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10 home / october 2002 / chasing otakuism Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

Animefringe Editorial:
The Naked Battle
By guest columnist Jack Hsu

Princess Nine was the total surprise hit anime series of the year for me, coming out of left field. (Yes, that was a bad gratuitous baseball reference!) When ADV announced a couple years ago that they had acquired this series, the buzz was that this was a big experiment for ADV, as this was not only a sports anime, but there was going to be no violence in it, and the main characters were girls! P9 was pegged as a shoujo anime,by the fans initially, perhaps wrongly. All the discussion about the dub cast on the Animeondvd.com forums and ADV's decision to put the series out on 6 discs with the MSRP at $19.99 helped intrigue me enough that I decided to take a chance and buy the first disc sight unseen. It was one of my best anime decisions ever.

When the first volume arrived in my mailbox, I already had an idea what the series would be like. Having read some sports manga and owning one sports anime (Battle Athletes Victory), I was expecting the usual: Ultra-talented star leads underdog team to overcome impossible odds and achieve victory. "Hey, I wouldn't mind a good underdog sports story for my collection," I thought to my self. I was both right and wrong. By the time I reached the end of the first episode, I was hooked.

I was right in that there were the many usual sports anime/manga elements. There is the ultra-talented girl-next-door star pitcher, Ryo. There is even a, rival/resident rich ice princess named Izumi. There also is the energetic girl, the shy girl, the mysterious girl, the brash girl, etc., to round out the team. The coach is even a drunk. There were over-the-top dramatic, predictable plotlines, average animation, all adding to a kind of good campiness that you expect from a sports anime. Except for the music - the background music was performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic, and is an excellent score. But there was something, a spark that helped lift this series from that kind of typical series to something outstanding. This is where I was wrong.

Was it the writing? Princess Nine, for all the typical plotlines, also was atypical. Plot twists were thrown at the viewers that nobody saw coming. Characters, while starting out as stereotypes, were given dimension and personality, such that you really started to care for them. For example, Izumi could have always been just Ryo's rival. Yet the writers were able to let you see her whole being, her humanness (good and bad), that makes her become perhaps the most complete character by the end of the series. You may not agree with Izumi, but you really can understand and empathize with her. Romantic triangles were set up, and done well enough that you could see many different scenarios as to how those would be resolved.

Was it the voice acting? Both the original Japanese cast and the English cast did a great job! This is one series that I can listen to either version and not feel like I'm losing anything. Being that the characters started stereotypically, I thought the way the cast was able to give the characters emotion and depth was very important. Also being that there was such a large cast, the fact that everyone sounded different and distinct was a wonderful bonus.

Princess Nine became my "Must See" series. For the few weeks before and after each volume release, I would be discussing all the plot twists and the details of the stories with fellow P9 fans online. On the day I got each new disc, I would set aside that evening to revel in more Princess Nine goodness. I came to really care for the girls. I laughed with their joy, I felt down when they were sad, I lived and died with their success and failure. It's been such a great ride that I want this show to keep going for a long, long time.

Alas, ADV will be releasing the last volume of the Princess Nine series in October. There is no plans for any sequels. This is a sad state of events when almost any series can spawn a sequel or a spin-off but a worthy series like P9 cannot. But there is something more for those who just want more Princess Nine. As with many other series in Japan, there was a drama cd released, the translated title being: "Princess Nine: The Naked Battle." Got your attention there, didn't I? No, this is not a hentai drama cd, though there is some hanky panky going on. Thanks to Ahjenta on the Animeondvd.com forums, I was able to get a rough idea of the story:

During the summer, the girls go over to Izumi's house to get help on homework. It turns into kind of a risqué competition, with Izumi and Ryo representing each team, and each loss necessitates each representative taking off an article of clothing. Somehow Takasugi (Ryo's and Izumi's romantic interest) also ends up at Izumi's house. He is allowed to stay, but promptly blinfolded and his imagination begins to run rampant from what he hears.

That's a very basic gist of the story. This format, with no animation to match, really gives the voice actors a chance to shine. I thought the voice actress for Izumi, Mami Kingetsu, stole the show. She sounded even better on the drama cd then she did in the series!

Two things definitely made this cd worth the purchase, even if I hardly understood Japanese. The first is that Izumi does the oja-sama laugh, the kind of laugh let off by Ayeka of Tenchi Muyo! and Naga of Slayers. It's really funny, and incredibly fitting. The second is that it is revealed that Yuki also has a second Fifi-chan, known rather interestingly enough as Fifi-chan MKII. This one's a bit larger and a bit, um, straighter than the original and is able to fill Yuki's "loneliness" in a rather different kind of way, if you know what I mean.

When I first heard about the existence of this drama cd, I wanted it just to hear more of the characters. Then I actually heard about the content of the cd, and I wanted this title even more. Unfortunately, this particular cd is already out of print in Japan, and is not widely available. I was lucky enough (with some timely help) to get my copy from Yahoo Japan through a proxy bidding service. I also remembered that there was a good amount of interest in the drama cd among those who have seen Princess Nine . I also was reminded that ADV has been looking at the possibility of licensing a drama cd. The conditions are right, the domestic anime market has been growing steadily, with no end in sight. ADV is one of the top anime companies in America, and they are always looking to expand their business. Why not a drama cd of a series that was a success for them?

With the encouragement of a few people, I made a petition asking ADV to license the Princess Nine drama cd (http://www.petitiononline.com/P9CD/petition.html). In the petition, it asks that ADV license and release the drama cd as a 2 disc set, one containing the original Japanese cd (with the dialogue translated in a booklet if possible) , and one with the same drama acted out by the original dub cast. This would give the dub actors a chance to really let their talent shine without the restriction of lip-flaps. I think the results would be amazing. ADV could just use the Japanese cover, which has a few nice pictures depicting the girls doing their contests. Izumi fans will like the cover. Not to mention more of the Kisaragi Nine is always a good thing.

If you will also notice, in the petition it asks that if you sign the petition, you are also asked to send a physical letter to ADV in support of it. Yes, it is much more of a commitment and more work. The reason is this: e-mail and on-line petitions are almost meaningless to companies. What companies will pay attention to are physical letters. So I am asking if you enjoyed Princess Nine, and if you want more of it, sign the petition and then go the extra mile and mail in that letter. Let ADV know that there are people who want the Princess Nine drama cd!

Note: During the ADV Panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta 8, Animefringe asked about the possibility of Drama CDs such as Princess Nine being brought over. ADV Films responded by saying that they have been looking into Drama CDs but are still trying to figure out how to make it so you can understand what the people are saying. Judging from their soundtracks, ADV may be looking for a release that mirrors the Japanese one.

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