Princess Principal – Anime Review
Synopsis: Five girls attend Queen’s Mayfaire, a conventional and prestigious school. Under the guise of regular high school girls, they act as spies under cover. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Princess Principal is less of a hard boiled spy series and more of a slice of life, or day in the life, of these five young spies. Outside of pooling the team together, we spend a lot of time exploring their daily lives, or each girl’s tragic backstory. From Dorothy, the seductive member of the team, and her troubles with her father to how Ange, our stone faced lead and the Princess first met. This means if you were hoping for intricate spy games, or a focus on action, there’s a lot less here than expected. The atmosphere itself often feels a bit laid back, or even a tad jovial. But Princess Principal is actually at its best when it’s expanding on the girl’s backstory, or showcasing the more mundane missions rather than going full in on tense secret missions. In these segments, we really get to know and become attached to each of the five girls, even if three out of the five share, perhaps, too many similarities between their backstories.
Linny: Princess Principal is definitely less thrilling and mysterious spy escapades and more daily life/background exploration of the female spies. Unfortunately, the similarity in the tragic backgrounds of three of the girls happens in almost back to back episodes, which makes the sameness glaringly obvious and thus, Princess Principal’s attempts to be emotionally impact laden come off as uninspired. Ultimately, those three cast members, Beatrice, a girl with a voice changing speaker installed in her throat, Chise, the foreigner and samurai of the group and Dorothy end up feeling like supporting cast members that solely exist to provide extra padding. Their background stories feel mostly pointless or a quick set up for a plot device to get the spies out of sticky situations.
Tom: A potentially confusing, although minor, aspect to Princess Principal is how it often jumps through its own timeline. We hop about after the first episode, jumping forwards and backwards in time between when the team was first formed and the events of the premiere. It can make things a tad confusing for viewers, although much of the season’s stand alone nature alleviates the stress of that. While I disagree with Linny on how severe the sameness of the tragic backstories can be, there’s no getting around how badly Princess Principal stumbles in its final two episodes. It’s in the two-part conclusion that the show finally delivers on what the premiere promised– but proves less interesting than the rest of the series combined. Late and sudden developments catapult the series to an action packed, spy games conclusion that feels hollow, ineffective and altogether rushed. There’s no teasing earlier in the series to set up this turn of events, and it all wraps up near as suddenly as it was introduced.
Linny: That sudden development in the second to last episode of Princess Principal indeed ends up feeling badly executed and out of line with the rest of the show. Not only is there the barest minimum, if any, hinting to it earlier but the show rushes through the story, cramming things into two episodes, making the situation feel all the more unconvincing, just like how the earlier character drama feels. I disagree strongly with Tom in that I feel that the dramatic story lines, usually only getting a single episode each, are rushed and poorly implemented with emotional chords that ultimately come off as paper thin or heavy handed.
Tom: Princess Principal ends on a strange note. One scene seems to tease the idea of a follow up season, while the next sends the show out on a more relaxed, slice of life ‘life goes on’ type note that makes it confusing as to whether we should be expecting a follow up or not. It likely all hinges on how popular the series ultimately ended up being in Japan. That said, while still positive, the finale really dulled my appreciation for the series and I can only hope a follow up plays back into the series strengths, rather than acting as a continuation of the uneven finale. As it stands though I think Princess Principal is still a fun, endearing watch. I’ll give Linny that its drama can sometimes repeat itself with repetitious backstories but I feel it still offers up five lovable girls and spy hi-jinks.
Linny: Princess Principal can be an enjoyable show if you go into it with the right mind set, knowing that it’s not about watching spies pull off cool stunts and mission but rather about their own emotional bonds, pasts and daily lives. The drama isn’t always solid but the interactions between the girls can be enjoyable and the series can pack in a nice twist or development ever so often. The steam punk aesthetic makes the show stand out and is well executed while the animation and designs can be very pleasing to the eye. Just remember to brace for a concluding plot line that comes out of nowhere.