Every season has its dark horses and this one is no different. I’ve been excited about Flowers of Evil, Attack on Titan and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet since the offset, but I ignored Majestic Prince, which I figured would be as cliché as it looked. I don’t know if it’s just Hisashi Hirai’s dated character designs or the general vibe of nostalgia that permeates its whole production, but Majestic Prince feels old. For example, I’ll always remember Hirai’s drawing style for his work on 1999’s Infinite Ryvius (and later, 2002’s Gundam SEED,) but there’s other points of reference, too, like how it has an ending theme by Chiaki Ishikawa of Bokurano’s great Uninstall OP. It all just feeds into that datedness that has seen many dismiss it with barely a second glance. Like I did, sadly. It has a score of 6.77 (from 3001 users) on MyAnimeList, which is notably low for what’s fast becoming a very decent series, but is also revealing in how far out of sync it seems to be with the fans of today.
It reminds me of how Toward the Terra was received back in 2007, in that it was this very straight forward space opera that went unnoticed by many. It has a solid, fascinating story with consistent animation but just never seemed to spark much of any interest. Of this season’s three robot anime (Valvrave and Gargantia being the others,) Majestic Prince is the least popular, but given my reaction to it, I suppose that’s not a big surprise. I just hope more are willing to dig a little deeper. What turned me around? I stumbled into a conversation on Twitter comparing it to Ender’s Game, and that was that. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Ender’s Game and Majestic Prince are worlds apart in tone. Both are stories of child prodigies swept up by Earth’s military and used as weapons against a strong alien enemy, but where as Ender really struggled to cope with the intensity of his duties, the kids in Majestic Prince are a little less burdened. They still get stomach ulcers, freeze in battle and fear for their lives, but it’s mostly played for laughs. This is a strange series like that, one that makes light of otherwise traumatic situations, but one that also feels like it could shift into absolute despair at the drop of a hat. Team Rabbits is their unit’s name and they are made up of three boys and two girls renowned for their (lack of) skill on the battlefield. They pilot robots in space, of course, but all they have is each other. If one were to die, the whole complexion of the series would change.
Indeed, it feels like Majestic Prince is preparing us for harsher times, but I’m really beginning to sense a tightness and strength in Team Rabbits, too. If there’s one thing that keeps me coming back to anime time and again, it’s in search of these long form stories of shifting eras and friendships, where heroes and dreams are made and lost through a sheer force of will and persistence. I’m not sure if Majestic Prince will ascend the pantheon of great anime those words may recall, but it’s an unpredictable and honest trier, and I’m behind it all the way.
It’s the other side of the coin to a series like Attack on Titan, too. Both have graduation scenes early on in their stories, both are about young people thrown into the deep ends of their worlds and trying to remain strong in the face of overwhelming odds, but there’s a surface layer of optimism to Majestic Prince, misplaced or not, that’s otherwise absent in Attack on Titan. Given the underlying message of hope for young people in Gargantia too, it seems like Japan’s anime industry is suddenly hell-bent on coaxing its young adults out into the real world.