was not with a great deal of fan service; it's more that after three of these scenes in four episodes, the show got repetitious.
In despite of itself, then, the first volume of Scrapped Princess manages to be free-spirited fun that becomes more meaningful once it gets down to business. Once the characters are established, we care more about what happens to them, and by the end of the fourth episode, the stakes have been raised. While nobody goes through a complete reversal, we do begin to see the players as more than just ciphers. Halfway through, I thought, "I don't really care if I see the next disc." By the end, I had placed the next disc in my queues at Peerflix and Netflix. Beyond the character interaction, there is enough action and swordplay to keep the attention deficit among us entertained. Also, while it's not a funny show per se, the comedic bits do work without extending into parody or deformed characters. (For example, there's a bit with some bandits at the beginning of the second episode that makes me smile right now as I type.) And if it continues on the more serious bent it found in the second half of the opening disc, I'm there.
I had heard a lot of good things about Scrapped Princess when I started watching this show, and perhaps I was a bit disappointed when it seemed pretty ordinary at the start. But then it started moving and my countenance lightened considerably. My suggestion, then, is to watch the first four episodes together as one complete collection without a break in-between. I get comments from some readers about shows they love that I've panned that I haven't given them enough time. In the case of Scrapped Princess, while it starts off a bit shaky, by the end of the first volume there's reason for hope.
Scrapped Princess Vol. 1 -- violence, suggestive clothing and situations (but no actual nudity) -- B+