If you’re ever seen dog racing (which is kind of a disgusting spectacle, IMHO) you know that it basically involves dogs (usually greyhounds, occasionally dobermans or whippets) chasing a fake rabbit around an oval track. I’ve mused on whether the creators of Majestic Prince were going for any sort of larger meaning behind the team names, but maybe they just thought the names were cute. In any event, Team Dobermans have been chasing Team Rabbits after a fashion – for screen time, and for status as the heroes of mankind. They do all the grunt work, and the bunnies get all the PR.
It’s certainly obvious that Dobermans were approaching a record for death flags by any characters, and as if to rub it in we actually got Chandra having a fiancee added to the mix this week – not to mention Patrick’s unrequited crush on Tamaki being relentlessly rubbed in our faces. So is it surprising to see two-thirds of them – and maybe all – meet their demise? No, of course not – no one could accuse GKMP of not predicting it. But I feel let down just the same, because it makes all those death flags feel very conventional and pedestrian. What kind of gag is it to flag their deaths so many times if you’re just going to kill them off anyway? I thought there was something meta and clever about the way the show was toying with the cliche, but it looks as if they were just part of the cliche.
That said, on its own terms the death of Randy and Patrick hits pretty hard. I like the both of them an awful lot (indeed, Chandra was the Doberman that had the least interesting personality). There’s always been a strange disconnect between the often lighthearted tone of GKMP and the sheer disgusting revulsion at the exploitation being visited on the pilots – that’s one of the main appeals of the series, and one of the more effective executions of that mecha trope I’ve seen in recent seasons. Even seeing the “good” ones like Amane and Suzukaze quaffing beer and sake and feel sorry for themselves about how they’re ruining kids’ lives is kind of disgusting, never mind the overt villainy of the more unsavory human leaders. Their guilt is meaningless and does them no credit – they do nothing to stop the exploitation itself, and moaning about it as they drown their sorrows in alcohol is meant only to soothe their own consciences, not to help the kids in any way. At least people like Simon are honest about what they’re about.
There’s a sense that Majestic Prince could go for an outright despairing ending, and it wouldn’t be out of character – it’s the show’s unassuming and low-key nature that makes it possible for it to slide into darkness at any time. We certainly see the seeds of destruction everywhere – Izuru (who seems to be the key to everything, literally and figuratively) is starting to show physical irregularities that have his exploiters worried. Simon is wagering everything on an all-out cannon fodder attack on the Wulgaru gate, the pretext for the suicide mission he sent Dobermans on. If it succeeds it will take countless lives on both sides, and if it fails the Earthers are seemingly in dire straits. And there’s no one with both the power and the inclination to do anything for Rabbits themselves, seemingly – they exist as weapons to be used in a desperate struggle to survive, and nothing else.
It’s classic mecha – but then, Majestic Prince generally is classic mecha – but there’r really not much reason to root for either side in this war. About the best thing that can be said about the humans is that they didn’t start the war, but they’re certainly doing nothing admirable in their struggle to win it. The Wulgaru are interesting but their ultimate goal is pure selfishness – the genocide of another species in order to prolong the life of their own. Yes, the humans are trying to survive a fight they didn’t ask for and thus, ultimately, the less culpable of the two sides – but they’re still hard to root for. It’s really all about the ones caught in the middle – they’re the victims here, their lives swallowed up in the pursuit of larger goals. That’s the essence of mecha anime but it isn’t portrayed as well as it is in GKMP all that often. When the show hews close to that central theme, that’s when it tends to be most effective.