Shikabane Hime (Corpse Princess)
Plot: "Ouri is an orphan who was raised by Keisei, a man he considers to be his older brother. One night, Ouri finds a strange wounded girl in the temple of the orphanage. Cold and covered in scars, Ouri initially thinks that she is dead – that is, until a mysterious talking cat tells him that she is a Shikabane – a corpse. After secretly watching Keisei heal the girl without explanation, Ouri decides it's time to leave the nest. However, he has picked a poor time, and he soon realizes that he's tangled in a strange, supernatural web. Why does Ouri continually meet this girl as she hunts monsters? What does Keisei have to do with it all and what exactly is her mission?" (site synopsis)
Story: It’s been a while since I watched and reviewed a horror show and after coming across Shikabane Hime I had to give it a shot. It proved to be entertaining, the first season being merely a prologue for what’s to come (like at war, before invading you make preparations and stuff like that) but the thing that hooked me up regarding Shikabane Hime is not the horror aspect and its dark ambience but it's interesting plot concept and presentation which in my opinion is one of the few shows that could manage to cover and explain in a proper manner a certain story without leaving too many plot holes and with possibilites of twisting the truth as well. Nevertheless the story begins with a small boy in the center of attention, a boy named Kagami Ouri. Being an orphan he has been taken care off by a man called Keisei Tagami whom Ouri conciders him a father, a brother and his best friend at the same time. Keisei Tagami is not your ordinary puritan who picks children from the street just like that. Later he proves to be a Contracted Priest under the order of the Kougon, an order that has been created to overcome and vanquish the power of corpses. The concept of the corpses is pretty vast and complex and it takes time until the whole concept is explained and clarified. The first half of the first season is pretty much covered in mystery, the Kougon organization more or less had two objectives, not only that they were something like a military organization but you can also call it a religious one as well (which reminds me, this is a reference to the medieval knight orders, the knight orders were organizations that acted in both perspectives, religious and military issues, conquering non-christian lands and then convert the population, well here the theme is a little bit modified since we don’t speak about converting). I can still remember a line that came out of Keisei’s mouth during this season which I found it very interesting even though I am not a Christian (by choice) “The priests are not here to mourn the dead but to support the ones that are still living” making a reference to the Shikabane Hime that they are contracted with, trying to create a reason so that they can explain why a Contracted Priest should not be attracted to a Shikabane Hime. Shikabane Hime’s are former humans that died once but because of a wish or a regret or any other reason why they could not accept death, they were revived as corpses so that they can seek the accomplishment of that issue. In order for them to not lose their own humanity along with their mentally state, they need to make a contract with a priest, It’s the case of Shikabane Hime, Hoshimura Makina, whom lost her family in a mysterious accident caused by an notorious group of corpses called the Shichisei. Hoshimura Makina while she was still alive had a certain attachment to Keisei (also nicknamed Shikei), since he has been raised by her own family and became a family member. In order to make a contract with a priest, both the priest and the corpse need to have an attachment so that the bond cannot be broken that easily. Keisei did not accept her request from his own interest but he rather wished for her to fullfil her desire to find and eliminate the ones that murdered her family. Shikei knew in what he got involved since the Shichisei is not a name that can be taken lightly, but because of the bond he has with Makina, he placed her needs in front of his own. It is not long until Ouri gets caught in these strange events since he gets acquainted with Makina. When he was young he actually witnessed the ceremony when Keisei became Makina’s Contracted Priest and from this event he decided that when he reaches 16 he will live on his own. After a while during some incursions made by Makina in her hunt for corpses, she gets to know Ouri mainly because wherever there is trouble somehow he gets involved unwillingly (its like being at the right time in the wrong place). The first season proved to be a nice experience as the author explained flawlessly the concept of this show, developed the characters and preparing Ouri for the events that will soon take place in the second season. The Kougon, is actually a pretty vast and organized group, that acts in complete anonymity and always covering up the battles that they are withstanding with mundane events. The cruel part of this show is once again the bond between the Contracted Priest and the Shikabane Hime, because if the Shikabane Hime dies in battle there is no harm but if the Priest dies then the bond is severed and the Shikabane Hime becomes a normal corpse which has the be disposed or make another contract with another priest. The pacing of this show is rather episodic and not in a continuous manner. Nevertheless, if there is a reason, why you should watch this show, then the story will really not disappoint because out of all the main aspects this one I think has the least flaws.
Animation and Sound: Concidering that we are speaking of a show produced in the late 2008, we speak about nice visuals, nice movements, nice quality, good directing and decent character design nonethless. Since this anime has a rather episodic aspect and the main focus of the show is the battle against corpses I can add a “monster of the week” tag for this show. The design of the corpses in their true form is rather various but not badly executed as well. The sceneries are also pretty beautiful but while watching this show you can only feel it’s dark ambience. Be it the nature of the characters or the way the animation is portrayed or the plot of this show, you breath and see only a dark ambience as if this show is preparing for a big performance. The sound is also very convincing and very well chosen, viewed from the eyes of a horror fan. Both the opening soundtrack and the ending soundtrack, have cool sequences and fits with the dark ambience depicted in this show. The background sounds and as well the voice acting are pretty good as well, the anime show featuring some popular names like Keiji Fujiwara (voicing Keisei), Aoi Yuuki (a recent prodigy, which voiced in mostly new shows 2008-2010 period and having mostly main-secondary roles, voicing Akira Touoka) and Yui Horie.
Characters: Character wise, this show was pretty decent as well. While characters with a personality like Ouri are despised by shounen fans, that only know about overpowered characters, I myself understood his nature and as well his role in this show. I mentioned previously that this season is nothing more than an initiation of the main character for what’s about to come. The first season presents him and the ones around him and reveals the secret behind Keisei’s actions and Makina’s true identity and her objectives. Ouri quickly becomes targeted by the Kougon organization since they are not allowing outsiders to be aware of the secret behind the Shikabane Hime and also the existence of the organization. Makina on the other hand lives solely for one purpose, to take revenge on the Shichisei, the ones that slaughtered her family and to do that she partnered with Keisei. The connection they had was not that simple, since Keisei and Makina are more than it meet the eye, they developed special feelings for eachother but because of the relationship that they have, they were forced to cast them aside and prioritize their main objectives above anything else. Most of the Shikabane Himes and their Priests strieve to go to heaven by killing 108 corpses, however Makina does not. Keisei is the comedy element of this show. Despite its serious allurance he is actually the typical perverted-otaku type and loves to make fun of Ouri by placing naked girl figurines, posters or magazines into his apartment. Even though Keisei has such a carefree side, he is a very considerate in issues regarding Makina and Ouri. This show has a pretty big cast for a mere 13 episode anime and a second season but surprisingly, most of them are very well covered up in such a short length show considering that most long term show still leave a lot of plot/character holes.
Overall: Shikabane Hime Is something that should not be overlooked. Despite the fact that its not finished (the manga is still ongoing) it is still a show that worths watching dew to its concept and the way the story is presented. I am not going to say that the plot is unique because it is not, but the way it is presented makes it stand as an original work and not another cheap copy of a certain show (clearly, I don’t think that I mentioned any references to other shows in this review). The episodic plot of this show might make several people stay away from it (I do have to admit that this show is pretty hard to marathon) but the twists of this show and the action sequences worths following. Shikabane Hime is one of those shows that becomes interesting near the ending, so I highly recommend that if you started it then you should keep up with it until the end since it does not disappoint.
~Enjoy and Cya Around~