When a human dies with strong emotional feelings they can be reborn as Shikabane – an undead being fueled by anger and hate. Ouri learns about this hidden part of our world when he sees his adopted brother revive a corpse.
Corpse Princess: Aka (Season One)
What did you watch?
Honestly, I’m not sure how I missed this one. Admittedly, it did air during the dark period of my anime adventure. I was travelling and working and didn’t have a lot of time for anything else. Streaming also wasn’t much of a thing back then either. Anyhow, this is a story about undead creatures and monks making contracts with other undead creatures to fight back. I was bound to enjoy it. However, let me just say I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it quite this much. I know, I know. I’ve revealed my hand too soon, but I couldn’t help myself. Now, let’s find out why!
Ouri grew up in an orphanage run by a Buddhist monk called Keisei Tagami. He’s been like a father, a big brother, and a friend to him. However, Keisei comes home with strange injuries and generally laughs them off. Then, one evening, Ouri finds the body of a girl lying on the floor in the shrine. Before he can do anything, he hears others coming so he hides. Then, he watches as Keisei embraces the corpse, bringing it back to life.
Luckily, Ouri is about to move out and start life on his own, much to the disappointment of the other children and the caretaker of the orphanage. On the night he moves out, he sees a girl fall out of the sky. It’s the same one from the shrine. He instinctively scoops her up and checks to see if she’s all right. After a moment, she wakes and runs off with her two uzis. This is not going to be the last time he runs into her and before he knows it he is somehow involved in a secretive war against the undead, although the monks would rather he stayed out of it.
What did you think?
This series is fifteen years old and it’s as good as anything I’ve seen lately. At first, it starts off with the monster of the week format as Makina and Keisei fight the Shikabane and Ouri seems to stumble in the way. His continued involvement is starting to cause problems for Keisei as other monks start to think he might be up to no good. So, what started out fairly simple quickly becomes more complicated and intriguing. Makina’s back story is incredibly dark, but I get the feeling that’s going to be nothing compared to Ouri’s if we ever find out. This story continued to build on everything it developed making it better and better. Nothing is wasted and as a result, it sucks you in and drags you through the horrific events that follow.
What was your favourite moment?
There was one moment in this season that blew me away. I remember every second of it and probably will never forget it. Ouri had managed to get himself involved in yet another Shikabane appearance. This time it was an upperclassman who died and had come back to enact revenge on the bullies in his life. As his brother was injured from a previous encounter, another monk, Shuuji Isaki and his Shikabane Hime, Minai were sent to deal with it. Minai was struggling and Isaki continue to demand she fight harder.
Eventually, Ouri managed to get through to the Shikabane which made it lower its defences and allow Minai to defeat it. Ouri thanked her and showed genuine concern which is something she never got from her monk. Basically, Isaki was a complete ass and so it wasn’t too much of a concern when he was attacked by gang members he’d previously had a run-in with. Unfortunately, a Shikabane Hime without a contracted monk either died or turned back to a Shikabane. Minai was desperately trying to keep herself together, but the other Shikabane Hime were already attacking. Ouri managed to get to her and run away. He hid her at his place of work unaware that the owners were a former monk and a Shikabane Hime.
I watched in horror as Ouri left her there and went for help. I wished that they would have made a contract between Ouri and Minai right there and then so that she could survive. You could see the look of terror in Minai’s eyes as she realised where she was and who she was with. It was utterly heartbreaking and that was why it was my favourite moment.
What was your least favourite moment?
There were some really dark moments such as the three children that died in a school bus accident that came back as Shikabanes and then there was the woman who died giving birth that was still protecting her child. This series isn’t afraid to hit you with the worst thing you can imagine. So, we thought we were ready to discover how Makina died. We were wrong. She was hunted down by the Seven Stars – a group of Shikabane. They killed her family, torched her shrine, and then played with her like she was an insect. They ripped off her limbs and laughed as she begged for help. Absolutely devastating.
Who was your favourite character?
I loved the scenes with Minai and am still gutted that she died, even though I can see why from a story standpoint. In truth, all of the characters are remarkably alive and well-developed which is amazing considering how little we see of them as the series focuses largely on Ouri, Makina, and Keisei. I’m looking forward to diving into the second season/cour and as such I’m going to mention the character I really want to see more of. That is Kamika Todoroki. She is the Shikabane Hime with duel swords. She’s contracted to Sougen Takamine and is incredibly strong. I hope she gets more time.
Who was your least favourite character?
This one is easy and it was quite clearly intentional. I’m talking about Shuuji Isaki. His character was awful. He was suspicious of everyone causing problems for Keisei and Ouri. He told Keisei to abandon Makina when she was injured and was prepared to make Minai fight and fight and fight, regardless of whether she could win or not. He saw her as a tool and didn’t seem to care if he broke her. He seemed quite prepared to discard her whenever it suited him. I didn’t shed a single tear when he died, but then it was the beginning of the end for Minai. She deserved so much better.
Would you like some more?
It looks like the second season/cour aired immediately after this one and since the thirteenth episode was pretty much a recap episode, I’m fully prepared to dive straight in. I’m surprised that I’ve not heard more about this series even though it is old. It has been a thrilling ride and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. My guess is that Ouri is going to need to do some serious training if he’s to retain the contract with Makina after Keisei died. I’m just hoping that Makina gets to fulfil her revenge and eliminate the six remaining Shikabane of the Seven Stars.
What have you learnt?
There are lots of jokes about authors wantonly killing off characters. Too often they get criticised for introducing characters just to kill them in the hopes of shocking the audience. To some extent, this is true, but I also think it’s possible to introduce a character and develop a bond with the audience quickly, especially when introducing them alongside established characters. If a character you like is kind to the new character then you tend to go with their judgement.
Killing characters is a tough decision and the story is usually better for it. Without the stakes of life and death, things can become trivial. Will the hero survive? Find out next week! Of course, cliffhangers like this become pointless when the story hasn’t shown us the possibility that characters can die. It doesn’t take much to increase the intensity of a story. The death of a beloved or sympathetic character can make all the difference. Now, we need to see the next episode because there is a possibility that the hero will die. You’ve got to up the stakes!
Other posts in the series
- Season One – Aka
- Season Two – Kuro
- Did She Need to Die?