Synopsis: The film is set in London at the end of the 19th century and after the attempted assassination of the Imperial princess in the television anime. The Empire is increasing counter-spy actions in the wake of the incident, and finds Control, the Commonwealth group in charge of covert operations against the Empire, at unease and suspecting its spy within the royal family as a double agent. Control assigns their spy ring Dove with a new mission to extract a secondhand bookstore owner and deliver him to Commonwealth hands. Ange, Dorothy, and Chise successfully spring the bookstore owner from an Imperial prison. Control also assigns Dove to make contact with Bishop, their spy within the royal family, to ascertain their loyalties.
When I first heard that the follow-up to Princess Principal consisted of six movies, I immediately thought that these movies would essentially be a glorified pair of TV anime episodes edited together, and judging by this first movie, that seems to be the case.
Crown Handler 1 picks up where the TV anime left off, so that means that you’re probably going to have to have watched the show in order to fully understand (and appreciate) what’s going on here. Now that we got that out of the way, the story of this movie feels more contained and personal than I was expecting, given how dramatic the final episode of the show was.
The story of a mysterious double agent is surprisingly light on action compared to the show, and in its place, a heavy dose of political intrigue takes center stage. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed by that (after all, one of the girls is essentially a ninja), but the story is still interesting in it’s own right. I guess espionage is part of being a spy, though it isn’t as exciting as some running and gunning like you’d see in a James Bond movie. It’s still Princess Principal, but it just feels more subdued and like it’s playing it safe. Also, it’s predictable.
If this movie was a one-off, I’d be really disappointed, since the story didn’t keep the momentum going from the show, but these movies are probably best viewed as just another season that’s been broken down into six installments. That, or just a half dozen OVAs. Either way, this was a solid start to these movies, yet I hope the next one is a little more ambitious and tells a story that’s larger in scope. From the looks of the visual, Crown Handler 2 will feature some new faces, and like the various cases during the season, the story will probably have little to nothing to do with the story of the previous installment, so there’s some hope that things will improve.
I should mention that this movie has a different scriptwriter than the show had, so that might explain why the story didn’t hit the ground running.
Right off the bat, if you’re going into this movie expecting this to be a yuri showcase, you’re going to come away disappointed. It wasn’t until late in the TV anime that the yuri really stood out, and if you didn’t know about Ange and Charlotte’s unique relationship before watching this movie, you probably wouldn’t guess that they’re heavily shipped together.
The two of them only have one scene alone together, and it’s more of a discussion about the state of their investigation rather than anything personal, so the yuri in this movie is practically nonexistant. I think that has to change at some point in these movies, but I just hope that we don’t have to wait too long for that to happen. The lone bright spot when it comes to yuri is the ED, which is gayer than anything in the movie itself. 😛
As for everyone else, the rest of Principal Team is back, but given the short 54-minute runtime of the movie, I don’t think their personalities came across as well as they did in the show. Ange and Charlotte are the only ones that play important roles, so I was disappointed that the others didn’t get much love in this movie. The TV anime proved that Beatrice, Chise, and Dorothy are all pretty interesting, yet you wouldn’t know that from this movie.
I still don’t care about the other characters, like the Duke or the members of Control, but they’re also in here. That’ll probably be the case for the remaining five movies, though I hope they don’t get the amount of screen time that Bishop got in this movie, and that it instead goes back to the girls~
There were some people concerned that the absence of Studio 3Hz would have a negative effect on the quality of these movies, but in terms of production values, Crown Handler 1 didn’t seem to be missing Studio 3Hz. It seems like the animation was at least as good as the show, though the lack of action does take away some potential eye candy. Yuki Kajiura is once again in charge of the music, so you know it’s good, though I didn’t think that the music was quite as memorable as the music from the show.
Just like how Studio 3Hz isn’t a part of this movie, the original voice of Ange, Ayaka Imamura, isn’t a part of Crown Handler 1 either. Due to her declining health, she retired from voice acting, and her replacement (Aoi Koga) did such a good job that I almost forgot that there was a change at all. It probably helps that I almost forgot what Ange sounds like, but she deserves kudos regardless. 😛
Overall, I don’t think Princess Principal: Crown Handler 1 is as good as the show, but the show was really good, so that’s not exactly a surprise. The lack of yuri, lack of attention given to some of the main cast, and lack of action are all problems that need to be addressed in future movies, but the foundation of the franchise is so well-built that Crown Handler 1 still ended up being a pretty good movie. I think fans of the franchise will still enjoy what this has to offer, however, yuri fans will probably be left missing the good ol’ days.
+ Still looks and sounds good
+ The figurative chess match between Ange/Charlotte and Bishop is interesting
+ Didn’t take too long to get subbed
– Somebody forgot about Ange x Charlotte
– Beatrice, Chise, and Dorothy barely have any interesting moments at all
– I expected more action
Total Enjoyment: 7