I'll let it be known upfront I am not a big fan of "magical girl" shows. Although I used to watch Sailor Moon when it aired on TV, I never really got into it. And although I watched some of Cardcaptors, when it aired on TV I really really hated it. So yeah was never big on the magical girl genre. I mean really a bunch of girls with magical powers, fighting bad guys with secret identities? Really? The power of love and good intentions defeating evil with ease, and lots of girly stuff abound. I think I'll pass. I am a dude after all. Besides it felt like after a few episodes everything was the same. All the episodes were practically about the girls going out, fighting the bad guy of the week, using magic, and getting a magical thing back or something. Substitute one bad guy for another and each episode was practically the same. But there were two series, I first watched years ago, that opened my eyes to the entire genre. Two series that proved to me that not all "magical girl" shows are about that stuff, and really both just blew me away. One of them is Princess Tutu ( a future review) which is still talked about a lot today. It got a lot of great reviews from critics, and fans have a lot of respect for it. But the other show I saw seems to have (sadly) fallen into obscurity, despite being created by Gainax. And honestly I like it even more then Princess Tutu. That show is none other then Petite Princess Yucie.
Petite Princess Yucie started as a video game series, aptly named Princess Maker. These video games, also by Gainax, are about creating a character, finding clothes for her, and getting her jobs and such. The goal is for you to keep working your character up the career ladder, until you reach a prestigious job, or fall from the ranks and end up in a dead end job or something. The game even includes such jobs as prostitute and crime, so I don't really think they are for children. The game is famous for having over 70 different types of endings. Quite a feat in the early 90's when they were released. However the anime is free from anything risque, adult, mature, or graphic in nature. It seems to have taken the basic themes of games, and turned it into a true magical girl anime that could be watched by anyone (and it should be watched by everyone!). This is the perfect series to watch with children, but adults will like it too. The anime was created in 2002 and directed by Masahiko Otsuka. Otsuka is a veteran of Gainax Studios, but this is his first time directing something on his own, although he has co-directed many titles before. And I must say he has his own style, and helps make this series become something very special. In some ways it's very different then a regular Gainax series, but in other ways its deeply rooted in their style. Anyway, I do hope to see more series directed by the man, because he is quite talented.
As for the story, although nothing completely groundbreaking, it is very good. The setting is a standard "sword and sorcery" fantasy realm, and I really thought that gave the series a nice touch. There are dragons, mystical creatures, fairies and who knows what else out there. The show revolves around Yucie, a 17 year old girl, who's stopped growing at age 10. Yucie wants nothing more then to age like a normal girl, so people will take her seriously. This is very understandable, I mean everyone takes one look at her and thinks she's a child, not some older teenager. And I doubt many people would believe her, if she told them her real age. But she has another reason why she wants to be normal. When she was a young girl, she was saved by a little boy but never got the chance to thank him. By now he would be grown up, but she still looks like a little kid. She wants to properly thank the boy, and feels she can only do so if she looks her age. She also seemed to have developed a bit of a crush on the boy, even though she would never admit this. And what kind of a proper relationship could he have with a girl that looks like she's 10!? Yucie ends up being thrown into this whole "Platinum Princess Candidate" thing going on at the town. Whoever can find something in the castle can become a Platinum Princess Candidate, and Yucie sees a light at the top of the castle, and she's instantly drawn to it. When she makes her way to the light, she finds the Queen of the castle there, and she celebrates the fact that Yucie will become a Platinum Princess Candidate. It is revealed that once every thousand years a group of girls are chosen to be candidates, and one of them will eventually become the Platinum Princess, will be given the Eternal Teairra, and granted one wish. Luck (or faith) was on Yucie's side it seems. Perhaps she can get her wish to become an adult at last!
Yucie must go to the castle's own Princess Academy, and learn how to become a proper princess. At this school she slowly meets her rivals, and it becomes clear that the Platinum Princess Candidates must grow their hearts if they are to become the true Platinum Princess. As the main cast is slowly revealed we noticed that they all stopped growing at age ten. The first girl introduced is the quiet and friendly Miss Cocoloo. Cocoloo is the princess from the Spirit World. Next we have Miss Glenda, the fiery and competitive princess from the Demon World. And we also have Elmina, the stoic Princess of Heaven. Yucie and her rivals must go on jobs in which they must accomplish tasks for the townsfolks, or help them with errands, or merely babysit little children. These jobs are designed to not only help their hearts grow, but to also learn what it means to be a real princess, and become a generally good person. Each of these episodes have the girls work together to accomplish a goal, and toward the end they all learn an important less. And the lessons are never after-school special lame either. The girls, despite being rivals quickly become friends. Even though they know only one of them may get their wish, and so there may be some hardships to overcome in the future. In between these jobs, the girls must also collect the "fragments" of the Eternal Tiara, which are each in one of the many worlds (Human World, Heaven, Spirit World, etc). These episodes are usually quite light hearted, cute, and very fun to watch. There is some really funny moments in the early episodes. And despite the pattern, none of this is repetive and all of these episodes tend to move the plot along quite nicely. The series continues in this pattern until another main character is introduced (don't worry I won't spoil much). In which after this character is introduced the jobs and fragment collecting finishes up, and eventually the series heads toward a very dramatic conclusion. The last arch of this anime is quite dark, sad, and has a lot of drama. And although I loved the cute opening episodes, these last few are my favorite. The series deals with some really sad things, and although it never becomes depressing you may want to have a few tissues nearby just incase. The second to last episode is very powerful, and it's ganna hit you in the heart. There is a very beautiful and heart wrenching scene at the very end of that episode that probably will make the tears start flowing. And I really loved how the show concluded, although I suspect many will not like the ending. But I think many will enjoy the fact that every single thing is explained before it ends. And just enough back story and interlinkings of plot exists to make everyone happy. And luckily for us everything is resolved and it does end. Although I'd love to see another season of this great show. Please Ganiax? Use some of that Gurren Lagann money you guys got.
The series has many strong points, one of them being the interactions between the characters. It's just great to watch these girls become friends, and bump heads with each other along the way. I really enjoyed watching Glenda and Elmina fight with each other. The two girls are clearly friends, but they won't admit it. Glenda would usually say something about another girl not being up to her level, in a joking tone, and Elmina would always manage to turn it around on her, making Glenda seem like the butt of her own joke. Some of Elmina's lines are priceless, and since she speaks in an almost emotionless manor, it makes them even better. Since they are both princesses of the demon world and heaven respectively, it makes sense why the two fight a lot. They seem to always be at odds with each other, but manage to come together when the moment calls for it. Another thing I really liked to watch was the close friendship between Yucie and Cocoloo. And hearing Glenda joke that Yucie is a "brat" and that she's a "fantastic" and "elegant" princess never gets old. And surprisingly all the main characters evolve and change. The character development was handled quite well, and even the supporting cast changes somewhat. Each of the girls have a "steward", who helps them along their ways, and all of the girls fathers make an appearance. And of course a series like this would not be complete without a Prince as a love interest (although he may or may not turn out to be a surprise)Perhaps my favorite example of this is Glenda changing, which is clearly shown with a fight scene toward the end of the series (I'll be vague in order to avoid spoilers). Since she is from the Demon World, she has magical powers, and when she fights someone later on you can't help but feel for her. You notice how she changed and became a truly better person, caring for others more then herself. This fight was really a defining point in her evolution and I just LOVE that scene. And let me say this is one of the few series out there where I like each and every character. All the characters are interesting, unique, likable, and never annoying.
Another strength of the show is the many themes it deals with. And for this type of show it is actually quite deep. The show asks us what it truly means to grow up. Because Yucie and the others have aged, at least internally. But at times they still act like children, and their youthful bodies help to keep them young. This may be a metaphor for young adults. On one hand they look like children, but on the other hand they are mature enough to be considered adults. It's like they are trapped in between phases, in between ages. Just like the girls here, they don't fit in with the adults, but on the other hand can't relate well to the children. And their youthful appearance helps to keep them young and active. The series also deals with friendship in great detail. What does it truly mean to be ones friend? And how much do you really care about these people you label as your friend? Throughout life we will have many rivals and will bump heads many a time with them. But can we still be friends with them, despite fighting over something very dear to us? Petite Princess Yucie has a lot to say about that as well. And the series also deals with father-daughter relationships. I'm sure many fathers and daughters out there will get a lot more out of this aspect then me, but I did find it very touching and sweet. OK so this series may not come up with a new philosophy on life, or delve into quantum physics or anything like that. The plot is not overly complicated or complex either. And it doesn't dissect it's characters in classic Anno style either (although he was the supervisor on this series!). But it's certainly not some shallow throw away show either. It's not at all fluff. It has a real heart, and the story can move you and make a real impact on the viewer. To me that is a sign of good storytelling.
As for the visuals, well this is Ganiax after all, so expect some impressive stuff. For a TV series the artwork is very well detailed. It's colorful, light, and beautiful at times. The backgrounds help to give this a "fantasy" feeling, by detailing the towns, hills, valleys, and castles really well. The non-human worlds are also quite distinct, and not exactly what you'd picture. But they work quite well. Gainax seems to have ignored their other more common styles (FLCL style and Nadia style), and went with a more standard magical girl style that obviously is very fitting. Character designs are all cute, with big eyes and colorful hair styles. However the series style of characters does look different enough to help it stand out among other series. It should also be noted that AIC co-produced this with Gainax, so perhaps that's one reason why this looks so different then their other stuff. The animation is always great, and I doubt anyone would ever have a problem with it. All in all the series looks really great when everything is together. Well animated, light and colorful color palette, and great character designs. It may look a little too cute and childish for some, but I like the style.
As for the music in thsi anime, I found it to be above average. The opening is cute and fluffy, and really never fails to put a smile on my face. It has become a real favorite of mine! The background themes don't really stand out on their owns, but they are very fitting and I did really like them. There's one insert song toward the end of the series that I loved (and it's song by the English Dub actors as well who do an amazing job by the way), and the second to last episode plays a slightly different version of the opening theme that works really well with the final scene there. The ending theme is fitting, and more quiet then the opening. And it's also another good song. As for the dub, I really loved it! There's nothing anyone could ever find wrong with it. ADV gave this title to their studio in Austin, Texas to dub. Austin's studio was named Monster Island, and frankly I'm kind of sad they didn't dub more titles. Because Petite Princess Yucie was quite a dub. It's a very fresh, and expertly acted dub, with a great script and perfect casting. Rachel Rivera plays the lead, Yucie, and she does a great job. She makes Yucie quite adorable at times. You just can't help but root for Yucie, and part of that is because of Rachel Rivera's great performance. Cocoloo is played by Monika Bustamante, who has a really unique voice and helps makes the character Cocoloo come to life. Really, it's hard to imagine anyone else play that character. She has Cocoloo's quiet nature down pat, and sounds just a little strange, but not at all weird. So Cocoloo. It's hard to play the balancing act here between just a little weird, yet kind and warm, and also very quiet. But Bustamante handles this like a veteran. Kelley Huston plays Glenda, and her voice really suits the character well. She captures Glenda's more passionate side with ease. She knows exactly how to get worked up about something, and can say her little catch phrases perfectly. She always manages to get a laugh out of me. But she also knows when to tone her character down, and when Glenda's sweeter side is being shown is when Hutson really can shine. Elmina is played by Leigh Anderson Fisher, who mangaes to get her almost-emotionless state of being down pat. She can make Elmina sound distant, but not cold, monotone but still caring, and even can subtely change her tone of voice just enough for when Elmina is joking around that it sounds perfect (but never too much as to give Elmina too much emotion. After all angels in this anime are almost emotionless, stoic, and always calm or firm sounding). I must also commend David Jones, who plays Glenda's father, the Demon King.I have to say this guy is really good. He should move to Houston ASAP! I want him in more dubs! The Demon King is not at all evil, although he is a demon, so he must still sound powerful. And David Jones gets this. The Demon King really cares for his daughter with all his heart, and is always bossed around by her. David Jones does a great job at making the Demon King powerful, silly, and a little over the top, all which fit his character to a T. But he never crosses the line into annoying, which was probably hard to do. This is quite the contrast from his previous role, the cold hearted and evil Gargoyle from Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. Another role in which I really enjoyed him in. The supportive and episodic characters are all very well cast, and do a very good job as well. And almost none of the cast is recognizable There are practically no long time veterans, or fan favorite voice actors here. And so it all sounds very fresh, very new, and it stands out among the hordes of generic sounding dubs which have become the norm. This is a keeper.
So is the show perfect? Well for this type of show I would say just about. There are very few if any problems I can find with this show. Not many flaws overall. Perhaps they waste too much time early on with the light hearted stuff? And maybe it's a bit too episodic in the beginning? But I find that those episodes did add to the story, and they were never repetitive. And the early episodes are vital for fleshing out and introducing the main characters. So perhaps the biggest flaw in the show is being in the magical girl genre to begin with. Not because I personally dislike the genre, but because many will dismiss it just because of that. Which is really quite a shame because the show is worth a look at. In fact I specifically recommend this show to those who say they dislike magical girl shows. They may find that in Petite Princess Yucie, they finally have a magical girl show in which they can say they enjoyed. Ok so it probally won't change your life, but the story is very good, the characters are likeable, and it's very well done. And it's a very powerful story with a real heart. And sometimes that's just enough.
This anime is not for everyone. It's very cute, sweet, and at its heart it is a magical girl show. I mean the girls do have tranformation sequences, the show is about retrieving magical shards. Many people do not want these things in their anime, so I don't know if they would enjoy this. But it's also about growing up, and learning to love your friends and family. And it is a very powerful story. But if there's just one magical girl show you must check out, let it be Petite Princess Yucie. The show could easily be enjoyed by those that are not big fans of magical girl shows, and you will enjoy the very powerful story it has tell. One with a real heart, great characters, and great production values. It's very sad at times, but instead of focusing on only that emotion the series has you laugh along with the characters, get scared with them, get exited together, and finally grow with them. You may cry along with them, but on the large it is a very uplifting story that I cannot recommend enough. Are you manly enough to watch Petite Princess Yucie?