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Princess Principal Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

A group of young female spies operate quietly in an alternate London setting.

What They Say:
Early in the 20th century, the discovery of Cavorite, an anti-gravity substance, gave birth to a technological renaissance including the development of giant airships and other fantastical inventions. However, the scientific revolution was not the only one afoot, as Great Britain was torn in two by an armed rebellion when the oppressed poor finally turned on the ruling elite. Now the Commonwealth has a plan to take Albion by stealth, substituting their undercover operative Ange for the beautiful young Princess Charlotte. But Charlotte and Ange both have surprises in store for their respective governments and instead hatch a plan wherein the Princess herself will act as an agent in exchange for help in claiming the throne! A dazzling team of femme fatales sets out to rule Britannia and English History will never be the same!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show works dialogue more than anything else and it moves smoothly through it with some nice placement throughout based on the setup of the sequence and where everyone is. The show works some very quiet scenes that lets the dialogue still come across very clearly and definitely without problems. The action sequences provides for a bit more impact overall though not with a lot of bass. These aren’t generally big action/explosion sequences but there’s chases and fights that definitely use the full forward soundstage in a very good way. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format with the extras on the second disc. Animated by Studio 3Hz and Actas, the show is one that works in a darker and murkier world for the most part with a good portion of it operating at night. These darker areas hold up very well with a solid feeling to it and no visible noise or blocking, which definitely helps. The earth tones for much of the costume design and settings hold up very well too with good clean lines and a really good bit of separation without any gradients to be had. The brighter sequences and some of the daylight pieces are just that, brighter, but there’s still a good old school earthiness to it. It’s a clean transfer throughout that will definitely please fans no matter the size of the screen.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover works with the familiar key visual that has the girls stacked on top of each other with a nice dreamlike aspect for one of them, all of which is set to various shades and hues of pink and purple. The logo is kept to the lower left where it adds a bit of vibrancy with the gold and red aspect of it but the bulk of it is given over to the framing and the rest. The back cover works with more of the gold framing where inside of the mildly ornate design we get lots of small shots from the show and a good summary of the premise. The episode and disc count is clearly listed and we also get a solid breakdown of the extras available. The bottom rounds things out with the familiar in the form of the production credits and technical grid, both of which covers things accurately in an easy to read format. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as we get static images for both discs where it showcases the five main girls across it. These are larger shots so that we get a look at almost all of them from top to bottom where the first disc goes for their school uniforms while the second goes for more period costume design. The logo is kept to the center bottom region which has a nice older look that fits the period as well while adding a little color and class to it. The navigation is kept to the left which uses a larger block of earthy reddish-brown while across it we get the gold edging and framework that holds the episodes by number and title as well as other menu selections. Everything is very responsive both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback with a good layout and an easy to use design.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty good overall as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a nice selection of the original Japanese promotional videos and commercials. The big extra is the six picture drama pieces that are included. They average what looks to be about four minutes each, not including translated credits, and they provide little side scenes to various cases/episodes. Naturally, they are what they say in that they’re filled with stills with voiceovers but they’re very detailed and add some cuteness and more to the project overall. It’s definitely a nice way to get a little bit more out of the series after finishing the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original project that brought out a game at the same time, Princess Principal is a twelve episode anime series that landed in the summer 2017 season. The property proved pretty popular as it’s spawned a six-part film series that’s getting underway in 2019. The TV series was produced by Studio 3Hz and Actas with Masaki Tachibana directing – and some really nicely done mood music from Yuki Kajiura. The series is an interesting one based on how it’s structured because the twelve episodes are given case numbers in addition to the episode numbers. That show is basically out of order for the most part with what could be gaps to fill in throughout in other mediums. The final three episodes work through cases twenty-two through twenty-four, which makes it feel like a two-cour series that wraps everything up in the end.

The premise of the show is a decent one as we get an alternate world timeline where England is known as Albion that takes place during the early twentieth century. There’s nods here to a strange substance unearthed that’s called Cavorite that basically allows for flight in a limited way and is largely kept to some airships – though our title character gets some as well in a small device that lets her flit about at select times to advance the story. Albion is similar to England in the scale of its world power at this point but it underwent a revolution where London was split with a wall built, resulting in one side being the Commonwealth and the other the Kingdom. There are some neat little bits in relation to the Berlin wall period within this that are touched upon but it exists more to create a place where they can play within the framework of London but dealing with all sorts of spycraft.

Within this setting, we’re introduced to a group of spies operating within the Commonwealth that have the intent of replacing the princess of the Kingdome, Charlotte, with one of their operatives, a young woman named Ange. There’s a lot of interesting backstory that comes up from both of these characters that makes the last few episodes really engaging and in a lot of ways upends your view of how events should or could play out. Taking place within the Kingdom, things are set early where the swap is delayed in order to focus on bringing the Princess into the group as a fellow spy of sorts, particularly since Ange looks similar enough to Charlotte in order to pretend to be her from time to time in order to execute other missions. Princess Charlotte, for her part, makes it clear she dislikes the way of Albion at this time with the wall and separation and intends to change how it all works when she becomes Queen someday. A plan that will result in her being the last queen, which could involve her being executed in order to change the future for the people.

These aren’t just trappings for the show but the primary motivations behind the big picture aspect of it. What the show wants to do as it bounces around is to give us a look at this world and how it operates with the spy group dealing with bringing people out of the Kingdom among other missions, such as recon and information gathering. The group is definitely fun as Ange tells lies constantly so as to keep other people off-guard but she has a really strong physical side that keeps her in top form and capable of a lot. The ostensible leader is Dorothy, who at twenty is the oldest of the group and has been at this spy game for quite some time. She’s got some interesting connections that come up along the way with her past surfacing that makes her the rough and tumble type but with a lot of beauty and charm. The group also later (yet technically earlier) bring in an outside with Chise, an exchange student from Japan that’s there to help protect a diplomat that she’s related to. She’s able to fall into the group through some honor and not exactly as a double agent but someone that can gather information this way while adhering to her beliefs. The most amusing character is Beatrice who is basically Charlotte’s aid and has to be brought in order for Charlotte to participate and be able to cover. She’s got the young and plucky side working for her well.

The show works a lot of low-tech spycraft kinds of stories as it gets going, such as helping someone escape in the opening episode only to realize that they’re just bait to draw out the spies. There’s some fun with the royalty side of events from time to time in showing how they move about within the Kingdom and interact with officials from afar, which leads to near-assassination attempts at times. The Japanese delegation that comes in has some fun that it can present through this as well. All of the smaller stories populates the series well while keeping it focused pretty clearly on the main group of girls themselves and how they deal with their missions. But it also seeds some good stuff along the way about a bigger problem facing them with who is in control of the spy group from within the Commonwealth itself. With the girls all befriending Princess Charlotte even more, well, that makes for some complicated material as it goes on. The stories are all interesting enough that for the single-episode adventures they are they hold together well, but the real journey is that of the girls as it does all eventually come together even with its non-chronological approach.

In Summary:
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the series since if you don’t know anything and just go by the name it conjures up plenty of things that this series is plainly not. It’s a pretty solid little spycraft series in an alternate setting from the early 20th century and it definitely works well. The non-chronological aspect isn’t a surprise since they want all the characters available at the start but I really wish it had worked more of a linear approach and had a plan to fill in more of the blanks along the way to give us more of these characters. Sentai’s release of the regular edition is solid here with a clean looking transfer, a very fun dub, and some welcome extras – especially those picture dramas. This has left me looking forward to the new movies being produced next year.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Promos & Commercials, Picture Dramas

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



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