What’s it mean to be in the Caw of Fame? It’s a take-off on Hall of Fame, and since crows make the sound “caw…”
For a series to earn this “honor,” it has to meet these two criteria: the last episode has to have debuted at least a year ago and I have to like it. A lot. As in re-watching it over and over.
What’s the first such series that I think warrants such a spotlight?
Shikabane Hime, otherwise known as Corpse Princess!
This series has two seasons: Shikabane Hime: Aka and Shikabane Hime: Kuro. This review treats them as a single series.
Shikabane Hime: What’s It About?
Strong regrets bring some people back from the dead. If a monk from the Kōgon Sect doesn’t quickly make a contract with them, the person will become a shikabane, a powerful undead monster that kills humans. If a monk can reach them in time, and if that person is a young woman, the monk may become her Contract Monk. She then becomes a Shikabane Hime, a Corpse Princess, who exists to destroy shikabane.
Characters and Plot
Keisei Tagami is a high-ranking monk in the Kōgon Sect. He’s compassionate to the Shikabane Hime, because unlike many of his fellow monks, he seems them as worthwhile individuals. He’s frequently at odds with those who seem them as a barely necessary evil. He’s the Contracted Monk for Makina Hoshimura, and he “adopted” Ouri Kagami as his younger brother.
Makina Hoshimura died when a group of sadistic and powerful creatures attacked her family and burned down their home. A strong, unaddressed regret brought her back, and Tagami contracted with her. Together, they hunt and destroy shikabane.
Ouri Kagami is a young man who’s old enough to move out of the Kōgon orphanage where he lived. He’s an inquisitive young man who grew up among the monks, so seeing dead bodies (for funerals) didn’t phase him. In the temple, he comes across the cold dead, dead body of a young woman. He doesn’t have time to do anything but hide when several monks burst in. A badly injured Tagami is among them. One of the monks begs him to get treatment and contract with a new partner. Tagami brushes him off and scoops the young woman into his arms. Slowly, she begins to move again. That was Kagami’s first meeting with Hoshimura.
As they fight shikabane, Tagami and Hoshimura discover hints that a greater menace is taking shape. This menace has designs not only on Tagami and Hoshimura, but on the entire Kōgon sect — and beyond.
What I Liked about It
Among my weaknesses is a strong fondness for strong female characters. This series has a powerful lead character, Hoshimura, who never backs down and will keep fighting even if she looses an arm. She takes each mission personally, and she’s brusque with any outsiders to protect them from the evils she fights.
She’s absolutely dedicated to Tagami in part because he’s absolutely dedicated to her; they know they can rely on each other. This show doesn’t waste time on a budding romantic relationship between the two. They’re co-combatants in a bloody war. They don’t have time for a romance even if such a thing were possible between a human and a Shikabane Hime.
Another Shikabane Hime and her Contract Monk, Itsuki Yamagami and Takamasa Sogi, share a back story where they tried to become closer. The results were tragic and sad, yet not completely conclusive. For them, the lack of certainty and the fear of trying again seemed agonizing. I felt terrible for them, but it was great drama!
Another of my weaknesses is themes dealing with injustice or inequality. Many monks within the Kōgon sect treat the Shikabane Hime as unclean, blasphemous creatures endured only because they kill shikabane. Tagami rejects that notion and treats Hoshimura and the other Shikabane Hime with respect and kindness. He routinely risks his life for Hoshimura, and she for him. For me, this theme came into sharp focus half way through the series. During a temple event, the monks were able to enter, but the Shikabane Hime had to stay outside. Baffled, Kagami asked some of them why, and understandably, most didn’t want to answer. He was aghast and angry when he found out that the Kōgon leadership would not allow them to “defile” the temple.
The animation is crisp and appealing, even though there are a few frames that look rushed. The violence is brutal, bloody, and realistic — and it always moves the plot forward. There’s nothing gratuitous. For me, that makes the aftermath more compelling and gut-wrenching.
The other Shikabane Hime are interesting and varied characters, and each has a compellingly sad history. The villains are likewise deep and driven. Their plans are subtle, dangerous, and effective. In other words, they’re dramatically satisfying. I also adore the soundtrack, especially the OP (Beautiful Fighter by angela) and both EDs.
The voice actors (in both the subbed and dubbed versions — I’ve watched both multiple times) did a great job. In particular, I liked Luci Christian’s work as Hoshimura.
All of these things together might have been enough for me to enjoy the show. What brings me back again and again is the relationships between Tagami and Kagami, Tagami and Hoshimura, and Hoshimura and Kagami. They’re realistic, wrenching, hopeful, despairing, and everything else you want in a powerful drama. Seeing people you love facing hell and not backing down — despite risking and sometimes paying the ultimate price — that’s what fiction’s all about.
As I mentioned above, Amazon has a great price on the Super Amazing Value Edition (SAVE), which contains both seasons. I highly recommend it!
If you would prefer to stream it, you can watch it at Funimation.