Princess Connect! Re:Dive – Anime Review
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Synopsis: In the beautiful land of Astraea where a gentle breeze blows, a young man named Yuuki awakens with no memory of his past. There he encounters a guide who has sworn to care for him—Kokkoro, a lovely swordswoman who’s always feeling peckish—Pecorine, and a cat-eared sorceress with a prickly attitude—Karyl. Led by fate, these four come together to form the “Gourmet Guild.” And so their adventure begins… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Princess Connect is a show at odds with itself. There are times when Princess Connect feels a lot like off-brand Konosuba, a tale of four quirky adventurers and the bumbling idiocy they get up to, quest after quest. This is where the series is honestly at its best. Our characters are so lively, and the comedy so fast and frequent, that you can’t help but smile and laugh at the compounding absurdity. At other times Princess Connect is more lukewarm, with a joke here or there that’s amusing, but otherwise a bit more mediocre in its comedic antics. Finally then there’s when the show abandons comedy entirely, putting all its effort to earnestly translating the story and characters from the game of which this is an adaptation of. This bouncing between three varying tones leaves Princess Connect feeling wholly awkward as a product.
Linny: It’s hard to deny that Princess Connect is at its best when it is so much more loose in adapting from the game and instead serves up comedy through its lively, rambunctious characters. Right from episode 1, we get a hearty dose of our protagonists’ zany and peculiar personalities, which the show uses as the backbone of its comedy. There’s our hero Yuuki, who’s depicted less as a silent protagonist and more so as one suffering severe brain damage. He first meets Kokoro, a girl devoted to him but one who can’t help but react with shock every time Yuuki gets carted away by ravenous wolves. After that the two run into Pecorine, a bubbly sweet girl with an appetite worth that of ten men, wrapped in an overall naivety that leads to some of the show’s most frequent comedy. Finally a cat-girl, Karyl reluctantly joins the group, acting as the ‘straight-man’ often put upon by the other’s idiocy. They’re eclectic, unusual and grab your attention and amuse the audience through their uncommon reactions to the absurd situations they encounter. From Yuuki’s comically non responsiveness that leaves him feeling like an extreme parody of the typical silent, self insert game lead to Perocrine’s innocent persona, wrapped in ridiculous battle capabilities, Princess Connect’s cast offers both unique gags and familiar tropes that work well together. Even lesser supporting characters are utilized well, either through ridiculous character designs or quirky mannerisms that leave them feeling memorable even after episode’s end. The best parts are whenever the group is on a particularly silly adventure; like taking Yuuki to be treated at what looks more like a torture dungeon than a clinic or coming up with a practice mission to help some very young and new adventurers learn the ropes of the trade.
Tom: Despite how comedically sound Princess Connect is capable of being, it’s rarely at the top of its game. While there’s a handful of absolutely stand out episodes, that’s simply not enough to carry the entire season. For every stellar episode there’s another lesser comedic episode, not to mention an utterly serious one as well. These lesser episodes often feel uneventful, and do little to grow the dynamic of our leading four. Because the dynamic between these four never expands, never deepens, it’s then hard to appreciate when everything turns serious and deadly. It’s hard to feel for these four when they ultimately still feel like strangers, because the show hasn’t ever gone beyond that surface level introduction from episode 1. It doesn’t help either that the depiction of the characters can change drastically depending on the tone. While Pecorine might be sweet, bubbly and naive in one episode, the next those traits are diminished, because the more serious narrative has no room for silly. The characters become inconsistent, making it feel like you’re not even watching the same anime you started with.
Linny: Anytime Princess Connect tries to dive into more typical game adaptation content is when it becomes overly serious, sometimes going so far as to attempt more heartfelt content. These emotional moments often fail for several reasons. First off, the show rarely gives us any serious, deep or extended looks into the non silly side of our main cast. This makes it hard to then feel affected when something sombre suddenly occurs. The characters also bounce back very quickly from any of the more serious developments, making them feel trivial in hindsight. Then there’s the fact that the show will try to cram in new characters for an episode or two in order to give other characters from the game some screen time. But since these characters appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly, they fail to leave an impression or have any real impact, even when given tragic story lines. The show gives the audience very little time to know these characters, let alone bond with them. All together this makes the turns toward more serious plots feel forgettable and even outright disengaging.
Tom: It can sound like we’re saying that whenever Princess Connect tries to be an earnest adaptation it fails because the game’s original narrative sucks. While Princess Connect’s game narrative may not be anything all that original, it’s hardly bad. The real trouble stems from the show trying to do two kinds of adaptation at once. If Princess Connect was going to be a comedic re-imagining then it needed to be that. If it was going to be a straight adaptation then it needed to be that. Because the show goes a more schizophrenic route, equally dividing its efforts between comedy and drama, it ends up creating something that ultimately appeals to no one, save maybe the most stalwart of Princess Connect video game fans.
Linny: Princess Connect’s finale does the show no favours either. Not only does it suddenly dump a ton of new info about Pecorrine, it tries to portray her as a tragic character and also claim that it had been setting up hints about her tragedy through her habit of often hugging her companions. Thing is, while there’s truth to people often masking their sadness with a peppy personality, Pecorine’s hugging being painted as an obvious clue to her sadness feels stretched. The show had made her ‘secret’ pretty clear throughout the series so the big reveal isn’t a huge surprise but the show’s attempt to go ‘the happiest character was actually the saddest’ just doesn’t have the conviction and set up needed to work. Not only that, the finale introduces a bunch of new characters into the fray, which comes off as a desperate and frantic last minute attempt at either enticing new players for the original game or maybe appeasing game fans by throwing in some quick appearances of their favourite character who had otherwise been totally absent. Instead of leaving the audience on a satisfying note, Princess Connect! Re:Dive ends on a strained, cramped and chaotic one. While I’d started the show impressed by its comedic take and interpretation of a serious mobile game, what followed has been so uneven and ends on such a rough note that it’s hard to recommend the series. Thanks to its initially lighthearted approach, it was scorned by some traditional fans of its source material but its uneven comedy means it might disappoint even those who end up trying it for that very fact. If you’re running low on new shows to try and want to see a playful take on a mobile game; or maybe even want some budget Konosuba like vibes, Princess Connect! Re:Dive might still be a passable fit. However, if you want it to go hard on the comedy throughout; you should brace for disappointment or maybe keep it off your watch list entirely.
Tom: At the end of the day Princess Connect, once you’ve accounted for everything, is ‘okay.’ The series has incredible highs with its comedy, and I might suggest that viewers relegate themselves to the best episodes only (Those being 1, 5, 8 and 11 with episodes 2-4 being more ho-hum comedy that does help set the stage for the series otherwise.) I still appreciate Princess Connect for trying something new. Game to Anime Adaptations are a dime a dozen these days, and more often than not fail to improve the mediocre writing most, mobile games in particular, suffer from. Games typically don’t need stellar writing because half of the entertainment comes from the gameplay. Yet when translating these stories into anime or other media, the writing rarely gets a buff, and since there’s no gameplay to bolster/distract from it, these stories can falter greatly. Hopefully another adaptation team can take the approach here and find a better way to meld a comedic re-imagining with content more faithfully pulled from the game.
Princess Connect! Re:Dive is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com