No matter what order you watch Princess Principal – broadcast, home video, or even chronological – the show takes its sweet time in finally explaining the history between Ange and Princess. Is it worth the wait? I think so.
The present-day plot of the episode involves Team White Pigeon surveilling an English noble named O’Reilly (Masaaki Yano) to identify who he’s secretly meeting (which is later revealed to be Gazelle). Ange keeps watch by posting as an artist (I must say, her drawing is pretty darn good) and along the way, she encounters a pickpocket named Julie (Hina Kino).
Of all the guest characters in this show, Julie ranks as one of my favorites. I just really like Ange’s relationship with her. Relating and sympathizing with the girl’s situation, Ange essentially becomes a mentor by giving her some advice on how to better pickpocket. You get to see some genuine reactions out of Ange as she’s visibly impressed with Julie’s growth and is shown holding onto the little plants Julie gives her. The trust between them even pays off as it’s Julie who helps Ange identify Gazelle. Ange even repays the favor by beating up Julie’s abusive guardian, using the C-Ball to humiliate him no less, and providing the girl and her friends refuge at an orphanage.
The most interesting thing about the chemistry between these two however is that Ange opens up to Julie, presumably more than she probably has to her teammates besides Princess. There’s still a modicum of deceit to what Ange is saying though with some inference, they’re not that removed from the truth. The first sign is when Ange lies to Julie that her name is “Chloe”, which plays more on her actual name than her adopted one. The second is when Ange chooses to tell Julie of her past, disguising it as one of the many fictional stories she tells the girl during their downtime. Fittingly, Ange claims her stories hail from the Black Lizard Planet, again demonstrating how she likes to cover something truthful as a lie.
That Ange presents her and Princess’s backstory in this way is really clever. For starters, this gives PriPri a diegetic excuse for Ange to narrate in great detail what exactly happened. Without proper context, it kind of does come across as a folktale or a myth which can help you buy into the story as it ramps up in drama. I also can’t help but find the framing a bit cheeky as the backstory greatly resembles a certain piece of literature.
The past of Ange and Princess is very akin to Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Ange’s name for her “story” is even titled similarly as “The Princess and the Pickpocket”. You have one character from the nobility (Ange/the original Charlotte) and another from the slums (Princess/the original Ange), both seemingly identical in appearance. Fascinated by this, the two switch places and end up in each other’s world. PriPri of course deviates from there, what with the revolution and all (which I always saw as a combination of the Storming of the Bastille and the Berlin Wall) but the basic setup and premise is very much a clear allusion.
You are pretty much expected to buy into the uncanny resemblance between Ange and Princess’s younger selves. The two of them look exactly the same right down to their faces, their hair colors, and their hairdos. Aside from their clothes, the only distinguishing difference is that Princess has a bandage on her nose and Ange doesn’t. There isn’t an explanation provided here, maybe that’s something Crown Handler will address. It’s entirely possible that it purely is coincidence or that it just doesn’t matter at all.
Curiously, the first time Ange and Princess meet is when they happen to spot each on opposite sides of the royal castle walls and the two meeting at one side. The wall is almost indicative of the clear division within Albion from its nobility and its commoners and the eventual, literal wall that gets erected because of it. Princess crossing the wall in order to hang out with Ange is essentially her trying to overcome societal barriers between them. It’s fitting as in present day, Princess wants to tear down the wall and unite the people should she become Queen. That way, people don’t have to cross the wall like she had to.
That division is also resulted in how the story ends. As soon as Ange and Princess decide to trade places, they separate and end up in each other’s world. In parallel and unbeknownst to either girl, the poor would storm the royal castle and begin the revolution. Save for a brief reunion, the two friends are separated for several years just like it does for the whole country.
A noteworthy conversation comes when Ange and Princess decide to become friends with each other. In fact, this conversation mirrors the one their older selves share in Episode 2. The funny thing is that even after Ange and Princess swapped places, the conversation still plays out in almost the same exact way. Both times, Princess says she’s a dull girl and Ange says she wants to be friends because they’re polar opposites. Even after so much has happened in their lives, their friendship is still based on the same principle (…pun not intended), they come from different walks of life.
A major part of Princess’s character is her diligence and self-worth. Chise has actually dropped hints about that, pointing out how Princess smiles all the time as though she’s practiced it and noticing that she seemingly forces herself to work hard and rarely seems to enjoy it. Ange backs this up when she explains what Princess had to do in the intervening years before the two of them reunited. Trapped in a whole different world and fearful of being exposed and killed, Princess forced herself to familiarize with everything Ange was supposed to learn. And while she ended up getting good at all of it, she feels no sense of accomplishment or gratification as it all for the sake of survival. Despite her supposed talents, Princess still thinks she’s the dull girl she claims herself to be.
Knowing that, it brings a whole new meaning as to why Ange calls her friend “Princess”, even in private and despite the fact that she’s the one of royal blood. Ange calls her friend by her title not just as a sign of respect but also to acknowledge and validate her hard work. Even if she isn’t actually the royal she claims to be, Princess has earned that title and deserves it. To Ange, Princess is not someone dull but someone remarkable.
If anything bugs me about all this, it’s that Ange seems to really sell her own struggles short. At one point, Julie expresses remorse for the Princess in the “story” and Ange is quick to tell her it’s the Pickpocket she should feel sorry for. But if you ask me, fate was cruel for both of them. And as good as Ange is as a spy, training to become must not have been easy and who knows what she had to deal with before becoming one. They more or less dealt with the same fate, getting trapped in each other’s world and forcing themselves to adapt to it in order to survive. They’re both products of this unfortunate change of events. Then again, this episode does have a biased perspective. Ange has been established to be content with where her life has taken her while there’s no doubt that she feels extremely guilty for letting Princess take her place.
If you happen to be someone who doesn’t skip anime OPs and EDs (and why would you in the case of PriPri?), the song Ange and Princess plays on the piano during the ending will sound familiar. It’s a rendition of the show’s ED, “A Page of My Story”. That choice of song is noteworthy given the lyrics of the vocal version. There’s a line where the main cast of the show sing about a scene they “repeat in [their] soul” before talking about they are now free and can look forward to what’s to come. In the context of this episode, the so-called “scene” could easily be the day of the revolution. But now that Ange and Princess are together again, they can press onward with a smile. How fitting too that ,during this scene, Ange and Princess are playing piano on the same page; something that the two couldn’t do growing up. The phrase “a page of my story” is probably a nod to the show’s narrative structure and how we’re given bits and pieces to piece together one whole story. Having Ange and Princess play on the same page reflects that they are now going through their “story” together.
For me, this is my favorite episode of Princess Principal. It’s by no means one of the flashiest ones in the series but it is one of the more evocative. The framing of the big reveal is clever and there’s just so many moments that grab at you. Perhaps nine episodes is an awfully long time to finally elaborate one of the most key relationships in the story but to its credit, it made waiting that long worth it.