Princess Principal
Episode 8

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Princess Principal ?

Princess Principal has been turning out some quality episodes over the past few weeks, but that hasn't stopped viewers from continuing to wonder about the potentially huge secret between Ange and Princess implied by the first three episodes. The series has entirely avoided addressing the issue since then, but we finally get concrete answers now. This is the episode that fans have been waiting for over the past month.

The truth finally comes out as Ange interacts with a young pickpocket girl while on a stakeout for her most recent mission. The mission involves investigation of a nobleman who might be meeting with someone for shady purposes, but the details of that matter – even the identity of his contact as the Duke of Normady's right-hand woman Gazelle – are largely irrelevant. What really matters is the story of “The Princess and the Pickpocket”, the origin of her meeting with Princess that Ange tells to the little girl. The story is a fairly close parallel to The Prince and the Pauper; they encounter each other by chance, quickly become fast friends despite their class differences, then have fun fooling people with their uncanny resemblance. After remaining coy for a good chunk of the story about the long-suspected switcheroo, Ange's tale eventually confirms that the similarities to Mark Twain's story run deep; the girls had switched places on what turned out to be the day of the revolution, as the original Princess Charlotte (who we now know as Ange) had been eager to see the world outside of the walls of her palace. Though they were able to reunite briefly in the throes of the revolution, a calamity separated them and left everyone thinking that the real Ange (who we now know as Princess) was the actual princess.

That revelation alone would have carried the episode, but this series shines so brightly because episodes are rarely content with just one major accomplishment. In this case, there's a coda to the story; the former pickpocket, now mistaken for being the princess, finds herself in a situation where her life would be forfeit if the truth ever came out. Hence she has to work her butt off to actually become a princess just to maintain her safety, putting her under deeper cover than any of the other spies. Ange clearly understands this, which is part of the reason she always refers to the real Ange as Princess. It's not just a reinforcement of the identity that the real Ange has taken on; it's also a sign of respect for what she's accomplished.

This has some other consequences too. It means that the line Princess gives at the beginning of the episode – about how Ange would surely understand that a princess can feel stifled and just need to get out – is a pointed jab at the stunt Ange pulled that put them in this situation. It makes the “tearing down the walls” conversation from back in episode three into a much more potent metaphor, since it now refers to the wall that separated them as children, the one that the pickpocket sneaked through to meet the princess. (In other words, it was their first turn at espionage.) That also gives more loaded meaning to Princess's assertion in episode three about her intent to become Queen, a statement that the original princess once made herself; they have switched their goals in life as well as their positions. The exact dialogue of the conversation they had at their "initial" meeting at the party in episode 2 is revealed to be an exact recreation of a conversation they had as kids, which establishes that every word of that conversation was an indelible secret identification between the two of them to back up Ange's use of the name "Ange." This makes the ending scene of them conversing and playing the piano together (as they did when they were younger) wonderfully poignant; the visual masterstroke is one shot where the camera focuses on Ange as her appearance is replaced by Princess's.

Almost lost in what's going on with Ange and Princess are a few other choice tidbits, such as Chise's quirky, bat-like method of performing surveillance or Beatrice's strange invention near the end. Slipping in little understated bits of humor just adds that little bit of extra charm to the episode and gives it a nice finishing touch. The result is another strong effort that's pretty much everything you could ask for in a Big Reveal episode.

Rating: A

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

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