‘Show me a liar and I’ll show you a spy’
The TV anime Princess Principal is gathering a lot of attention as it tells an action story about intelligence activity and information warfare. Exactly what is amazing about this courageous portrayal of spies? To find out, our friends at Anime! Anime! interviewed military analyst Yuu Koizumi. Having watched the first three episodes, we got Koizumi shed light on the actual world of spies and intelligence activity. Now then, who is the amazing spy that causes even a specialist to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ in admiration?
[Coverage/Composition: Akiyoshi Hizume]
A special researcher at the Institute for Future Engineering, Koizumi was born in 1982 in Chiba Prefecture. After completing his Master’s at Waseda University Graduate School, he worked for a private company and then as a specialized analyst for the international supervising organization for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. He has also worked as a visiting researcher at the Russian Academy of Science, Institute of World Economy and International Relations. His areas of expertise include Russian military and security policy, space policy, and crisis management policy. In this article, references are made to Russia: Major Military Country (Sakuhinsha), Putin’s National Strategies (Tokyodo Shuppan), and A Powerful Country’s Rampage (Kodansha).
※Please note that the theories presented in this article are not official.
――The main theme in Princess Principal is ‘spies’ so I would like to ask you what is the strong point of this work. Between, do you watch anime regularly?
I was born in 1982 but the last anime I actually watched was Neon Genesis Evangelion. I was a fan of the TV series and the old movie version while I was a middle school student and after that I watched the newer movie versions as well. Whenever I watch them, I always end up focusing on the military aspect though [laugh]. Also, there are many people on my Twitter timeline who like anime so I am aware of trending anime such as Kemono Friends and popular characters [laugh]. Princess Principal is my first anime in a long time so it feels really new and fresh.
――When you watched the anime, what did you think about it?
The character design is cute and at first I thought it was a moe anime. Once I got into it, I was surprised at how gloomy the story was [laugh]. The ending of Episode 1 was gloomy and when I thought that everyone on the team got along well, Episode 2 showed that in the past they did not trust each other at all and I felt that it is a work that will betray my expectations in a good way. It appears cute but on the inside it is a hard, suspense story and that gap is interesting.
――As an information/military researcher, what aspects caught your attention?
First off, the world of the anime is unique. There is a mysterious stone, cavorite, that causes material to become weightless. They are succeeding in the mechanical aspect but information and communication techniques are stopped at the telegraph. That kind of steampunk world is interesting. There is also a sense of depth to the division of London. As far as I have watched, the reason for the division has not been explained but I was curious as to whether it was a difference in ideologies.
――It is rare for London to be divided even in fiction, isn’t it?
Split states are unstable and as long as they are harboring the fear of breaking out into war at any given moment, they cannot really return to being a normal country. However, the incentive of unifying the country should work, and with the nations in this anime, the Kingdom of Albion and the Commonwealth of Albion, it seems that they are both nervous that the other is aiming at reunification. What piques my interest is the relationship between the continental territories and the British mainland. I think the reason Duke Normandy is portrayed as such a strong character is because, as a person from the continental territories, he has different expectations. Is he working for the Kingdom having accepted their thoughts or is he working with a completely different expectation? Not only Duke Normandy himself, but the conflict between the continental territories and the commonwealth, embodied by him, is a point to pay attention to.
――What do you think about the portrayal of Ange and the other spies?
Well, because it is an anime, it is very flashy. The actual spies during the Cold War could be separated into types. One of those was the ‘sleeper’. They lived in the target country for many years as businessmen or artisans and carried out their normal lives so that the people around them could trust them.
On the other hand, they are people who think about flashy types like James Bond from 007. Because it’s fiction it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t possible. In 2010, there was a case where a Russian spy, Anna Chapman, was seized in North America. She was a very flashy person and created many personal connections in American society but it turned out that she was a spy for the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR RF). In addition, there was Kim Philby, who was part of England’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) but was a double spy, working for the Soviet Union. So there are actual examples of these ‘fictional’ spies.
To speak in terms of this anime, a princess is the least expected to be a spy. In Episode 2, there is a story where the princess escapes physical examination, but using a position of privilege often happens in reality as well. What is common is the usage of a cover (a fake history) for a diplomat, so on top of the non-arresting privilege, there is diplomatic luggage (DIP – a sealed container for carrying diplomatic documents. It is possible to bring it into and out of a country without inspection.) which can be used to transport documents covertly. There isn’t a more convenient situation for a spy.
――Not just in this anime, but in fiction, there are often cases where spies are active in intelligence work but are also in good physical shape. Does such training happen within the the system?
It depends on what kind of spy they are, but for sleepers, it is important that they seem like regular citizens so they cannot stand out too much.
Although, it is true that there are many people who are physically strong, such as the former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin. Particularly in Russia’s KGB and SVR, you are awarded a military ranking, basically making you a soldier. Therefore, you are required to be physically strong.
(Next Page: A disposition suitable for a spy is ‘not having a conscience’)