Shikabane Hime (also known as Corpse Princess) — comprised of the two series subtitled Aka and Kuro — is Studio Gainax's latest project to hit the digital airwaves in the Land of the Rising Sun. Shikabane Hime is kind of a departure from previous Gainax series in that it's pretty much a horror show at its core. Gainax has long been king of emotionally brutal anime, and here they try to throw their hat into the ring of physically brutal anime (oh yes, "violence-pr0n" is most definitely an anime genre, just look at Elfen Lied, Blue Gender, and their ilk). Gainax at least knows when to pull in the reigns a bit in order to keep you from rolling your eyes at the overabundance of ruthless sadism — unlike the previously mentioned Elfen Lied — but I'm sure you only came here for and care about one question (or else you'd be rapid-searching for some MET models right now): Is it worth a watch, or is it as bad as He Is My Master or (God forbid) Melody of Oblivion?... Wouldn't you like to know.
Well, I'll get to that, but before I do I just want to talk about the feel of this show, and tell you about that time I pinched girls' butts on the bus when I was in kindergarten and had my older brother take the fall for it. No, that molestation story doesn't have anything to do with this anime series, but it's a damn fine story nonetheless; I just enjoy bringing it up whenever I can. But back to Shikabane Hime. This show is directed by a first time Gainax guy, Masahiko Murata, and scripted for TV by first time Gainax writer Shou Aikawa (the guy who did the screenplays for the incredible Twelve Kingdoms, the fantastic RahXephon, and the fun as hell Nadesico... Unfortunately he's also the same dude who wrote the FMA movie, Conqueror of Shamballa... And if you don't think that last one is a bad thing then you know nothing of gaping plot holes and you have no taste in good storytelling). But I digress.
So these new guys apparently were the breath of fresh air Gainax needed to experiment with something other than yet another FLCL-clone, seeing as this series was both fun from the beginning, and had a palpable sense of dread almost the whole way through. There was very little comedy in the show (only one or two throw away lines from some of the side characters every now and then), and you never knew if the good guys would win or fail, even up till the last few minutes. Do they, you question like a mentally handicapped toddler while watching a dog take a dump on his shoe? I'm not going to fucking tell you! My point is that this show is highly enjoyable, and if I ruined every little plot point (especially the ending) then you'd have no reason to watch it! Jesus Fucking Christ! What the fuck is WRONG with you?! You vote for the third party in the presidential elections don't you... Dipshit.
Anyway, where the fuck was I? Whatever, let's just begin with the plot.
It all starts off with a boy finding a dead hooker in his car trunk... Oh, wait, that was me. Shikabane Hime starts off with a boy (one orphaned high schooler named Kagami Oori) finding a dead girl in a Buddhist temple near his orphanage, and then shortly afterward watching his aniki, Keisei, (called "cult leader" by some of his monk-like followers) bring her back to life... If only I could have done the same before that poor, unsuspecting cop pulled me over and had to nose around. Oh well. Damn that snoopy McSnooperton pig.
Soon Oori gets entangled with this girl (one Hoshimura Makina) and Keisei's business, which is basically attacking and killing other resurrected bodies with weird super powers that refuse to stay dead. These "corpses" come back from the here-after just like the legends behind the creation of ghosts in the Western world: they're people who die with a strong fixation or attachment to something in this existence and don't wish to leave it behind. Usually this desire to stay is over some superficial or hyper-pleasurable shit, and the corpses are almost always completely psychotic because of this unending craving.
It turns out that Oori has some sort of supernatural powers of his own (most obvious of which is the fact that a strange cat that only he can see and hear follows him around and gives him creepy advice all the time), but Keisei doesn't want him getting mixed up in his and Makina's fight because they're only involved in death and destruction. The cat sees things differently though and does its best to coerce Oori into doing strange shit that always ends up meddling in the affairs of the contracted priests of the Kougon Buddhist Sect and their Shikabane Hime. What the hell does that last sentence mean? Sit down, relax... This may take a while.
Okay, Keisei and Makina are members of the Kougon group. The Kougon are a Buddhist sub-sect that is tasked with eliminating bloodthirsty and evil corpses (apparently an epidemic only in Japan) with pairs of warriors known as contracted priests and Shikabane Hime. Shikabane Hime are actually corpses of young girls themselves, but they've been specially and spiritually bonded to their holy contracted priests. These priests give the girls some of their honed power, and also keep them from going flip-out crazy-like and acting on their impulses like regular corpses that solely try and attain that one fixated thing that kept them rooted to our world instead of passing on to Heaven with their death. Each Shikabane Hime needs to kill 108 corpses (again and for good) before her own soul can then be purified from its unholy taint and go on to a peaceful afterlife. But unfortunately the Kougon sect is full of asshole priests and bishops (or whatever the Buddhist equivalent is called) who HATE the idea of these dead girls fighting on their side, and a bunch of them (even some contracted to Shikabane Hime themselves) treat the poor girls with such disdain and spite that you just want to bitch-slap the bald a-holes around for a while till they see just how hot the dead girls are. Questions like "What makes a shikabane different from a regular corpse?" "why are the Shikabane Hime all teenage girls?" and "is it really all that creepy to want to fuck a dead chick?" are asked and answered, making this a really dark (and perverted) show, as most series based around death usually are.
Soon enough we are introduced to a gaggle of evil corpses known as the Shichisei who are uber-powerful and unbound to any earthly fixation or attachment (well, other than the utter destruction of the Kougon), and uber-dickweeds of the highest calibre. And what's scarier still is that they have a plan — a plan that is one-tracked, but so fucking malicious that I applauded it. The Shichisei know what they're doing mostly because they have an ex-contracted priest on their side who has a deep and personal understanding of the ins and outs of the Kougon and their way of handling things. This priest, Akasha, joins the Shichisei because of something that happened to him and his Shikabane Hime that made him flip and kill his companion a long time ago, and so now he's willing to take the entire Kougon organization down in order to teach them all a real good lesson. I was a little worried at first that these "totally evil, badass" villains were going to have just an ordinary and overused scheme to fulfill their dreams, but damn, that was one heinous act they pulled off. Lots of death, dismay, and destruction, and shitloads of cruelty to everybody (living and dead) on the other side.
What's more, and what's special about this show, is that because the Kougon is filled with so many assholes (like any real organization of its size), and a good chunk of the corpses that make up the Shichisei have such horrible and depressing histories themselves (Mr. Balloon-face Man comes immediately to mind... Holy shit!), I almost took the side of the corpses in this war. It was only my love of Keisei, Makina, and a lot of the other peppy and cute Shikabane Hime that kept me from turning over to the dark side myself. The DOARK SIDE! Where they AREN'T CHRISTIANS, and they practice ASTROLOGY!!!!! Oh man, and when I learned the past of the betrayer priest, I almost slit my wrists in depression. This show is really fucking heavy.
So, a good, original story, interesting and 3-dimensional characters on both sides, and lots of beautiful violence (oh yes, violence can be beautiful when done right)... My only real problem with this thing was a weird ending (not a bad one, but a strange one), and the fact that the very last episode used some shitty off-brand animation studio for its production. That's usually when you pull out the big guns and end with a BANG (with the main studio animating the last 25 minutes), not a whimper! The character models were off, the animation was choppy...... On the grand fucking finale. Meh, whatever. It didn't really harm the final product.
The only thing worse than annoying and bratty teenage girls is annoying and bratty teenage ZOMBIE girls. Ye gods! Can you think of anything scarier?! Without needing to take a living breath they'd be able to clog our nation's telecommunications networks with non-stop chatting around the clock! Terrible, awful movies like that glittering homosexual vampire movie would make millions upon millions of dollars due to these foul, evil beasts spending their money on it instead of food or sustenance! And they'd be even hungrier for brains than your typical zombie because they never had any to begin with! They must be stopped! We must nuke Japan again!
I saw this anime. It was durn good. Lots of people getting eaten by zombies, and lots of dead chicks with big guns (both literally and boobilly) running around killing each other over and over again. That either works for you, or it don't. Make up your own damn mind and quit bugging me about it.