Tearmoon Empire – Episode 1

By: Alex Henderson October 7, 20230 Comments
A young princess in a Rococo style dress sitting with her feet up, indulgently eating cake and surrounded by sweets

What’s it about? The Tearmoon Empire has fallen into revolution, and its princess Mia Luna is being taken to the guillotine. Just as the blade falls, however, Mia is transported back in time and wakes up in the body of her 12-year-old self. Armed with the knowledge of her nation’s tragic future, can she use this opportunity to change her fate?

Visually and narrative-wise, Tearmoon Empire is clearly drawing on the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette—rejigged through the lens of something like a villainess isekai. The set takes lots of aesthetic inspiration from Versailles, there’s a somewhat awkward allusion to the infamous (but untrue) “let them eat cake” quote, and even a couple of visual homages to the beloved 2006 Sofia Coppola movie. Off the bat, then, your interest in this show may depend on how you feel about the glamorization of royal figures like Queen Marie. If you aren’t typically sympathetic with imperial figureheads, this might not be the series for you… likewise, if you do have a historical interest in Marie, you might find this semi-baked fantasy reimagining of her dissatisfying.

For me, the main issue with this premiere is its tone. Or rather, its two tones. The opening is genuinely harrowing, showing Princess Mia deposed, imprisoned, and abused, with the guillotine looming with menace as she wonders miserably what she did wrong to make her people loathe her this much. Post-time travel (or… post-reincarnation? What’s the best terminology for a character who’s been isekai’d into her own younger body?) the vibe is very different.

An exaggerated, cartoony guillotine with wiggly arms. Mia sits underneath it looking woeful while chibi versions of her maids dance around

Little Mia runs around her gorgeous palace getting excited about sweets and food, accompanied by upbeat music, comedic chibis, and even a goofy cartoon vision of the guillotine. While I understand the need to establish a contrast between Princess Mia’s innocent childhood and her tragic adult future, the disparity is jarring.

While the tonal shifts remain confusing, the path is laid fairly clearly from here: using her memories of the future that’s yet to come, Mia will strive to be a better ruler and prevent the revolution that sends her empire into chaos. The first episode is very character-focused, so it’s hard to say how deeply this will delve into the political intricacies of her plan. I find that these aristocratic historical fantasies often take a somewhat shallow approach to court drama and the business of running a kingdom (see Bibliophile Princess, for example, or last season’s The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior) but hey, I’d love for this to be the exception that proves the rule.

Closeup of young Mia touching a gloved hand to her neck. Subtitle reads: My head is... still attached...

Based on previous exposure to the genre and on the general vibe of this premiere, I’d imagine that Mia’s quest will involve a smidge of political manoeuvring but will mostly be a more personal drive to be a kinder person and endear herself to her subjects. I think this is what she’s going for by choosing to promote a clumsy maid rather than reprimand her, except… we know from the flashbacks/flashforwards that this maid is already loyal to Mia in the revolution, so what does this really change?

Look, Tearmoon Empire seems capital-F Fine. It’s very pretty, even if that’s just because it’s riffing on pre-existing aesthetics from history. It’s tonally inconsistent and probably not super deep as a royal fantasy drama. Mia isn’t overtly badly written as a female protagonist, but it’s difficult to say what exactly makes her personality distinct. This could be good popcorn viewing for noble fantasy fans, but in a season so full of other interesting offerings I can’t imagine Tearmoon Empire will hold me for long. It mostly made me think, “Aw, I could watch Marie Antoinette (2006) again” and when a series prompts you to start making other plans with other pieces of media, that’s probably not a good sign.

About the Author : Alex Henderson

Alex Henderson is a writer and managing editor at Anime Feminist. They completed a doctoral thesis on queer representation in young adult genre fiction in 2023. Their short fiction has been published in anthologies and zines, their scholarly work in journals, and their too-deep thoughts about anime, manga, fantasy novels, and queer geeky stuff on their blog.

Read more articles from Alex Henderson

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