OP: 「Umi to Shinju」by (JUNNA)
「記憶 / 受け継ぐ旅」 (Kioku / Uketsugu Tabi)
“Memories / An Inherited Journey”
An original series that includes not only a double episode premiere, ninjas, and an alternative 18th-century setting has good chances of making it onto my watch list this season.
It’s still early to confirm for certain but the dial only needs a very slight push. If you haven’t heard of Kazoku Ōjo (Fena: Pirate Princess), you must be living under a rock. After the double-episode premiere this weekend, reviews from fans and critics alike have been raving. I’m not so sure this review will sound any different from what you may have already heard but here I go anyway.
We open to a young silver-haired girl being sent out to sea in a raft on her own in the midst of a battle at sea. The ship she was on is ablaze from invading pirates and those closest to her are fighting for their survival, trying to at least save her from a fate they know will come too soon. As she drifts away from the scene, her father tells her something about ‘Eden.’ But the battle surrounds him before he can finish.
Fast forward ten years and we’re now introduced to an older Fena Houtman (Set Asami). Dressed in white, singing by her window, she gives off the impression of being an innocent beauty longing for her white knight. The high balcony, the roses in her hair all add to an ‘air’ of romance. But within minutes of this character introduction, our heroine does a quick 180 to reveal her true personality. She’s clever, determined, and quite a caricature of what a damsel in distress should be. She, of her own volition, has auctioned off her virginity to the highest bidder in the hopes that she can escape during her nuptials. Least to say, things don’t exactly go as planned but nonetheless, events ensue that ensure she finds her way to safety.
Fena steals your heart right away with her vivacious personality, her innocence, her strength, and her joie de vivre. This damsel seems to have been navigating her distress quite smoothly, especially the last ten years, always hoping and reaching for her escape. It’s unclear to me how she’s managed to keep her virtue intact living on an island known for being a centre of red-light district activities, but we may learn more about her experiences as the series progresses. Either way, her situation didn’t extinguish her flame. She’s brave, creative, impulsive, and attracts attention which makes it all the more entertaining. Her story isn’t what you’d expect. Her character actually reminds me of some of the most recent Disney heroines over the last two decades (think Brave or Frozen or Moana). She’s self-assured even in the face of danger or the unknown, a characteristic that left me feeling inspired.
This premiere didn’t only do our main character justice but offered a well-rounded, yet quick, introduction to supporting characters who I imagine will be around for the long term. Our first pair, Otto (Hirata Hiroaki) and Salman (Muraji Manabu), complement Fena quite some. I wouldn’t be surprised if she got her light-hearted nature from them as they watched over her. There was such a strong similarity between their quips and those that she exchanged with Angie in the first few scenes. They were soldiers who served her family and have remained loyal ever since. They come to her ‘rescue’ in a very unorthodox way but not without the help of the 7 ninjas of Goblin island, one of whom is Fena’s introverted childhood friend, Sanada Yukimaru (Suzuki Ryoka). Other supporting characters (members of the ninja squad) and their tropes include:
- Shitan (Sakurai Takahiro): A warm hearted and handsome archer.
- Karin (Yuki Aoi): The only female part of the 7 ninjas.
- Enjo (Sato Gen) and Kaede (Osaka Ryota): The troublesome twins.
- Tsubaki (Osuka Jun): A top-tier cook.
- Makaba (Tanaka Shintaro): A mild-mannered member of the 7.
So far, what we know is that each member of the 7 was trained in-depth on Goblin island, governed by Sanada Yukihisa. The island was bequeathed to the Sanada clan by the Houtman family way back when, and ever since, they have given their loyalty to the Houtmans. It’s still a little mysterious that they only just found her and decided to rescue her after so many years, but perhaps the stars aligned just right. To add to the mystère, Yukimaru insinuated that he had not exactly saved her…
There is so much to uncover in this show, whether that be Fena’s past, the enemy who killed her father, the British soldier after her, the mysterious clear stone, or why a submarine exists in the 18th century. But I do believe, dear readers, that we’re in for a treat with this series. We’re most likely going to see Fena grow into her own, hopefully, change her dress, and uncover old secrets. I also smell a hint of romance in the air and some situations that will mean her ‘guardians’ will have to come to her rescue but not without her putting up a fight. She’s a strong lass this one and I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her.
I realize, after blogging for RC for a few years now, that I always have reasonably high expectations when it comes to original series. But in this case, maybe for once, this one will hit the nail on the head. What are your thoughts so far?