Despite Sony’s recent acquisition of Crunchyroll, AT&T has no intention of exiting this market yet, as indicated by the recent promotion of Jason DeMarco, a veteran Adult Swim executive and co-creator of Toonami, serving as vice president of the anime division of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios. An election that is not surprising at all, since DeMarco previously reached an agreement with the orange giant of the streaming to co-produce an intriguing lineup of animation projects developed entirely in Japan, with titles such as Blade Runner: Black Lotus, Uzamaki O Shenmue. Today, the first series of the alliance between Crunchyoll and Adult Swin finally arrives on our screens: Fena: Pirate Princess (Kaizoku Ōjo).
Created by the director Kazuto Nakazawa Y Production I.G, the same duo responsible for B: The Beginning, this original anime is set in an alternate version of the story during the 18th century. Fena Houtman is a young orphan who was raised as a maid in a brothel, after escaping the violent takeover of the ship where she was traveling with her father Franz ten years ago. This optimistic, giddy and reckless girl continues to devise plans to escape from the oppressive island of the British Empire where she remains captive, until two old Hoffman family employees and a group of samurai come to her rescue. Fena will embark on a journey across the high seas to discover her secret destination, having as her only guide a precious stone and her father’s last words: “Go to Eden.”
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We don’t have many creators taking their chances with pirate tales in the contemporary anime landscape (at least not since One Piece saw the light); Therefore, a proposal that starts from a less fantastic approach, but is not afraid to play with its historical bases for the benefit of the show, is quite attractive on paper. So what does it have to offer specifically Fena: Pirate Princess to viewers? What stands out the most from the prologue of the series is how much nostalgia exists in its conception, with a combination of narrative elements, archetypes and a tone that is closer to the titles shōjo Y shōnen of yesteryear – a beautiful heroine with a mysterious past; a collection of eccentric characters that includes samurai, pirates, soldiers and a lovable canine companion; and the omen of a bombastic adventure with lots of romance and action.
The debutante script Asako Kuboyama offers in the first two episodes a timely introduction to all the ingredients mentioned, showing us just enough of the cast, the world and the main mystery before sending us on the journey. Perhaps the element that is most worth highlighting – given its absence in promotional previews – is the amount of comedy that abounds in this beginning, both in the presentation of the cast of misfits led by Asami Seto, Ryōta Suzuki, Aoi Yūki, Takahiro Sakurai, Gen Satō, Ryōta Ōsaka, and Jun Oosuka; as in its use to subvert expectations about the resolution of situations of supposed tension and danger, or to attenuate the harshness of certain events. Many times he fails and other times he hits the mark, but it seems that humor and absurdity will be other vital components in the saga of Fena and her crew.
As you would expect from a Production IG work, the visuals of Fena: Pirate Princess looks simply phenomenal, especially the detailed animation of the characters’ vivid expressions and body language, as well as the dazzling sets supervised by the art director Yūsuke Takeda (The Ancient Magus’ Bride). In contrast, the music goes almost unnoticed in these opening chapters, to the point where I had to remind myself that it is a soundtrack of Yūki Kajiura (Puella Magi Madoka Magica; Sword Art Online; Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba). Considering the content of the argument up to this point, I trust that the lofty orchestral pieces to which the Tokyo composer is accustomed will be present later; as well anticipated opening “Umi to Shinju”, performed by JUUNA and produced by Yūki Kajiura, which perfectly evokes that feeling of anticipation and awe that you desire for a production of this nature.
What is Eden? Who and why attacked Fena and her father’s ship a decade ago? What is the secret destiny that awaits our protagonist? After two chapters that lay the foundations for what is to come, Fena: Pirate Princess promises us an epic adventure with action, comedy and romance in the old school style, and a heroine with enough charisma and growth ground to become someone memorable.
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Fena: Pirate Princess premieres this Saturday, August 14 at 9:00 PM PT on Crunchyroll.