Finally, the first new post in this series of re-reviews. It’s been a long time coming. To anyone still following these, I thank you. I still wish I finished this back in 2018 though as the saying goes, “better late than never”. Plus, it’s nice to revisit Princess Principal after much more time has passed since it aired. For lack of a better term, it feels a bit nostalgic.
The general conflict in Episode 4 is that scientists working for the Kingdom have successfully reverse-engineered the C-Ball. Combined with the Kingdom’s resources and manufacturing capabilities, they could effectively win the war. Thus, the Control tasks the Principal to infiltrate the facility during a formal event and confiscate the technology.
Despite the supposed gravity of the mission, there’s a couple of ridiculous moments that occur throughout the episode. You have the gang running around in their ball gowns and alternating between those and their spy costumes so quickly that you have to wonder where the latter is being stored. For the first set piece, Ange has to use the C-Ball to maneuver through giant fans so that she can reach the secret laboratory in time. Next, you have her playing detective by using the C-Ball’s cavorite to canvass an emptied out laboratory. It’s such a cool scene that I wish Ange got to do it again later in the show. Later, she finds out the technology and the scientists are being ferried away on a ship so Dorothy has to quickly drive everyone to a rendezvous point, driving up stairs and against walls if need be. It’s all pretty silly but it’s also a lot of fun to watch.
Throughout all this, there’s a couple of character-driven stuff happening in the meantime. The first and most prominent development is that L gives Dorothy the secondary task of spying on Princess and gauge her reaction on the mission. The reasoning provided is that, given what’s at stake, Princess would either ensure the mission goes through or sabotage it, thereby revealing her true affiliation. Dorothy agrees to the task and is shown to be a bit taken back by Princess’s concern for her teammates and her decision to infiltrate the ship with everyone else.
Despite being one of the more experienced spies in the team, Dorothy has a narrower and more innocent way of looking at things. She very easily believes in Princess’s conviction. To her credit, she does look at it logically. For Princess to risk her life and sabotage her own kingdom wouldn’t make sense unless she either has a safety net of some kind or she genuinely means it. But while we, the audience, can safely assume it’s the latter, Dorothy jumps to that conclusion far too quickly. It gets to the point where she offers Princess a hand of friendship and just assumes Princess is clear of suspicion, only for L to remind her that some things aren’t necessarily that clear-cut. Dorothy wanting to be Princess’s friend isn’t a bad thing at all but the way she goes about it does highlight her character flaw, something that’ll get brought up in later episodes.
Meanwhile, there’s some interesting things going on with Chise. For one, Chise is revealed to be a double agent, secretly observing the war to help her home country of Japan decide on which side of Albion to ally with. While it seems that Chise is loyal to her country first, she is still a bit frustrated over how she fits in with the team. Ange consistently pulls her out of the action and instead assigns her to guard Princess, causing Chise to feel underutilized. In Ange’s defense, her reasons are sound. She’s cautious of political backlash that could arise should something bad happen to Chise. Plus, the fact that she assigns Chise to be Princess’s bodyguard implies a lot of trust, both in Chise’s fighting skills and her personality. Still, it is rather odd of Ange to cut Chise off like that, especially when you consider that she already has a friend who is a political time bomb.
How fitting it is then that Princess is the one who resolves the issue when she volunteers to infiltrate the ship with everyone else. She recognizes that Ange is more or less holding Chise to a double standard and isn’t the least bit okay with that. In an earlier scene, Chise mentions to her lord, Horikawa (Tetsuo Gotou), that Princess treats her friends as equals despite differences in status and backgrounds. Princess very much lives up to that description here as her choosing to partake in the mission is her way of telling Ange to treat Chise the same way she treats her.
During the infiltration scene on the ship, you get a conversation between Ange and Princess that sheds some light on their relationship. Ange admits to being very worried at Princess’s little stunt earlier while Princess is quick to point out that she shouldn’t be treated as special. It’s also suggested that Princess is a bit glum that Ange acts so formal around her in public in order to maintain their secret and she seems to reminisce a lot of what Ange was like in the past. Ange appears uninterested in the past, preferring how she is now though Princess expresses hope that Ange’s old self might resurface in some way. The conversation isn’t really addressed in this episode but it’s definitely food for thought for later episodes.
In case it wasn’t obvious before, lying is a major theme in Princess Principal. Forget Ange, everyone has an issue with being honest. Dorothy is secretly ordered to spy on Princess (I think it’s intentional that the order is given her to despite Ange promising her superiors she’d kill Princess if need be). Chise is a double agent for her home country. We already have Princess and Ange lying about who they truly are as well as the former deceiving her kingdom so that she can become Queen. I guess Beatrice doesn’t really have a secret agenda of her own though she does have her mimicry so in a way, she’s a liar like everyone else.
And yet at the same time, the group is clearly closely-knit. They practice in various tasks such as tailing and they coordinate really well throughout their mission. There’s also some really charming and genuine chemistry among the five such as Beatrice’s disgust when Dorothy gets drunk to distract a guard or when Ange turns off Beatrice’s voice during the car chase scene. The most indicative moment comes when they decide their team should have a nickname. Everyone all comments and brainstorms over the idea. Even Ange, who initially thinks a nickname is unnecessary, comes around and voices her approval on the name they settle on. It’s a peculiar dichotomy. Lying and friendship aren’t really two things that go hand in hand with each other and yet those lies are what helps build the genuine bonds between these five girls.
I really like the name the girls ultimately settle on: Team White Pigeon. It has a nice ring to it and as Ange points out, spies are alluded to being pigeons so the name fits as well. The choice of color also feels intentional. It refers to how Dorothy prefers to view things, black and white as opposed to grey, it kind of also reflects the odd sense of sincerity within the team.