On the second day of anime, an anime studio gave to me…
Two genetically-engineered brothers…
Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince (Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince), in one word, was a weird anime. Watching it was a weird experience. It was as if each episode had been written by a different writer and each writer was told a different thing on what exactly the premise of the story was.
So what is Majestic Prince? For starters, it takes place in the year 2110, where humanity has begun to colonize in space. Genetically engineered humans, “evolved children” are developed with the intention of creating a new breed of humans who will be adapted to space living. Incidentally, Earth is being attacked by an extremely advanced alien race called the Wulgaru, prompting humanity to have the “evolved children” to be deployed as soldiers to fight on the front lines in space.
Despite sounding like another tired iteration of Gundam, Majestic Prince is surprisingly quirky. It was hard to pin down the exact genre and angle this show was going for—especially in the first third consists of slapstick, slice-of-space-life humor that makes Majestic Prince a mecha parody rather than a hard-core mecha.
A schizophrenic cocktail of classic mecha action and mecha commentary, Majestic Prince was a surprisingly enjoyable watch. While lacking on the character development (and making up for sparse character development via impressively animated battle sequences), Majestic Prince is a refreshing alternative to the endless production of Gundam clones. It’s a show that not only never takes itself seriously (yes, that was a double negative-deal with it) but also laughs at the viewer as it tricks them into ever letting themselves take it seriously.
Though I’m not a huge advocate of plot-for-plot’s sake stories, Majestic Prince does deliver some gloriously epic battle sequences. Seriously, besides the campy, off-beat humor from Team Rabbits (a most fear-inspiring team moniker) if there’s one thing to remember about this anime, it’s the over-the-top-they-spent-90-percent-of-the-studio-budget mecha battles.
Though everyone on Team Rabbits gets a chance to show off the sweet moves of their ridiculously expensive Gundam suits AHSMB (which believe it or not actually stands for “Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Device”—oddly generic yet appropriate given how the suits are also used for PR and more mundane tasks besides their combat capabilities), the spotlight goes to our main guy and Team Rabbits leader, Hitachi Izuru.
It’s a bit of a cop-out to gush about the main character (as generic as shōnen heroes come), but I’ll do so anyway since Majestic Prince like so much of the rest of the show is so hyper-aware of the classic mecha-canon tropes it’s following. You have a shōnen hero who wants to be the perfect shōnen hero as your protagonist, which makes for all kinds of meta-poking fun. Sometimes the fun is made at the expense of really digging deep into the psyche of the characters–which can be a positive or negative thing depending on what you’re looking for.
The Presence of Absence: Breaking Down the Traditional Family Structure
Though I could spend ages taking about how spectacularly awesome the battles were (and they are spectacularly awesome), I wanted to draw your attention briefly to how central family is a theme under the veneer of goofy laughs and running gags (who doesn’t laugh at Asagi’s chronically upset stomach?)
Something I found perturbing was the fact that Team Rabbits expressed very little concern over the fact that they had their early childhood memories erased, a procedure which the genetically engineered student pilots all went through to help ease them into the soldier lifestyle. I suppose you can’t miss what you’ve never had but their minimal interest in reclaiming memories did keep the plot from going down a grim, but well-trod path. It makes blood relations not terribly important (and yet they do come up when the plot itself demands it).
When Asagi finds out the secret of his and Izuru’s parentage–the very Commander they’ve been serving is their biological father and the Wulgaru renegade princess ally is their biological mother–the shock expressed at this revelation is certainly there, but muted and ephemeral, like everything serious in this show. While Asagi takes in this truth with a resigned acceptance, Izuru’s reaction is childishly short-sighted, but predictably disarming.
You’d think he stop to at least angst a little about the implications of his newly discovered family. How are you to say to the father who’s always been there, but never done anything fatherly in the least? How do you break the ice with the mysterious, alluring woman who’s your mother, but her protective maternal instincts are pointed towards protecting the Homosapien from being hunted to extinction? If you think about it, Commander Simon and Princess Theoria are pretty terrible parents–they put their own genetically engineered children, brainwash them to become good soldiers, and stick them in giant robots of dubious origin that have been proven to debilitate pilots’ physical condition over time. The darker plot turns in the second half of the series made a woeful, agonizing hero’s journey and search for identity almost inevitable.
The death flags (with the exception for Team Doberman, may they rest in peace)–and oh, are there many–are raised, prophesied, but ultimately never fulfilled. The finale does a good job of fooling you into thinking that maybe, just maybe, that the story’s going to make up its mind and move from its feel-good comedy track to Gundam Seed territory. That Izuru who dreams of being the archetypal hero that sacrifices himself to save everyone is actually going to have that chance.
Thanks to the deus ex machina of surrogate family power (Team Rabbits makes a cute family unit indeed), Izuru masters the JURIA system in his AHSMB unit and saves the day, staying pretty much in one whole piece. The gate is destroyed and somehow by astronomical chances, everyone survives. Heck, even kamikaze Commander Simon emerges unscathed and I was sure he was going down.
Even the antagonistic uncle survives (it’s not confirmed unless you have the body) and has possibly given his nephew (unknowingly) the respect of being worthy, possibly more than just prey.
So Majestic Prince‘s moral takeaway is that a hero can be prepared to sacrifice himself but won’t actually ever needing to because things will work out. It’s an absurdly encouraging message that jars with the darker atmosphere of the plot development in the second half of the show but nicely bookends the bright optimism of the first few episodes. The ending is left ambiguously open-ended, which leaves the possibility of a darker, more realistic future available, if the writers care to continue the tale in a sequel. A possibility, though well worth exploring, that is highly unlikely. And in Majestic Prince‘s universe, that’s perfectly okay. Like the dysfunctional families that are of little consequence to our merry band of well-adjusted space warrior children, a dysfunctional plot that fails to meet viewer expectations is, at the very least, an entertaining one.
Majestic Prince. It’s Gundam without the dramatic cliches and angsty detours!