Anime Meta-Review


Puppet Princess


By Date




Title Info

screen capture
  • seen: 1-1 of 1
  • type: OAV
  • grade: flawed
  • source: fansub
  • form: sub
  • Other elements of this title:
    • This title may offend the sensitive.
  • dur: 40
  • made: 2000
  • Review created: Sun Sep 5 22:18:10 EST 2004
  • mod: none

Don't try and steal this girls toys, they tend to fight back.

Puppet princess, what a cool title, visions of political machinations in feudal Japan. Sadly though the source of the name is rather more literal than I expected, and the depiction is about as subtle. But then since it's only a single shot OAV I didn't really expect too much.


Near a ruined little shack, beside a small dirt track, two people meet. One of them is a young ninja who, not all that long ago, was a member of a ninja team. That was before they got spread all over the field by strange, seemingly deathless, enemy ninja. He's just catching his breath when he notices a well dressed young girl calling out to the person who might once have lived in the shack. She seems sort of normal, but upon her back is the biggest backpack (some 6-10 feet tall or more) in anime history.

It turns out that both of them have some things in common. For one thing both of them have made an enemy of a powerful lord who intends to see them dead. They also have some hidden skills, the Ninja being a lot more skilled than his departed team-mates, while the little princess likes to play with dolls. Strange thing is she's probably the scarier of the two, certainly more driven, and quite possibly more deadly. Yep, these are dolls that like to play back...


As mentioned in the intro it's a one shot, 40 minute long, OAV. And one clearly made without a huge budget. This means that while they might dream of telling an epic story reality swiftly intervenes, especially because they feel obliged to keep the action quotient quite high. As such this anime is limited in story depth and the pacing is pretty fast. This is even before you consider the fact they aren't the most subtle story spinners I've ever seen.

The strangest thing is that the core actually sort of works. I think I can see where they were heading even if they didn't entirely reach it. The princess is, on the surface, naive and innocent and thus a neat balance to the cynical and world-weary ninja. She has power but at the same time has suffered in the creation and development of the very weapon she wields. And she has a goal that is more than a little unexpected, even to herself. That part is rather neat. The dark mood, and the focus on the dehumanizing effects of power and technology (ie. the dolls), actually makes this feel a lot like a cyberpunk story.

Of course it would be a lot easier to believe if it was set in a more modern era. Because basically the logic behind the story is sort of silly. The science behind the puppets, including the human cost it represents, really doesn't make any sense at all. The way in which the puppets are powered, and are controlled, is rather impressively non-sensical. Nor is there any suggestion of magic, the story wouldn't work as well if there were, to reduce the effort in accepting the basic premise. This is especially true for the last boss fight, which... doesn't really work to be polite about it.

The most serious flaw however is the rather impressive lack of subtlety. The story, especially the dialog, is pretty brutal and simplistic. It also tries to pander to the action and horror fans, burning a lot of time in doing so, but doesn't have the budget or style to pull it off. In other words the story has to fit around the action. And that action is fully occupied with trying to shock or impress us. The result being it feels very discontinuous which really amplifies the problems inherent in the extremely fast pace it must sustain.

In short it was interesting, but not really something I'd recommend. The sort of bottom edge of watchable. The story and character strengths it had were as much negatives, in realising that they didn't have the time to do it properly, as they were positives. And the fragmented story, changeable mood (going from horror, to action to comedy) ultimately leaves a rather weak impression.


And ultimately it's the production quality that hurts it the most. See it really dreams of being a serious and stylish ninja movie, sort of like Ninja scroll. As a result they hyper-emphasise the movement, people zooming around like human cannonballs with all sorts of exaggerated animation. At it's best it looks quite good, but too often it looks like they're having a convulsion. And it has to drop the line detail, even using silhouettes in many cases, to be able to animate it at all. It backs this up with using extreme closeups for dramatic effect, but the weird art style just tends to look ugly and odd when they try. It also has lots of violence, which is equally exaggerated, and a fair amount of nudity to give it a more adult air. But it doesn't actually have the style, or budget, to carry all of this off. So one's eye is drawn to all the flaws in the production. It's not particularly pleasant to watch and the voice and sound are equally troubled.


A princess who plays with dolls, although it makes more sense if you think "automaton", teams up with a mercenary ninja to fight back against the mad feudal lord who wants them both dead. The story concept is interesting, but the delivery has some problems, not least the fact it wants to focus on cool action but doesn't have the budget or sense of style needed to pull it off (or even really come that close).

Other Reviews

  • There's a review from the Anime Critic who found it too "short and mundane" to bother with. I suspect this is basically a response to the fact it never actually finishes any of the idea's or styles it attempts. I certainly agree with him that it wants to be like "Ninja Scroll"... but isn't (2/5).


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:23 WST 2009