After being so annoyed with Clockwork Planet not really embracing the Clockwork motif as a setting (my opinion and taste to be completely honest), Princess Principal embraces its Steampunk aesthetic in a way I’ve not truly encountered since Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing. Princesses, intrigue, gray moralities, and action is the order of the day, and I’m honestly loving it, as it is classic Hollywood spy-thriller with gadgets, convoluted sneaking around, and mooks being mowed down or missing completely. This is going to be short, I’ve been suffering a bout of bronchitis, and this was started on over a week ago and now only finishing it.
The setting for Princess Principal is turn-of-the-century Britain, or rather, it’s analogue during the Victorian era. Albion would discover the fictional material Cavorite (directly referencing Jules Verne’s ‘The First Men in the Moon’) and would develop a fleet of airships to assert its dominance. A revolution though would split the nation in two, with London being split in the late 1800s into two, with the Commonwealth of Albion to the west, and the Kingdom of Albion to the east.
The story is centered on a group of Commonwealth spies, all enrolled in the Queen’s Mayfair School. Each have their own individual talents and abilities that make them an effective cell, with one of the agents none other than Princess Charlotte of Albion, fourth in the line of succession.
The main character is Ange, who is a master spy at her age, and has a Cavorite device that allows her to fly for short durations. She is also often seen with a Webley-Fosberry Automatic Revolver. A capable actress, she is a master of several masks and only few have ever seen the true ‘her’, if that is really ‘her’ underneath a childhood of direct-action human intelligence operations.
Princess Charlotte is the next person in the Mayfair cell. An unlikely spy for the Commonwealth, she risks her life if caught due to her position as the fourth in line of succession to the Kingdom of Albion; as well as being the niece to the Duke of Normandy, the Kingdom of Albion’s Home Secretary. Holding no real discernible talents, it is her insight and her status that provides some sort of cover to the group’s clandestine activities.
Right next to Princess Charlotte is Beatrice, the daughter of a minor noble and Princess Charlotte’s childhood friend. More or less Shanghaied into being a traitor to her nation by being a Commonwealth spy, she was experimented on by her machine obsessed father. With artificial vocal chords that allow her to change her voice, she proves invaluable as a support asset. She isn’t exactly the best fit for a field agent but her love for Princess Charlotte overcomes her initial distrust and hatred of the two Commonwealth spies.
Dorothy is the leader of the cell, and is the resident petrolhead (or would it be steamhead?). She is the driver of the group, and does so a vehicle that is possibly fifty years too advanced for the possible time era but when you got flying airships held aloft by an imaginary material from a Jules Verne story, anything is possible. She was inserted into Mayfair as one of the students, but in reality is twenty years old.
Last but not least is Chise, an oddball in the setting to put it mildly. Hailing from Japan, she is the show’s resident samurai analogue, though she is less Hollywood Samurai and more Hollywood Ninja with her abilities. It is revealed in episode four that she was sent to Albion by Japan to see which side they would ally with.
Other characters include Control, who make up the overseeing group for Dorothy’s ring. Headed by “L”, he is joined by “7” and “The Colonel”, who represents the Commonwealth military. Their main antagonist is the Kingdom of Albion’s Home Secretary, the Duke of Normandy. A spy master as well, he runs a tight ship in the Home Office in counter-espionage.
The world is in the midst of a great industrial revolution, no doubt spurred from its dominance in being the source of Cavorite, Albion (east or west) is heavily industrialized, and the world is heavily influenced by the early works of the forefathers of modern science fiction. The steampunk aesthetic isn’t just for show, as each gear, valve, and bronze doodad looks as if it has a place.
The story is of course, intriguing and well done, and lots of ‘blink and you’ll miss’ bits, a few I actually needed help from TvTropes to catch. I won’t do episode summaries, I think this thing rambled on too much, but I would recommend folks to give this a try.
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