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Crayon Combo Pack IN SPACE!

April 1, 2014

“Could you guys stop hitting me with those three-combo verbal jabs…?”

Hitachi Izuru, Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince - Front Five

It’s been a while since I’ve sprung back to modern mecha. Most of the time I engage in my mech hobbies nowadays are seeking out and/or hunting down rare designs and artbooks.

Anyways, on to MJP. In Majestic Prince, humanity is under attack by an alien force which they call the Wulgaru. Normal weapons prove ineffective against them and every time the Wulgaru pop up, humanity gets its ass kicked in. They’re conquering their way across known human space, and are, figuratively, on the doorstep of the inner solar system. Enter the main characters; which the show promptly sets down their identity as a five-person group of fairly epic fail, and which also happen to be the pilots of the only machines, the AHSMBs (Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Device), powerful mecha that use the pilot’s DNA to enhance their performance, that can keep the Wulgaru at bay.

The fail five are comprised of Hitachi Izuru, Red-5; the team commander, complete good guy, and a not-very-charismatic leader; Asagi Toshikazu, Blue-1; the straight man to everyone’s antics with a surprising temper and self-searching personality, Irie Tamaki, Rose-3; total airhead, complete idiot, and aggressive boy-hunter; Suruga Ataru, Gold-4; a friendly team tech expert liable to overwhelm casual conversation with his single-tracked mechanic style of talking, literally; and finally, Kugimiya Kei, Purple-2; the straight woman as Asagi is the straight man, and liable to her own slip-ups when it comes to making confectioneries. They each pilot a AHSMB suited to their style; Izuru takes a multi-role unit and almost always enters battle with a gun, while Asagi’s AHSMB is more samurai-like in its battle style; the two are similar enough that they overlap often in the show, however. Suruga, Tamaki, and Kei are split more finely than them; Suruga takes a sniping/repair support AHSMB, Tamaki’s machine is specced for high-speed, head-first assaults, and Kei’s unit is a battlefield command/control unit geared for information processing and team coordination. Together with the carrier ship Godinion, the five and their commanders and comrades take to space beyond the Earth sphere of influence to battle the Wulgaru, master their machines, and hopefully, stop being total fail. It’s not that they’ve got poor skill at piloting giant robots; each of them have a distinct advantage in a specific area, but the problem is that their teamwork is so bad, it’s legendary.

Based off a manga of the same name, MJP starts off on a serious, if fairly standard style, that of a superior force attacking the protagonist human side; however, that start is interspersed with plenty of caricature-style, facial expression-based humorous scenes and verbal jokes that you would expect to be at home more in something like Toriko or Gintama. Those of you who were expecting some 24-hour serious-faced drama might find be a bit off-put at the way in which the main characters, with the exception of those in the know, seemingly do not seem to give a rat’s ass that there’s an alien race beating humanity’s collective face in.

The early start of the show does give attention to an unusual aspect; the sudden fandom that accompanies the protagonist squad once they’ve made their appearance, the military’s attempt at cashing in on their popularity to assure the masses that all is well against the aliens, a show of showering them with sponsors, and perhaps the only possible conclusion to this arc, the backlash that follows when they mess up while on the camera roll. It does take the pilots down a rung or two, but for all that it seems, they aren’t affected much, and manage to quickly bounce back to a new level of competence than they were at before.

Much of the show is spent on the interaction amongst the fail five and their particular personality quirks; the side characters are plenty stable by comparison, and don’t seem to have much in the way of development. The show occasionally shows attention to detail, but at times skips through certain segments  when you would expect some development – for better or worse, that’s up to your own personal opinion. Most of the characters stay relatively static to their inherent personalities; there is interaction and it’s definitely there, but if you’re expecting some radical changes to be made to the characters then it’s not going to happen. Other than that, other points of interest in the plot are the tensions between the various Earth nations, as well as the origins of the fail five as special-program pilots, and not just in a passive sense; however, they’re not touched on for much, and the attention, when not given to the characters, is handed over to another larger aspect of the story that I’ll leave unsaid for now; it is quite spoilerish.

Design-wise, and at a glance, MJP seems to share the same aesthetic style as its airtime “brother”, Valvrave, although the two are quite unlike. The theme of “similar machines specced for different roles” is present, as well. Having not watched Valvrave, yet, I’ll stop the comparisons here.

For the Wulgaru, the design of their war machines are definitely of an alien aesthetic, despite their physical countenance. It’s a stark contrast to the initial human ships and architecture present, which are unmistakably boxy and human in nature. Later designs reflect that, but in varying means; the human ships quite clearly take on more realistic starship designs of symmetrical order, although their functions are still the typical “water ship = star ship” style of design; one bridge, up top, anti-aircraft guns, etc. The exception to this is the Godinion, which is more in the manner of a very stylized flagship. A tad different from the usual aspects are the detachable, dedicated maintenance ships that follow the AHSMB units off to battle, and are usually stuck to the Godinion whenever they’re not going off. Overall, despite the presence of colourful weapons like the AHSMBs, the majority of the Earth forces, for most of the series, use weapons both conventional in design, form, and in function. It isn’t until the spread of AHSMB technology that things start to get hints of being rainb0w-flavoured.

As for the AHSMBs, Red-5 has a nice touch where the unit’s main melee armaments isn’t a long sword like Blue-1’s, but a chainsaw-edged blade. An unusual weapon for a typical protagonist in this day and age of anime, to be sure. The other AHSMB units aren’t lacking either; Gold-4 has a movable head to complement its right arm, which is a powerful gun in its entirety, and does address the issue of “giant robot handheld rifles – scopes or no scopes?” in a unique manner, while designs like Purple-2 and Rose-3 are not as common as the bipedal template.

Still, given that the AHSMBs are 3D-animated rather than the traditional 2D style, and given that combat action in MJP is fast and furious-paced, things can get confusing on the screen. The Wulgaru’s simple and sleek designs manage to avoid this to some degree, but the AHSMBs, unfortunately, fall into the category of being little more than coloured blurs when in heavy action. The battle choreography is otherwise without complaint; whatever style you might find unfitting with the animation, it’s actually pretty reasonable to chalk it up to “because it’s the aliens doing it”… … because the aliens are the ones doing it most of the time.

Given that MJP is an adaptation, however, like all adaptations, it has to keep some things hidden. The story ends on a high and victorious note, but more remains to be revealed to the audience on just what the Wulgaru are, and what kind of machinations are going on behind the united front presented by the Earth forces. The latter, thankfully, is kept to the barest minimum, and isn’t actively used to derail efforts by the main characters to get things done; not yet, at any rate.

That’s all I have to say for MJP. I went in blind, not even knowing that it was an adaptation, and I was surprised at quite a few occasions at the way the show handled the story. Interactions between the cast are not draggy as one might think; in fact, I find that sometimes it happened too fast. The generally goofy mood of MJP outside of its major story arcs might also throw off viewers to a certain extent when things start to get serious, but this reflects the lives of soldiers to a T; always relaxing today if they get a chance, not knowing if they’ll survive tomorrow. I’ve generally got no complaints design nor animation-wise; MJP’s fairly solid in that regard, and I’m not expecting movie-grade animation from it. If you haven’t checked out the manga yet, perhaps the anime might convince your mind?

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