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Princess Tutu Complete Series Anime DVD Review

11 min read

The dreams of a young duck blossom amid darkness and uncertainty in a seemingly fairy tale world.

What They Say:
A girl named Duck – or rather, a duck who wants to become a girl – falls in love with a prince. One day, a bizarre old man emerges and gives her a magical pendant that transforms her into the waltzing Princess Tutu. Now she must choose – for those who accept their fate find happiness, those who defy it, glory.

Contains episodes 1-26.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is rather straightforward as it has a pair of Japanese and English language stereo tracks encoded at 224kbps. Unlike most of the series from this time period when it was release, it was one of the few series from ADV that didn’t get a 5.1 mix for its English mix. It’s not a detrimental as the English mix still comes across very well with its stereo design. The show is obviously richly filled with music and that doesn’t fail to sound beautiful here at all. Mixed in with both subtle and very outgoing dialogue throughout all the episodes, the stereo mix does a good job of handling the basic directionality and depth that it requires and turns out a solid performance. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for Princess Tutu is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release uses the six original discs from its first run so everything is identical to that release here. This is one of those series where the colors and style of coloring used is critical for the shows presentation in that it’s a major part of the mood and not just another part of everyday life. The slightly washed out and dulled feel, an almost brushed on look in many places, is very well achieved here and the authoring bears it out with wonderfully solid looking backgrounds and very clean looking characters who don’t exhibit any noticeable blocking in their large areas of single color. Aliasing is extremely minimal and cross coloration was nowhere to be found. There were a couple of areas where some very slight color gradation could be seen but it didn’t make much of an impact for the few seconds it was visible.

Packaging:
For this release of Princess Tutu, it’s unfortunately been encased inside another Stackpack release, one of the things I hate most about the cost cutting that goes on with DVD collections these days. All six discs sit inside the double sized keepcase and are stacked on top of each other, necessitating all discs being kept out as you watch through it. The look of the release itself is pretty nice, with shades of Black Swan here, as we get tutu in the center with the globe behind her that shows her in her duck form with Mytho as they dance under the tree. Ringing around it is a series of raven feathers which gives it a wonderfully dark look that you may now catch onto at first glance but adds some great atmosphere for it all. The logo is kept the same as it has been during all its releases and it makes clear the episode and disc count along the top. The reverse side goes for the simple approach with just a few sentences to describe the premise and a good but small section for the discs extras, of which there’s a lot. The episode and disc count is made stronger here as are the recommendations for many, many sources (including ourselves from a prior release we reviewed). Add in the production information and the technical grid that lists everything cleraly and you have a solid looking release in a terrible case.

Menu:
The main menus use the original cover artwork from the individual volumes with various pairings of the characters that are rather relaxing and enjoyable, setting the mood just right for each disc. The layout and design is pretty nice with a soft feel to it but there’s a bit of shimmering in the menu in general when the scenes transition in the window. Access times are nice and fast and navigation is easy with instant access to each episode. As is standard with the old ADV Films releases, our players language presets were properly read and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras for this release are the same as what the singles had and that’s a good thing. There are some consistent things across each of the volumes, such as the clean opening and closing sequences and the Etude pieces. With the rest of the extras, here’s what each disc has.

Disc 1: The first episode gets a commentary track by Luci Christian and Chris Patton while episode five gets a staff commentary track. There’s a brief segment of dub outtakes with a few good ones and a few general screw-ups. Etude is an interesting piece in that it has a couple of the characters explaining in English about some of the music in the show. For those who are experiencing ballet for the first time, there’s a beginners section (again, in English) that uses clips from the show to illustrate some of the basics and their meanings. And lastly, there’s a segment of footage from the recording booth that has a couple of the leads showcasing how they do the magic that they do.

Disc 2: There’s a new round of dub outtakes from the show. A staff commentary is done for an episode on this volume as well with the shows DVD producer and the ADR scriptwriter. The Etude section is back again covering some of the music from within the show and the ballet for beginners continues to round out some of the basics about the style. The one that proved fun to watch for me is the new In the Studio segment that has several of the voice actors going through their lines and working through the performances. As enjoyable as they all are, the one that continues to impress me the most is watching Luci Christian as Duck, a lot of times just because it doesn’t seem possible that the voice she’s using for Duck could be coming from her. It works great in the show but hearing it come from her instead is just weird at times. It’s also amusing to watch her facial features as she gets into the character and uses that to accentuate the reactions and sounds.

Disc 3: New to this volume we get a pre-production promotional video for the show that’s very interesting to watch to see how it evolved from concept to reality.

Disc 4: There’s also a new English staff commentary for one episode. New to this volume we get the clean opening and closing to the special split episode that makes up the New Years Special which is basically an 11 minute recap of the first half of the series..

Disc 6: Closing out the series in terms of extras, there is some good material here. For English language fans, there’s a new voice actor commentary for an episode and for those wanting to know more about how the release was put together, a new staff commentary as well. The last installment of In The Studio covers sessions by Jay Hickman, Marcy Bannor, Jessica Boone, Chris Patton and Luci Christian. Jessica and Luci in particular were a lot of fun to watch as they both got so emotional about the ending episodes and performances, especially since some of that emotion had to make it into the characters as well, that you can see easily just how much these actors get into their roles and care about their characters and performances. The last round of split episode previews are included from when the show aired in parts and the final TV special is also here, Vorfinale, which covers a good chunk of the last two volumes in an abbreviated form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Created by Ikuko Itoh during the design phase of Magic Users Club, it took ten years from that point to get to this point where the initial designs of a girl in a ballet outfit became what is known as Princess Tutu. While parts of this show aren’t all that unusual for an anime series, there is enough to it that puts it on the outside of most mainstream shows that come out. With its sense of charm, magic and characters it’s able to transcend ages and entertain just about anyone you put in front of it.

Taking place in Gold Crown Town, we’re told through the first five prologues in slightly different forms, about how a many named Drosselmeyer had been writing a novel called The Prince and the Raven. The tale involved a young prince who was trying to seal away an evil raven but the only way to do so was to remove his own heart and use that to seal him away. In the midst of writing this tale, Drosselmeyer dies and leaves it unfinished. But the tale has taken on a life of its own and the characters ‘escape’ into the reality of Gold Crown Town and brings much of their world with it. The town takes on characteristics of fairy tales and reality, such as one of the ballet teachers being a cat that’s human in its build but with many cat characteristics. Since the time of the authors’ death, the town hasn’t been the same but it’s taken on a truly interesting quality.

What we’re introduced with this story is a young girl named Duck who is very much liking a senior student in the ballet academy she’s in named Mytho. As we see him through her eyes, we find that she was originally a duck that had seen him dancing and had fallen for him then, only to have the ghostish form of Drosselmeyer appear and give her life as a human girl so that she could pursue him. Duck does her best when she’s a girl, though she confuses her time as a duck by dreaming of it which further blends the distinction between reality and fantasy here, but she’s the weakest of the girls in the ballet academy and her nature causes her to get into trouble fairly often, particularly with her instructor Mr. Cat. He’s an amusing and strange character who insists that those who fail him will have to marry him. That ends up motivating most of the girls quite a lot.

Princess Tutu takes all of this and runs with it as we’re introduced to a number of characters that she involves herself with as we get a town where fairy tales are coming to life in different degrees. Duck’s keenly interested in Mytho, but he’s protected closely by Fakir, a dark haired young man that’s intent on controlling him. In addition, there’s also the best of the students with Rue, another dark haired young woman who wants to win Mytho’s heart. But in the midst of all of this, we learn that Mytho’s heart itself has been shattered and those shards are scattered to different people in the town, each on a different emotion. And with the first half of the series, it focuses on Duck as herself and Tutu finding those shards and restoring them to him, which sets the others off on Tutu because there is a far larger issue to it.

The series isn’t actually convoluted, but it works the idea of stories within stories and what’s truly involved with Mytho and his heart, the reason for it being broken as it was and why it’s both good and bad for it to be brought back together. With Duck as the lead, she’s kind of naïve throughout a lot of this but she has the best of intentions as she’s being manipulated yet causing unforseen ripples in events. And the characters involved aren’t what they seem, so we get a really good look at what makes them who they are and the underlying motivations. What’s really engaging about the show is that it does darken up considerably as it progresses. We get all of this ballet at the beginning and the simple humor and fun but it has that extra piece to it as well. It’s there and has some strong moments, but it’s outweighed by the rest. But when it has its mid series high, everything changes and all the relationships diverge heavily in such a way as to really draw you in hard. It’s not bad at the start by any stretch, but it suddenly ups the ante and just hits a home run.

In Summary:
When Princess Tutu first came out, it was a really fun show that I enjoyed by grew to love by the fourth volume. After not seeing it for years as I had others work on the previous collections, I was really keen to experience it again. The series does hold up very well overall after all these years but I’ll admit the magic isn’t quite there as much as it once was. The characters are fun but there are parts in the first half that feel a little more drawn out than they need to be. It does have a great innocent charm to it that makes it pretty accessible to all audiences but then shows them something a lot more interesting. I’ve had my kids watch this show before and they fell in love with it as do adults that made the effort with it. Princess Tutu is a hard show for some to buy just on the name alone, but it’s one of those titles that I still do place in a must-see category for every anime fan just to show that ever genre and style of story can be made exciting and engaging in ways you’d never think of.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Staff and Voice Actor Commentary, Videos, ADR Outtakes, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Aesir Holdings
Release Date: October 11th, 2011
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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