Episode Title: “Case 1 – Dancy Conspiracy” — The word “dancy” pertains to dancing, alluding to the fact that the mission of week takes place during a ball. As for the “conspiracy” part, there a lot of conspiracies thrown around in this episode. Operation Changeling, the stuff with Morgan and the Duke of Normandy. If I had to pick, I’d say the conspiracy alluded is the one concocted by Ange and Princess; heavily improvised and yet the two girls are in seemingly sync with each other throughout the whole thing. It’s kind of like a dance, actually…wait a minute.
Even though this is the actual beginning to Princess Principal‘s story, I honestly and completely agree with the decision to make this the second episode. I do really love this episode, I’d even go as far as say it’s one of my favorites in the series, but it is also not action-packed in the slightest. The missions Ange and Dorothy carry out here is essentially swapping places with Princess and flirting with a middle-aged man for a key. It’s no wonder the staff went with something flashier to gain more immediate appeal. And frankly, this episode even benefits from what its predecessor provided. That premiere established a lot about the characters, more than this episode could, and that allows the viewer to be curious about these girls. Curious to see what other adventures they’ve been on and maybe even get to know more about them along the way. So instead of getting stuck with doing set-up, this episode simply just gets to sate that curiosity. And if you ask me, it works really, really well here.
While I did say this episode isn’t action-packed, the fact that isn’t is a big reason why I love it so much. Where it instead excels in is embracing a different side of espionage: infiltrating, manipulating your targets, and improvising your way out.
Ange, no doubt, demonstrates that she can do this without breaking a sweat. Take the cold opening where she transfers to Queen’s Mayfair for example. Acting all clumsy and shy is played for laughs and cuteness, especially with how out of character it seems, but it does make provide a solid cover for Ange at the school. A much stronger example though would obviously be the scenes taking place in the ball. Tackling both Operation Changeling and the impromptu mission to secure the key from Morgan through her ability to impersonate Princess (both in look and sound) was a really ingenious move on her part. Also, rewatching this episode, I realize that Ange is quite good at garnering people’s trust. The way she persuades Morgan entrust the key to her reminds me a lot of how she gained Eric’s sympathy last(?) episode.
What really gets this episode feeling captivating is how it involves Princess. Even upon a rewatch and knowing that it is partially an act, the part where she reveals she knows Ange and Dorothy are spies is still quite the curveball. And honestly, she is quite good at acting as “one of the bad ones” even if temporarily. I love how she behaves throughout all this. She sounds courteous but she actually has a bit of an attitude, confident that Control will meet her demands and playful towards Ange’s efforts in getting that “yes”. Even the part where she refuses to tell Dorothy how she knew the secret is amusing. It ends up being a fib and even then, it does make Princess come across as crafty. I’m also amazed that she kept this act up to the very end, only coming to Ange’s aid completely when the bell tower chimed. What was her back-up plan if none of this worked out? I suppose she really is that confident, act or not.
Something to take note of is the name, Operation Changeling, itself. In folklore, a changeling is a being who secretly substitutes a child abducted by fairies. A pretty fitting creature to refer to given the plan to have Ange swaps places with Princess so that Control had a mole within the royal family. However, the name does get ironic when you find out the girls’ true identities with Ange actually being of royal blood and Princess supposedly the one to have taken her place through some series of events. In a way, Princess seems like the real changeling here; Ange is the one who apparently got “abducted” and by coincidence, Control gains their mole anyway.
I still feel the tingling surprise that comes with the reveal surrounding Ange and Princess’s identities. It’s a game changer, through and through, one that got me even more sold on Princess Principal. You can admittedly see it coming with enough attention but even then I’d argue that the foreshadowing leading up to it has been fantastic. Episode 1 even provided a subtle hint when Princess mentioned that she doesn’t like the idea of Eric and Amy being separated forever, eliciting a startled reaction from Ange as a result. This episode provides some clues as well such as how Princess reacts when she meets Ange for the first time in years and when the Duke casually says Princess’s name, Charlotte, in conversation (which Princess calls Ange by during the ending). Actually, there’s even a little bit of foreshadowing for later content. That conversation between Ange and Princess at around the 9 minute mark? The one where the latter says she’s a dull person and the former argues that they’re just complete opposites…keep that in mind for Episode 8…
While the spotlight is predominately on Ange and Princess, I think you do also get some insight into Dorothy’s character. The beginning part at the school does establish that she and Ange are longtime peers, having been trained together at “the orphanage”. Some of the new details about her are admittedly just amusing bits such as the fact that Dorothy is actually 20 years old (which Ange dryly jokes about) and that she dislikes smoking (if only she can use her booze as her cover instead…). One detail does get brought up fairly often though and that’s what Dorothy brings to the table as a spy.
There is something amusing that whereas everyone has a fancy gadget or skill in their repertoire, Dorothy’s unique asset is…well, her assets. Then again, this really wouldn’t be a spy show without something sexy going on. I do like that it’s seemingly relegated to strictly spying purposes. Half of Dorothy’s wardrobe in her show (i.e. her school uniform and civilian attire) are actually quite modest. And with the outfits that do expose some cleavage, Dorothy still needs to pull her top down for maximum seduction. As odd as it is to put alongside the C-Ball and Chise’s katana, it kind of is Dorothy’s secret weapon.
Beatrice sadly is just present in this episode. The script does establish her as Princess’s confidant but apart from that, it’s just a lot of her getting annoyed at Ange and Dorothy being dismissive of Princess’s royal status and her looking scared at the conspiracy happening before her (which I’ll admit is adorable). Normally, I find that Princess Principal does a great job at giving someone a fun scene to do when they’re sidelined but that’s not really the case with Beatrice in this episode. I’m okay with that though. I mean, guess who stars in the next episode…
English Dub Comments
So far, so good. The accents still slip at very brief points but I have to admit that it really does make Princess Principal feel different from how it is in Japanese.
I was curious how the dub would approach the variation on Ange’s voice whenever she acts under a cover and the decision presented is interesting. In the sub, Ayaka Inamura largely varied the pitch of her voice and worked quite well. The dub, meanwhile, has Avery Smithhart change accents along with her changing her pitch. I don’t know what exact accent it is; I want to say it’s cockney but for all I know, I’m probably horribly wrong. Either way, it’s an interesting take on this aspect of Ange’s character.
For a pretty minor character, I got to say that Jay Hickman is a very solid choice for the Duke of Normandy. Hickman really makes the character sound dapper which helps mask his more conniving nature.
Thanks for reading!
For all of my Princess Principal Episode Reviews, check out the show’s archive page!
Featured image art originally by character designer Kouhaku Kuroboshi.
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