Young orphan Fena Houtman joins an iconoclastic crew of pirates to reclaim her past and family’s legacy.
The trailers and promotional art for Fena: Pirate Princess vibrantly presented a pirate tale of thieving, skullduggery, and treasure hunting with a Japanese flair. Production IG is a studio I love from its work with Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. So, when I saw that they were animating Pirate Princess, I quickly came aboard. Was their work on this project why Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 needed to go full CGI? Was it worth it?
Unfortunately, the unique broadcast situation of Pirate Princess delayed weighing anchor on my personal pirate cruise. Read about how the air dates and broadcast partners affected viewership here. When my anime voyage finally got underway, I saw much in Pirate Princess to recommend to other fans of buccaneer exploits. Here are five chests of loot I found and one place where X did not mark the spot.
The first scene of the series premiere dropped us onto a burning sailing vessel as evil-looking pirates cut down uniformed military sailors. Pirate Princess satisfied expectations of a pirate story right away. We saw characters swinging on ropes, bare-knuckled brawling, acrobatic sword fighting, ships firing cannons, and pirates packing pistols. Production IG’s hand-drawn animation smoothly captured the excitement and fluid motion of melee action.
Treasure Hunting Across the Seven Seas!
Okay, I counted only three of the seven, but the Goblin Knights aboard the Bonita II sailed far and wide in search of Fena’s lost treasure. The background art was lush and intricate. The treasure hunt had puzzles to solve, mazes to search, and adversaries to thwart. Starting in the Caribbean, Pirate Princess took us to Germany, France, the Mediterranean, and then a mysterious location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This part of Pirate Princess would have made a fun Lucasfilm game.
Pirates Can Be Japanese Too!
How the heck did a traditional Japanese clan end up in the Caribbean anyway? Pirate Princess explains it away, so don’t worry about it. Hey, I just told you not to worry about it! Fena’s story is for Japanese consumption first, so adding a Japanese cultural hook makes this 18th-century tale set on the other side of the world more palatable. The inclusion of Japanese characters also means we’ll have anime-style humor. The characters in the Goblin Knights fit the archetypes you’d find in any Sentai Ranger show, so we’re on familiar ground for fans of the genre. Dude, the leader of the Goblin Knights wears red armor and bears the name Yukimaru Sanada. That’s so close to the historical figure of Yukimura Sanada. Thankfully, he’s much quieter than the Sengoku Basara version.
Anachronistic Tech Isn’t Just for Pirates!
The era of full-rigged sailing ships lasted until the steam engine took over nautical travel. There is not one steam engine in Pirate Princess, yet the Goblin Knights’ ship, the Bonita II, is a 20th-century submarine. How does it work? Springs… or not. Karin, the gadget-crazed engineer, hints at a different power source but won’t clarify. The
dynamo-powered submarine isn’t the only thing the Japanese pirates have mastered before the rest of the world. They started ahead of the world on lung cancer too. However, those bluecoat Brits also break the timeline by loading a rifled barrel cannon with a shell. That’s naughty time traveling right there.
Bodacious Pirate Babes and the Pirate Princess!
The number one reason to watch Fena: Pirate Princess is for the pirate babes! Grace O’Malley, the pirate ship captain of the Rumble Rose, is a tan redhead with an eyepatch. Just look at her! Mary Read is another standout, fitting the gyaru template. She developed a crush on one of the Goblin Knights after Enju complimented her “slender waist and big boobs.” Fena and Karin are cute too, but one lady stole the limelight for an entire episode. Arya, the stone artisan’s granddaughter, made Fena jealous.
Those five reasons sound convincing, right? What’s the problem with Pirate Princess, then?
Past Lives and Troubling Love Triangle
There are mild spoilers for the conclusion, so I’ll be as vague as I can. The issue for Pirate Princess is how the overarching story to find “Eden” becomes entangled with romantic drama. The season stalled out when it showed us the pertinent parts of the villain’s backstory that motivated him before the last act began. It was a waste of time to put the narrative all in one place. Flashbacks spliced into earlier episodes could have made the timing better. The opposing sides had their own moment when they decided to resume traveling to Eden. It would have had a more dramatic impact if they were in the same episode.
Also, dwelling too much on the romance angle of Fena’s relationships left time lacking to explain what Eden was. Yukimaru’s steadfast devotion to his childhood love proved to be an essential detail in solving the puzzle of Eden. The anime told that part well. In contrast, standing around talking during a dramatic moment is the wrong time to lecture. It bleeds the tension away. Pirate Princess was an exciting show until one ship took a cannon shell to the guts.
Shortly put, there’s a slow part in the middle of the anime season, and it’s annoying. Do you still want to watch Fena: Pirate Princess? Have you already? What did you think? Who is your favorite pirate babe, and why is she Grace O’Malley? Let us know in the comments or online.