Not as evolved as it should be – Anime Critique: Majestic Prince

Title: Ginga Kikotai Majesutikku Purinsu (Majestic Prince, Galatic Armoured Fleet Majestic Prince, Majesutikku Purinsu)
Format: Anime
Genre: sci-fi, mecha, shounen, space opera, super sentai hero team
Series Creator: written by Ayamine Rando, illustrated by Niijima Hikaru
Series Director: Motonaga Keitaro
Studio: Dogakobo, Orange (licenced by Sentai Filmworks)
Series length: 24 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 4 – September 19 2013
Reviewed format: high-def TV rips with Commie fansubs

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Synopsis:

In the year 2110, humanity has expanded its frontier into space in its drive for new resources. Advances in genetic engineering research led to the establishment of the “MJP Project”, which saw the creation of genetically enhanced humans known as the “evolved children”, developed with the intention of allowing humans to adapt to the new frontier. However when Earth finds itself under threat by an extremely advanced but numerically inferior alien race called the Wulgaru, human forces decide to have the evolved children deployed as soldiers to fight on the front lines.

Team Rabbits, a quintet of evolved children whose troubling lack of teamwork and common sense prevents them from reaching their true potential, are selected as test pilots of cutting edge mobile battle suits called AHSMB (Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Device), powered by the “JULIA system”, a cutting edge technology whose effectiveness in combat is increased according to the survival instincts of whoever uses it. As they join forces to overcome their personal weaknesses and achieve their true potential, the members of Team Rabbits eventually assume a key role in mankind’s effort to thwart the alien invasion of Earth


 

Review:

Ginga Kikotai Majesutikku Purinsu (aka Majestic Prince) was one of two new Space Opera Mecha series that began in the first half of 2013, debuting a week before Valvrave the Liberator. The latter series actually being superior yet similar in so many, some of which shall be addressed later in this review.

As described within the synopsis above Majestic Prince is about, like so many other Mecha anime series, teenagers, already struggling to find their own personal identity & place within the world/universe, being forced to fight menace that is both technologically & biologically beyond their comprehensions. There is no arguing that this is a familiar trope to anime over the past 30 or so years, basically beginning in popular consciousness with the original Mobile Suit Gundam series (0079), to which all other space Mecha series will inevitably be compared (at least in the Western consumer mind).
So, let us get this out of the way first: is Majestic Prince in any way reminiscent of any of the Gundam franchise beyond the giant mecha suits?
In a word: no.
Although all Mecha series has some hark back to Gundam in one way or another, this at least strives to be a touch different in its designs & characterisation. If anything, it is designed to be more of a call to the Super Sentai genre (Power Rangers in Western terms), with a team dynamic yet with characters who are, at first, anathema to working as a cohesive unit.

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Like many other Mecha of recent years, it puts the characters first & their respective machines secondary, more extensions of their bodies & personalities than cold machines. That is the major conceit of the series, that these genetically created children work with what is known as the JULIA System, which is designed to enhance their fight-or-flight instincts so they can pilot their mechas -referred to in series as AHSMB. The AHSMB themselves have some interesting & varied designs for each pilot, each of whom has their respective functions in combat, from logistics (Kei) to sniping (Suruga) to close combat (Izuru & Asagi) to high speed tactics (Tamaki). Their designs are, overall, very unique, especially Kei’s Purple 2 which is only semi humanoid, Tamaki’s bulky yet swift Rose 3 & Suruga’s Gold 4, which is an interesting take on the weapons platform design. Red 5 & Blue 1, both being close/medium range units fit the typical mecha humanoid designs. Especially with Red 5 being the typical ‘hero’ unit, with the potential to transform/awaken into a more efficient state.

The trouble with placing the emphasis on distinguishing the 5 main protagonist with their mecha, their actual characters tend to fall more to trope & cliche, even if it seems that they were originally to be cheeky satires upon them.

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The five central characters -Izuru, Asagi, Kei, Tamaki & Suruga- form Team Rabbits but are more commonly referred to as “the Failure Five” because of their low test scores & inability to work together under any circumstances. Their designs & personalities are all meant to be set against each other but, unfortunately, it does mean that their characterisation falls largely to cliche without much actually development.
Suruga is a military geek who is obsessed with hitting on women but messes it up when he gets carried away going on about military hardware, especially weapons.
Tamaki is the hypersexualised (read extra busty) boy-crazy airhead who thinks only of her stomach.
Kei is her opposite, being calm & cold but really shy & finds it hard to express herself, as well as being a terrible cook.
Asagi wants to be team leader but suffers from constant stage fright, giving him ulcers & rendering him useless in stressful situations.
While Izuru is the happy-go-lucky central protagonist who has dreams of becoming a Sentai style hero, like the one in the manga he’s always drawing yet totally lacks the talent at anything artistic.
Whilst interesting at first, they never seem to develop as characters much beyond their combat capabilities & turning from useless into a well working elite military force. All despite their hesitations & questioning their place in the world as humans genetically developed solely for combat.

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The Failure Five are surrounded by an extensive cast of supporting characters but they too fall too readily to trope. From the mysterious alien princess to the cold commander to the cynical yet caring female captain & her chief mechanic -who is rendered entirely in extreme cleavage- & all the mechanics that support each unit & pilot. Lots of potential in chances for conflict & development but most of it sadly wasted.
Even the introduction of the androgynous pilot of Black 6, Ange, suffers from wasted potential as they (Ange’s gender is never disclosed & the team can never decided on what it is) quickly shows a split personality begin humble quiet personal life to a raging berserker as soon as they step into their AHSMB.
Even the offsider senpai in Team Doberman are all cliched in being the brash sex obsessed leader, the calculating 2nd in command who is tired of his team mates antics & who tries to get them to focus to the young shota trying to gain the approval of the other pilots & win the love of Tamaki, who ignores him because he’s so small.

They do make some attempts to flesh out the enemy, the Wulgaru, but their characters & motivations become muddled & confused. With each having their own unexplained agenda & desires but never given the time to develop, Indeed, some of them are killed with little fanfare & one even by his own superior for confusing reasons that got lost in some subplot about political intrigue within the Wulgaru hierarchy. The enemy are portrayed as selfish creatures who only live for their own desires & to hunt genetically compatible creatures so they can extend their lifespans.

This leads into my biggest & constant critique of the anime & of the sci-fi genre as a whole: That humans are portrayed as special & that the Japanese are more special for the simple grace that they are Japanese.

Now, this is a great commonality within any sci-fi produced by any nation. That they (the nation that creates the media) are the centre of the universe & are somehow endowed with an almost divine grace whilst the other races display their worst stereotypes.

Within Majestic Prince it’s the power bases of China & Russia being cowardly & self interested, not willing to commit to the war raging in the solar system because they want to position themselves better once everything’s won or so they can surrender to the invaders with the least amount of losses. This plays to the worst aspects of Japanese media culture, that they are the saviour as well as the victim, & that their neighbouring nations are somehow subhuman because they lack the strength of spirit or character that they, the Japanese (or any other producer of media) possesses.

Speaking of endowment, that leads to my other major issue with the series & that is the level of fan-service involved. Almost all the female characters are sexualised in some way, especially Tamaki who is also viewed within her cockpit in a position that shows off her breasts & arse. Many of the female characters are portrayed as being extremely busty or highly sexualised in other ways & those female characters who aren’t are often shown as having an inadequacy over their bodies -such as how Kei views herself with her all female pitcrew. Valrave the Liberator also suffered massively with issues of playing too much to hyper-sexualisation & fanservice but where as that series seemed aimed more for an older teenage/young adult audience, Majestic Prince looked to be aimed squarely at the typical Shounen audience & thus plays to those aspects, even though it seemingly wants to satirise them.

It may seem as though that I’m am spending my time bagging the series out but it has the problem that so many manga adaptation have in that you do not have the same time to develop characters & ideas on the screen as you do on the page. Overall, I found Majestic Prince an enjoyable series -otherwise I wouldn’t have watched all 24 episodes- but it exists to me as only a piece of popcorn-like fluff. To be consumed & then basically forgotten about. Fun at the time but not something you’ll probably find yourself thinking back on years later. That is to say that it won’t have it’s ardent fans, every series does, but I feel that it won’t stand the test of time like other franchises. More so with the ending, being typical manga adaptation, leaving aspects open & some things unresolved so they have a chance to extend the franchise if it process popular enough. On a side note, as an avid collector of plamo (plastic construction models from various Mecha series) there hasn’t been any of the kits based upon the series released or announced as far as I currently know. The only merchandise that I could find on my usually online import haunts are, again, hyper-sexualised models of some of the female characters.

So, is Majestic Prince something to shake up the Mecha genre? No.
Is it worth watching? Yes but only after a fashion.

If you are already a consumer of the genre, this will fill your needs nicely. The humour in it brings a giggle, the animation is exceptionally pretty. The space battles are fast paced & hyper-kinetic yet not to confusing even when showing high speed actions. Overall, those invested in the genre with all its tropes & cliches won’t mind this. If not, it probably won’t change your mind but there are far worst things out there to watch.

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