Princess Army: Wedding Combat
Well, this was unexpected. Given a title like this I was expecting a magical girl anime, or at worst one of those `cute fighting girls' anime's. Instead what I find is two volumes of solid shoujo stuff. To be more specific it's full of romance, romantic competition and a decent amount of throwing people around. That's because every major character also happens to be a Jude export...including the female lead.
But before I get into that I have to express my admiration and debt to the total nutcases who fan-subbed this tape. The fan-sub is good, but clearly they got upset that a measly two volumes simply wasn't enough to flesh out story and characters. They're certainly right, a 12 tankouban manga epic can not truly be captured in a mere two volumes. The difference is that they compensated by scanning, translating and adapting for video the first volume of the manga. It looks a bit weird but it does work, it does fill in some important gaps and it must have taken an immense amount of effort. Above and beyond the call of duty...although of course it ends up making me want the manga.
Anyway, getting back to the story. The undisputed centre of attention is a small, and extremely cute, 15 year old girl. Her family are all well known, and skilled, practitioners of Judo. Her family consists of her three older brothers only though, because her parents passed away in a car crash when she was considerably younger. Although as a result she's quite close to her brothers. And one of the times when she's close to them is when she's throwing them round the Dojo. While she's cute and feminine in a very shoujo way she also happens to be very skilled at Judo. The reasons for this are complex though. When she was young she was threatened by a drunk with a broken bottle who intended to seriously harm her. She was saved from his attack by a young boy who then threw the attacker. She never found out who he was although she does know he was wounded on his back. Thus she practiced Judo from this time while she searches for her saviour.
This comes out a lot more in the scanned manga (including revealing the person) than the anime itself. The anime actually concerns her fathers best friend, and his bishounen son, returning from Poland. Apparently he's been supporting the family in many ways, having been asked by their dying father. However one of the things he was also asked was to make the lead his daughter in law, and he's come to act on that promise. And his son, who like everyone else is skilled in Judo, was a childhood friend of the lead and is agressively in favor of the idea. And while she confronts her own feelings, and his none too subtle advances, there is also the question of her two male friends. Both of them, one an agressive Judo student and the other an icy but deep guy, have their own feelings on the matter.
It's got a sense of humor, but the core of it is the familiar shoujo concern with feelings and interactions. While we don't actually know these characters that well, the introductions being almost non-existent, we can quickly identify that everyone has their own thoughts on the matter. This is of course complicated by the leads own confusion and the difficulty in both showing one's own feelings, and understanding the feelings of others. It's very shoujo, in both style and content, so those who can't take the elements of this genre should quickly run for it. Those who like shoujo will probably enjoy it. However it is fairly rushed and, perhaps because of this, a little bit less subtle than many shoujo fans might like. The prospective suitors attempts at pressing his case are almost comically agressive. There's a couple of scenes which are intense, but the pace and lack of character knowledge, makes it all seem a little bit artificial.
In some ways it is also hampered because it goes on too long. This might seem weird, to suggest that it both goes on too long and is too rushed. The reason for this is that the core plot is simple, an eligible suitor attempting to gain her hand in marriage, but it must draw all the other characters into the conflict. And the resolution, such as it is, can not be reached before everyone has had their chance to be involved. Thus the suitor's personality is somewhat compressed because having acted as the instigator he must also draw everyone else in but not be too succesful in his quest. This gives the whole show an uneasy sort of foundation. It's perhaps too much plot, with too many characters, for two episodes...still, it's still interesting and entertaining.
The style is almost archetypal shoujo, although it is quite attractive. The richly painted and detailed backgrounds, glittery female eye's, bishounen's...it's all here. And the coloring and characters designs, including the leads complex hair and appearance, is almost too shoujo to be real. Likewise, while it has some quite detailed Judo bouts, the focus is on the conflict of personalities rather than bodies...thus the detail and motion is somewhat simplified. It's also `realistic' judo rather than the more dramatic `movie' or `magical' martial arts so often seen. The voices are quite reasonable while the music is a little bit too much like a console computer game.