Note: This is my original review for Princess Principal Episode 12. An updated take on this episode will be available in the near future.
I can’t help but wonder what exactly happened behind the scenes that we only have 12 episodes of a clearly 24-episode story in Princess Principal. I’m sure a nonlinear narrative was always the intention of the staff; there are just some moments that work way better when it is presented out of order. Maybe the production committee aims to pull a Haruhi and a second season that fills in the gaps will be produced if this season sells well on disc (and if Stalker is any indication, this show isn’t likely to tank). Regardless, we got our series finale for Princess Principal and if you think things felt a bit rushed, I really can’t blame you.
I do wonder what exactly the Duke of Normandy’s role in this story was. At first, I suspected that he was involved in conspiring with the Commonwealth military to assassinate the Queen and use Princess as a scapegoat (he’s wanted to kill Princess for a while too). But when I really think about it, I don’t know why the Duke would want another revolution on his own territory unless he’s that confident about the Kingdom’s power. In the previous episode, I pointed out that his men were guarding Princess and took notice of the fact that he wants the reports of the rebellion to be handled without the Queen knowing. It makes for some reasonable supportive evidence but come to think about it, he’s done shady stuff and has watched over Princess for months now. I’m honestly not sure at this point. When the Duke found Princess’s hat and Team White Pigeon’s gear at the crime scene, was this news to him or did he always suspect Princess and his speculation has just been confirmed?
Then there is also Zelda, whose name is really distracting for a Nintendo fan such as myself. There was definitely some infighting going on at Control; the moment L comes back, it seems obvious that he was forced out of his position by the Military. But if Zelda really is a Commonwealth spy, there must be some serious conflict of interest going on in this faction. For a while, I also suspected that maybe she is working for the Duke of Normandy. It would certainly help justify how she suddenly just shows up. There is also the fact that Zelda has a C-Ball. You could argue the Commonwealth made more than one but the dialogue between Prefect and Dorothy two episodes ago suggests that there is only one and it was given to Ange. We also do know that in Episodes 1 & 4, Kingdom scientists have been working on portable cavorite technology so the Kingdom making a C-Ball for Zelda isn’t entirely implausible.
All this speculation really makes it hard for me to write the conspiracy in Princess Principal‘s finale off as underdeveloped. It’s certainly confusing but it feels more like a lot of the details were kept in the subtext in order to focus more on Team White Pigeon (more on that in a bit). There’s certainly a lot of supportive details from past episodes that can help one wrap their head around the events of this episode. That being said, perhaps this would’ve worked out lot better if the show was actually 24 episodes long. It’d at least give the staff more time to flesh out these last few events.
Conspiracy aside, I actually thought how Ange succeeded in saving Princess was executed really well. There is just something so cathartic in how simple the solution was. Ange just needed to open up and ask her friends to help her. And her teammates proved to be very willing to put friendship first over their duties. Dorothy and Beatrice were practically ready to help her and Chise musters the audacity to convince her master to let her leave and help her friends. There’s some really great little touches in this episode as well from Dorothy telling a white lie to make Ange admit she sees her as a friend to Ange teaming up with Chise to fight Zelda (something she was hesitant to do back in Episode 4). If the strength of Team White Pigeon’s dynamic wasn’t evident in the past, it’s certainly capitalized here.
Regarding Princess, was I surprised that she lied to Ange last episode? Not really; I had a feeling that she was acting unusually cruel to begin with. As it turns out, Princess simply wanted to get Ange as far away from the conspiracy as possible for her sake (even though Ange would always come back to save her). Still, Princess’s actions end up producing a change in Ange that she perhaps had hoped to see this whole time. Throughout the whole season, Princess has been able to use Ange’s soft spot for her to help her best friend open up more. In this episode, Ange freely admits that she sees her teammates as friends and that’s largely because Princess’s words really got to her. It’s evident from the fact that Princess has kept Ange’s beret all this time that Princess really does cherish the old Ange. But combined with her lie, it also suggests that Princess still thinks that the old Ange is buried within the current one and didn’t truly think Ange became a completely different person. I doubt Princess deliberately risked her friendship for all this but if her goal was to help Ange to open up more, it certainly got accomplished here.
It’s the friendship of Team White Pigeon that really made this finale work. And to be honest, I feel as though who these girls are and how they grow to be friends and comrades has always been the main focus of Princess Principal. There’s certainly some strong worldbuilding going on and a lot of intriguing subtext to ponder over but it’s secondary to the characters’ own arcs. I won’t call this finale perfect but in terms of putting a conclusion to the show’s own themes, I think it did a job well done.
- That bit where Princess nearly exposes herself as the fake princess really got to me. We’ve known Ange feels guilty for letting her best friend take her place but the feeling really is mutual. Changing the country really should be Ange’s goal but she’s been so removed from royalty, that it feels like Princess is partially aiming so high as penance for taking the dream away from her. I also admire how realistic Princess is; she knows that to change the country, she has to be the last monarch. It’s also makes her attempt to push Ange away last episode a bit sadder. She wants to see this goal to the end but she also doesn’t want her best friend see that goal destroy her in the process.
- That chase scene was pretty awesome; perhaps one of the best action scenes in the entire show. I love the direction of it; Dorothy taking serious risks and just as the team is pinned down, Chise intervenes at the best moment.
- I really can’t help but feel as though a world war was averted this episode. I just get that vibe considering Princess Principal‘s time period, the allusions to historical events, the fact that other countries are interested in how this commotion plays out, and the aim to assassinate a royal to star a war.
- Someone make a gif of Beatrice panicking for Princess. Seriously.
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