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The Fine Print
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All images for Shamanic Princes © 1996-1997 PRINCESS PROJECT/Bandai Visual MOVIC
Magical girls come of age. By Benjamin Wright
In the new OAV (original animation video) series Shamanic Princess, a small group of supernaturally powerful individuals do battle on our Earth. Using mystic energy fields to mask their secret war from the unsuspecting populace, these young, beautiful (and scantily clad) Magic Users pit spells and familiars against each other, with the fate of a world--and their souls--hanging in the balance.
From such a brief description, a seasoned anime follower might classify Shamanic Princess as a more gimmicky version of Clamp's famous mystical drama X. The truth, however, is that this new OAV series is a beautifully executed, poignant work with a spirit all its own. Dressed in the gaudy, eye-catching adornments of the "sexy fighting girls" genre, bolstered by superior animation and musical scoring, and taking the same much-traveled road as previous "otherworldly warriors" stories, Shamanic Princess is actually about growing up. It's about realizing the power within oneself, the power to be a part of the world...the power to feel secure in the face of loneliness.
WELCOME TO THE GUARDIAN WORLD
In a realm beyond Earth exists a mystical land known as the Guardian World. It's a land much like our own, but governed by different rules. Overseen by an Elder and led by several royal families, the Guardian World is situated between many different dimensions; this being the case, once in a while an entity (or "Power," as they call them) will escape from or through the Guardian World and run amok in another dimension. Though these non-native powers (or "Shadows") can be killed, they never extinguish completely; they'll just take on a different form and cause misfortune in that world. It's the duty of the Guardian World to restrain these powers and return them to their rightful place, thereby maintaining the cosmic equilibrium. To achieve this, the Guardian World's finest representatives are chosen to become Magic Users.
Members of the Guardian World's royal families are prime candidates for magical study; princesses are especially favored for this role. Guardian World magic involves otherworldly entities being bound by mystic pact to grant power to a Magic User, who must use her own reserve of inner strength to control these powers. Thus, those who test high for inner power make the best Magic Users, as they'd be best able to wield spells. Each Magic User develops her own signature style of magic--umbra-based or ribbon-based, for example, centering on some kind of focus (such as a musical instrument or a drawn rune). With full control of her powers, a Magic User can enhance her physical abilities, fly, heal wounds, wield mystic weapons, or even transform herself, though outside the Guardian World magic is used only at night. Oftentimes, Magic Users employ controlled Shadow creatures to fight for them by proxy. At all times, Magic Users are supported in their efforts and protected from harm by their faithful Partners.
A Partner's duty is to protect a Magic User until she's mature, but to a greater extent a Partner is also there to support the Magic User in any way possible. As Tiara's partner Japolo says, "When you're in a pinch in a fight, when you're in an emotional slump, when you're not physically well, when you're cranky in the morning, when you're angry and frustrated.... Whatever the case, I will do my utmost to support you. That is what a Partner is."
However, the term "Partner" is misleading--there's a definite inequality between Magic User and Partner, and the Magic User's the boss. This hierarchy comes from the very earliest stage of the Partner's development, when a budding Magic User is tested by performing the Summoning Ceremony. During this rite, the Magic User draws an entity from another dimension and shapes it into a new, more Earthly form (usually, but not exclusively, that of a human male). Then the Magic User must win the disoriented creature over and make it her willing servant. Once this is done, the Partner can use its own unique powers to aid its mistress, especially by using its ability to create a Stasis Field which will suspend an area of time and space for one hour. This allows the Magic User to go about her business in other worlds secretly, and without harming others. Partners and Magic Users alike, however, can be easily harmed by one last type of magical entity: Neutralizers.
Neutralizers are an offshoot of the Guardian World's shamanic tradition, and were once not distinguished from Magic Users. Over time, this special breed emerged with the unique ability to cancel out any and all magical powers, rendering Magic Users and Partners powerless. Neutralizers can also make use of thralled Shadow creatures, but unlike Magic Users, they have no innate power of their own--their abilities are purely borrowed from the entities beyond. Neutralizers are thus chosen not because of their inner energies, but because of their mind-set, personality, and the character of their soul. This inner nature is vital, because the role of a Neutralizer is to maintain the Guardian World's most sacred talisman. For millennia, Neutralizers have served to control this talisman's power and thus safeguard the very well-being of the Guardian World itself. Their lives are marked by predestination and even self-sacrifice, as each Neutralizer ultimately completes his or her life within the talisman itself--within the Throne of Yord.
The Throne of Yord
This ancient talisman is the central force of the Guardian World, sustaining it and serving as a locus for the entire culture--Yord's symbol is a runic depiction of a wide, staring eye, and this holy icon can be found all over the Guardian World and its denizens. As the source of all the magical power used by the people of the Guardian World, the Throne of Yord is worshipped and revered by the Elders and royalty. As the Elder proclaims, "Submit to the Throne of Yord to bring good fortune to the people. Protect the Throne of Yord for the glory of the country. Praise the Throne of Yord, which offers us a safe haven with unwavering promise. As witness to our mutual pledge, endure for all eternity, thou Throne of Yord." Strangely enough, this revered talisman is actually a painting--a simple image of a garden, in which is a pond, in which is a stone...but it's also much more. This painting is a gateway into another world, a universe made up entirely of a godlike being called Yord. Yord came to the Guardian World before there were people there, and through the Throne it was instrumental in shaping the nature of their culture, their magical practice, and their use of Partners. Yord, being omnipotent and omnipresent in its world (that is, the Throne, or the painting), is consumed with loneliness and has shaped the Guardian World to serve its needs. The souls of Neutralizers are ritualistically offered to Yord, who absorbs them into its world (itself) for company and friendship just as Partners are sucked from their worlds to accompany Magic Users. It's a sad, sick, twisted situation...one that can go on no longer.
See the full article, including character descriptions and episode guide, in Animerica 8.11!