Princess Principal
Episode 10

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Princess Principal ?

This has been a great weekend for anime. My two favorite series of the season – Re:CREATORS and Made in Abyss – both put out spectacular efforts in critical episodes, and yet Princess Principal will not be found wanting by comparison. Once again, the series takes a fairly simple combination of ideas and executes them impressively well, before following up with a stunning yet satisfying plot twist that should drive the series' final episodes into a conclusive story arc.

Although there is an overt mission at stake here, it once again takes a back seat to secondary objectives and developing interpersonal relationships between the spies. This time around, the action team sans Chise take on a generic mission about filching some top secret documents, though their contact on the inside is far from a stranger to them. It's a young woman called Eleanor by the person she's works as secretary for but Prefect by Dorothy, for she was their classmate and the #2 student at a female spy training facility called The Farm. Naturally, she and Ange (the #1 student) don't get along even though they work efficiently as a team, but the episode doesn't dwell on their disagreements because they're both professional enough on the job. Though their cover mission is completed easily after Beatrice uses her throat device to overcome the most difficult obstacle, the real task – determine if Eleanor is a double-agent – follows swiftly. That's where things get really interesting.

So what happens when two top-scoring spies come into conflict? A neat battle of moves and counter-moves using all manner of trickery, whether it be using a trap to your advantage or a gun on a countdown timer built into a suitcase that's worthy of a James Bond movie. Dorothy and Ange eventually catch up to Eleanor on a train, where the unexpected truth comes out: Eleanor was never envious of Ange, but Dorothy, due in part to the great time Dorothy showed Eleanor at a fair in the wake of a disastrous exam during their days at The Farm. It seems Eleanor always wanted to be a free spirit more than the top student, and she implies that the stress of having to maintain expectations may have caught up with her, which is why she got wrapped up in being a double-agent, along with some yet-unexplained drug reliance. Now cornered, she opts for suicide rather than forcing Dorothy to shoot someone she considers a friend, a scenario the episode chooses not to soften.

Situations like this have been done in anime before, but not often this well. I continue to be amazed at how the writing and production can milk such impact out of these one-episode tales, while still slipping in bits of non-distracting humor like Beatrice's inability to handle the car in a pinch or Chise's uncertainty about the actual purpose behind the shishi odoshi she just built. The flashbacks to The Farm effectively paint it as something out of a Soviet or East German-era training camp. Ange, Dorothy, and Eleanor being the only girls remaining from their class is an eyebrow-raiser; the demonstrated ruthlessness of this environment suggests what may have happened to the rest, which is all that we really need to know. The series has demonstrated an uncommon efficiency at using flashbacks before, and this episode is no exception. And while this may be beating a dead horse at this point, the show's use of atmosphere is still remarkable.

The last scene is the pivotal one though, as a new superior officer issues the most problematic assignment to date: the assassination of Princess. Why a princess deemed low in the power structure of the Kingdom is now being considered worthy of assassination is interesting all on its own, but the bigger issue is how Ange will dodge this task because Princess is the one person she absolutely will not kill. Is this the point where she goes rogue? The opener does show her appearing to point her gun at her compatriots as she catches the falling Princess, so was that meant to be foreshadowing after all?

Either way, with this being Case 22, it looks like the series is locking the final two episodes into an arc that will carry Cases 23 and 24 into a season finale. An Anime Now! article about the series has posited that the episodes are being delivered out of order to provide the most effective character development. In other words, we have another great episode seguing into what could be a very compelling finale.

Rating: A

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

discuss this in the forum (93 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

back to Princess Principal
Episode Review homepage / archives