Princess Principal
Episode 11

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Princess Principal ?

In the wake of last episode's cliffhanger ending, the questions in my mind all week were “how is Ange going to extricate both her and Princess from this situation, and how many people might she have to betray to do so?” Apparently, I should have been pondering one more question: “Will Princess actually go along with Ange's plan?”

All series long, Ange has appeared to be the strong one: the inveterate liar and action woman, the schemer, and when necessary the ruthless killer. The only time she showed weakness was in that revealing conversation with Princess at the beginning of episode 3. Meanwhile, Princess has been largely inscrutable because of that friendly mask she perpetually wears – and thus easy to underestimate. Learning what she put herself through to survive as Princess Charlotte was a tip-off that there was a vastly stronger will lying under that veneer, something that even Ange has misunderstood. But then, as Princess points out this episode, the girl we now know as Ange was always the fearful one. When faced with genuine endangerment of the one thing she actually cares about, her first instinct is to run and hide, just like she did as a kid when she encountered a certain pickpocket. That's not something that the real Ange, who gets indignant about her life being toyed with even further, will allow anymore. As to how much she actually means the harsh words she said to Ange in rejecting her scheme, we'll have to wait and see, but I'll be very surprised if there isn't a reconciliation of some sort.

That's how we end up with the situation at the end of the episode. After Ange's clever effort to separate herself and Princess from other agents at the airport, Princess locks Ange in an airship's storage compartment to send her away permanently, before passing herself off as Ange having taken over Princess's identity after killing her. This is about as multilayered as a deception can get, as we now have a girl who has long been pretending to be the real princess now pretending to be another girl (who is the real princess), pretending to be the real princess. To make matters even more complicated, a rogue Kingdom military faction in favor of taking down the wall separating the Kingdom and Commonwealth is apparently intent on giving Princess what she's claimed she wants most: a way to take the throne, albeit at the cost of the existing Queen's life. In other words, she could get what she wants, but is the cost something she's willing to pay, especially with potentially losing Ange as a pay-off? Given what she just told Ange, she has to be thinking that this is yet another case of her life being toyed with.

Their situations aren't the only ones teetering on the edge. Dorothy has been summarily removed as team leader after objecting to the plan, so her situation is now in doubt. Chise has been pulled back by her lord, and Beatrice only barely appears in the episode, being left out of the loop on everything. In other words, the team as we know it has effectively been dissolved. This is a familiar climactic set-up in stories focusing on teams of agents, and if this series stays true to that form, they'll all come together one way or another next episode. It definitely sets the stage for an explosive season finale next week, though!

The one other loose end afoot is the Duke of Normandy. He's been the team's antagonist for nearly the whole season, and he's made aware in one scene that the military might be up to something. That means that he'll be the opposing force for the coup attempt, but would that actually make him the antagonist to the girls in this case? That just provides more juice for the final episode. And did Dorothy (presuming she hasn't been killed) understand what Ange's “thank you” in the garage actually meant?

Overall, Case 23 is every bit of what the penultimate episode for a series like this should be. My one quibble is with the character design for Zelda, the female agent who replaces Dorothy as team leader by acting as Princess's attendant. Her eyes are drawn cartoonishly shifty and villainous, which is at odds with the style of character designs beyond her. A little more set-up/foreshadowing for the military coup twist might also have been appreciated. Still, those are minor distractions in what is otherwise another well-executed episode.

Rating: A-

Princess Principal is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.


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