As much as I’d like to claim the title of “Galactic Fairy” from Sheryl Nome of Macross F, “Galactic Prince” is also a rather enticing moniker.
Since my early twenties I’ve become annoyed at science fiction anime series where the protagonists are in their teens. The thought of fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds somehow being qualified to become pilots baffles me to no end and the idea they have the maturity to function in a military organization is mystifying. True, there are sad cases in real life of child soldiers, but in fiction one would think governments and other political organizations would avoid using children as soldiers. Perhaps it’s because I’ve gotten older and therefore would like to see protagonists in science fiction anime who are closer to my age, still the fundamental fact of young people as protagonists in science fiction anime is unsettling. However, there was one anime series that demonstrated how it’s possible for a science fiction anime series to have an interesting story with a cast of teenagers. This was the 2013 series Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince (銀河機攻隊マジェスティックプリンス Ginga Kikou-tai Majestic Prince). What set this series apart from many other science fiction anime was rather than using the five protagonists as a method to push the larger narrative, the production team took time to examine exactly what being a soldier meant to them. By doing so, there were far fewer episodes devoted to action and the bulk of the series stayed focused on the characters. The benefit of this made each action set piece have far more weight behind them, even if the action was a jumbled mess at times.
It seems one of the most common tropes in science fiction anime, particularly those that have giant robots, is the protagonist stumbling upon the titular thing of the series. Very few actually have characters who are already qualified to use said item and far too often the characters perform what would amount to a miracle in real life by mastering it within mere minutes to hours. It’s almost as if the characters are more of a vessel to advance a story surrounding the object in question rather than being fully formed from the beginning. This type of thinking about the matter might be a bit pessimistic, though, because more often than not the characters grow as the series develops. The original Mobile Suit Gundam is an excellent example of this as are the series Dai-Guard, the more recent Neon Genesis Evangelion films, or even Fafner in the Azure franchise. But, of the series I mentioned, only one, Dai-Guard, had protagonists who were trained pilots at the beginning of the series. This added a different layer of storytelling to the series as a whole, which made it engaging in a far different manner than other series in this genre—but that’s for another article.
Admittedly, Majestic Prince did annoy me at first with its cast of teenagers, but I quickly found, similar to Dai-Guard, the five protagonists, Izuru Hitachi, Toshikazu Asagi, Kei Kugimiya, Tamaki Irie, and Ataru Suruga, were far more interesting than the producers initially let on. This was achieved through a number of methods, but most predominantly because they were genetically engineered to be the pilots of the series’ robots, AHSMB, and had their memory erased before entering the pilot academy. This called into question some rather philosophical questions such as who they fundamentally were and what it meant for them to be alive. This was not an easy task because many of us can’t answer that question if our lives depended on it. Added on top of these existential questions, because the five were born to be the metaphorical engines of the AHSMBs, one would wonder why they needed to have any semblance of humanity to begin with. While it’s explained in the series the AHSMB’s operating system functioned on the survival instincts of the pilot, that was hardly a justification as to why they needed to have such distinct personalities. However, this is what made Majestic Prince interesting.
Calling into question the ethics of using children as tools of war was fascinating, but because these characters had their pasts taken from them, exploring each facet of their remaining personalities and why they chose to fight was an interesting direction for the series to take. This ultimately led to many of the episodes lacking a great deal of action, but the strength of the series didn’t lie there. It’s many of the quiet moments of conversation between the characters that bolstered the narrative and made it a pleasant experience to watch. For example, in the fifth episode before the five characters deployed on a sortie, the leader of a more experienced squad advises them, but more importantly the boys, to watch a DVD he gave them. The resulting scene was not only funny, but allowed viewers to see that while they had been deprived of many of the luxuries children in first world countries enjoy, they still had reactions similar to what normal children might have to the content on the DVD.
While the example above was more on the comical side, the twelfth episode took a much deeper look at the characters. The episode detailed a day they had off and through it we got a much better sense of what motivated each character, not just in their interests, but how they approached life as well. Thus, when we saw Izuru spending the entire day on his hobby, drawing manga, albeit he was not too good at it, this gave us a much better impression of what being a hero meant to him. In turn, Kei and Tamaki spent the day essentially as public relations poster girls for the military organization they were affiliated with. The disconnect between how Izuru and the two girls went about their day was interesting to say the least, but in examining the latter, we saw that Tamaki reveled in the attention they were receiving, while Kei was far less willing to open up to those around her. The dichotomy between Tamaki and Kei was impeccably presented as their personalities were the polar opposites of each other, but at the same time the two had to find a happy medium between their respective personalities or their time together would have been narratively pointless. Thus, narratively their day became a tool for them to bond, but for viewers it was a method to understand them on a deeper level.
These types of episodes were the crux of Majestic Prince, and without them many of the action scenes later in the series would have been hindered. By spending far more episodes on the character development aspect of the series, as viewers we were better able to sympathize with the odds they were up against during combat. For a long narrative series like this, while the action was much more stimulating, we still needed points of reference in terms of their personal struggles in order to become fully engaged with the story. Thus, episodes like the fifth and twelfth added a layer to the narrative many other science fiction anime tend to lack. This also had the added benefit of making many of the minor characters much more interesting. This was true not just of those allied with the protagonists, but even for the minor antagonists as well. However, don’t misconstrue my words when I say the series only focused on character development because it had its share of action as well.
It’s just the character development added emotional content to the action, when oftentimes it’s lacking in other action-based series. The sixteenth to eighteenth episodes were a good example of this. In these episodes the characters were tasked with defending the academy they had previously attended. Yet, if the opening episodes hadn’t spent some time focusing on their time there it would have been difficult to understand the pressure brought to bear on them. True, they were treated poorly by their classmates, but over time and through their successes they had managed to achieve a certain amount of respect among their peers. As a result, the emotional weight behind each bit of action was intensified and very suspenseful. Thus, for me a focus on character development in order to emphasize the action set pieces are what make for the best science fiction anime series and to see such content in Majestic Prince made it much more pleasurable for me to watch.
Sadly, though, I often felt as though the action was cluttered at times. This was less of an issue in the later episodes, but the action in many of the early episodes used quick cuts and very fast movements to emphasize the chaotic nature of a space battle. As exciting as this may have been, it made it difficult to keep track of where the characters were in relation to each other. This was detrimental to the tense atmosphere the production team was trying to create because without an understanding of the proper context as to where the characters were located, it lessened the effect of the threat they faced. On top of this, there were a few instances where it became nauseating to watch the action scenes. If the producers were aiming for a style of animation that simulated combat flight, they may have achieved it, but I felt they were trying to create something that was visually stimulating rather than coherent. Again, this became less of an issue as the series progressed, but in the early episodes it detracted from the ambiance of the battles in Majestic Prince.
Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince is a very rare instance of a science fiction anime where I found teenaged protagonists appropriate. The narrative created around the characters worked to construct emotional content behind the action and the action stimulated the character growth. While I applaud the producers on focusing on the character development, they did strike a good balance with the action in many of the episodes. While one of the manga series is still in syndication, the anime came to a satisfying conclusion, making this series another rare case of an anime that need not expand any further—despite the source material still being published. The production companies Doga Kobo and Orange have produced a number of well-made science fiction anime over the years and Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince is no exception. Science fiction fans and even those who don’t enjoy the genre will most definitely appreciate this series.
Title: Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince (銀河機攻隊マジェスティックプリンス Ginga Kikou-tai Majestic Prince)
Under: Doga Kobo, Orange
Official Site: http://mjp-anime.jp/
More Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majestic_Prince_(manga)