Posted on 2 October 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews, Princess Principal, Reviews by SuperMario

Princess Principal has emerged as a true sleeper hit for this admittedly sloppy Summer Season. A joint project from indie studios that bring us my favorite anime of last year Flip Flappers (3Hz) and “better than it has any right to be” Girls und Panzer (Actas), Princess Principal records the missions of five cute spy girls in an alternate Britain (known as Albion) in the early 20th century. As ill-advised as it might sound, the cute girl designs don’t really bother me that much. If you are looking for a true espionage story; however, you bound to be disappointed because they’re more like James Bond flashy action, somewhat superpower ability and whenever they have a chance, they’ll announce “We’re spy” with pride. Yeah, it’s that kind of mindless over-the-top action series that we need to believe the unbelievable but as an action-spy-steampunk series, Princess Principal delivers what it promised.

The first strength of this show lies in its intriguing world settings. I might have personal issues with Ichirou Okuochi as a whole, but even I don’t deny that he can create an interesting setting that triggers my curiosity. Princess Principal has such fascinating world. In this vision, Albion monopolizes a powerful substance known as Cavorite that made the Kingdom the dominant country in the world. Such development creates a rift between the Royalty and the lower people and as a result, the Wall of London was built in the middle of London where the country is split into The Commonwealth and the Kingdom. The tension between the two nations, however, never really addressed at all and only serves as a backdrop to generate dramatic development for our two main leads, Ange and Princess. In addition, the steampunk setting makes for an aesthetic pleasure and I would argue that it’s Princess Principal’s strongest characteristics.

However, Princess Principal isn’t just merely an action show. The five girls have some interesting developments and each of them is given a solid backstory. Moreover, they have solid dynamic altogether that make the interactions between them a joy to watch. Noticeably, in the latter half when the cases become less prevalent, and the show slowed down the fast tempo mission-heavy established in the first half for more character-focus episodes. The change might turn off some of the viewers who look for quick-paced, entertaining action but it’s a welcoming sign that the show gave a proper time to flesh out the five girls. The relationship between Ange and Princess serves as the show’s central emotional arc and while the swapped-identity backstory had its merits, the show pad it out way too thin during the climax that it couldn’t transfer the emotions to its fullest. Other girls, especially Chise and Dorothy (sorry Beatrice! You have a voice… but nothing else) have so much personality to them and they all add necessarily perspectives (Chise- from the outside perspective; Dorothy- friends come first) to the Principal team. Not that they’re a deepest bunch around but I’m quite happy to spend time with them anytime.

Another factor that add to Princess Principal’s identity is its use of non-chronological order. This technique works for the show’s benefits most of the time because these episodes feel like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle (which admittedly doesn’t add up much at the end), and up in till the climax we can watch these episodes in any order and it still makes sense. This format will work well on re-watch as well since there are some already-established relationships or a piece of information that will make more sense now we know the context. But presenting it non-linearly doesn’t mean the episodes were arrange randomly. The flow from one episode to another is present and moreover, this format helps us gaining context on certain themes, on certain character developments that otherwise would be insignificant in a linear way. For example we gain an extra layer on Chise struggling with the social-class issues through the backstory of Ange and Princess established a week before, something that won’t have much impact if they tell the story in a linear fashion.

Thus, Princess Principal is at its best in episode 5 (the introduction of Chise) where it focused on the exciting mission, while never forget to give our girls an extra depth. In that episode, the fluid animation, flawless fight choreography and the lively character movements help bring the mannerism of our characters to light.  On the other spectrum, the last two episodes bring the show down a notch with its safe open-ended closure that resolve almost nothing. In addition, they introduced new characters (Zelda, the General) and new conflict (the coup) too late in the game without any proper foreshadowing beforehand. Remember Princess wanted to fight that battle till the end? Flashforward and we see her lying on the beach in Casablanca, while holding hand with another girl. It’s a let-down, of course, especially when they hint for a second season which might never come, but to be frank the first 10 episodes were so solid that in the end I consider this show a critical success.

Technically, the production is on the bright side. Off-model here and there, cheap-cuts sometimes and they do have some questionable over-cute character designs, but the action always hold its ground, characters move in their own ways that fitting to their personality and the killer soundtrack, coupling with beautiful steampunk aesthetic and you have a winner all around. Princess might not dig deep to the political conflict between two countries, or develop its Cavorite theme and the enemy side is frankly, weak and underdeveloped; but Princess Principal offers some entertaining action set-pieces, at the same time care enough to develop properly the main cast and their relationships.  Second season- coming might not look promising and the ending lacks bite, but I don’t argue that I had a great time following it the past season. Can’t never get enough of Chise’s precious facial expressions, it appears.

Posted on 25 September 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

Is that seriously how they end Princess Principal? Nothing is resolved at all except Ange breaks down the wall around her heart to welcome her team to the Casablanca’s paradise. Everything screams “second season” and with the sales aren’t that impressive from what I gathered, will they ever get one? It comes hard for me as to whether or not give this “clearly more to come” show a final review. We will see when we have more concrete news. No, I don’t like this underwhelmed ending. We have some solid emotional moments between Ange and Princess, but I never really that invested in their tragic turtledove. I care most about the team getting together for some fun action and in that aspect this finale pleases me, although not by much. On a positive side I still pick this safe ending anytime over some cheap climax that resolve everything too neatly with only one episode, something that Masaki Tanichiba has a habit of doing. I have a theory that maybe he did write one explosive trainwreck ending of Princess Principal before the producer just shoved it and changed to this ending instead. Princess Principal better has second cour coming, damnit.

Ange has a solid character arc that see her desperations for the safety of Princess that she took her to run away, which disappointed Princess deeply. Realizing that she needs to save Princess, she jumps off the airship, goes to enemy’s territory, and finds out that her friends have been waiting all along. This trial not only gives Ange the courage not to run away, but to fight head-on for her own and Princess’s sake, but also give her an opportunity to realize that she has real friends waiting for her, to always give her their hands when she needs to. Saving Private Ryan Princess isn’t an option when they’re spies, but as friends they’d do anything, even risking their own lives. Dorothy proves one last time she has a heart of gold but the way she delivers it is so genuine it’s hard not to cheer for her. Likewise, Chise has a good bit when she requests Lord Horikawa to leave her duty to help her friends. As for Beatrice, well… she’s just fine being Beatrice and supports other team members. It might sound obvious but Beatrice and Ange’s personalities and charms never quite catch the richness of the other three.

In a Princess side, it doesn’t take very long before Zelda know the true identity of her. Which is fine by Zelda, since she knows for a fact that the uprising will end up in failure, and Princess will take all the blame. In a greater consequence, the Royal will fall into chaos if they know the Princess is the leader of the failed coup d’état. Her interaction with the leader of the uprising, Major Yngwie signifies how her ideal matches the need of the commoners. Social hierarchy, class issues have been a solid backdrop for Princess Principal, and with this episode the show addresses this issues in forefront. Princess determines to change the system not by breaking it apart, but by slowly change it from within. Her statement sure reaches the Major’s poor heart, at the cost of losing his life, but this is a great buildup for Princess against the Royal side that we might never have a chance to see it pays off.

It’s assuring to see that L is back to the Control team and expels that General whatever from any the Control. That General had done enough damage already in his short stay. Everything pretty much get back to status quo with the same Control takes over our girls, while they’re doing their mission, at the same time sunbathing in Casablanca. Zelda proves to be a worthy opponent of Ange in term of skills and ruthless, and she controls that Cavorite device just like Ange. Although I must admit that adding her too late in the game with no backstory and no development isn’t a wise choice at all. Speaking of that the opponent side against the Control and the Principal team receive limited attention in this show. We don’t see any specific threats except speculating about The Duke of Normandy’s main motive and all he does was to tell his private spy to eliminate everything, especially now when Princess herself admitted that she’s a fake in front of Zelda, it could lead to an interesting direction. I believe Princess Principal still has a plan for second cour because simply things can’t be inconclusive like that. It’s a weak ending doesn’t matter how you look at it and Princess Principal leaves me feeling unsatisfied, like enjoying a delicious entrée without having any main meal at all.

Posted on 18 September 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

Hmmm, something doesn’t ring true here. As this episode ends, we can assume that the Princess and Ange have a big break-up, Princess plays the role of Ange under the Princess’s disguise, and Ange has gone to Casablanca to live in a casa blanca for good. To be frank, I never really buy all that. I have no doubt that Ange can escape the airship with ease (she has the map that clearly shows the emergency exits), or better yet, I’m thinking that it was Ange who appear in front of the enemy. So, the real-Princess playing the real-Ange playing the Princess playing the fake Ange playing the fake Princess now. Seriously Princess Principal, how much more layers can you get? Thus, the next logical step would be Ange intends to be discovered as the Princess pretending to be Ange. This development would fit what Ange vowed to the Princess when they met again (to deceive everyone, even herself and the Princess to reach the goal), but if that’s the case then the rift between those two at the end of this episode will feel incredibly cheap.

Back to where it starts, this episode is obviously the lowest point for our team, with the Princess is isolated for the rest of the team, and slowly one by one is dropped out of the mission. Dorothy is discharged, Chise is transferred and Ange is tailed by the guards and spies from her own team. The Principal adds up to 8 members, with the exclusion of our core members. It comes as a surprise for me that the Princess takes no caution regarding this change. Usually as soon as someone like Zelda (or Z. as opposite to A – Ange) shows up and declares to be her personal guard, she would fell strange that Ange didn’t contact her as well, so I really think that the Princess knows all about it beforehand and either she plays the role to not let others think she knows, or Ange and Princess have swapped roles since then.

But I might just give Ange and the Princess too much credits.

At the same time, the coup has raised against the Royal, mostly from colonial soldiers who are unhappy with the Kingdom. Well, this new development appears way too abruptly and quickly, as we never even heard of it prior to this episode. But for its credits, abruptly and quickly are the very quality of a coup, and it connects to the main plot line as the coup determines to kill the Queen and replace her with the fake Princess. Sound very reckless and bold but if they play the right cards, with the support from the Control and the Commonwealth’s military, they could really take over the Queen. Wonder who’s the mastermind behind the coup? Certain Duke? But based on what he discussed with his favorite spy, he seems to have no idea who is behind it either. Or maybe it’s Ange’s idea all along.

Of course, I have given Ange far too much credits.

Our other girls don’t have much screen time this week, Dorothy squeezes the best out of little time she got however, as she clearly states that she won’t kill the Princess because she has grown attachment to her. Chise doesn’t leave much emotional attachment to the farewell scene, so it’s a bit disappointing. While the animation and the visual are still on par with the course of Princess Principal, this might be the first time that I find the presentation uninspiring (well, except maybe for the grand clockwork Christmas tree). I can’t really say whether this episode serves its purpose or not until I see how it all plays out, so I’ll reserve my comment until then. This is the time where our girls are the farthest to reach their goals, but I have no doubt that they will raise again, strike back with a big bang.

Posted on 11 September 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Remember what did Ange vow to the Princess when the two decided to go ahead with the Operation: Changeling? She will deceive everyone, including the Princess and herself to reach that goal. I was expecting how Princess Principal going to pull that feat off. And now we have an answer: Dorothy and Ange are ordered to kill the Princess. If there’s anything we know for sure, Ange would never kill the Princess (well, she has gotten soft, as noticed by Prefect this week). This is a development I was hoping for the climax and I am excited to see how Ange going to deceive the whole wide world. Another thing is, L from the Control “has been transferred”, which significant that he’s either punished by his own incompetence, or the higher up wanted some direct control over… Control and the Principal. Judge by how the new-addition General wants the Princess dead right off the bat, I have no doubt that the Duke of Normandy is the man behind all this. He has always hated the Princess and I’m glad at least he uses Ange for this mission. It could’ve been worse (I did suspect him figuring out the real identity of the Princess, which is much more sinister, though it isn’t the case here).

But back to this episode, Princess Principal again pulled another bittersweet tale about happiness, friendship and betrayal on a Christmas eve. Prefect is a solid one-off addition for this episode, having the same high-level skill sets as Ange, but much more attentive to details. The mission this week, to retrieve some important paperwork with the help of Prefect, turns out to be just a façade for a real mission: figuring out if Prefect is in fact a double agent. Only in this one episode, Prefect already form a very solid chemistry with both Ange and Dorothy. It’s understandable since they have a history together, as they are the “sole survivors” of the Farming (which remind me immediately to the Farm of the Promised Neverland manga – a great manga by the way). Ange is her rival, but when working together they are like a two-headed monster, each working seamlessly with the other without much instruction; and by their exchanges we could see how they understand and respect the quality of one another. With Dorothy, however, it’s all about feeling. The only time Prefect smiled, the only happiness she ever received in her doomed past was when they played at the Funfair during the Christmas exam (young Dorothy is cute by the way) and it was Dorothy’s carefree attitude that the more she’s stuck in her current situation, the more she wants to break free like her friend.

The sadder feeling when you eventually learn that Prefect is addicted to the purple drug provided by the enemy and now completely dependent on it (guess what is the only thing that she brings when she flees?). It’s a goddamn contrived plot but it works in this case because it adds context to the reason she shoot herself as a way to free herself. Someone suggests it’s a Cavorite’s drug but I can’t be too sure since her eyes react differently with the one who suffered Cavorite poisoning in episode 1. The best part of this episode, is when both Ange and Prefect, in their own ways, pull the triggers so that they can save Dorothy from pulling her trigger: shooting her best friend. Out of the five girls, Dorothy has always been the most “humane” girl, the one who actually shows her weak, vulnerable side; which totally makes her a bad spy but I think Princess Principal nails it when they focus the emotion beats on Dorothy. This episode finds Princess Principal back to its action-pack mission-heavy again, while tell a satisfying self-contained story and prepare us for the final showdown between the girls vs. the Duke and possibly vs. themselves. I sure hope for a bombastic climax.

Posted on 5 September 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

Now I can forgive the show for taking too long to introduce Chise; because we have a Chise-focus this week and I’m glad that episode 9 of Princess Principal does everything just right. This episode serves as a glaring proof of how Princess Principal does non-chronological order the right way. Technically, this Case11 happens when Chise just joined the team; still feel insecure about her position within the spy group (Something we learned already in Case9). But the little story this week also addresses the social class issues among the noble kids (this is a Royal School after all) towards Chise – a country bumpkin girl from a forsaken country named Nippon. This issue earns a deeper layer now, since we already know the story of The Princess and the Pickpocket last week (which chronologically happen way forward in Case20) and understand how social order can be quickly flipped around like a flash. This, I can argue, is the strength of non-linear order, you can gain context on certain themes, on certain character developments that otherwise would be insignificant in a linear way (Like how insignificant Haruhi season 2 was. Anticlimactic)

Secondly, “Pell-mell Duel” does a bang up job of fleshing out Chise and gives a much-needed dynamic between her with the rest of the cast, especially with the Princess. Prior to this episode, most of the team’s chemistry has always revolved around Ange, but for my humble opinion, Chise is always a more fascinating character (best girl!!!). Follow the story through her eccentric point of view serve to be this week’s greatest tricks. Chise has amusing perspective to the new life around her, she carries a wide range of emotions and every single one of them brightens the scene. The way she “struggles” to fit in with this Western world, I must note, isn’t come from her culture shock but more because of her never-back-down attitude. It’s endearing to hear her thoughts about other members, her challenging to a duel, even her insecureness on the “weapon that she has yet to acquire” and finally, her warming up on the Princess and other girls. As a result, this episode is entertaining basically from start to finish.

Another thing the episode does right is the fact that the entire episode is mostly set in their school; something that has been nothing more than a decoration in earlier episodes. Usually school setting is a sign for disaster but in this case, it breathes some fresh air to Princess Principal. Not only by doing so the show lets us witness how Chise fitting herself in with the new environment; it allows us to learn the hour details of their study (and how Chise constantly “tops” herself in every subject), introduce us to new character (Lily, turns out to be one of Duke Normandy’s spy) and give that social class tension a necessary conflict for the climax. Talking about that duel, I know it’s just me but I always find the old British duel kind of dull. It feels more like a test of courage of trying to act calm where the gun pointed at you, and usually the one who get to shoot first have a higher chance to win. I know the show mentions that it isn’t easy to hit the target on the first try, but when the rule explicitly says, “the first one down loose” it gives the first person who shoot a clear advantage. Not that the rich kid deserves to win either; because unlike British rule, Anime rule says that when you cheat, you get your ass kicked. Thus, even if her method of shooting bullet is a bit… beyond the rule; justice has been served.

Plot-wise, there are two important developments in this week. First, that new girl Lily serves as a spy to report the Duke of Normandy about the Princess’s activities in case the bodyguards can’t fulfill that job (guess all of them failed miserably as the Princess comes and goes and changes to spy suits and does spy works as she’s please ever since we met her). Lily has some roles in this episode but I can’t help but think she’s a one-off and this development further confirm that the Duke of Normandy will be the biggest obstacle the girls have to face. Second, Chise and the Princess shares some solid chemistry here. The Princess herself supports Chise on arranging the challenge, and that sumo celebration at the end is heartwarming. Chise holds the position of evaluate the two nations and while she’s not sure if Princess will succeed, she genuinely wants her to. I have nothing to complain on this excellent episode, both entertaining (and I admit that I took more than dozen screenshots of Chise’s various facial expressions), and fleshing out beautifully the dynamic between the core cast. Two third of the way, Princess Principal is still running strong; let’s hope that its final arc will be rewarding.

Note: it just hits me that almost all our girls have Daddy issues – not sure about the real Princess – Ange’s father but other girls had fathers that outright abuse them: Beatrice: father experimented on her – Dorothy: father hit her – Chise: let’s just say father betrayed her – Ange: father turn her into pickpocketing machine… I don’t think this Daddy issues will have anything to do with the climax and it doesn’t even fit to the themes Princess Principal established so far. So, I just leave it here as a note, for now.

Posted on 28 August 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

We have a much-needed backstory of The Princess and the Pickpocket in the Black Lizard Planet this week. The actual case of week 8 was reduced into some minor scenes, but now I become more certain that the main boss the spy girls have to face in the end will be the Duke of Normandy; as once again his personal agent, Gazelle, was up to no good this time around, trying to trick Lord O’Reilly or whatever his name was, defecting to the Commonwealth to trap him. How the hell the girls figure out the whole evil scheme just by recognizing Gazelle is anyone’s guess (maybe because they’re… spy?), but no problem at all since the real juicy part of this episode lies in the Princess and Ange’s backstory and her interaction with the poor kid that remind Ange a lot of her childhood. Three weeks in a row Princess Principal slows down the pacing for more character developments and while the previous two added little to the main story, this one provides a backbone of Ange and Princess’s tragic “love” (see the heart-shaped door frame when the two girls playing piano together?) and with that story we can identify how the Princess has been struggling to become who she is today.

Alright. The juicy part first. Ange and Charlotte indeed swapped places when they were small – being around the same age with same features and same eye colors and everything (hey, they might as well be a twin). One from the royal and one from the dirt poor. The kinds you always see in fairy tale. But this isn’t your regular fairy tale, as the real Princess received a real hardship when she went out of her kingdom and then they got separated after all the high-spirited talks about becoming a real Queen, healing the world and what not. In a serious side though, the flashback gives us much more context about the relationship between Ange and the Princess now; and it’s rather heartwarming to finally learn that the very reason Princess wanted to become the Queen is because that was exactly what Ange wanted before the separation. All their conversations make sense now in retrospect. I also like the way that Ange not only appreciate the Princess for taking her role flawlessly, she also understands and admires her friend for all the hardship the Princess has gone through in order to survive – in order to act and behave like real Princess.

And for me, this part is where the episode truly shines. A certain conman, in the name of Kaiki Deishu from the Monogatari series, argues in Nisemonogatari – itself meaning Fake Story that (sorry for mild spoiler here: you don’t need to read the next sentence if you don’t want to be spoiled, for others, highlight the sentence) – the fake (like himself) has to spend much more effort to look like real and in a process become more real than the real thing.  It might sound like some twisted argument but it’s a kind of argument that I happen to agree with to a degree and here, it makes a whole lotta sense. The poor Pickpocket who suddenly becomes the Princess, who couldn’t write before or couldn’t read any single musical note, had to try harder and harder in order to match with the Princess’s image; along with a constant pressure that if she slips in any moment, she’d be uncover – and in a process, herself becomes the true Princess. The fact that she never regards herself as the real one, but tries hard to become perfecto make it all the more tragic. Chise realizes immediately (very great little moment there) that the Princess doesn’t enjoy all the hard trainings – those simply have become her duty. But when she said the same lines that Ange proposed long ago, it’s the talk of the real Princess – and to me at least, she becomes the REAL princess now.

It’s also nice to see Ange opens up to another little girl, Julie, who reminds her so much of her past. She goes such length to not only teach the girl how to pickpocket, but tell her the story of her life and comes to her factory to rescue the girl and advises her to stay in the orphanage. I don’t know if people notice but the painting that Ange finished (while spying) has Julie smiling in there. I also love the tiny little moments Princess Principal constantly place on other girls: how Chise wears warm clothes on the second night (wait, is she ninja or is she batgirl?), Ange has to dress up as the Princess and Beatrice gets angry at Dorothy because she brought booze to the mission and how the Princess’s hands were shaking while she was riding the horse. It’s a legit visual storytelling right there and I hope Princess Principal relies more on these little moments and sweet interactions than pulling the rug out under our feet with life-changing twists and turns.

Posted on 21 August 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

This week in Princess Principal … what exactly did I just watch? Suddenly spies do (steampunk) laundry and do business as well? Getting 231% raised in revenue and catch a thief in a process? That’s a bit of a stretch here. And who in the right mind would think it’s a good idea for a spy to step up and buy the business of a place she currently works undercover? She wants to get herself exposed of being a Princess? Phew. This episode is just as necessary to the main plot as the appendix in our body. Furthermore, it’s just dull. The only saving graces I can possibly take out from this episode are 1) their positive treatments to all the female casts: although all brought up in difficult backgrounds, girls can be good at their jobs – without men – and can control their own lives; and 2) the various precious facial reactions from Chise, and to a degree, Beatrice (geez, the moe factor eventually gets into me).

This week, the girls decide to join the laundry team in order to find the Poison Gas Jack (possibly a rip-off to Jack the Ripper), a terrorist whom they believe to be a military man. The plan is to find the uniforms that reacts to a pyridine test. Sound like a well-thought plan, right? Except that they have to go through hundreds of uniforms and there is a chance that the culprit doesn’t leave his own uniform for washing (you can always hand-wash your clothes, you know?); so guess what the show did? The spy girls bought off the place after learning about its debt and the culprit’s uniform was just accidently sent to the laundry service by some unnamed hero military men. Haizz, the more I talked about the plot the more painful I get so here’s the gist: this episode just feels sooo mundane and unrealistic at the same times and it betrays the fast, plot-driven tones Princess Principal has established so far. We don’t feel any tension regarding the actual case, we don’t feel excited because the action happens like… 10 seconds. Chise has a fair bit of interaction with the laundry leader, Marilla, but even that relationship feels half-baked at the end.

Chronologically, this is case16, which should be the second most recent (after last week’s case18) and there is a guy (the loan shark guy) that appears in both episodes. Funny that the only thing that connect him with the spies in both episodes is him being kicked in the butt by Dorothy, and Ange, respectively. Let’s see if he’d appear in later episodes but if he does, I suspect that he’d be the first one to make a connection about those girls who seem to be everywhere (he met 4 out of 5 girls already) and sell off the information to the Duke of Normandy. The part where our girls working together to repair all the steampunk laundry machines is warm that signal us that they’re all genuine people who care to help others (although why Beatrice is the only one who looks dirty?), but others than that, this episode is just unnecessary and the production isn’t that great with many off-models and the laundry girls’ designs are all uninspiring. Filler episode at its most head-scratching quality.

Posted on 15 August 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

We have a very tender Princess Principal episode this week. Instead of exciting spy action like previous weeks, we get to the place that is largely ignored by the rest of the world: a morgue. A place where they’re near the dead than the living, where time just passes by slowly but endlessly. A place that feel like an endless cycle of corpses stacking up. I’m in awe with this setting. Normally anime shows don’t depict a morgue right; they tend to play up its creepy atmosphere for cheap horror effect; but here, they nail that grim atmosphere perfectly. Certainly didn’t expect this from a stylish spy show with cute girls like Princess Principal. The pacing, when you compare with their previous episodes, is much slower and this case is the least relevant to the main plot. That said, this episode is dedicated to give a spotlight to Dorothy and in that regards, this episode excels. Not only Dorothy becomes the most genuine character in this spy team (something that they remark as being weak), the solid execution towards the ending part successfully make us root for this poor girl without being overly manipulated. We have another solid Princess Principal in our hands.

The case this week, case18 (which is the most recent chronologically) – Dorothy is given a mission by Control to work in London’s morgue and recover a code cipher hidden inside the tooth of a deceased Kingdom agent. She takes Beatrice with her to the morgue and meet the person who is tasked by the Duke of Normandy to find the agent’s body – her father, Danny. Danny is a sore sight though, bursting out all the times, blaming the others for his own misfortune and has debt all over the place. The father-daughter reunion is uncomfortable because Dorothy (her real name: Daisy) has a mixed feeling about him. He’s aggressive and vulnerable at the same time, caring at one time, out of control at others. If I have a say myself, this was a very abusive relationship and she did the right thing of running away from that madman. The episode keeps teasing us on whether behind his loud mouth, does he indeed care for his daughter. Dorothy, on the other hand, has gotten soft. Too soft for a spy really, as when she finds the code cipher, she still intends to hand it to Danny for him to pay off his debts. It is telling that she uses her mother’s name as her alias, as a way that she regards her family as dear and important to her.

And it does seem like most of our girls have daddy issues. Beatrice has her throat sliced altered by insane papa. Chise had to go all the way to foreign land to kill off her insane dad, and now Dorothy was beaten by her insane otousan. I also like the coupling of Dorothy and Beatrice this time. They have a nice chemistry and like Dorothy remarks, only Beatrice can be able to understand why despite all the hardships, Dorothy still comes to trust and love her father and for once, the girls’ relationship feels genuine and base on mutual understanding, instead of lies. This episode gives a necessary development for the last girl of the team, Dorothy, make her the most grounded character out of the spy team. Well, I still prefer they give more time to show how these girls bounce of each other, as Ange, Chise and Princess are all relegated to some minor scenes in this episode. Plot-wise, not much to gain either as this case adds little to the main conflict. I can see Princess Principal divide the audience sharply this week: those who look for non-stop action will end up disappointed; those who look for more character’s development (like me) will have a lot to boast about. Whatever side you’re on.

Posted on 7 August 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Chise gets a proper introduction this week. Regarding the non-chronological order, I believe this week being case7 makes total perfect sense. Case in point, in case9 (last week), Chise is still struggling to find a concrete role in the group; signals that she’s still quite new to the group. Beside; I don’t really think they will go back to earlier cases anymore, so they will probably go with the chronological order from now on. What do we have so far? In case13 (episode 1), there was a hint of Cavonite leakage that caused victims suffering from Canonite poisoning, and case9 the team goes after cavorite-related technology; if my guess is right the next episode will be somewhere between case9 and case13 to further elaborate about the Cavorite, which has has been consistently lurking in the background for quite sometimes. A Cavonite explosion perhaps? Here’s the thing that I absolutely love about Princess Principal, you can watch all these 5 episodes in any order and it still makes sense. All the episodes are self-contained, yet there are many subtle hints that become clear when you watch other episodes, like Duke Normandy’s real motive this week that really make me question the real intention of suggesting Princess to marry away to the Russian’s Emperor. Either he suspects the Princess or he just hates her guts.

About this episode, though, God, the animation is a major step-up this week. The fight choreography is excellent and the character’s movements in particular, are distinctive, smoothly and full of life (just look how the Princess moves in the beginning or how Ange and Chise run differently from each other). I looked up at the animator and it turns out the episode was handled by Ryouma Ebata, who was a key animator for Shounen Maid, Noen, the first episode of Madoka, Tsuritama OP… this guy totally rocks. Just look how dynamic Chise fights on top of the train or the big swordfight with Todo Jubei, those sequences are really something to behold. The direction was pretty excellent too. Princess Principal hints us the whole assassination scheme through the sequences of: the janitor drops the mop into the big map right where he wants to blow up the linkage; then cut to the Duke of Normandy to signal us that he’s the mastermind behind the assassination; then to Dorothy catches on to the scheme and then the explosion. I don’t usually notice this much but the technical craft of this week’s Princess Principal is so impressive and top-notch that it elevates the material to the new high level.

On top of that, Chise has an amazing entrance as well. It’s not that surprises to learn that Todo Jubei was her father all along (gezz, look at their contrasted costumes, isn’t it obvious?), but when she repeats that magic spell from her late father; my heart skipped a beat (although the explanation later makes thing pretty obvious). I think it’s a nice contrast to see that although Chise regarded Todo Jubei as a traitor, maybe it’s her who turn her back to her clan and serve the Lord instead (remember one guy who said to her -”You would betray us, Chise?”). For my money however, it might be all just an act to gain trust from the Princess and Ange. But her tears in the end are real. Goddamnit. And did I mention that Chise and Ange make a really great and lethal team together? Those are combat girls at highest level and it’s such a blast to see them fight together, or even against each other.

Can’t believe I would say this, but… now we know another function of that “amour” throat of Beatrice. Thanks for the sciencemadness that Beatrice ultimately saved her head, right? Now all the girls have all formed special connections to Ange, which is a great sign, but I would love more if Princess Principal establishes more chemistry between other members of the group. I’ve kept voicing my concern that Princess Principal will fall off its skate; but it turns out that the show is just getting better and more exciting by each episode. Now with all the introductions are in place, let’s see how Princess Principal will take us from there.

Posted on 31 July 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Princess Principal

And we’re back for some James Bond’s cute girls action’s dose of the week and I am happy to report that we have a very good episode in our hands. In fact, I won’t hesitate to say that this is the best Princess Principal we’ve seen so far. Well, case1 builds more groundwork than this week but this case9 has far more exciting case than previous weeks. Not only that, this episode builds up the interactions and hints towards the deeper intentions of all the girls, save Beatrice (seriously, who’s in the right mind to put her as action spy? She’s a dead weight girls. But somehow… I like her that way). But even in Beatrice’s case, now the team knows how to shut off her annoying scream so I’m totally happy with this episode. Moreover, this week is the only time that I can feel Princess Principal slows down the pacing (it’s still fast though) that allows more character interactions, while still maintains the beat throughout and as a result, the episode flows extremely at ease.

This week, the team uses the Princess’s position to gain access to the Cavorite mine and get the prototype from the underground lab. That prototype, a mini Cavorite control unit – looks eerily similar to the one Ange has. I like the way Princess Principal keeps expanding the use of that special device. This episode, she shoots the device to activate scanning the previous objects situated in the room. In other events, the Princess’s grandma and the Duke of Normandy make sure to let the Princess (and us) know that they have a plan for her marriage with the Russian Empire to calm the high tension between the two countries. The actual search for the prototype is interesting enough, each of the girl contributes to one task of the mission, there is of course twist and turns along the way but those don’t overwhelm the story. Moreover, they don’t pull any overpowered, unbelievable skills in there like previous weeks. I actually have quite a great time following the case this week so I hope Princess Principal keeps this tempo from now on.

It appears Princess Principal will go for a non-chorological order; pretty much Haruhi-style, now that we jump to case9 and my hope for a proper introduction of Chise is still in place; although this episode does spill the beans about Chise’s hidden agenda. Damn, I’d pretty much prefer if they keep it more ambiguous but the reveal does tell us a lot about her motives, as well as her current situation. Well, I honestly wouldn’t expect Chise expresses so much cute reactions but let’s see what she has on a serious side. She works under Lord Horikawa, whom I assume is belong to Japanese Imperial Family; who uses Chise as a spy to determine which side to ally, the Commonwealth or the Kingdom. This “White Pigeon” team is indeed an ideal team as they have 2 members from the Commonwealth, and other 2 from the Kingdom; so Chise can have a clear picture regarding the situations of both sides. She feels insecure about her role in the group, however, as she gets really upset by the way Ange constantly puts her out of action field considering she has the greatest combat skills of the group. What she doesn’t know is that Ange uses her as a safety net for the Princess, to which the Princess doesn’t agree with (very great characterizations all around). How does she and Lord Horikawa found out about the team is anyone’s guess right now, but I’m secretly glad that she isn’t here to kill the Princess or Ange off. Or will she?

Dorothy has also grown a lot on me. Now, it becomes a norm and I am really looking forward to her doing a femme fatale’s impressions to seduce whatever male species in the world. But this episode goes further than that, having her in a bind herself to keep a closer watch on the Princess, the person that she obviously grows accustomed with. Just see how Dorothy feels uneasy about the mission, and then relieves when the suspicion is proving wrong; towards her remark at the end: “White pigeon isn’t grey” and you can sense how much she went through to protect what she considers as friends versus her mission. Speaking of “friends”, it’s worth noting that while Ange considers only the princess as true friend, hence over-protective of her; the Princess considers everyone in the team as friends. Will Ange come to trust other members of her team? They all have different agenda anyways so whatever happens, the end-result will be a big battlefield between the casts. And those who fight for their love usually are those will end up being miserable in the end.

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