Posted by psgels on 25 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Shikabane Hime


Gainax’ latest series: Shikabane Hime. The first thing that you need to know before watching this is the following: Shikabane Hime is NOT the next Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. While it still has a lot of very stylish action, this series is much more than a simple brainless action series, and definitely not the place to go if you want to see action series as overblown as seen in Gurren Lagann. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for compelling characters, then this is the place to go.

There’s actually a lot to like about this series. First of all, it unites Gainax, one of the most un-subtle animation studios in existence, with Masahiko Murata, the director of Gilgamesh, which was in its turn incredibly subtle. The result is a very interesting combination between those extremes: a lot of quiet moments, expressive characters, combined with fast-paced and gorgeously animated action-scenes, all coated in a horror-ish atmosphere.

Another potential turn-off for this series is the male lead, Ouri. At first sight, he may be nothing more than a typical fourteen year old lead character, but the series quickly proves you wrong. Instead of immediately giving the guy superpowers and a central place in the story like in most other anime of its kind, Shikabane Hime instead tries to subvert this trope by explaining as good as possible at how such a seemingly insignificant guy can get himself some power. In fact, the entire first season of this show is dedicated to setting him in the right position for the second season, and flesh out the rest of the cast as well. This is one series that knows that it shouldn’t reveal all of its cards right at the start, and it’s so much better than the tons of series that start with “oh hey, I’m going to give you powers because I purely coincidentally managed to bump into you. Oh and by the way love me”.

And since this is Gainax, the animation for this series is really impressive. And thankfully it was spent in the right way: not on flashy beams or CG, but instead it’s dedicated to make the characters expressive, and the fights more centred around close combat, resulting in a number of gorgeous visuals. The soundtrack for this series is also downright excellent, and among the best of the season. This turns the fight maybe not as large in scale as in Gurren Lagann, but nevertheless the small scale fights never cease to be exciting.

As for the bad parts, there’s one particular episode where the boob jokes run a bit out of hand. You’ll know when it’s there, but it has particularly nasty effect on Ouri’s male classmates, turning them from regular classmates that turn up only once in a while into a bunch of paper bags who can only think about sex. This series is definitely at its lowest whenever these guys start whining about girls. Thankfully, this only happens two or three times through the series, but it remains rather jarring.

Overall, Shikabane Hime has been a great series for me. It had compelling characters and action, and it’s only been building up for the second season that’s about to arrive in January. In the beginning, it may seem to suffer a bit from the “monster of the week”-theme, but at the end it did what it was supposed to: create a solid base for the second season to work with, giving the important characters enough background and fleshing them out sufficiently.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

6 Responses

  1. Avatar Gigi says:

    Hello, it’s the first time I post here but I’m a long time fan of this site, I actually watched Utena and Mahou Shoujo Tai after seeing these mentioned here and they are now among my favorite anime ever.

    Shikabane Hime was definitely one of the most underrated anime of the season, very entertaining.
    Can’t wait for the second season, though I’m a little wary since it won’t be animated by Gainax anymore.

    Also, for something unrelated, I saw that you dropped Toradora after only the first episode, you are really, really missing out, I expected something weak myself too but right now it’s really delivering, it’s almost like a spiritual successor of Honey & Clover.

  2. psgels psgels says:

    Oh, you’re making it very difficult for me on Toradora. The main reason why I dropped it wasn’t actually because of the weak sounding plot, but rather that I couldn’t stand the voice actress for the female lead Taiga.

    Oh, and I’m glad to see that you enjoyed Mahou Shoujotai so much. ^^;

  3. Avatar RedMaigo says:

    Thanks for the review. I originally dropped this series because I thought I was going to wade through another monster-of-the-week story but you changed my mind. I just got through watching the series up to episode nine. So far, I will have to agree that this is a good series.

    Okay it is not Gurren Lagann great but as a latter-day Gainax offering it’s pretty good. I did not waste my time with this series like I did with some other shows this season

    And I will agree with Gigi that Toradora rocks too. Originally, I was going to let Toradora go due to Kugimiya Rei but the producers of the show have managed to keep Little-Miss-Violent-Tsuntsun on a tight leash.

    In the beginning, Kugimiya’s tsundere character almost overshadowed the female lead in the early episodes but that has since been resolved. It seems that JC Staff is sticking to the character from the light novels and curbing the “tsundere seiyuu” excesses.

    Oh yes, I am also keeping pace with show by reading the light novels while watching the show.

    Oh yeah…we were talking about Shikabane Hime right?

    Anyway good job psgels! You always point me in the right direction for anime that I would have given up on too early and/or never given a chance.

  4. Avatar thenullset says:

    I personally like Rie Kugimiya but I can understand why she might not be your cup of tea. Her work in Toradora is easily the best I’ve seen her do.

    I’ve only seen 9 episodes of Shikabane Hime and I’ve enjoyed the series immensely myself. I’m liking how they are taking the time to show us why our hero ends up as our hero.

  5. Avatar senerikfred says:

    I’m watching this as the subs come out(like FUNimation can quell the issue so easily :P), and while I can’t say the animation itself is good, it’s fairly well-used in fights. Ouri doesn’t even annoy me so much as the fact that half the episodic stories fall flat, and the story feels like it can’t quite wade all the way out of cliches. I’ll watch to ep.12 and decide whether or not to keep going then.
    And for whatever reason Toradora came up, Kugimiya’s work in Toradora is the best I’ve heard from her in terms of skill, even if I do enjoy her as Kagura more. All three females now have very, very ambiguous interest in the protagonist, though even if it does end up going a little on the ‘harem’ end, for once their various connections to him are anything but shallow. The drama they seem to be digging into isn’t yet as fun or interesting as the first half, but a very good effort is being put into the development, so it shows promise.

  6. Avatar chikalin says:

    I’m watching Toradora but only cause I’m waiting for other anime/drama to finish downloading or be released. Not really worth it.

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