Cute and sexy spies doing spy things and looking cute and sexy while doing so in a steampunk 20th century England. Need I say more? This is Princess Principal.
Genres: Action, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Themes: Espionage/Spies, Politics, Steampunk
Number of Episodes: 12
Plot Summary: Five girls live in 19th century London, a city within the Albion Kingdom divided into east and west (Commonwealth and The Kingdom) by a large wall. The girls serve as undercover spies enrolled as students at the prestigious Queen’s Mayfair school. The girls make use of their individual abilities to remain active in the underground world of disguise, espionage, infiltration, and car chases.
Princess Principal can be best described as a kick ass spy flick with lots of dramatic moments, some sexiness and badass hotties and cuties blowing enemies and viewers away with their coolness.
An interesting about the narrative is that the episodes are presented out of order ala Haruhi Suzumiya’s arcs. What this means is the events of each episode are randomized. What helps make it less difficult to know what is going on and at what time is that each episode “Case” is numbered and viewers must pay attention to the case number to find out when the events of the episode took place. For example, episode 8 is “Case 20” whereas episode 9 is “Case 11”, clearly indicating ep9’s events took place long before ep8’s. The reason behind most of the episodes being out of order (until the last quarter of the season of course) is unknown to yours truly but it does not affect the show’s flow very much as several episodes contain their own story with a beginning and end while the ones that contribute to the storyline are carefully placed close together.
The show is set in a fictional 20th Century England that has its fair share of factual events thrown in here and there. History buffs can pick up on some of them if they pay close attention. Even without much historical knowledge some of the events have some good messages and the setting is explored in as much detail as possible in 12 episodes. While there are political disputes/struggles on the show they are not as important to follow in detail the narrative as in, say, Izetta: The Last Witch. Speaking of observation there are also hidden details in the background as the story progresses. Even the episode titles have hidden messages behind them. Also as this is a spy flick expect several alternate identities/code names, different allegiances, back door deals, swerves, cars, guns and other cool spy stuff.
The animation is really good. It goes for the brown and gray aesthetic and while this may sound uninteresting, rest assured the show pulls it off spectacularly. Plus it is set in a gloomy slums where only the middle and upper class buildings have SOME additional colors besides brown and gray so it fits. The animation shines its brightest during action scenes from the simple school sword duel to the awesomeness of using Gravity Rush style combat with gun play while running on the side of a blimp high in the sky. The soundtrack fits the show but what the stand out themes are clearly one of the best OPs of 2017 in PriPri’s “The Other Side of the Wall” and its ED “A Page of My Story” (which like Flip Flappers‘ ED sequence has a similar style and some hidden messages in it too).
Now on to our leading ladies and their roles.
- Dorothy: The team leader and the oldest. She is the designated driver, skilled with submission and bone breaking techniques and is fully aware of her beauty, which comes in handy many times on missions.
- Chise: While short she is actually the muscle of the team thanks to her nearly unmatched swordsmanship. She is also, personally speaking, the cutest.
- Ange: The main protagonist of the show and the most skilled of the five in espionage. An “alien from the Black Lizard Planet” she is good at almost everything spy related and her weapon of choice is a “Gravite” powered orb that allows her to defy gravity.
- Princess: As her name suggests she is the princess of the Albion Kingdom and future heir to the throne. However, there is a secret connection between Ange and her along with a personal agenda that led to her joining the team. While not skilled in combat her royal connections and personal traits are a valuable asset to the team.
- Beatrice: Princess’ aide and initially reluctant member of the team. Because of her…past she has some skills with gadgets though her most useful is one in particular whose origin is…ehhhhhhhh.
Each of the girls contributes something on missions whether participating or on the sidelines and, of course, this being a drama, have dark secrets that are eventually revealed. While action-packed the show is not devoid of emotionally moving and heart wrenching scenes. What the show does exceptionally well is that by the end of it viewers will find all five members likable both as spies and characters. Should a viewer feel one of them is not fleshed out enough or there is not much to them, worry not for all ladies get their time in the spotlight. None are left underdeveloped or feel like they are just “there”.
As for the yuri. There is one side-pairing but the most prominent couple is Ange X Princess. Now this is one of those couples who do not utter the “L” word often or use it in romantic moments…BUT that does not mean the message of their true feelings for each other is not loud and clear. Their love is true and becomes clearer as the show progresses. They just do not say “I love you”…because they do not need to.
Lastly, I mentioned in Battle Girl High School that a villain does not depth or layers to be entertaining. Just be interesting to watch. BGHS’ villain failed, whereas PriPri’s “Duke of Normandy” succeeded. Like BGHS’ big bad The Duke does not get a lot of screen time but he has a commanding presence, meaning whenever he is on screen, you pay attention. The same goes for his foxy right hand woman who has a more active role. There are other enemies either hired by The Duke is definitely the most notable threat despite preferring to work behind the scenes.
Overall Princess Principal is a show that has the best gripe a great show could ask for “I WANT/NEED MORE! NEW SEASON WHEN!?”. The animation is really good, the cast is stellar, the setting is really cool, the main plot is neat and the character stories are excellent. While the yuri is not “in your face” it is certainly far from unnoticeable. Subtle but not “soft” in the slightest. The show ended in a way that leaves room for many more future “Cases”. All we can do is hope we get to see more of them.