What’s it about? The titular Princess, brave commander of the Third Order of the Imperial Army, has been captured by the Hellhorde. Head interrogator Torture Tortura is tasked with uncovering the prisoner’s military secrets—and so begins the daily “torture” sessions.
Now THIS is food porn. Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess is one of those comedies whose conceit is paper-thin on the surface, relying on strong direction and a good ensemble cast to keep the show fresh. First time head director Kanamori Yoko is doing an admirable job thus far, backed by a staff that includes not one but three artists overseeing “cooking design.” It’s absolutely Miyazaki-grade culinary voyeurism, outstripping even the charms of Delicious in Dungeon. When you’re this good at your central conceit, the rest is gravy.
Now, as the first sketch of this episode emphasizes, gravy is an important enhancement tool, and there are early signs that Torture has the goods more broadly speaking. The most obvious point of comparison is Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle (a princess is technically a prisoner of demons but actually has a nice time, though Princess is more genuinely at her captors’ mercy than the “you’re locked in here with ME” energy of Princess Syalis), which had the powerhouse series composer/director team from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun backing it up. That’s a tough act to follow, but head Torture writer Fudeyasu Kazuki did head up the charming Do it Yourself!! and Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun in addition to doing screenplay work on Yamada’s First Time.
The joke is predictable each time: Princess (who is Definitely Not a certain King Arthur) puts on a brave front against the thought of physical torture, only to instantly crumble when offered a delicious snack. The animation is doing heroic work, rendering a slice of toast as an enormous, fluffy bed; takoyaki with all its component layers visible and an adorable octopus inside; it’s visualized with all the love, nay lust, of Harley Quinn’s breakfast sandwich. And thankfully, the leering is all exclusively focused on the food, and not either of our lady leads. Princess herself also deserves a shout-out for having an excellently elastic comedy face.
On paper, this is a story about a royal selling out her people for a good snack, and if there’s one thing that’s even more delicious than ramen, as we all know, it’s the rich. But I just couldn’t find myself bothered here. Maybe it’s the incredible abstraction of the setting, where the human kingdom doesn’t even have a name; maybe it’s the fact that each time Torture delivers these unseen secrets she almost immediately receives word that her boss has decided not to utilize them for this or that contrived reason; maybe it’s the default assumption in this kind of comedy that humans are almost guaranteed to be the more terrible party here.
Whatever the case, my brain flipped right off and I took to enjoying the already-forming camaraderie between the demons and their captive. Frankly, if a demon domme with a flogger was offering me fresh homemade bread I’d sell out my country too. That’s how they got me on that clearance test.
This has the bones of a really good cozy comedy. The visual direction alone will carry it as it introduces its new terrifying “torturers,” and it’s got a vibe that’s easy to sink into. Just don’t watch it hungry.