I give this unique and adorable RPG adaptation...a 93/100!
There are anime that get aired on Saturday morning...and then there are anime that NEED to be aired on a Saturday morning! Seriously, why hasn't Popolocrois been released to the US yet or broadcasted on some children's channel like NickToons or Cartoon Network yet?! If there's any children's anime that SERIOUSLY needs to be exported to the US and introduced to American children, Popolocrois is it! It's super cute while not going to the point of saccharine, it has engaging, funny, relatable characters, deep character study, a fun and simple yet deep and interesting story, heartwarming scenes, great musical numbers, and just an overall fun and whimsical tale of friendship and valor. Popolocrois is just the kind of anime that children really need to see! It's a great and fun tale full of whimsy, and it proves that children's shows can be wonderful, creative, and great with the right amount of effort put into it, and don't need to just be glorified toy advertisements. But I can see some small things that could easily prevent it from being a big hit with American children, but that doesn't make it any less awesome!
If you can believe it, this anime is actually a sequel to the first video game. I have not played the video game, as it hasn't been released here! But I don't care! This anime may be a sequel, but it doesn't totally leave you in the dark about who's who and what's what. Anyway, the story's about a prince named Pietoro who, with his forest witch friend Narcia, meet a strange purple haired girl named Hyuu, who suddenly appeared because of the antics of the Demon King GamiGami. As it turns out, Hyuu is part of a supposedly dead race of people called the Wind Kind, and despite their attempts to befriend her and help her cope with the situation, Hyuu is frustrated and wants to know about the Wind Kind. Her bodyguards, Ston and Sanda, decide to steal Pietoro's dragon powers, which prompts Hyuu to join forces with GamiGami and try to become the queen of Popolocrois so she can find other wind people like her. This causes quite a lot of problems for Popolocrois and everyone in it, and she's constantly worrying whether everything she's doing is right.
This was made in 1998, so of course the animation is going to have nineties written all over it, but for the most part, it's actually very well made. The colors are soft and muted, yet bright, the movements are fluid when they want to be, and when the situation calls for it, it can really set the mood. If you can believe, it was made by a brand new company back then. No, it wasn't Bones, it wasn't Sunrise, KyoAni, Gonzo, or anyone of that caliber. It was made by none other than Bee Train, who really was a new company back then, and this anime really showed what they were capable of. Yeah, the cutesy, chibi character designs can be very off-putting, especially if you think this anime's gonna be a saccharine fest, WHICH IT ISN'T! But then again, this style was prominent in the games as well, so don't think the character designers weren't faithful. I seem to find that I have a liking for the old style of animation as its very easy on the eyes with their soft, muted colors and occasional fuzziness.
Now to sing praises about one really great part of the show: the music! The entire soundtrack fits the show to a T! The soft, dreamy tunes fit the moods perfectly, all the pieces are wonderfully composed with that sweet, pleasant nineties feel to it you'd find in most anime of the nineties, and the effects they can have on scenes are awesome! Plus, there's always a kind of whimsy in every single piece of background music. Even in the sad scenes there's something whimsical going on, and it doesn't hurt them one bit. Guess who composed the OST? Ko Otani. You may think you've never heard of him, but trust me. You've heard his work. This is the guy who did the OSTs for anime like Haibane Renmei, Outlaw Star, Gundam Wing, Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-, Shakugan no Shana 2nd Season, .Hack//Quantum, Eyeshield 21, Zatch Bell, Hyouge Mono, Hakuoki, Another, Deltora Quest, Pumpkin Scissors, and Blade of the Immortal. Some of you hardcore gamers may know him for his work on Shadow of the Colossus, Sky Odyssey, and Sengoku Basara 3, so this guy has a pretty good resume. Another great part of the OST are the songs. It's not often you see an actual insert song play in a majority of episodes, and musical numbers in anime are normally very uncommon aside from a concert scene, yet Popolocrois has musical numbers. I'll bet you're thinking they're just carbon copies of G3 My Little Pony songs that are cliche, dumb, annoying, and have no relevance to the story whatsoever. WRONG! The musical numbers have great orchestral music, wonderful singing, and fantastic animation, very much like the ones in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. They're pretty much the best songs I've ever heard.
Next up is the second best thing about this show: the characters. You may think that, because the character designs are all cutesy and make the show look like its for kids only, that there's gonna be rehashed and reused character cliches like the main male character being an idiot hero or a spoiled brat, the love interest, and the clingy jealous girl who hates it when her male gets interested in any other girl, the shy girl who does nothing but worry about the main character, the stupid villain who wants to take over the world for stupid reasons, etc. Again, WRONG! Yes, they look like they could fall into every one of these stereotypes, but they don't! They all possess subtle but unique and awesome traits that most characters nowadays lack. Even the villains here are amazing, and the best of them is Demon King GamiGami, who is not only awesomely hilarious with his over-the-top hammy voice acting and his strange love for making weird mechas out of junk, but actually has much more motivation than just taking over the world and getting rid of Pietro. Every character is very likeable. Pietro, while a prince, is just like any other kid: sweet, kind, is a little impulsive but not in a bad way, and is a little short sighted at times. But when the going gets tough, he'll be willing to learn and improve himself for the better. Narcia, while just as sweet and nice, doesn't have a lot of confidence and often keeps to herself, but instead of blowing this out of proportion, she asks for advice and talks to whoever is willing to listen about her problems. By God, why can't more anime characters follow her example?! I will admit, however, that the only character I've had problems with is Hyuu. I don't hate her. In fact, I really like her (and she has the best insert song in the whole series), but...she is the most freaking selfish and indecisive character EVER! By God, every other episode she decides one thing and then changes her mind and does something else while constantly not seeing what her problem is! I'll let it slide this time because it pretty much drives the plot, and that she DOES explain her reasons for doing what she does, even if she doesn't solve them right away.
I can't really seem to find any real flaws with this show, other than Hyuu's constant doubting and indecisiveness. But I do know that this show does have things that can really turn off other people, which may contribute to why it's so underrated and why it won't be able to be aired on American TV. For one thing, episodes 12 through 21 are mostly character focused episodes, which are awesome, though most people may find them to be pointless filler, and these episodes are anything BUT pointless, and they're rather slow paced, so one would have to be patient and appreciate what the episodes have to offer if they want to enjoy them. Secondly, GamiGami seems to love fanboying over Narcia like a kid with a crush. Yeah, an old man who crushes on a 12-year-old girl. It can be pretty easy to construe GamiGami's fanboying over Narcia as possible pedophilia, but he doesn't really go after her, and his fanboying is only taken to the extent of a child with a one-sided crush. He's much more honorable and noble than most anime villains. Plus, it's mostly played for laughs, so people shouldn't worry. Also, I get the feeling that people may think Narcia's alter ego, Kai, is an African-American and slam her with accusations of stereotyping just based on her portrayal, though in Popolocrois, there's no defining people by the color of their skin or the country they come from, so they really shouldn't be all paranoid (I haven't heard anything of the sort, but I think people would say stuff like this if Popolocrois did air on American television and if they're paranoid enough). That, and people may look away from it just because of the cutesy chibi character designs and the fact it's based on an RPG alone, which is a HUGE mistake, as a lot of people I know believe that Popolocrois is one of the best RPG adaptations ever, especially considering OTHER adaptations (Final Fantasy Unlimited). What also surprised me about Popolocrois is that it actually managed to subtly sneak some very suggestive things past the radar (NOT SEXUAL!!!), and no children's show I ever saw managed to address such an issue in that way despite its warm, innocent, and idealistic nature. I thought it was a pretty bold move. It's in episode 11, and believe me, you'll know the scenes when you see them. This is why I love Japan's kids shows, as they're not afraid to treat certain serious issues with the gravity they have in real life or sugarcoat them due to fear of parents complaining.
So what if Popolocrois looks cutesy and is based on a video game? You guys are really missing out on this diamond of an anime. It's sweet, it's nice, it knows when the stakes are serious, it averts so many fantasy cliches, and it's just downright awesome! GO WATCH IT!!! Seriously, why hasn't this been broadcasted on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network yet?! Would someone be so kind as to license it and dub it in English for fans to enjoy?! They deserve to watch this polished gem of an anime!!!