Princess Resurrection

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the quintessential horror manga. I don't mean that Princess Resurrection is scary, I mean that it is everything horror. It exists entirely as homage and send-up to every shade of the genre, and it does it all with incredible ease, somehow crafting its own rich universe and characters, with a plot that weaves dozens of monster of the week stories into a grand narrative that reaches one hell of a climax. I know this sounds like the conclusion to my review, but I cannot stress enough; Princess Resurrection is one of the best manga I have ever had the pleasure to read, and if you consider yourself a horror fan, you at least need to check it out.

The series stars the singularly titled Hime, a princess from another realm that has moved into a small town on a mansion on the hill. What she's here for is a fight between royal blood to decide the next king of the monsters. All of her remaining siblings are gathering, and they're all trying to off one another through cowardly tactics. Hiro, a random innocent whom Hime revives and turns into her half-immortal servant, quickly finds himself in a situation far beyond his understanding, but him and Hime grow a bond that allows them to soldier on. Alongside the half-werewolf warrior Liza, mischievous vampire Reiri, and the dependable robot maid Flandre, the two are focused on surviving the fight, dealing with all sorts of strange and bizarre creatures ripped right of the works of famous literature and the silver screen.

Right off the bat, Princess Resurrection has a huge advantage. Universal Studios of Japan gave the creator, Yasunori Mitsunaga, full creative freedom with their catalog of properties, meaning countless chapters of the series use creatures and concepts right from their library. On top of that, Yasunori finds ways to pay respects to all other entries in the genre. Evil Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, The Fly, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Silent Hill, the works of H.P. Lovecraft, The Thing, The Mummy, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Angry Red Planet, The Day of the Triffids, Jeepers Creepers, The Legend of Sleepy Hallow, The Shining, and so on forever. That doesn't even cover the tangentially related references, like Mad Max, Star Wars, Godzilla, Back to the Future, and, I'm not making this up, Robot Hunter Casshern. Really. And that's just some of the stuff I can actually figure out the influence for!

What results is a setting that's instantly complete lunacy in its design. Just about anything goes at any moment, to the point where one of the siblings has made his blood warrior into a sort of Resident Evil super-zombie, while another made one of his blood warriors what's effectively Soul Edge from the Soul Calibur series. Every story and arc can go anywhere at any time, and you never know where it plans to go. For example, one later arc that brings back some ancient deities ends up becoming a mystery story trapped in a time loop set in the far past. Hell, we even see Dr. Frankenstein helping two characters who look like they came right out of Cyborg 009 out of a knock-off version of the Silent Hill otherworld in a flashback. The series mixes together fantasy, eldrich horror, science fiction, and even time travel to create one of the most lively and ridiculous worlds I have ever seen, one where there are just sand lands with giant monster worms hanging around, or the literal armies of the apocalypse can be reasoned with via having a robot sit super still for long periods of time with a sandwich board. Long story.

The series is bloated with black comedy and violent displays. It revels in gore and violence, while also getting a laugh out of just how utterly insane the entire cast is. Reiri is a bisexual loon that grows more notably excited as the art improves, constantly trolling the team and trying to act like she's some high class noble, only to end up failing at tasks considered simple for everyone else. Liza constantly goes to murdering everything as plan A through Z and treating a broken spine as a mere flesh wound. Flandre and her siblings can only say one word (Huga!) and even have entire conversations with that one word. Hime is an aristocrat with a short fuse and belittled by the more simple minded around here. And then there's Sherwood, who made her blood warrior a pissed off panda (though granted, it's really useful in a fight). If I started going over the other royal siblings, we'd be here all day just on Gilliam, who's somehow the only sane one, yet has the most absurd warriors under his command.

Just by sheer entertainment value, this series is fantastic, but it goes farther and creates a very strong central story to hang everything. Hime and Hiro make a very strong pair of main characters, though it's not obvious at first. Hiro starts very plain, while Hime is treated as this distant person we can't quite read. But after a few chapters, the series finds its groove and gives them each strong character arcs. Hiro grows a spine and starts fighting tooth and nail to protect Hime, and Hime grows more and more trust for her servant and her friends. However, it never becomes particularly cliche, as Hiro doesn't get a real power boost until the near end of the series, and he never learns how to really use it till the final chapter. Hime, on the other hand, remains very distant from the reader and we learn more about her by reading what little she says or expressions in the rare few moments she's not in a position of absolute confidence or power. Her history with her siblings also ends up becoming one of the most interesting elements of the story, especially with Silvia.

Reiri and Liza also get their own arcs, growing a relationship and dealing with the messy politics between their two kind. Alongside are also a mess of subplots dealing with the other siblings and various monsters that all have an ax to grind with Hime and her family. Tons of monsters come back, or their followers return for some revenge, and it really keeps the series feeling unpredictable. You never know what the next chapter has in store, nor what's going to become important once again. The series is so well structured once the Dawn of the Dead arc starts, on the level of one of the better Urasawa series. Lots of credit for multiple time travel plot lines that actually make some sort of sense on top of that, though the quantum bomb part does get a bit hard to understand.

The art also improves by leaps and bounds overtime. Early on, backgrounds are weak and character designs are a bit plain, but Mitsunaga starts developing his own style and gives these fantastic expressions. All sorts of cool angles and patterns are used, adding to the crazed or stoic expressions of the cast. It's kind of amazing how good the final chapters look when you go back and look at the first. Action also has strong flow and some nicely done gore, working well with the simply and efficient style.

The series just gets so, so much better as it goes, and it manages something not many manga really get. Continuity and world building come second entirely to concept and execution, setting aside complex politics for constant streams of unknown and strange threats, forcing the characters to tackle each situation in a different way. It's pure popcorn entertainment with fantastic character work and a strong foundation of connecting subplots creating a larger main one, paying homage to so many things and creating its own identity in the process. Never once did I feel like this series was pretending to be something else, it just used the elements of so many other horror and fantasy works to create something new in its own ridiculous style. I may make a tradition of re-reading this every October, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the most horror focused time of the year. It's a masterpiece. It's everything it wants to be and much more, pure and simple.


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