Saturday, 30 April 2011

プリンセス・プリンセス/ Purinsesu・Purinsesu / Princess Princess

How much of this can you swallow? While you’d be forgiven in the context of this pervy anime for thinking that question was a nasty bit of innuendo, in fact I really am talking about the premise. Alright, so here we go: -

In an elite boarding school for high school boys, a novel solution has been put forward to solve the problem of what to do about all those hormones flying about in an environment with no girls. They take two or three of the prettiest boys in the year, dress them up as girls and call them ‘princesses’. While as the disastrous debacle of the live action adaptation illustrated, this could never work in real life, since these are anime boys, they can pull it off convincingly. We follow a new boy as he joins the school and is selected as the third princess of his year. To convince the boys, who are of course rather unwilling to be dressed as girls, they are given special privileges. If they still resist, the student council resorts to blackmail. So to enjoy this anime, you must accept the following things: that boys in a boarding school will go wild for other boys dressed as girls, yet never actually, y’know, sexually assault them; that no-one will think of it as homosexuality, because all boys are fundamentally straight – unless it’s a deep dark secret to be hinted at obliquely, because that’s the most fun way; that anyone pretty will be lit with soft light and framed in roses, and that their beauty will bowl away anyone in the vicinity; that sports teams will improve purely because pretty girls are cheering them; that deep down, all boys WANT to be dressing up as girls with their friends; and finally, that blackmail, coercion and ritual humiliation are both funny and cute. Yup, the writers know their audience well. A whole lot of yaoi fans, mostly women between 15 and 45, absolutely lapped this series up.

I could give it a certain leeway because it’s a comedy show. It’s not supposed to be realistic, or serious, or anything but a way to get girls hot under the collar and/or cover. So what if the premise is daft, as long as the show’s funny? Indeed, the episode that worked least well was the one where an outsider came to the school and was shocked and alarmed at the system, only to find out that the system conferred privileges long after leaving the school, so let his objections drop; it was much better when everyone just swallowed the system hook, line and sinker, because if people actually doubted it could work, the fact that it really, really couldn’t was brought back and broke the spell of suspended disbelief.

But the real problem with the show is that it just isn’t funny. Oh look, someone has a huge over-reaction. Now this boy is being teased by the others, who are threatening to reveal his secret to the uninitiated. Now some stock thugs are being scared away by the handsome henchman character with super-strength. Various extremely artificial dramas are resolved in extremely artificial ways, and not one line of the writing is original, clever or well-done. Princess Princess actually made me yearn for Ouran High School Host Club, which had very similar faults but was at least funny.

I contemplated abandoning Puri-Puri (as it is often abbreviated by fans) after the second episode, but watched the rest as something light and inoffensive. In fact, I really should have gone with my gut instinct. Nothing here hasn’t been done a hundred times before, a hundred times better. The art is nice but bland. The animation is cheap and functional. The voice acting is above-par, but since I’m currently re-watching Gankutsuou, hearing the seiyuu who played Albert having to deliver such lame dialogue is a bit painful.

And the tallest princess, voiced by Paku Romi, didn’t even look like a girl except when his hair was up in pigtails.

(originally written 2.12.06)

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