She'll Kill Anything That's Dead! In the dark of night at a Buddhist temple, a mysterious ritual is performed causing the dead body of a beautiful teenage girl to be brought back to life. This girl is Makina Hoshino, the latest Shikabane Hime (corpse princess), or killer of restless souls. Caught between here and the afterworld, and bound to the monk who reanimated her, Makina can only gain eternal peace by killing 108 fellow zombies before she is murdered all over again.
We all deal with death in different ways, depending on our religion, upbringing, belief system and personal experiences. But that's what we tell ourselves and others because, except for a few isolated incidents, we have no practical ideas about dealing with our own time coming to an end. Maybe because I'm approaching 30, I find myself trying to grasp with questions about morality and mortality that I wasn't that pushed with when I was 20. So when I first watched the YouTube episodes of Shikibane Hime, the concept behind the show didn't really shine through, as the initial batch of episodes don't really have anything to them except SuperCorpseGirl fights bad guys, HeroMonk heals her from the sidelines and HeroBoy looks on helplessly.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself getting really angry with some of the characters in the show being treated like dirt by their superiors?
OK, I'm skipping ahead a bit. Let me go back a little bit. As I said, as I've gotten older I find myself asking bigger questions. So when I started the show, I focused on the main characters in the show; Makina Hoshimura (the titular Corpse Princess) and Ouri Kagami (the main protagonist). Ouri is a good character, being raised by Riko, manager of the Dai-Rin House for Child Welfare and Keisei Kagami, who adopted him and brought him to the house. But Ouri is strangely well adjusted, having none of the usual anime tropes about him. He isn't looking for answers, knows who he is and knows, roughly, what he wants from life. So when he witnesses his older brother Keisei, bandaged and injured, healing a slip of a girl, who had sustained massive injuries of her own, he finds himself drawn to the mystery. Makina is a character who seems two parts Revi from Black Lagoon and one part Taiga Asuka. She has an almost pathological disregard for her own personal safety, wanting only to protect the innocent from the rampage of Shikabane, people who have died with regrets and can't let go. The creatures, as you can't really call them people anymore, receive powers and strength beyond normal people and then proceed to try to continue living. Either for selfish reasons or murderous ones. The religious sect, the Kōgon, which on the surface seems to be nothing more than another Buddhist group has in fact charged itself with hunting down these Shikibane and destroying them.To that end the sect bonds recently deceased shikibane with the orders monks. These Shikabane Hime must kill 108 Shikabane to gain access to heaven. Hence where Makina comes in. Because, you see, she's dead too.
The real draw for this show for me has been the growing idea that everyone, and I'm mean everyone, in this thing is damaged in some way. The Shikibane Hime are damaged because they are caught in the limbo of "Am I a good person now that I'm 'dead' and was I a bad enough person when I was 'alive' that I deserve this?" They don't all say this in the series so far but the question hangs nevertheless. The contracted monks seems to range from Keisei, who has only the best intentions at heart for Makina, to Isaki a man who if I met him on the street and knew what really went on behind his eyes, I would ask that he not be the one to save me. Ouri has an interesting backstory of how he came to be the way he is and while I'd like to say he might be damaged, it's too early to tell. The shikibane themselves, oh boy, are REALLY damaged. Musicians, criminals and lonely misunderstood kids are all sent off this mortal coil and then get stuck in a hellish existence. Only the truly sick ones enjoy the power that comes with dying. The Seven Stars, a band of Shikibane that take mass murder into Google levels of productivity, are just plain nuts. You have the gravelly voiced psycho, the weird girl who giggles and then butchers people and so on. There's also the renegade Kōgon priest Akasha who becomes more important as the series progresses.
Another good part about the series is the fact that the Hime are treated differently by different parts of the Kōgon sect. Some see the girls as helping to destroy terrifying creatures while trying to redeem themselves while others see them as nothing more than tools, to be used and discarded as soon as possible. For the two contrasting ideas, Keisei is the former and Isaki is the latter. Every time I think of how Isaki really viewed his contracted Hime, Minai Ruo, my skin crawls.
The Seven Stars are where I start to fail in describing them as both characters and/or plot points. I want to like them. That Hokoto girl is creepy as hell and is named the same as the title of a favourite of mine. The leader is awesome with caterpillars for hands. In fact they all look cool. The problem is that they introduced far too late into the season. This is a two season 26 episode series and what look to do be the main villains are introduced in episode 10. By comparison the main villain is introduced fairly early in Okami-san and that's only a 12 episode series. They are the main villains! They are supposed to hang around from the first or second episode so we can at least see how the main characters should be wary of them. I hope they don't go down without a dragout fight. If the series chickens out and waits till show #24 and then starts the final fight, I'll be disappointed.
Characters are all right for the most part but some of the Shikabane Hime can be a little same-y. The monks all have different designs and I don't get the same level of disconnect for visual identifiers that I have watching an episode of Bleach (oh, that's a headache). Ouri looks like every other Japanese anime schoolkid then maybe that's what the show runners wanted him to look like. Who knows these days? Makina seems to be jailbait as she's constantly in the schoolgirl outfit and constantly in a state of disarray. Not Ikki Tousen levels but still, guys, a little restraint?
Overall, the animation is OK, it is a bit spotty in places and it can drag in places to see generic backgrounds but the action scenes involving Makina and the rest of the girls (yes, there are NO male Shikibane Hime) are always good and any anime that has a girl wielding dual MAC-11's can't be a bad thing, right?
Extras include English voice actors commentary on Episode 12, clean opening and closing sequences.
Overall, Shikibane Hime hangs by the slimmest of treads. If the villains don't live up in future volumes or they drop the dilemmas the Hime face, then it will fall on it's face. If not, then it might have a good future as a solid action title in the catalogue of anime fans.