Kaizoku Oujo (Fena: Pirate Princess) Review - Caught Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

An arcane legacy, a cryptic slab of glass, and an enigmatic young lady with a shrouded past. Curiouser and curiouser still is the fact that Fena is searching for what she knows not, she knows not where, with allies she knows no better than strangers (at first). All this cloak-and-dagger stuff has really kept us on our toes with Fena: Pirate Princess, yet as certain truths come to light, we think we may have been better off still stumbling around in the dark.

Crunchyroll and Adult Swim’s pirate-samurai lovechild promised a lot but fell short on the delivery. While it definitely has its high points like breathtaking animated sequences and charming illustrations, it also has its lows. One such low is the plot, which we got hopelessly lost in. So if you’re still trying to figure out the who, what, where, and how of this swashbuckling sword-fighting adventure, you’re not alone! We’re here to break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of Kaizoku Oujo to seriously figure out what the heck just happened?!

Spoilers Ahead!

An Army of Knights and a Damsel Sick of Distress

Kaizoku Oujo’s strongest point is its compelling characters. From wilful, kind-hearted Fena to brave, stoic Yukimaru to loyal Shitan, our titular Pirate (is she, though?) Princess and her Goblin Knights carry the show with their characterisation and group dynamic. The dangers of Fena’s pseudo-oracle status present our Knight squad with opportunities for some awesome action airtime, from high-octane sword fights to devastating martial arts tactics. The baddies don’t even see it coming!

Setting sail across the seven seas in a submarine-ship, our rag-tag crew and their Captain/Navigator set out on an adventure steeped in intrigue. While following the breadcrumbs in Fena’s memories and a slab of glass, the crew of the Bonito II have some truly unforgettable moments. From confronting Grace O’Malley’s vicious pirate ladies, to being left for dead in a cave, to Fena being kidnapped by Abel who, wait for it, was in love with her dead mother, to being excommunicated from the island to looking for the mysterious Eden, this is definitely an adventure for the books.

So, great characters, high-stakes, oozing with action and quality fight scenes and the fate of the world in the balance? Sounds like the perfect recipe for a pirate adventure!

Something Wicked this Way Comes…

Except it’s not and with the exception of Grace O’Malley and her femme fatale crew, there are no pirates. That’s okay, because we were still sold on the awesome adventure and beautiful art which became so much more alluring with the introduction of some conspiratorial and sinister add-ons like Joan of Arc, an illegitimate princess, and the treasure of the world on an island that can’t be found on any map. This makes up for the lack of promised pirates and still has the makings of a great adventure, right?

Wrong. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and all of these storylines, while intriguing and potentially exciting on their own, form a nebulous web which we can’t make head or tails of. Until Yukimaru’s impromptu solo mission to rescue Fena, the story had slowly built its momentum, laying a solid foundation between our MCs, establishing a villain, and introducing the mystery surrounding La Pucelle. Unfortunately, the following episodes rushed the narrative, the plot couldn’t keep pace and too many details and storylines were introduced only to remain unresolved as the show approached its climax. The truth about Eden and the introduction of the Observer came out of nowhere, Joan of Arc was turned into a footnote in the story’s lore despite the emphasis on her reveal, and Fena’s world-altering decision just seemed like a bandaid slapped on a dam full of loose ends.

… And Leaves Nothing but Toil and Trouble

In an effort to wrap up all the new plot lines and nuances of overarching storyline on a tight time constraint, Kaizoku Oujo really struggled to make it to its end as it ran through so many unnecessary detours (like the ones we just mentioned). And unfortunately, for all this trouble, it negated all the hard work of the first half of the anime. To give Fena’s story some closure, it sacrificed the development of all the other characters that held our interest. Helena and Abel’s backstory was rushed, with the exception of Shitan and Yukimaru, the Goblin Knights were basically extras, and rather than expanding on Yukimaru (you know, the romantic lead?) we were introduced to Observer as some kind of plot twist, which to be honest, none of us even cared about because it was so random. The badass pirates that we were given just became an irrelevant side-plot in setting up Abel, and what a waste because those ladies were amazing!

Basically, all the characters that we’d gotten to know for the first half of the show were all but forgotten at the end, even Yukimaru, as the anime zeroed in on Fena and her predestined fate.

If there were a few more episodes, maybe all the loose ends could’ve been effectively tied up (like what does being excommunicated mean?), maybe secondary characters could’ve been fleshed out the way they deserved (what happened to Grace O’Malley? What about Joan of Arc’s badass maiden history?), maybe we would’ve been able to understand what the heck happened instead of having to break it down like this (why is the Observer so invested in the maidens? What’s the point of the maidens?).


Final Thoughts

While Kaizoku Oujo held a lot of promise for us in the beginning, it left us with a poorly conceived plot grappling with storylines too big for itself. Honestly, a few more episodes or a split-cour season, and we think our review would’ve probably gone in a different direction altogether, supernatural doomsday and all.

What did you think of Kaizoku Oujo? Do you think it would’ve benefitted from more pirate activity too? Let us know in the comments below!

by G