by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Princess Principal ?
Though its biggest twists were spent last episode, Princess Principal still offers some lesser turns in its finale. But on the whole, it finishes without any shocking surprises, instead following through on entirely expected climaxes. While I came away from the episode feeling like they could have done more, the show definitely delivered a satisfactory ending nonetheless.
The first minor twist is Zelda's revelation to Princess that her faction doesn't actually expect the plan by the colonial soldiers to succeed; they're only backing it because Princess will be associated with an assassination either way, throwing the Kingdom into chaos and giving them the war that they want. The point to this is presumably to reunite the country by ridding the Kingdom side of the monarchy indirectly, but the logic behind this is shaky, making the whole warmongering scheme come across as villainy just for the sake of having a bigger antagonist to struggle against. It's not entirely surprising that Princess cannot maintain her deception against Zelda for long; though initially fooled, Zelda quickly figures out that she's not the spy known as Ange. It's a choice bit of irony of course, since she is the original Ange. Another shot of irony arrives later, when Princess admits to being an imposter in an attempt to convince Major Yngwie that she's sincere about becoming Queen and breaking down both the physical and invisible walls; it's likely that not even Zelda understood the real truth of the matter there.
The second twist is Princess's admission that the ultimate outcome of her plan to become Queen will result in her being the last monarch, and she fully anticipates eventually losing her head on the guillotine as a consequence of her plan's success. She's never before admitted a willingness to follow things through that far, but nothing in this episode gives the impression that she's bluffing. It's another sign of the fierce will that Ange so thoroughly underestimated last episode, and her character would have felt incomplete without some kind of statement like that.
The other minor twists are that Zelda also has her own C-ball, along with a final stupefying joke involving Chise's arrival at the site with her country's ambassador. Oxen were used for plowing in some area of England as late as the early 20th century in our world, so its appearance isn't entirely incongruous, but I still have to wonder how they got an ox carriage that deep into the city.
Other than that, every other scene was easy to anticipate. Ange wasn't going to wallow for long before escaping the airship and rejoining with Dorothy and Beatrice on a mission to rescue Princess. Chise joining them at an opportune moment, the Duke of Normandy's men opposing them, Princess winning over Yngwie before he's shot by Zelda while defending her, and Ange rescuing Princess and flying off with her for a reconciliation also come across as standard moves. The execution of the reconciliation was still fulfilling though, as it highlighted something that's been suggested all series long: Princess's efforts to bring down the wall are as much metaphorical as literal. She's not just talking about the separation of the hearts of the people or the barriers between social classes; she's including the wall that Ange has put around herself. For all of the other action and intrigue elements in the episode, that was the moment that really brought things home for me.
The series ends with Ange and Princess finally making it to Casablanca, albeit in the company of their whole team and under the guise of recuperating rather than fleeing to hide. While it may seem a little too lighthearted on the surface, the scene does represent the point of the whole story: Ange understands that she doesn't have to act alone. As familiar a message as that may be, it's still quite effective when done well like in Princess Principal. This also allows the series to overcome some holes in its finale, such as a lack of detail concerning the fallout from the cathedral incident (I think a bullet hole in a princess's leg would be a lot to hand-wave) or various loose ends like Zelda's status or what the Duke of Normandy will do with the items recovered in the wake of the incident. Presumably that was done to allow room for a possible sequel, though I'm not sure what direction a continuation of the story could take given how much has already been worked out. All of this discussion is aided by some wonderful architectural and design elements, as well as some sharp animation.
Overall, this last episode isn't as powerfully compelling as the series' strongest episodes, but it's still good enough to firm up the position of Princess Principal as one of the season's best.
Princess Principal is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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