I’m surprised that there aren’t more spy Anime. Psychological manipulation, political thrillers, technologically-based powers, sexy costumes, flamboyant villains, and martial arts combat–all the usual spy tropes fit perfectly into the Anime aesthetic.
It appears my prayers have been answered with Princess Principle—an Anime about a group of female spies in a steam-punk world.
The first half of the series is excellent but the second half suffers by focusing less on plot and more on character. There are some touching character moments but without proper ramifications to the overall story, later episodes seem like self-contained soap operas.
The biggest flaw of the series is that the villains are given too little screen time to be credible threats. The final episode was satisfying in certain aspects but felt a bit like a sequel tease.
The characters are well-designed and have costumes that are perfect for cosplay. The sex, violence, and steam-punk add excitement rather than mask shallow storytelling.
The real standout of Princess Principal is the leading lady, Angie. She can control her own gravity with a clockwork gadget–this combined with her deadpan sarcasm and enigmatic personality make her fun to watch. Angie’s cool exterior masks a really interesting and unpredictable character. She’s good even in the bad episodes.
Though not a perfect series, Princess Principal does deliver on its steam-punk spy premise. There are some fantastic action scenes, fantastic world-building, and mind-bending plot twists. These characters are so compelling that I would gladly spend time with them again for another season.