Saturday, August 18, 2012
Hirotoshi Takaya’s The Puppet Princess, reviewed by Travis Hedge Coke
Hirotoshi Takaya’s The Puppet Princess
Having recently seen Brave, I can’t help but view The Puppet Princess through that Disney picture. Both movies are concerned with young princesses wielding a weapon and fighting to establish their autonomy by magic, competition, and stabbing. While Brave, as is its right, features blameless parents indulging in extraordinary brawls before their children and generally being thuggish, barbaric redheaded parodies of Scotland long ago, The Puppet Princess rarely misses an autocritic moment, exploring straightaway the effects on children of growing up in a household filled with violence and the high and restrictive standards of being young and female in a royal household.
Director (and character designer) Hirotoshi Takaya’s movie is considerably more violent, though it swings to the more directly comedic as well, featuring slapstick for its own sake, and running gags (including one of the few rape jokes that actually works for me). Not a children’s film, but probably made for the twelve to fifteen year old, but enjoyable earlier or later, a la Predator; a juvenile movie.
Once you’ve got your juvenile head on, this tight little action horror comedy drama about a young lady seeking revenge against the tyrant who displaced (and murdered) her family by way of a scruffy ronin and some magnificent fighting puppets clicks. It’s a movie of fire and blood, vengeances, child abuse, and people falling. The visuals of the most extreme violence is kept offscreen or rendered abstractly, and the short runtime prevents the cruelty from marinating in your thoughts as you experience the movie, but the intellectual and emotional violence cannot be calmed so easily, and will likely outlast the brisk action or pretty flowers also in The Puppet Princess.