Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Princess Principal
Anime Studio: Studio 3Hz
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Action / Spy / Steampunk
Released: March 4th 2018
Language: Japanese / English
Extras: Picture Dramas, Clean OP and ED, Japanese Commercials, Japanese Promos
Princess Principal Collection Early in the 20th century, the discovery of Cavorite, an anti-gravity substance, gave birth to a technological renaissance including the development of giant airships and other fantastical inventions. However, the scientific revolution was not the only one afoot, as Great Britain was torn in two by an armed rebellion when the oppressed poor finally turned on the ruling elite. Now the Commonwealth has a plan to take Albion by stealth, substituting their undercover operative Ange for the beautiful young Princess Charlotte. But Charlotte and Ange both have surprises in store for their respective governments and instead hatch a plan wherein the Princess herself will act as an agent in exchange for help in claiming the throne! A dazzling team of femme fatales sets out to rule Britannia and English History will never be the same!
I came into this show knowing very little about it other than its name, and if I’m being honest, the title is one that I find quite misleading. It’s easy to think that it may be a high school drama where the principal is a princess, or even a show about royalty focused on the principals of being a princess. Neither of these cases rings true though, and truth be told, I’m happy about that. The story we’re presented with is far more interesting than either scenario and is full of some really nice touches that elevate it above many other series.
When the first episode starts, we’re immediately treated to a nice little intro piece that’s built to look like an old film. The great thing with this is that it gives you just enough to understand the key points of the setting without overdoing it. The episode that follows it is also very strong, and introduces us to the key players and themes, all the while providing enough intrigue to make you want to keep watching.
The general presentation of the story is quite interesting. Showing the episodes in a non-chronological order is risky, but it works here, allowing us to meet and learn about the characters in a logical order. The design work is also very nice, paying a nice homage to era it’s based in, but still different enough to be a clearly alternate timeline. In particular, the steampunk elements in the outfits are beautifully imagined. The overall animation quality is also very strong, especially when it comes to combat scenes. On top of that, the opening theme has a wonderful bombast to it that fits surprisingly well with the series.
With the female cast, you may expect the show to be littered with a few cuter moments, and you wouldn’t be wrong in that regard. The lighthearted moments pop up at appropriate times, adding a softer tone to the otherwise darker proceedings. These are not the main thing you’ll notice though, as the focus is definitely on the spy work. This means a heady dose of action that would put James Bond to shame, and no pretense of the occupation being glamourous in terms of what you have to do. Nope, while not the bleakest show out there, it has a few harsh scenes, all placed at appropriate moments.
The main cast isn’t too unwieldy size wise, and each member gets their moment to shine. Ange and Princess Charlotte are clear stand-outs though. Between Ange’s use of the Black Lizard Planet as a signifier for when she lies and the girls’ intertwining backstory, they may make a strong focal pair. It was also nice to see that the fan service was kept to a minimum throughout, and that what little is present doesn’t feel like a substitute for the story. This is a great example of a show avoiding some of the trappings that often get associated with the medium, and it’s definitely better off for it.
This is dual language release, and the dub cast does an admirable job of attempting English accents. I would say that the posher accents are stronger than the working class ones, but nothing is too grating. This carries over to the Picture Drama extras too, which sees short stories playing out like visual novel scenes, relying on stills and audio rather than animation.
MVM have put together another fantastic set for the Blu-ray collector’s edition too, with the aforementioned extras being accompanied by a 176-page art book, a 144-page “secret file” book, an 80-page interview book, and 12 art cards. When you see something labeled as a collector’s edition, this is really the sort of quality you hope for, so well done MVM on that front.
Bar the lack of a clear ending, I can’t honestly see much cause for complaint with this series. In fact, it may be an early runner for one of my favourite release of the year. So, I am happy to give it the full 5 out of 5, and will be looking forward to the six-film follow-up series set to come this year.