Scrapped Princess has all the hallmarks of a fairly standard fantasy adventure with a drizzle of comedy. There’s the perky blonde princess with the prerequisite obliviousness to danger, the somewhat dour older brother and the gormless knight-wannabee hanger on.
What sets Scrapped Princess way above the usual action comedy fare is its silences, a theme established early in episode 1. When the siblings are attacked by bandits, there is an extended cut of Pacifica watching from the safety of the wagon. You sense her frustration at her inability to help, knowing full well that using her powers may have dire consequences. At another point, Shannon is confronted with the fact that his single-minded protection of his sister allows him to avoid dealing with the reality of potentially dire threat posed by Pacifica. His inability to respond says more than any piece of dialog.
These silences allow the players to transcend their stereotypes and become fully fledged characters. Suddenly Pacifica’s petulant self-centredness is a way of distancing herself from those around her. Shannon’s role as the stoic protector gives him an avenue to deal with a situation that he finds impossible to reconcile. This gives Scrapped Princess a real gravity and provides a perfect balance to the series’ more light-hearted moments. That’s right, Scrapped Princess isn’t some one-note, angsty, goth drama. It’s fun. There are encounters with frog gods and part time work as a bakery’s comic mascot.
Studio Bones has taken great care with its art and direction. Scrapped Princess has a stong, rustic palette, character designs are attractive and costumes have an appealing fantasy-meets-eighties-shoulder-pad chic. Action sequences are kinetic with lots of incandescent hex casting, billowing cape work and high noon standoffs with guns replaced by oversized swords.
Scrapped Princess does what lesser anime fails to do. Its core theme is not merely a hook on which to let loose a series of off-the-rack character types on episodic adventures. The series never shies away from its darker underpinnings. Scrapped Princess’ story has real repercussions that weigh heavily on its characters. And that weight is measured in silence.