Princess Principal is a twelve episode spy anime television series produced by Studio 3Hz and Actas. The director for the series was Masaki Tachibana, and it was written by Ichirō Ōkouchi.
The show aired during the 2017 summer season of anime, and UK residents can watch it on HIDIVE.
Princess Principal is set in late 19th century Albion, which is an analogue of England. Albion has been split into two nations: the Commonwealth and the Kingdom. A walls runs though London that separates the two.
The plot focuses on a group of five girls who work as spies for the Commonwealth, operating undercover in the Kingdom.
Princess Principal presents its episodes out of chronological order – the first episode is ‘Case 13’, and that is followed by ‘Case 1’. As the series goes on, the show jumps back and forth along the timeline of its events.
For the majority of the series, the episodes are more or less self-contained as well. Whilst there is an overarching plot, that only really emerges at the beginning and end of the season.
All that time in between is spent on developing the characters, as they get fairly equal turns in the spotlight.
Each of the five members of the Principal Team gets at least a couple of opportunities to shine. Ange is the the leader, being the most skilled in espionage. She is also a liar, often claiming to be an alien from the Black Lizard Planet. Ange also uses a ‘C-ball’ – an object that uses Cavorite to allow her to manipulate gravity.
Next is Princess, who is indeed a princess of Albion. She is the niece of the Duke of Normandy, as well as the fourth in line of succession for Albion’s throne. She dreams of reunifying the country, and for that to happen she desires to become Queen.
Dorothy is pretty much the group’s driver – when the Principal Team needs to get to a place, or away from somewhere quickly, she’ll be the one behind the wheel. During missions, she uses her feminine charm.
Beatrice is the aide to Princess and her close friend. She has a rather valuable talent for a spy, though the reason comes from that comes from a disturbing event from her past.
The final member of the team is Chise, who comes from Japan. She’s pretty much the combat expert of the team, and fights with a sword. Going up against foes wielding guns doesn’t even faze her. Coming to Albion from Japan is quite the shock for her, and she has a hard time adjusting to the culture.
Princess Principal is very good at developing its characters. It seemed that first impressions of Beatrice in particular were not too great. However, her past and ways in which she could uniquely contribute to missions were revealed, and those first impressions were soon forgotten.
This more or less applies to all of the main cast. Princess Principal is particularly good at getting its audience to care about the protagonists. That makes it all the more worse when those who are close to the main characters suffer cruel fates.
Filling the antagonist role is the Duke of Normandy. Due to Princess being… well, a princess, she is the only member of the Principal Team that he has any direct interaction with. The Duke of Normandy more or less just gives out orders, but he’s the type that commands respect. Gazelle is the one he relies on to do the dirty work, as it were.
The main overarching plot concerns Princess’s desire to become Queen, even going so far as to become a spy for the Commonwealth alongside Ange. Ange and Princess have quite the interesting relationship, and their meeting early on comes with quite the twist.
The type of relationship that Ange and Princess have isn’t ever explicitly alluded to, but there’s more than enough hints there for viewers to connect the dots themselves.
Action scenes in Princess Principal a real treat to watch. They have the same thrill you might expect from a spy film, and the soundtrack that tends to accompany is absolutely superb. The composer for the series was Yuki Kajiura, who has also provided the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero amongst many others.
Chise getting to demonstrate her sword skills tends to be spectacular, but Ange and Dorothy are certainly no slouches either – Ange’s gravity manipulation with her C-ball gets her some aerial battles, whilst Dorothy displays incredible driving skills.
Princess Principal is genuinely a great anime throughout, but the ending is rather inconclusive. It is set up as a sequel hook, and as a result there are more than few loose threads in need of being tied up.
At the time of writing there has been no word on any second season. As such, the current ending we have for Princess Principal isn’t ideal. It sets the audience up for wanting more, but it’s uncertain whether there will be more.
An inconclusive ending is the only major flaw that Princess Principal really has, however. Everything leading up to the end is actually very good, and it is a show that is certainly worth checking out.
…and if a second season is announced, than that ending won’t even really be worth considering a flaw any more.
Princess Principal is a contender for one of the best anime of Summer 2017. An announcement of a second season would bump it up to a ten, but for now, it’s a great show slightly let down by the way it ends.