Princess Principal Episode 1 – Ange, The Magnificent Liar

As of episode 10 there is only two episodes to come.

Unless, they massively flubbed the ending its safe  to say that  Princess Principal is the sleeper hit of this season.  Surprisingly, “Cute Girl James Bond Spy Action in Steampunk Alternate Past!London with bonus yuri-subtext,” is the anime that I didn’t know I have been missing.

The show took its cues from Haruhi and airing the episodes in anachronistic order. Since the episodes are mostly self-contained stories its not bad plotwise.  Astute viewers though who pay attention to the chronology may find themselves a bit spoiled at certain points.

Episode 1 itself is one of Princess Principal strongest cases and do a good job of establishing our protagonist so I don’t mind them using it as an opener.

In any case, let the analyzing begin. <Warning spoilers below until episode 10>

We start with Case 13. Chronologically, this case happens in the middle of the season. The episodes opens with a man being pursued. Our team of spies has to bail him out.

They managed to show a bit of the girls specialties in the opening action sequence. Ange with her acrobatic and anti-gravity shenanigan, Chise’s swordsmanship (slicing a freaking car!) and Dorothy’s crazy driving skill. Also continuity! Mr. Hot Shot scientist is amazed at the miniaturization of the  cavorite ball, showing that the technology doesn’t exist in the kingdom yet (advance confirmation of  the success of Case 9!).

The total anonymity of the technology  also means that the commonwealth isn’t using it or at least they just give them to select agents.  This shows how Ange is  THAT good and THAT trusted at her job.

And man, rewatching it, you realize from the moment that Ange met with Eric, she has an inkling of his true motivation. Besides the ballet invitation letter which fell from his bag the moment Eric meets Ange; our resident super spy is probably suspicious of the circumstance wherein Eric is being pursued. The spy team encountered  a bulletproof vehicle; in Ange’s own words, “They were ready for us.”.

 

In any case, our spy team managed to evade pursuit and is now taking Eric to lie low in – an underground bunker – in a prestigious high school – one wherein royalty even attends. Because our spies were high school students!

….Well at least no one would look for them there. ^^

The biggest surprise for Eric and for audience though: The royal princess is a spy!

A quick logic check would inform you that there are very few reason for a member of the royal family to be helping the enemy nation.   ….Sometimes, I think the reason why this episode was chosen as the first episode was to establish this mystery, first and foremost.

 

We also get a glimpse of the guys behind our spy team.

Codename: Control.

Not much characterization yet, except the military guy feels that the princess should be used for more important stuff than aiding the asylum of some random scientist. Most of them feel professional though.

Also, there is another team participating beside our girls called the Wall Team.  We don’t get to see these guys but keep in mind their name and how Control implied they have shifts. They are probably a team of spies infiltrating the London Wall. Future episodes show that the wall is entirely filled by soldiers. Thus, The wall team is probably masquerading as soldiers and Thursday is their shift so it would be the perfect time to cross.

Please do note that at this time Control has already established the time of crossing and will be informing the teams. Because its important to the next scene.

 

Without any doubt, Ange is a magnificent liar.

I think every single thing she said is a lie at this scene. The only thing that is ambiguous was if Ange actually cooked or bought the omelette.  Seriously. Just look at everything Ange said.

Ange: We’re coordinating a date for your crossing. You’ll be staying here until its decided. 

Remember the previous scene with control? The date of crossing is already decided so this is a lie. From the moment they met and Ange saw that letter and knew that the pursuer is a bit too prepared, our resident superspy is suspicious. Postponing telling Eric the date is probably a way of putting him into more observation until Ange is sure of his motives.

Eric (looking worried): Why would a girl like you become a spy?  

Ange (deadpan): When I was born, the word spy was written on my forehead. 

Eric (smiling): Are all the lies because you’re a spy too?

Well, this one is obviously a lie.  Like the Black Lizard Planet gag, Ange makes some of her lies so obvious that she circles back to being trustworthy.  Note that Eric seemed to relax and even joke about it  asking if all the lies is because Ange is a spy.

Ange (deadpan): The truth wouldn’t be very interesting.

Anyone who watch the next two episode know that this is freaking lie.  In any case, for someone who establishes a persona of a compulsive liar, Ange feels surprisingly trustworthy to those she interact with. I even wonder if the bucket gag is some sort of psychological ploy. After all, it is scientifically proven that humor is a great way to build connections.

 

And now we meet the Spy Team.

About the picture I like the way that Ange,Chise and Dorothy are in the shade while the Princess and Beatrice are in the light. The 3 in the shade are a bit more exposed to this world’s darkness  while the Princess and Beatrice could be considered more innocent.

As for the conversation, it is quite interesting.

Princess: He wants his little sister?

Dorothy: Its not like getting opera tickets. You can’t just say, “I’d like to add one more to the party”. 

Chise: Do you think he will threaten not to defect without her? 

Ange: He already did. 

Beatrice: That’s that then! Defectors to the West, Party for Two! 

Dorothy: You make it sound so easy…. What do we do, Ange? 

From the above transcript, it seems like Ange haven’t shared her suspicion about Eric to her teammates. This meant the team is not suspicious of Eric,  more than necessary anyway. The call to withhold the time of crossing is more than likely Ange’s decision.

Ange not sharing can be read multiple ways. On one hand, it can be a sign that Ange isn’t that loyal to control. On the other hand, it could just be a sign that Ange doesn’t have much proof that Eric is leading them wrong.  And while I think that everyone in the team would take Ange seriously if she said that Eric is suspicious even without much proof. I don’t believe that Ange is someone who accuses or does something without being sure especially here with lives in the line.

Net result, the team is taking Eric’s request as genuine and not as a trap that it is.

The divide of opinion shows us some of the characters’ dynamic.

Dorothy finds the whole thing troublesome. Beatrice being a civilian and more naive  is quite okay with a little more work to reunite both siblings.  I’ve noticed that Chise doesn’t give much an opinion. Perhaps, because she know it isn’t her place or perhaps she doesn’t have much to contribute to the planning place. Chise,  functions best as the muscle of the group. Notice that Dorothy asked for Ange’s opinion here. While Dorothy is the official leader of the team,  she usually defers to Ange when not passing orders by control or in the field.

 

Ange: Drug Eric and carry him over the wall alone. 

This  is a good, safe plan even with the knowledge of what is to come. Also, the best plan if you want Eric to be alive at the end of the episode with minimum danger for the spy team.

For our team, a drugged Eric could not interfere with their operation and risk it. The downside  is Eric’s loyalty though.  As much as I like him Eric carries integral information like the “Princess being a spy thing” and of course the team’s base of operation as well as their names and faces.  Out of the team’s watchful eye any of that information reaching Duke Normandy is dangerous.

On the other hand, if Eric turns out traitor, he will be at the other side of the wall with no support and being actively watched by control. Considering how quickly switched to Plan B, they are probably planning to watch Eric anyway even at the other side of the wall.

 

Princess: Are you sure we couldn’t let them defect together anyway? I mean, it would be so sad to tear them apart.

And man, does the princess know how to guilt trip Ange.  Seriously….

Considering Ange became a spy, a dangerous profession by any metric, to cross the wall and be united with her childhood friend.

Talk about hitting the sympathy button. Still, in some way I wish that Ange didn’t cave because Eric might be alive then.  That might not be the ideal scenario though; there is a chance Eric will be able to communicate crucial information back to the kingdom even under Control’s eye.

There is also Ange’s suspicion to think about.  Ange already held back the planned date; she might have investigated Eric independently anyway. The princess’s suggestion could just be the impetus to do it with her teammates being aware of it.

 

So, Ange and Beatrice, disguised as nurses, went off to visit Eric’s sister.

Notice that while going to Eric sister’s room, we see the men that gave pursuit to the spy team coming out. Beside that, an enemy agent is pretending to be a patient next to the bed that Amy is on. (Ange neutralizes this agent by a syringe, probably injecting some sort of anesthetic that induce sleep).

This tells us that the hospital is actively being watched. This should be expected. The first thing that happens when a defector is discovered was  to set watch to their loved ones for clues or sign of communication.

Here, Ange discovered that Amy has ballet callouses.

Remember that Ange already has some reservation about Eric – the fact that the enemy is a bit too ready for them in pursuit….

Ange  probably got more suspicious when Eric said that he want to defect with his sister as well.  The suspicious thing here is not that Eric wanted to defect with his sister but the fact that Eric said it just “now”.

Eric  should have said that from the start so the spy team would have taken her into account. It is infinitely easier if Eric and Amy “defected” together at the beginning of the episode. Having Eric defect first, would make getting Amy harder since Amy would likely be guarded (as shown in this scene ).  Combined with the Royal Ballet Academy invitation, it points that Eric having no wish to defect together with his sister,

 

That said, while this tilt Ange’s suspicion against Eric. This is still circumstantial evidence at best and not solid proof. It is possible that Eric just realized the gravity of his situation right now. Kinda stupid but it understandable and human.

Also, does anyone think that cavorite poisoning is some checkov gun especially since Ange’s main weapon is made of it? Heck, it might even confer some sort of special powers (Amy’s eye is glowing), maybe some sort of liar detection ability considering the theme of the show?

 

Since lies are so central to this episode and to the series as a whole, it is nice we get a few segments discussing it.

Beatrice: Apparently Miss Amy was in a cavorite accident. And its going to take a lot of money to pay for an operation. 

<Beatrice looks at Ange.>  < Ange shows no reaction>  <Beatrice looks sad> 

Ange: Why don’t you go back without me? 

Beatrice: What are you going to do? Go back to Black Lizard Planet? <jokes> 

Ange: I’m getting insurance. Just in case. 

Here we see an excellent example of a masks so masterfully crafted that it looked like the truth. Beatrice being the soft-hearted person that she is was moved by Amy’s plight. She’s commiserating about the situation to Ange who looked like she could care less.  Beatrice stopped talking after glancing at Ange’s impassive visage. After all, Ange is the supposed cold-hearted master spy who just cares about the mission and nothing else. Beatrice is probably bothering Ange with this talk.

It is sometimes amazing how the facts that we took for grant is quite far away from the truth.

More than anyone, Ange probably sympathize with Eric and her sister the best. Just consider; Ange is Eric’s primary contact from the team just from the screentime alone. There is also the fact that Eric is doing all of this thing to heal Amy and help her sister dreams come true again. What is Ange’s current motivation again?

Not to mention that separation from loved ones is a pain that Ange know so well.

Yeah… its no wonder Ange tried to make Eric’s goal fulfilled even though Eric unfortunately has to bite the dust.

 

Princess: An insurance office? 

Beatrice: Yes. I can never tell how much of what she says is true. 

Princess: I don’t think she knows, either.

Beatrice: What? 

Princess:But some lies became truth in the telling. 

Don’t worry Beatrice, Ange going to the insurance office wasn’t the lie! No matter how out of the blue it was!

That said, considering the Princess knows Ange the best and at her most unguarded, that is such a curious observation.

That Ange, herself, doesn’t know when she is telling the truth or lying.

In many ways, I think that is true for both of them. The Princess and Ange have lived their lies so much that the mask that they wore became their faces. Ange is genuinely a master spy and Princess acquired all the characteristic of nobility in everything but blood. For the two of them their lies became truth.

 

Dorothy: Its best not to sneak around with these things. 

<while forging some illegal documents>

Now, let’s go with some classic lying tips.  The classic hiding in plain sight strategy.

Scientifically, its proven that human beings tend to notice things that are out of place even if we are not looking for it. But, things that we expect to see?

We find that a lot harder to notice or pay attention to.

We see it this example.

Dorothy is writing an “essay of apology”.  Dorothy’s persona to her classmate is someone  older that is still stuck in school. Also, it is known that she smokes in a future episode. Having a persona of a delinquent or  a troublemaker, Dorothy writing an essay of apology isn’t out of place for her. Combined with Dorothy’s invitation to help her. It shows that Dorothy have nothing to hide.

…. And really, unless they are my best friend I don’t think I’d help a random classmate write an essay much less an apology essay.

 

Dorothy: Spies are all liars. You’re lying to me right now, Chise. 

Chise: As are you. 

Dorothy: So what do you say we try being honest with each another? 

Chise: The idea has its charm.But, if we stopped lying, we wouldn’t be able to stay as friends.

Dorothy: Is that really friendship?  

Chise: Even parents and children lie to each other. 

This is probably the first hint hat its not all rosy in our team. We all know everyone of them have their own agenda with the sole exception of Beatrice. It is still surprising that its Chise who voiced such an observation though as the samurai-expy.

But perhaps not,

Chise is openly practicing  a friendship built on lies.

Out of everyone she’s the only one whom everyone knows have a different loyalty. Ostensibly, Ange and Dorothy is completely loyal to control. Beatrice is transparent in her loyalty to the Princess. And the Princess is doing everything in her power to be as cooperative to control as possible for her ambition. Chise, on the other hand, is known to be loyal to her country Japan before the Kingdom and Commonwealth making her a known quantity.

Still, we came back to Dorothy’s original question and something I hope the series answer in the finale or in a hopeful future season.

After so many heartwarming episodes showing the team growing closer to one another.

After so many trust exercises.

Could the reveal of the big whooping lie that Ange and the Princess is hiding, destroy that camaraderie?

Are bonds built on a foundation of lies true friendship?

 

For those of you who don’t have an eyesight of a bird, the anime flashes the invitation letter again on-screen for several second.  Note how stern Ange looked as she enters the room as well. In any case, the next conversation that happens gets the ball rolling.

Eric: Ten years salary. There’s no way I can afford it….  But then, a man I’ve never met paid me a visit. He said that if I defected to the Commonwealth with my research, he would give me money.  The timing is just too perfect, isn’t it? … Tell me, Ange. Was my sister really in an accident? If I weren’t a scientist, would my sister have been spared this suffering? 

Ange: Spies are told only what they need to know, so I can’t deny the possibility. Spies aren’t champion of justice after all. 

Eric: … So now you’re being honest. Even if it was a lie, I wish you’d tell me it was an accident. 

So what do have learned here?

For Ange, Eric’s confirmation of his motivation is almost a tacit admission of his status of being a double agent. Eric’s means and motivation aren’t matching up. 

For Eric though, he is feeling a massive amount of guilt. He thinks that his sister’s injury is his fault which could be another motivation for taking this risky job offer. He is also having some private doubts about the organization who offered this opportunity and is asking Ange for confirmation.

Considering the Eric is a double agent I wonder what he is thinking asking a Commonwealth spy.

Perhaps he is just airing some private doubts. Perhaps he is seeking reassurance that this is the right path. After all, if Ange is any run of the mill spy, she would probably trying to sooth Eric’s doubt by now. Trying to paint their organization in a white light.

Inversely, it  would paint Ange   as someone not to be trusted and affirm Eric’s course of action.   After all,  manufacturing an accident so that a person would do what they want is something both Control and Duke Normandy is capable of doing.

And Eric is smart enough to know that.

 

Eric: Do you hate me? 

Ange: Why? 

Eric: I betrayed my research team for money. 

Ange: You care about your family. I understand. I had a family too. 

Eric: “Had?”

Ange: I watched as my parents were murdered during the Revolution. 

Eric: That’s … 

Ange: Don’t worry I was only seven, but I didn’t go hungry. Because the Intelligence Agency took me in.

Ange is trying to win some sympathy from Eric.  “I watched as my parents were murdered during the Revolution” is probably a lie as of Episode 8. Though it is also possible that Ange’s parent’s could have died in the Revolution and Ange watch them die.  I think that sharing that statement is to win Eric’s empathy and sympathy.

How Ange similarly cares about her family.

How Ange like Eric was being used by the Commonwealth like Eric is being used by the Kingdom.

I think  Ange is trying to get Eric to give himself up in order to save him.

If Ange or anyone from the Commonwealth side  found out that Eric is a double agent, there is no mercy for him. But, if Eric have a willing change of heart and provide information to make a counter-sting operation. Becoming a mole for the Commonwealth in other words. There is a high chance that control would be willing to let him live on their side of the wall along with his scientific expertise as well as his sister.

Eric was so close to blurting it out as well…. so freaking close…

In the end, he didn’t and Ange  finally said the time for crossing giving Eric the information he needs.

Ange’s face  when she sees the messenger bird and they got the proof they need – I think she was sadly disappointed.

 

The counter-sting operation begins.

The message never reaches its destination.Dorothy shot it as she has the gun and Ange is driving (quite unusual since Dorothy usually does that)

Then,  there is two parts. The team sans Ange make a mincemeat of the sting operators. From Beatrice generating panic and luring them with a fake voice call. To Chise’s martial ability in ambushing several man and to Dorothy who is coordinating the operation itself. Its an amazing sting operation. Only overshadowed by Eric and Ange’s last interaction.

You could see that Eric is slowly being driven into a panic as Ange calmly lays most of her card on the table – they know Eric is a double agent.

When they reached their destination, its fascinating how almost every single thing that Ange says is a lie…. Ironically, it is   Ange at her most honest for Eric….

  • The gun is not loaded.

A lie. This is the gun that Ange fires at Eric.

Four freaking times.

It is definitely loaded. The rounds that Ange drops may come from Ange’s own revolver or Ange’s extra ammo. That said, the gun might not even fire if Eric pulled the trigger. Someone pointed out that Eric’s revolver lack a transfer bar and a pin, thus no safety.  The six cartridge would be then loaded with 5 bullets with the empty one serving as a safety. Eric should have cycled the gun out of the empty cartridge in order to fire.

  • And your sister will never be cured.

A lie. Ange is personally ensuring that Eric’s sister will receive the money for her operation which is shown by Ange’s next action. Offering an insurance contract for Eric to sign.

  • On the Black Lizard Planet, we get someone’s signature before we kill them.

A lie. This is the first time we see Ange offer an insurance contract and she’s killed plenty of people in the series. You could see Eric realized this as well.

  • That was just another lie to get you off your guard.

This is a response to Eric statement, “I’d expect as much from someone who watched her family’s murder“. And while, Ange watching her family’s murder is probably not true if episode 8 is to be believed.  The words aren’t said to make Eric just drop his guard. I’ve already discussed above that I believe Ange was trying to get Eric to fess up in that conversation.

Eric’s statement also implies that Ange knows even if tangentially what Eric is going through. Which is why she’s doing this. We know that is true. So yeah, Ange is a lying again.

  • I [Ange] bought them [omelets].

… We don’t have much evidence if Ange bought the omelets. But, judging from pattern recognition, this is most likely a lie. Also, I don’t think you can buy omelets at this time period.

  • Probably a lie. [ The stars are beautiful]

Lie. We saw the night sky while they talked the stars are beautiful.

  • No. No. No. No. [ Are you going to kill me?]

Damn.

 

Ending Notes: 

Princess: You are so kind, Ange. 

Ange may personally think what she did isn’t kind. She killed someone who has someone waiting for them. For something that isn’t even strictly right  considering the murky waters of the Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Still, I believe the Princess is right. This is probably the kindest resolution that Ange can give Eric considering how the chips fell.

Heh, You know that you are in a crapsack world when murder is considered kind.

The last scene was kinda painful especially when you know that Ange is probably hurting inside from what she has to do.  Ange needed shoot Eric several times to make it clear it isn’t suicide. She also probably dragged the body somewhere as well so that it couldn’t be found for a week….

Its a very dirty job.

Also, I believe  part of the reason that Ange probably volunteered to dispose of Eric was to get him to sign the insurance paper. But, considering the newest episode, I wonder the reason why Ange did it was to spare her team the pain of gunning someone relatively innocent. Ange might have become really jaded through the years but I think the Princess Charlotte who saw poverty and said that she’ll fix it is still there. Just buried under several layers.

Also for bonus points notice that a certain someone went out of her way to put Eric’s glasses in Amy’s sidetable.  Something for Amy to remember Eric by. (If you look at Ange and Beatrice’s visit to Amy. The glasses wasn’t there before.)

… Not kind, huh?

Yeah. Ange. Sure. We believe you.

 

Check out at CDJapan:
Princess Principal Limited Edition BD – 7000 yen

“Princess Principal (Anime)” Outro Theme Song: A Page of My Story – 1,200 yen

“Princess Principal” Character Song Mini Album: 5 Moving Shadows – 2300 yen

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2 Responses to Princess Principal Episode 1 – Ange, The Magnificent Liar

  1. Cytrus says:

    Yep, still loving the same shows. Somehow I'm not surprised.

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