Welcome to Anime Avalanche! A new article series where I have been given free reign to talk about most anything I wish! Old shows, new shows, Anime, Manga, lists (such as this one) and news. I’m not above speaking my mind, even when it is completely against the grain which is why I’ve been asked to do these articles.
Enough talk! Lets get to work.
Princess Tutu is a little known series produced in 2002 by Ikuko Itoh. Tutu follows Ahiru (“Duck”), a duck transformed into a young girl who attends a famous ballet academy. She is quite taken with her schoolmate Mytho (pronounced “Myu-to” for those wondering) and turns into Princess Tutu in order to find the missing pieces of his heart. She is opposed by Mytho’s girlfriend Rue and his friend Fakir who discourage her from this goal until each of them unravel their true nature and fates.
So, why does Princess Tutu kick ass?
It Is About a World Trapped in a Fairy Tale Writing Its Own Fairy Tale
Tutu’s setting is very unique in that its world and its inhabitants are all playing roles in a fairy tale written by an omnipresent writer named Drosselmeyer. Long before this story takes place, Drosselmeyer realized that he had the power to control reality through the power of his writing. The citizens of his village figured this out as well, hunted him down and cut off his hands. Before his death, he created a writing machine with his own blood that continues to oversee the last of his unfinished works; “The Princess and the Raven.” The story took on a life of its own when The Raven decides to escape into reality only to be stopped by the Prince, who shattered his own heart doing so.
One day, Drosselmeyer noticed a lonely duck who took notice of the Prince performing a sad dance. The duck longed to help the Prince with whatever was ailing him. Because Drosselmeyer (or the evil ghost…whatever it is) loved to mess with people’s lives, he turned that duck into a human and gave her the power of the minor character Princess Tutu. From there, he sat back and let the story play itself out. Reveling in their struggles. After all, we all love a good story, right?
Princess Tutu went about her job of tracking down the missing pieces of Mytho’s heart that ended up residing in various townsfolk. She draw the attention of Mytho’s girlfriend Rue and his best friend Fakir. Neither of which like each other in the slightest (she is a manipulative bitch with Daddy issues and he is an insecure dolt) nor do they like Tutu giving Mytho back his emotions.
Each know of the tale that spawned them, but over the course of the story, they become acutely aware that they are still playing out a story created by Drosselmeyer. They can struggle and fight, but how can they fight back against a fate that has already been written. Or a fate they believe that has already been written for them?
In short, have you ever had a Truman Show moment? Where you can’t help the feeling that your actions and the events that occur to you are simply for the amusement of some unseen watcher? Now imagine that feeling every single day. That is the lives of these characters. Hellish for them, wonderful for us. All of it plays out beautifully from start to finish.
Situations Are Solved Through Non-Violent Means
Unlike many other Magical Girl shows, Princess Tutu tends to take on the Michael Jackson method of solving confrontations. Dancing! After all, the deceased singer quelled gang violence in “Beat it,” proved he was not to be messed with in “Bad” and showed gangsters how O.G he was in “Smooth Criminal.” Here, both hero and villain assert dominance over each other through the lovely art form of ballet.
Many times throughout the show, Tutu would show her enemy compassion and bring out their true emotions through the power of her dance. In contrast to her clumsy, yet powerful dancing as her school girl persona, Tutu is graceful, elegant and divine. Whatever sinister forces that have invaded her opponents will fall before her grace. When she dances a duet (“pas de deux”) it acts as her finishing move, leading to her victory.
Her opponents also use the same techniques against her. They attempt to overpower her through their dance. Expressing their emotions and will onto her. These dances act the same way as sword clashes in Shonen shows often do. While Bleach’s Ichigo clashes swords with his opponents in super powered up states, Princess Tutu and her rival Princess Karehe dance against each other for the affections of their loved one and the fate of the tale. They both accomplish the same goal, but only one does it with style. This one.
Produced by Studio Hal Film Maker (Aria series, Pretear) under the direction of Junichi Sato (Sailor Moon, Aria series), Tutu’s use of ballet in lieu of love-love beams, power ups and other Magical Girl tropes is a breath of fresh air. When you find yourself tearing up* just by watching a pas de deux, you know you have something special.
*Tell anyone I teared up during the series’ finale and I’ll run you over with a truck and perform The Nutcracker on your corpse.
Wonderful Use of Classical Ballet Themes
To go along with using dance as a non-violent solution to problems, Tutu also makes wonderful use of classical ballet to accompany its story.
It uses many different themes heard over the years such as its main theme The Nutcracker, to Fanfare for the Common Man, Danse Macabre and so much more. In fact, the themes tend to act as a set up for the episodes themselves. I, being Ballet stupid except for that class I was required to take in college, gained a greater appreciation for Hal Film Maker’s work as I used ADV’s information about each theme as research to gain a deeper understanding of their connection with each episode.
The score whisks us away through each episode with no effort and provides the lovely backdrop as we watch events unfold.
It Has Character
Of course, all of the above would be meaningless without good characters. Well, we’re in luck. Princess Tutu has a great cast that play their part in this bittersweet tale very well. Characters that will stick with you long after the finale of the program.
While there are many side characters, our focus is always on Duck, Rue, Fakir and Mytho. Each one features their own quirks but each one makes significant changes to themselves during the course of the program. These are not the same people they were when they began the show. That is for sure.
Duck is an excitable, clumsy girl with an adorable accent in Japanese (VA: Nanae Katou). She is prone to quack, which turns her back into a Duck while cold water turns her back. I’m sure you can figure out how many awkward situations THAT leads to. As Duck, her dancing is clumsy, but passionate. As Tutu, she is graceful and lovely. As the series goes on, she learns that she has to make a choice. Either accept who (or what) she is and end the fairy tail, or follow the tail through and simply vanish.
Fakir and Mytho are friends in the series but they always come off as adversaries in a way. Fakir is cold and keeps Mytho under his control while Mytho is cold and unfeeling. As Tutu gives him more and more of his emotions back, Mytho lashes out against Fakir who is fearful of what may happen to his friend. Can Mytho control the emotions he acquires? Can Fakir get over his fear of failing his friend once again? More importantly, can Fakir get rid of the stick up his butt in time for us not to strangle him?!
Finally, there is Rue who is probably the most jacked up character in the show. As prima donna of the school, she tends to look down on everyone else. She makes Mytho dote on her in an attempt to wrestle control of him from Fakir. Look deeper and you will find a poor little girl who is jealous of anyone who attempts to get near Mytho. She becomes Princess Kraehe, daughter of the monster Raven in order to control Mytho and please her father. It is easy to hate Rue, but as you watch the series, one can’t help but feel sorry for this poor girl. Red-Headed step children think that this chick is getting the raw deal.
If, for some odd reason, none of these characters manage to connect with your cold, disgusting heart, you have one more chance: Mr. Cat. Mr. Cat is the ballet teacher at the school our characters attend and he is bad ass. A six foot tall cat that no one bats an eyelash at that instills our characters with the basics and beauty of ballet. Should you screw up in his class, he will threaten you with marriage! So act right! Of course, after such outbursts, he usually goes somewhere to clean himself frantically. Poor guy. It is so hard to find the right girl for a six foot tall cat.
ADV Film’s Wonderful Release
The complete collection release by the now defunct ADV Films is damned excellent. Each disc is absolutely packed with extras. Voice actor commentaries, staff commentaries, outtakes, “Ballet for Beginners,” “Etudes” and more including the Japanese TV specials. This collection is brimming with useful and worthy extras. Especially the “Ballet for Beginners” and “Etude” specials. Each one explains the use of ballet terms, themes and more used in each episode and how they play out.
On top of this is a well produced dub that features many fan favorites like Luci Christian, Jay Hickman, Chris Patton, and Jessica Boone. While many will feel that it is a toss up between the Japanese and English actors, neither fan will be disappointed in the cast.
I will also add this little tidbit: In the final volume, we actually see the actors begin to break down and cry while recording the finale. Yes, Tutu is that awesome.
Surprise! You Just Watched Ballet!
Gotcha! You pretty much just watched a 26 episode ballet! Oh sure, you can sweat the minor details like the dialogue and stuff like that, but you were entranced by the dancing, the elegance and all of the sights and sounds of a ballet. When the real meat appeared, you ate it up! See, guys? It wasn’t so bad!
Now, surprise your woman and take her to see a real ballet. The music will be live, the dancing will be just as impressive and those women really are that flexible! Plus, she will owe you. It’s like a “Get Out Jail Free Card” usable for about a month.
Princess Tutu Complete Collection is still available through Right Stuf and the series is also still available through a variety of streaming options. Now…GO BUY IT. BUY IT NOW!