Jōran: Princess of Snow and Blood is an original seinen, politically intrigue-infused historical drama taking place in 1931 that follows a Tokugawa prince who holds absolute power. On one side there is a rebel group that’s determined to assassinate the prince and re-take the regime that he’s built via that power. Then there’s the other side, consisting of a consortium of secret government executioners that seek to extinguish the rebel group before they can make their move and demolish all that has been erected under the Tokugawa rule. The series is being animated by Bakken Record and produced by Bushiroad with direction from Susumu Kudō.
Seeing this anime listed as a historical drama with political intrigue was more than enough to make me curious about it, and the beautiful woman in the kimono on the cover also didn’t hurt. Now that I have watched the first segment, I feel that this may become one of my favourites for the season if it can maintain the decent writing, animation, and suspense that fuelled the introduction.
The bulk of this first episode basically shows us the main characters and that they are secret agents or assassins of some sort, and while their allegiances aren’t clearly revealed yet, we do get a nice taste of their individual personalities and preferred fighting styles. One of the female characters is someone I know already that I shall hate vehemently yet admire due to her specific level of cunning; people like that drive me up a wall with frustration because I can never truly hate them or love them completely either way. It’s a strange sort of respect instead. Then there’s the main female character whom the series revolves around mostly, whom I know I shall become wholeheartedly smitten for, it I’m not already there.
Because there is this level of people offing each other and mutterings of a corrupt Tokugawa reign, I’m hoping for some intricate political mixture as the series unfolds in the coming weeks. Cerebral, tight-knit plots about governments and the citizens that are trying to overthrow them are really fun sorts of storytelling for me, and I’m hoping with every ounce of energy that I have Jōran doesn’t drop the ball on this. Due to two conflicting sides of a coin, there is also a ton of violence and bloodshed. It’s not quite as gratuitous as it is in other shows that centre on mutual mutilation (yet), however, there is enough of it to satisfy my sadistic and blood-loving soul.
Another element I adored is that the violence and action isn’t limited to swordplay only. We have swanky spy-type gadgets and gizmos along with guns galore and shapeshifting magics that contribute to the mayhem of death and power escalation. It all made for quite a thrilling first episode and, once again, ‘tis another trait that I’m hoping shall continue with its romping.
Even with all of these fantastic characteristics, if I had to choose only one thing that stood out to me the most, it would be the music. The wonderfully elegant sounds of traditional Japanese stringed instruments combined with the Western spunk of speak-easy, Jazz-bar-type tunes worked to create and complement the atmosphere of the snow-kissed Meiji-era Japan. The effortless way it moves from one set of sounds to the next, and then the intermingle of them—ah, my heart thrummed in delight. The music nerd in me was giddy with excitement.
The animation for the first episode will be hit and miss for some watchers. When the characters shapeshift and go into their Super Saiyan mode, essentially, the artistic style takes on a calligraphy-infused essence to it, leading to the climax of the particular battle, which ends with a traditional Japanese poem. I thought it was supremely artistic, but due to how much it stands out when compared to the rest of the animation, it can be somewhat disjointed for some viewers. Personally, I enjoy it when an anime tries experimental versatility with their animation and virtual cinematography; sometimes it’ll work and other times it’ll be a hot mess, but it’s a fantastic way to create something that shall be memorable and unique if the former does occur.
Overall, Jōran: Princess of Snow and Blood has shown far more potential than I ever really hoped for and I’m anticipating the next episode with tons of fucking glee. I feel like people that enjoy historical dramas akin to 91 Days or Samurai Champloo and fucked-up politically charged settings as akin to Dororo shall find this an interesting title to check out. Jōran: Princess of Snow and Blood is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and VRV (links below).
Native: 擾乱 THE PRINCESS OF SNOW AND BLOOD
Genre: Henshin, Historical Drama
Season: Spring 2021
Studio: BAKKEN RECORD
Director: Susumu Kudō
Content Warnings: Violence, death, blood, nudity, mild sexual content, cursing, preparation & consumption of food, brief scene with snakes.
AniList: Jōran: The Princess of Snow and Blood
Streaming: CrunchyRoll, VRV