Princess Principal - Reviews

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CodeBlazeFate's avatar
Oct 8, 2017

“When you create a web of lies, you'll inevitably trap yourself and become everyone's meal instead”- someone, somewhere, sometime

Princess Principal is an unorthodox title to be sure. Steampunk, non-linear storytelling, and rule of cool. Sounds like it should've been a winner, but it was a case doomed to fail as soon as it set out, exposing itself rather quickly as a fraud and a disaster. It's uncool. It's stupid. Most of all, and worst of all, it's insulting. It tried desperately to confuse you and come off as smart and then it tries to patronize you.

Princess Principal is the condescending and obnoxious dreck from the same team that gave us one of last year’s most crushing disappointments, Izetta the Last Witch. As blasphemous as this sounds, that show was still better than this one in every single way. Keep in mind, Izetta was sort of a train wreck and plenty were hurt by its unkept promises despite the setting and premise. However, it's like this show decided to do it one worse yet still be seen as better. Let the truth be heard, let this series be exposed for its lies, and let it be cannibalized and demonized for ruining my hopes and dreams of having a better Izetta, just like with Youjo Senki only half a year prior! Let me, the man it deceived the cruelest, have my vengeance, for the lies end here!

Case ST 2

When a narrative starts out on such an awful foot as to have narrator exposition of the past as the opening scene and then have a bunch of asspull revelations and stupid moments (few of which ever come to make sense later), then your narrative needs to do a lot to make a recovery. It never does. In fact, those asspull revelations are occasionally present, like the ballerina revelation in episode 1. It tries to play itself as smart by creating information (that it claims that we missed) out of thin air; that obviously not smart. It does this a few times and it's annoying every time. The technology doesn't make any sense either and is poorly explained. Apparently there is this C-ball that the main character has and at one point they try to steal the prototype that was just finished, except they already have the original so that officially makes no sense. Lastly, the factions are insanely difficult to keep up with thanks to how the executed their non-linear storytelling, and we don't even k is which side between the commonwealth and the royals is the east or west side.

As stated earlier, this show treats you like an idiot. The asspull revelations that never add up aren't the only example of this. Hell, they're not even the most egregious. What’s more egregious is the fact that this show constantly beats you over the head. Every single episode, the show constantly drivers home the fact that spies lie and that they're not good people, as well as that everyone always lies. More than 5% of the total dialogue is centered around these three things. The dialogue is so condescending and terrible overall, and with all this thrown in the pot, it's just an especially big insult to the audience's intelligence. “Did you know that spies are liars?” Gee, I sure did, hell, so did everyone watching. You don't have to remind us constantly. Anywhere between 3 and 25 times an episode, especially in the early episodes. Not everyone knows when they're being mocked or patronized but when you realize that it's happening to you, it's aggravating, so a show shouldn't ever do that to the viewer, who is maybe trying to use this as an escape from reality. Instead, Princess Principal, how about you instead focus on telling a coherent story and SHUT THE FUCK U-

Lying is bad

That being said, there are times where you can see a glimmer of hope in the narrative. As predictable as episode 6 is, the finale and tragic irony of the song to the situation at hand is brilliant, almost reminiscent of some of the other works this writer has worked on, specifically the final scene of the 23rd episode of Code Geass, a personal favorite. This series, especially in the second half, starts actually trying to elicit emotion, but it's not always effective at it. Sure there are good moments like episode 7 which was the only really solid episode of the show barring some of 6, but then we get episode 8 which while that did provide context to some scenes from earlier, it actually reveals another problem and missed opportunity in episode 2, one of the worst of the series; this isn't even speaking of the embarrassingly bad and mind-numbingly stereotypical episode 9 which feels like it would normally be a sappy kids show episode that also patronizes the audience. In a way, it's almost trying to be the reverse Izetta where instead of starting off decently and turning to complete shit later on, it starts off horrendously and gets better later, except it stumbles as that hallways through the second half anyway and ends up back where it started. Too little too late comes to mind. Besides, the finale is a sequel bait disaster anyway and anytime the show takes a step forward, it takes a stab back as well.

Case C 2

With the exception of Ange and Charlotte, none of the characters have any semblance of chemistry. Hell, none of the are memorable. Their personalities are beyond basic and not-fleshed out or progressed at all. There is no one worth giving a damn about, for they are so lifeless and static. If this show I supposed to be a rule of cool series, why does only one character try for this angle (the girl with the tits), and why isn't it one of the more prominent characters? They're so plain and tired, and one of them, names Beatrice, starts out especially bad and hypocritical. She’s the typical “princess loli bodyguard” trope except more annoying, and then she becomes a mod benign version of this exact same trope with little to no progression. Hell, all of these people are little more than tropes! The two “best” characters are Ange and Dorothy. Dorothy because she tries at rule of cool and she’s hot (and she actually has an explored past), and Ange because she has this weird thing about the Black Lizard Planet she keeps lying about nonchalantly. Oh, and she and this princess kinda sorta love each other...I suppose. Reasonings loosely related to it are dumb though. Regardless fact that such straws need to be grasped just to say something interesting about these characters is proof of their failure as a cast. This isn't even speaking of the other characters that come later, since they're not worth mentioning and they exacerbate this issue.

Case A 4

The show’s visuals do not fare much better. Studios Actas and 3Hz did a joint effort for this project, and if nothing else, they were consistent...ly bad.The Light Novel default artstyle aggravates and does not look appealing in the slightest, and the designs range from mediocre to abysmal, with the worst being Chise’s design. The rest of the art looks decent and occasionally pretty detailed, like with the C-ball, and that's the only praise I'll give the visuals. The animation is ok at best, though the fights are pretty badly choreographed. The CGI ranges from mediocre (for the cars) to abysmal (for the people) and there is even a moment with a CGI room for the foreground and background and it causes a long 7 seconds of bad slowdown (what is it with anime that have CGI and slowdown and why are all of them always shitty anime?). When we see rads backgrounds in situations of motion, or any time for that matter, they look terrible, and so does the photorealistic backgrounds of the school garden, which you will see from time to time. Shame since the steampunk-esque setting is an interesting one innterms of potential visuals yet these don't warrant much merit.

Case SO 6

One of the most renowned composers in the industry, Youjo Kajiura did the music for this anime. This is honestly one of the weaker OSTs I've experimented from her to date. The songs are mostly pretty reserved and thus aren't very memorable, and the few that are more blaring and interesting aren't nearly of the same quality of some of the best tracks of her other works, like the SAO and Fate/Zero OSTs. The tracks are repeated quite often too to make matters worse. The OP, "The Other Side of the Wall" by Void_Chords feat.MARU, is easily one of the best of the season. It emphasizes rule of cool and is filled with the frantic energy that makes you pumped to watch each episode of the show, as awful as this show is; it is the only real good thing I could find in this show, which is unfortunate. The ED, "A Page of My Story" by Ange (Ayaka Imamura), Princess (Akira Sekine), Dorothy (You Taichi), Beatrice (Akari Kageyama), Chise (Nozomi Furuki), fares nowhere near as well, as contrarian as this apparently sounds. It is an ok enough track on its own but intro in particular gives me major mood whiplash every time I finish an episode. Overall, it was a decent enough repertoire of music but little was special and it was honestly underwhelming on the whole.

Case E 3

This show was very difficult to enjoy. The action wasn't even that competent, the characters were unbelievably dull and bad, the plot was wrecked beyond belief, and the show treats the audience like a dunce. The most enjoyment I got or of it was listening to the OP theme by you can do that as well as engage in the full version without having to see the show anyway. Not to say that the experience was heinous but it was continually frustrating.

Case O 3 CASE RAW 31/100

With that, the case is closed. Princess Principal is hereby found guilty of lying about being a good show, treating its audience like an imbecile, being caught so far up a web of lies and lack of proper establishing that everything is convoluted, and all around being a massive disappointment. For a rule of cool show, this didn't even try that hard in any aspect, even visually or musically, and for a show of emotion, it shot itself in the foot almost every time it tried. It's off to the cellar, Princess Principal; good riddance.

2/10 story
4/10 animation
6/10 sound
2/10 characters
3/10 overall
sw00ty's avatar
Dec 4, 2017

One of the reasons that I like Princess Principal so much is that it’s fun. Dark at times, sure, and with a cast of interesting characters, but above all, in a year that’s been very patchy insofar as anime talent, it’s genuinely fun to watch. Often, it reminds me of a weird mix-up between 91 Days, the Dishonoured video game franchise, and Gunslinger Girl, the lattermost in particular. In fact, though I did like Gunslinger Girl for all of its flaws, I think that Princess Principal is even better.

PP centres us in a fictional late-nineteenth century version of Britain known as Albion, which has been divided into two via a wall (clearly inspired by the Berlin Wall). The Commonwealth and Kingdom of Albion have thereby emerged as players in a ghost war between spies, agents and double-agents. The main cast is composed of girls from the Queen’s Mayfair Academy for Girls, an institution of the Kingdom of Albion, who are all agents for the Commonwealth and working towards ‘Operation: Changeling’, by which they aim to replace the Princess Charlotte (fourth in line for the throne) with a doppelganger. In a strange turn of events, however, the real Princess offers her services to the Commonwealth and begins to operate alongside the other spies.

One immediately striking aspect of Princess Principal is just how stylish it is, contributing to the sense of ‘fun’ I mentioned earlier. From the jazzy opening to the gloriously-drab (that’s an intentional oxymoron by the way) setting of Victorian-analogue London, to the costumes and the overall tone, there’s a great sense of place and atmosphere that prevails throughout the entire series. Back allies and the homes of the aristocracy make for great locales in a weird cold-war-esque tale of subterfuge and back-stabbing; like 91 Days, there’s a ‘realer-than-real’ ethos to everything from the superfluously British surnames and titles, to the name ‘Queen’s Mayfair School’ itself, which I think is genuinely ace.

This, by extension, aids the plot tremendously, given the focus on conflicting loyalties and the clandestine nature of spying. Though I sometimes question the necessity of having a non-linear story progression (the first episode happens well after the next two in terms of chronology, and the shuttling back and forth throughout doesn’t really add to anything), it’s easy to be impressed by how competently-written the most of it is. Though not quite ‘episodic’ in a generic sense, many episodes consist of stories that, like Gunslinger Girl, focus in on one or a pair of girls in order to reveal backstory or develop their characterisation. It works well on the whole, and with a main plot running through the season concerning Operation: Changeling, it doesn’t have the aimless feel that (IMO) a lot of semi-episodic series like Cowboy Bebop and Black Lagoon sometimes have.

Like Gunslinger Girl, one of the key points of interest is the conflict between the very ‘adult’ world of death and betrayal, and traditional notions of childhood innocence and bonds. It is often disturbing, but not crassly so, to witness what some of the characters are forced to do in the name of duty. The writers also handle the notion of lying in a very interesting fashion; Ange, the protagonist, is experienced as a constant and almost pathological liar, but these lies have very different functions throughout the plot and can alternate wildly between those that, again, belong in the adult world of sabotage and assassination, and those that are seated in the realm of white lies, and lying to save a friend. In other words, one is constantly presented with the unmistakeable fact that these are not just spies, but teenagers and young women. Names, pasts and identities are all changeable and, while certain early revelations are *almost* difficult to keep track of, this does entirely suit the themes and premise of PP. Meanwhile, the relationships between the girls are usually smartly-written and you start to genuinely feel for these characters; in particular, the dynamic between Princess and Principal, Charlotte and Ange, is probably my favourite of 2017 thus far. One can’t be too specific given just how easy it would be to give away spoilers with this kind of story, but I was entertained all the way through. There are some vaguely annoying sequences whereby one of the girls is regularly employed as a distraction and the camera aims leerily at her chest (I understand that the point is to have a POV shot from the guard's perspective but it just comes across as the wrong kind of fan service) but on the whole the female representation is pretty dope. We even have some fairly tacit hints at same-sex romantic frissons going on, which i also thought were well-handled.

Visually, PP is impressive, as I've already alluded to; more than just being stylistically cohesive, it LOOKS like a 2017 anime series, more than I can say for certain others released this year (Chronos Ruler, Clockwork Planet, etc). Action sequences are consistently entertaining and have the punchy, flashy-but-well-coreographed tenor of other great series' like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Fate/Stay Night UWB; they sit in a comfortable place between sci-fi and what can very loosely be described as 'realism', again befitting the show's premise. I was also impressed by the voice cast; none of the voice performances stood out especially but I think that's because the base-line was fairly high, the ensemble cast generally impressive, and even characters like Beatrice, who others have called annoying, had quality voice-acting attributed to them. 

TL;DR

Princess Principal is a genuinely fun little series with well-written female characters and relationships, some cracking action set-pieces, spy thriller elements and lots of style. With high-quality animation, a decent score and the potential for more to come (there's a rather clumsy cliffhanger ending that isn't especially satisfying, but it's far from the worst I've come across), I hope that this one doesn't get forgotten by the time the year's over and Top 10 lists are in progress.

7.5/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
TheRogueNob's avatar
May 3, 2020

if you enjoy anime girls doing different things than you might as well watch this show it’s not terrible but other than a few standout scenes the show does nothing to make you feel on the edge of your seat or wows you throughout the season. that being said it is not a bad show so if you need to find something to watch then go for it. it is a bit different setting from the usual shows just don’t have high expectations. should there be a second season that follows through and delivers a better sequel then it might be a little better

I’m going to give the normal review there may be a spoiler, but I’ll give for warning and it will be near the end

first is the animation, it’s had its moments for sure with some very fluid animations, good lighting, good backdrops, nice effects and good fight scenes whenever they decided to come around. also, the CGI wasn’t terrible and was only used on the car and trains and only for the last few episodes. my only complaint was the lack of detail on the faces on some of the characters. why studios make many of the male characters with unique facial features, yet every female is a doll with four different features: hair, eye color, height, and how curvy they are. if I remember only 3-4 female characters stood out and not by much.

Sound, it was par for the course some scenes did a great job with steam, gunfire and other effects for the better scenes but other than that I couldn’t help but notice that some of the scenes felt empty a bird chirped every now and then but as most people who go outside birds are loud and they don’t stop chirping neither do bugs some pretty good shows with good white noise have the persistent noise in the background without it being too soft or to loud. the music was decent but during the end of the show it seemed like it was missing some edge to it there was nothing that made me feel like there was something dark or suspenseful. all I can really say is that the opening for the show is pretty good

the characters are a weird one. each of the main cast gets at least one whole episode to themselves giving them back story and some amount of depth the only problem is that other than D & Ange most of them lose that depth as soon as the credits role. I don’t know how to quick fix this either if they make a second season I guess the only way to really show up and show out these characters is to put them in different situations that allow for them to act differently or to challenge them. or maybe give the other characters more screen time. the dialouge between the characters seemed natural and there wasnt most of the usual speaking tropes that comes with anime dialouge. i did watch it in dub though and it was acutally pretty good the British speak seemed a bit proper at some points but they acutally sounded british or like a japanese girl trying to speak english so good on them for that

he story: this show could have been better if it thrust itself head first into the dark and gritty spy theme and at some points they did I won’t spoil them since some of them carry a lot of weight and kept me interested in the show. instead they stand on the wall not knowing whether to make a spy thriller or "cute girls spy for the people" comedy and I commend them for trying to keep it light when it was supposed to but when it was dark there wasn’t really any follow through afterwards. I felt like every character was safe and that any new one that showed up was only there for that episode the formula repeated itself readily. they definitely should have thought about the direction of this one a bit more because I do think that if a 2nd season comes out and it becomes a darker themed show withe same natural dialogue then I can for sure think that this could be a knockout series.

6/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
7/10 characters
6/10 overall
JVAnimeReviews's avatar
Oct 26, 2017

Positive

*When this I started this anime I was quite skeptical and even after watching the first episode I still didn’t know if this anime would work out. But the more and more I got into PP, the more and more I loved it. Basically this is a spie story like a spie story has to be. Don’t be deceived by the fact that the main protagonists are all cute girls. This is a very dark anime with very dark and mature themes. There were multiple episodes where I was like “Holy shit, did that just really happen?”. But that is what made this anime so good. A spie story is at its best when it is told like this. It has to be dark, it has to be serious and a lot of anime’s screw that up but not PP.

For a video review, check out my Youtube channel. Link on my profile page. 

And the thing that I was most skeptical about was the supernatural element that Ange uses. But eventually I wasn’t bothered by it because it didn’t overshadow the story. It wasn't really necessary in this story but it also didn’t decrease the quality of it.

*As my second positive point I again have to complement the very strong female cast. Like I said in some of my previous reviews, it’s a trend that I’ve been seeing that female characters are becoming stronger and independent carriers of a story. And here in PP every one of our 5 main female characters was very well written. Each of them had her own interesting personality and sometimes disturbing backstory. Like the one from Beatrice. When they showed that, that was one of those “Holy shit, did they just really do that?” moments. But again I applaud the female cast and it was definitely an addition to this anime.

*And my final positive point has to be the opening. “The other side of the wall” was one of my favorite openings of the Summer season, it’s as simple as that.

Negative

*All of my negative points basically revolve around the same thought that I have being that some things in PP aren’t complete. Let’s first start with the episodes themselves. In quite a lot of episodes something spectacular happens near the end. And it made the episode really good but the effects of these events were never explored. With that I mean that we didn’t get to see the fallout in the following episodes whilst some of these events would have had severe consequences. To only give 1 example and without spoilers is what happens to Dorothy’s father at the end of episode 6. You would expect to see something about that in episode 7 but in that episode it seems like nothing happened. 

Now an explanation for that could be that the girls have to keep their personal lives hidden in order to protect themselves as spies. But even with that, I felt that they could have done more with those endings.

*Next negative point is that all the way at the end of anime, there are still some things left unexplained. Our main storyline is finished but there are a lot of elements that still feel very mysterious like the story about the Black Lizard Planet that Ange always tells, I still don’t really understand what it means, or the character of the Duke is another example

It’s actually really weird, and this brings me straight into my next point, PP feels finished and unfinished at the same time. Mostly that’s because the biggest secret, the relationship between Ange and Charlotte hasn’t come out yet. We, as viewers, know the extent of that but to a lot of our characters that is still a secret. And that’s why the ending of PP felt so weird. I don’t have the feeling that a second season is really necessary like with other anime’s that clearly end on an open ending but somewhere it doesn’t feel right to end the anime like this.

Conclusion

So as a conclusion, PP was simply one of my favorite anime’s of the Summer 2017 season. It was definitely the most surprising one. As I said I was really skeptical when starting this anime but it superseded all of my expectations. So overall I’m going to rate Princess Principal at a solid 4 stars. If your a fan of dark mystery anime’s than you definitely have to give PP a shot because it’s a lot darker than you initially expect.

8/10 story
7.5/10 animation
8/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
8/10 overall
shanedd's avatar
Dec 29, 2018

This should be my first time writing a review for an anime. This is just the kind of anime that excites me so much!! It was amazing and cool!! You would find yourself falling for all the characters.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall