If the first Crown Handler film is about Ange, this second film is about Charlotte. With an assassin on the loose and the Queen bedridden, the Royal Family is on high alert. This is especially true for those in the direct line of succession. With Richard (the third in line to the throne) shot and Edward (the first in line) forced to manage the responsibilities of the elderly queen, Mary (second in line) has largely slipped through the cracks. Still very much a child and with no parents to care for her, she has only a single maid to rely on in this time of fear and social upheaval.
It’s no surprise that Charlotte reaches out to the girl. After all, she grew up in a similarly fear-filled environment. At any time, someone could have discovered that she wasn’t the real Princess and brought her life to a sudden end. And while Charlotte and Ange had each other (at least until they were separated by the revolution), Mary has no true friends or peers. She is alone and forgotten—unable to do anything more than repeat her Uncles dogmatic propaganda as a shield against the outside world. Both Charlotte and Ange see themselves in Mary and want to help her in any little way they can.
On the other side of the story, we have the WMD retrieval plot. The looming historical fiction question being explored here is what would have happened if nuclear weapons had been invented in the Victorian era? As the WMDs we see in the film are currently too large to move easily and need time to build up the pressure to start the chain reaction it’s clear that few have realized how these weapons will change the very nature of warfare in a few short years. After all, there is no world war currently ongoing—which is likely why the prototypes were able to be stolen in the first place. It’s a cool little thought experiment—and one that will likely remain important in subsequent films.
The WMDs also serve as the perfect MacGuffin to get both sides of the conflict moving. While it is clear to both the Kingdom and the Commonwealth that a third party is likely involved, that doesn’t mean that both aren’t willing to go to extreme lengths to get their hands on these weapons—which might be exactly what the thieves are looking to accomplish. There’s a lot of good intrigue with this setup—and how it connects to the assassination plot really serves to raise the stakes dramatically.
At the same time, the mystery surrounding the weapons and how to retrieve them gives the main cast much more to do in this film than in the previous one. Dorthy gets to do some solid investigative spy work and Chise gets to fight both an assassin and a literal steampunk dragon. It’s nowhere as deep or personal as some of their stories from the TV anime but the two women feel just as important as Ange or Charlotte to the film’s resolution.
As for the presentation of the film, the setting and character design are as good as always. There are a lot of great new set pieces—like the aforementioned steampunk dragon—and both the action and fight choreography are a lot of fun to watch. As for the music, most of it fades into the background. However, there is an excellent insert song, “fairy game” by FictionJunction feat.shuri, that is right up there with the film’s main opening (which it shares with the first film).
All in all, while the first film hinted that a third player had entered the game, this film is all about what that means for both our heroes and the nation as a whole. At the same time, it delivers some solid character development for Charlotte and gives us a healthy helping of spy action that is simply fun to watch. And best of all, it ends on a cliffhanger that makes you want to rewatch both this film and the previous one to absorb every little hint about what is actually going on.
Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc. (Sunrise) is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.