This is a tv-special which tries to show too much, in too little time. It also has some really heavy themes but otherwise it’s supposed to be family material. So it ain’t hard to figure out how it was not successful at what it set out to do.
The premise is somewhat interesting; it is about the new emperor of an empire that “looks” like ancient China, looking for a proper wife and for that reason candidates poor from all over the land, training in the castle in order for the most appropriate to get the position. The funny thing here is that ANY WOMAN can participate, regardless of class, something of which never really happened in China… or in any other nation for the same manner… Heck, not even in fairy tales. The premise is still interesting though.
So the heroine of the movie is Ginga, an energetic peasant girl who dreams of an easy life. Her manners are rude but otherwise manages to stand out in the crowd and even makes the emperor (who looks like a girl) to take notice of her for speaking her mind instead of just trying to impress him with good manners. This is again an interesting topic, as it shows how sincerity and boldness are sometimes more important than etiquette and ass-kissing. Other than that, we just have to accept they would allow a woman in ancient times to be so rude to royalty without being executed on the spot. Heck, women weren’t even allowed to speak in most ancient kingdoms. But anyways, it is a story for kids and parents, so it’s not like you need to expect historical accuracy. I guess they wanted to make a point about gender roles, since even the emperor is very feminine and hardly acts as he should.
A side story also regards the campaign of a pair of bandits, who after making a joke about becoming rich and powerful, literally proceed to gather around their own army and see how far they can go. A rebellion is formed out of anyone who wants to take down the unjust emperor. This is again interesting to see how it all started as a joke and escalated to something beyond their own reach. It’s not like we see exactly how they are being so successful in their campaign; they just win out of screen and reach outside the imperial palace just like that. And in a similar way there was a coup of sorts forming in the palace to usurp the throne but they barely deal with it before it is all over.
As interesting as the above themes are, the story barely lasts enough to fully make use of them. Everything moves very fast and even has weird mood swings from comedy to serious drama. This is what eventually ruins all the mood, as you are constantly bombarded with different themes and emotions that hardly last enough for you to care about. Not even the ending is doing a good job to wrap everything up properly, as they rush through the events, the tv-special ends, and then a narration tells you of things that happened later on. That was simply lame.
The production values are ok for the little tale they made here. It kinda feels like Ghibli in the simplicity of the faces (actually the character designer was from Ghibli) but it hardly has their high budget to offer variety to colours and exceptionally smooth animation. The soundtrack is quite unremarkable and I can even say it hardly fits the mood of the story or that each tune was not always properly following what was going on with the plot. Voice acting… well, nothing much.
So in all, it’s as if the makers of this weren’t trying much to create something great. They went too light and humorous and then just switched to drama for the lulz. You hardly get to appreciate Ginga’s escapades in the castle, since they last too little and the rebellion leaders are acting like they are going on a picnic instead of trying to accomplish a lot. Nobody besides the heroine is fleshed out properly and there was enough material to fill a full-season series here. They even have a sex scene of sorts towards the end but everything happens out of screen and you are just wondering WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? It will disappoint most viewers since it hardly makes use of its own setting.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (well-made)
Character Figures 1/2 (average)
Backgrounds 2/2 (well-made)
Animation 2/2 (good)
Visual Effects 1/2 (typical)
SOUND SECTION: 4/10
Voice Acting 1/3 (simple)
Music Themes 1/4 (typical and out of sync with the story)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (rushed and with sudden mood swings)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (a narration to fill in the blanks is lame)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (average)
Personality 2/2 (simple but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (simplistic but it’s there)
Development 2/2 (only for Ginga but there is a lot for her)
Catharsis 0/2 (stupid ending ruins everything)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 1/3 (a bit famous for looking like a Ghibli film)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of the messy pacing)
Memorability 2/4 (good setting but hardly looked into)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
It barely makes use of its setting and the pacing is messy.