Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess Anime Series Review – Review

The more jaded fans among us would be forgiven for fearing the worst for this anime that prominently features the loaded word “torture” in its title. After all, the series composer is Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, the same screenwriter who composed such infamous anime adaptations as Redo of Healer and Interspecies Reviewers. Is this torture porn, or even just plain porn? Thankfully, I’m pleased to report it’s neither. ‘Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess is a bright, cheerful, and unapologetically silly fantasy comedy. Its closest equivalent is the delightfully bonkers Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, one of my top anime of 2020.

Much like Sleepy Princess, Torture Princess follows the misadventures of a captured princess who resides in the Hell Lord’s dungeon, supposedly against her will. It turns out that the demonic hordes aren’t actually all that evil after all and wish the Princess no harm. Most jokes arise from the odd disconnect between viewer expectations and reality. However, while Sleepy Princess’ titular character was arguably more demonic and chaotic than her captors, her single-mindedly deranged antics driving most episodes’ descent into madness, Torture Princess’ star is decidedly more passive, and this makes her a significantly less interesting lead.

Torture Princess’ central “joke” is that during her prolonged incarceration in her little bare prison cell, she’s periodically visited either by Tortura or one of her minions, who proceed to “torture” her for information. Said “torture” usually involves tempting her with delicious meals, cutesy animals, or excursions to the beach or play park. Unable to rein in her greed/lust/desire for cuteness, the Princess usually bares her secrets with little argument. Essentially she has no self-control, and regularly horrifies her sentient sword companion “Ex” (short for Excalibur, obviously) with her loose lips. The secrets she divulges are usually completely useless, but even when they may provide strategic value to the Hell Lord, he rejects using them for moral reasons.

Yes, the Hell Lord is probably the Best Employer Ever, as well as the Best Dad and a generally nice guy. Despite his fearsome appearance, he loves nothing more than doting on his little daughter and making life pleasant for his people. It’s when the show branches out to show sketches featuring characters separately from the Princess that it finds room to breathe. The central premise gets old very quickly, and although most episodes do feature at least one iteration of the old not-really-torture skit, thankfully, there’s less reliance on them as the show progresses. This is just as well, as within three or four episodes of endless variations of “Oh no, the Princess has been offered yummy food, will she confess?” (Of course she will), I was about ready to drop the show and never look back.

Although the Princess herself is mostly one-note, the large and varied cast helps to keep things fresh. Tortura is cool, demure, and always snappily dressed. She and the Princess develop a sweet friendship throughout the season, with Tortura (who is a fully qualified nurse) at one point doting on a flu-stricken Princess. There’s a blatant food porn sequence where Tortura visits a ramen joint, seemingly with the sole purpose of stimulating the viewer’s appetite. The Hell Lord gets plenty of non-Princess scenes, often interacting with his sweet family and once with a would-be human invader. He prevents a pitched battle with his enemy by instead bonding with him over anime. That’s the kind of modern masculinity I can get behind.

In a particularly hilarious sequence, talking sword Ex gets to successfully fail his own “torture” experience when he’s given a full sanding and sharpening treatment that has him screaming out in pleasure, divulging secrets with abandon. It was probably this single scene that convinced me to keep watching; however, nothing else that followed quite hit that comedic high for me.

Of course, none of Torture Princess holds up to any logical examination. Just why did the demons capture the Princess if all they wanted to do was feed, pamper, and befriend her, and they did nothing with the secrets she divulged? To try and rationalize it is to miss the point completely. It’s ridiculous, and it knows it.

Unfortunately, Torture Princess doesn’t hold a candle to Sleepy Princess in terms of aesthetics or sheer creative insanity. It’s pathologically repetitive, looks merely “decent enough, I suppose,” and mostly lacks inspiration in its humor. I’m unsure what to think about a world where Sleepy Princess doesn’t score a second season, but somehow Torture Princess does. I’m also not interested in watching more – after twelve episodes, I feel I’m done with this now.