Circlet Princess – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

Oddly enough, Circlet Princess is that rare anime this season that isn’t get simulcasted. I saw somewhere on Twitter that this has something to do with bilibili, a Chinese company that is streaming the series. At least the fansubs are pitching in and obviously, I decided to just watch them. For whatever reason, I wasn’t really going out of my way to check fansub-only anime this past Fall but eh, in a season as dry as this Winter, I just need something good and I’ll try anything in order to meet that quota.

Generally speaking, this kind of schoolgirl action anime isn’t really my cup of tea. Schoolgirl Strikers, Battle Girl High SchoolKatana Maidens, you name it. To me, these shows just don’t have much substance to go on other than “the girls are cute” and “they beat up stuff”. And I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that given the middling receptions these shows seem to get in general. With that in mind, I figured Circlet Princess would follow suit. Imagine my surprise then, that I found the show to be pretty enjoyable. I suppose there is just an exception to everything.

What about Circlet Princess that works for me? Well, to start off, I really dig the fact that the whole schoolgirl action concept is grounded as a AR-based sport. These girls fight with enhanced abilities and fancy weapons but in an arena-style competition called a “Circlet Bout”. The only real stakes, as far as I can tell, is gaining enough points to win or forcing the opponent to surrender. No generic plot about saving the world or combating monsters or anything. Just the characters competing because it’s simply that, a competition. It’s a pretty decent way to circumvent an otherwise shallow premise. Not to mention, the action is fun to watch. Maybe it’s not studio Silver Link’s A-game but they make the animation count the most here, capturing the speed and reflexes this kind of sport would entail.

As for the combat attires being a bunch of leotards, well, it is a sport based in a AR-arena. They are meant more for show and since fighting is simulated, you can’t exactly fault on practically. I can’t deny it can lead to some fan-service though…not that I’m complaining too much…

More importantly, I quite enjoyed how the characters’ introductions play out. The main protagonist, Yuuka (Juri Nagatsuma), makes a particularly good first impression as a transfer student stepping into the big city who incidentally stumbles upon a Circle Bout arena. It does get ridiculous how she gets caught in a mix-up in which she’s mistaken as the next opponent fighting against reigning Circle Bout champion, Chikage Fujimura (Atsumi Tanezaki), but this event ends up working in a couple ways. For one, this organically allows Yuuka to get a feel for the sport and quickly discover that she loves it and shows a lot of promise at it. And two, this establishes the inevitable friendly rivalry between Chikage and Yuuka, the former particularly getting more fired up now that she’s found someone who could beat her.

Following that, you get to meet most of the other members in the Circle Bout team Yuka will soon lead. My favorite so far is Ayumu (Kaori Mizuhashi), a student with a clear knack for technology who seems like the perfect person to help with the technical aspects of Circle Bout. Already, she’s taken an interest in Yuuka after watching her match against Chikage. Reina (Hitomi Nabatame) looks promising too as a Circle Bout fan studying at a school that apparently has retired the club related to the sport. She also appears to be the one who was meant to compete against Chikage so, no doubt, she has a bit of grudge against Yuuka. The only one I’m not terribly curious about is Ayumu’s athletic friend, Miyuki, but that’s possibly something that time might fix.

I’m stumped, to be honest. And sure, I wouldn’t exactly call this anime innovative or incredible at the moment but I really did have a lot of fun with this premiere. Maybe it’ll get stale in subsequent episodes but if the characters continue to shape up, then I may end up sticking with Circlet Princess.

OP: “HEAT:Moment” by Miyuki Hashimoto


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For all of my Winter 2019 First Impressions, check out this archive page!

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