Qian Yunshang does not want to marry Prince Ye Youming, so her father Aotian decides to pass off his "other" daughter, Yunxi- who's supposedly cursed, and in exile in a place called Spirit Cloud Mountain- AS Yunshang, and have HER marry the Prince instead. This would seem to suit some of Aotian's OTHER plans as well, but Yunxi, for all of her personality flaws (and she has many), has a strong sense of right and wrong, as well as help from various spirit friends.
This show is based on a manhua (yes, a Chinese manga), published by Tencent, written by an author who goes by a penname that translates as either "Meat" or "Fleshy", and if that IS in fact HIM who's been digitally inserted into the opening animation in Episode 16, I suppose the name kind of fits.
The show's opening credits, and their contrast with its closing ones, are a good place to start consideration of the show's weaknesses. It opens with the characters dancing to a nonsense song (sample translated lyrics: "You are the psychedelic charming shrimp that I can't totally deny"), but the closing music and visuals are pure shojo: Prince Ye nobly riding on horseback; Yunxi picking flowers in a garden; Yunxi and Prince Ye together.
Here's the problem: while humor and romance CAN work well together, the sort of crude and/or absurdist "self-aware" attempts at comedy here don't work well at all; and after we've been through THAT, AND a lengthy transition period featuring an "old-fashioned" (in other words, incredibly sexist) depiction of the development of a male-female relationship...well, after THAT there's not much time left for REAL romance here. Maybe we'll have it in the promised Season 2; the show's left quite a few loose ends even after 16 episodes, and in them are opportunities for solid storytelling, IF Yunxi and Ye can proceed as real partners, each wielding their own particular talents, in rooting out the evils in the kingdom. The setup is clearly there for much better than what we've seen so far.
My mother used to say that bad beginnings can sometimes lead to good endings. I certainly HOPE so. As for what we've been given so far, let's start with the weak attempts to be funny. I mentioned its nonsense opening song. There are also many crude sexual jokes, from Ye's household staff, about Yunxi's anticipated deflowering by Ye; and Yunxi also gets passed around by a couple of Ye's brothers, who have the intention of deflowering her THEMSELVES before Ye has his turn. Once upon a time, Western culture might have regarded this as amusing "boys will be boys" antics, but I hope we're over that now. The show also likes anachronistic jokes: at one point, Yunxi is wondering how she'll purchase something, and thinks, "Do I scan a QR code to pay?". This refusal of the show to take even its setting seriously made it difficult for me to "suspend disbelief" enough to enjoy it.
And let's face it: a woman in a "traditional society" who's coerced into a marriage- especially a marriage to a powerful man- would have two choices: either consent to sex, OR be tortured/killed. A while back I criticized Colourcloud Palace because I felt it unrealistically portrayed a woman's simple refusal as working in a similar time and place. (The King in that one apparently granted its heroine Shurei leeway just because he was smitten with her.) I'm not sure how Yunxi gets away with it though. Yunxi may have a strong moral sense, but she's really not at all clever or diplomatic - she's governed by impulse, and her usual attitude is LOUD defiance, even at times when her own interests might have been advanced better by wit or persuasion. And yet, while Yunxi has some close calls, somehow she never seems to suffer much for her brash, headstrong manner, despite incurring the jealous wrath of some major adversaries. Those eventually include one Chu Jiao'er (AKA "Beauty Chu"), Ye's chief concubine, and even, eventually, "Sister" Yunshang herself, whose rejection of Ye sight unseen created this situation in the first place, but who, when she actually SEES the Prince, has a change of heart.
Of course, it helps that Yunxi has some assistance from the spirit world. ("Psychic Princess", remember?) She mainly gets it from her two familiar spirits, named Mochi (who somehow made me think of Casper the Friendly Ghost, but with much less friendliness and much more "attitude"), and a more recent addition named Sesame. And she DOES score some points with all by saving the day at Ye's little sister's birthday party, with some acrobatics (joined by Ye) that remind us again, as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and countless Chinese martial arts movies already have, that either gravity was less in ancient China, OR at least that martial arts masters could partially nullify its laws.
And then there's the matter of Ye's "courtship" of Yunxi that I alluded to earlier. There's an old cultural trope, probably most floridly expressed by Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew, in which a defiant woman has to be "broken" (like a horse) and brought into submission to whatever man "owns" her. (The old idea of women as property again. Grampa remembers this best as it might have been in some old Western film with, say, Wild Bill Hickok and Annie Oakley, in which Wild Bill might say of Annie, "I'm a'gonna tame that filly!") In Psychic Princess we see Ye at first treating Yunxi like a spoiled child. (Not without some justice, to be honest; many of the principals in this show act pretty childish, except, of course, for Ye himself, who's sullen and taciturn, like male leads in romantic novels almost always ARE.) But he DOES use confinement as a weapon to break her spirit, and even swings Yunxi over his shoulder a few times when she's reluctant to follow his orders, just like in those old films that have dated VERY badly.
Just a side note: I think persons with Celiac Disease are well advised to avoid one of the tasty dishes prepared for the royalty in this show, called "Xiang's Grilled Gluten." Sounds like an invitation to trouble.
This is another one of those shows I wish we had a "2.5 star" rating for; it's overall a bit below a 3, but has at least SOME things in its favor- as I said, Yunxi, despite some disagreeable aspects of her personality, is well-meaning, and kind enough when she chooses to be; and there's considerable potential here in the situations the show's set up. So we'll be generous again. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Mild violence, adult situations (and humor), though I don't think there's fanservice per se. We'll say PG-13.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream.
Review Status: Full (16/16)
Psychic Princess © 2018 Haoliners Animation League, Tencent
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