It took me ages to catch back up on this one. I originally intended to drop it, but then I heard strange positive words about it. Now that I’ve caught up to episode 20, I have to say: whoa. What happened?
The series originally struck me as this decent mecha show that was doomed to not stand out due to characters who were way too busy exhibiting their own quirks. For its first half, it was there, I guess: surprisingly charming, but nothing special, and then its second half came. And it was a bit weird, but it actually managed to improve in every single way. Even the animation.
Seriously, most series have gorgeous first episodes and then settle for this average animation quality afterwards. The cg battles of Majestic Prince have had some really good production values! Not to mention that the fights are all really well directed and intense.
But what really struck me was that I was completely proven wrong about the characters. Episode 19 in particular: oh my god what happened there. I mean, when the kid left on this dangerous mission saying stuff like “when I get back, I’ll tell you my crush on you”, he was obviously setting his own death flag here. But the way it happened. That actually made me teary-eyed.
The character development in this series actually turned out to be really good. It made me really think of how I originally labelled these characters too cartoonish, choosing it over Valvrave, which at the beginning seemed to have more solid characters, and yet the complete opposite turned out to be true. What Majestic Prince actually did was take these quirks and develop them. You have the guy who always wants to be a hero: he still does, but he showed much more stuff about his character, plus throughout these episodes we got to see different sides of what it means to be a hero. The ditzy girl? She’s still ditzy, but she actually got to see the upsides and downsides of being ditzy, she both got in trouble and the spotlight, sometimes thanks to this ditziness, others due to complete other reasons. That’s good storytelling! Compare that to Valvrave, which never really did anything remotely similar to these subtle characterizations and just went for shock value.
The question is: how do you recognize this as early as possible? I mean, there were hints right in the first episode that the charactrs were more than just their quirks, but they were very subtle, and could be very easily confused with a series that just had bad characters. I think that the thing with having quirky characters is that you need to balance things out: you need to know the difference between using these quirks for sympathy, and just using them to be obnoxious. Being creative helps. Having a straight man who is an actual straight man helps too: someone with an actual brain. Good chemistry will also be a hint: see if the characters work well together.
And most importantly: Are these characters one-trick ponies?
Also, did episode 20 just hint at what I thought it hinted at?