Watch/listen to this:
Now tell me that isn’t some of the coolest shit you’ve ever seen and/or heard – at least in terms of moe shows, which are designed to be as cute as cute can be whenever possible. I’m not sure if it’s possible to quantify levels of cool, but if there was a list of things that were cool, I’d say capes, cowls, top hats, spies, and the steampunk look are all pretty close to the top.
I think the opening adds a layer of atmosphere, of setting to the show. Watching it is a thrill. And why wouldn’t it be when it has music composed by the amazing talent that is Yuki Kajiura and Yoshikazu Iwanami as sound director (notable for his work on Kill la Kill, Psycho-Pass and over a hundred other things)!
Goddamn, I love the lyrics and vocals so much, but it would be remiss of me to ignore all the other things that make this so satisfying to me. Everything about this opening is incredibly awesome and oozing with exhilarating details. My brain lights up like a candle burning whenever I so much as hear this play.
Not to play favourites with the visuals, but one of the shots I’m particularly fond of in the opening is the transition from Princess Charlotte falling to the ebullient appearance of the Dorothy and the others in the car rocketing off into mid-air with sheer excitement on Dorothy’s face. It gives me the most awesome of goosebumps.
Going back to the beginning, another shot I thoroughly enjoyed was the opening crawl of lighting spreading fast over the shadowy pipes in tune with the build-up of music to the explosive entrance of the car and the close-up on Ange in her sensationally stylish outfit right into the title card. All technically brilliant stuff with a lot of visual and symbolic playfulness. What a ride! I love it.
Is it Really “Moe” Though?
Yes, there is a certain character design aesthetic (on a spectrum) that indicates this is moe to some extent. But considering the nebulous definition of the term, I must address it as more than simply its meaning in terms of visuals, but also as a feeling.
The idea of a moe show is something that is lighthearted and fun while evoking a happy kind of satisfaction in seeing these cute characters act cute (see Lucky Star). Which is why a lot of moe shows are also slice-of-life shows. While on the other side of the spectrum you have GAR, the embodiment of ‘manly’ things and feelings (see Fist of the North Star). It is hard to feel moe when you are being shown cool stunts, violence and other dark stuff that possibly jeopardizes the lovable characters.
There are moments in Princess Principal where characters do evoke shades of the moe feeling, and one character in particular, Beatrice, is closer to acting moe more than anyone else in the show. But the cool elements and thriller factors take more of a precedence and ultimately act in counter to it being proper moe. This isn’t to say that it makes it a lesser show as a result, but rather that it is much harder to classify it as moe because of things like the violence and the dark shadows that are present for a large portion of almost every episode.
When characters are flushed or embarrassed there are signs of moe.
When characters get nervous and make inconsequential mistakes, such as tripping and falling over, that can be considered something evocative of moe.
But when the characters take out guns and kill without hesitation, that is a far cry away from moe.
If you’re interested in more of this moe business, Pontifus had some relevant thoughts on the curious ironies of modern moe (circa 2010).