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 audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the previously created English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The music has always been a highlight in this series but getting it in lossless form here really does enhance the whole thing when we get the big sequences and all that comes with it. There’s a greater warmth and clarity to it but that also comes with the dialogue. 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 with some solid placement and a greater warmth than before. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for Princess Tutu is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The breakdown is setup as though this was going to be released in two halves with a nine/four/nine/four format for the twenty-six episodes spread across four discs when I suspect it would have gotten a three-disc release if planned for a full collection from the start. That said, the visual presentation here is definitely something worth the upgrade as it’s one of those series where the colors and style of coloring used is critical for the presentation of the show. 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. I had always liked how this looked on DVD and this won’t be an encoding that’s like a revelation for longtime fans but what we get it something that enhances and expands over the past with greater solidity, better encoding, and a richer presentation overall.
This edition of Princess Tutu manages to change things up from past releases decently as we get a slightly thicker than usual Blu-ray case that holds the four discs across hinges. The front cover artwork is a change from past releases with a nice look at our two leads in dancing mode in front of some of the more elegant stage pieces from the series. It has an old feeling to it that exudes fairy tales in all the right ways while retaining the familiar in the style of the logo. There haven’t been a lot of great looking covers for this property over the years and this one isn’t great but it’s a solid one that puts a tight little package together nicely. The back cover provides a little more character artwork over a slightly darker background with mostly similar elements. The summary covers things well and the breakdown of extras is well-handled. Shots from the show are too small to be of much use while the remainder is given over to the usual production credits and a solid technical grid that covers the elements well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are really great as it takes the wonderful source material and just illuminates it in a way that gives it a new life. The discs work a static image approach where it fills the right two-thirds of the screen and presents the pairings well. They’re given richly detailed new backgrounds to shine even more with but it’s the way the colors are primed that just elevates it. The left has the navigation done in the fairy tale style with episodes broken down by number and title and a little design work to the left of it. Everything is very smooth and easy to access with nice little thematic touches to make it feel cohesive in a way that’s important to set the mood. Everything loads quickly and works well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are the same as what we’ve seen in past editions and that’s a good thing. The extras are spread around a bit as there are multiple commentary tracks while the video extras are on the end-disc sections where there’s more room to add these things. There are multiple English language commentary tracks that focus on the cast and production staff, including translation and production coordinators, which gives us a richer look at the production as a whole. Obviously, a lot of attention will focus on the lead actors and their commentaries and those are fun as well.
In addition to an array of fun dub outtakes, we get some other neat things. 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. There’s a lot to like here with what it does and getting what seems to be everything from past releases mean longtime fans don’t feel like they’re losing out..
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that aired in the summer 2004 and winter 2004 seasons, it was created by Ikuko Itoh while working on the Magic Users Club and ended up being a work that took a decade to bring to fruition. The anime series saw Junichi Sato as the chief director on it working with Shogo Koumoto while having Michiko Yokote overseeing the scripts. Hal Film Maker produced the animation for it and it’s something that even at this time felt a little out of place through its aesthetic and design intent. 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 unforeseen 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.
When Princess Tutu first came out, it was a really fun show that I enjoyed by grew to love by the fourth volume. I enjoyed reconnecting with it back with the 2011 DVD collection as it was something that my kids had grown to love over the years with their exposure to it. Revisiting it now in this new edition, where the gorgeous menus really do set the mood well, it feels like the magic is back in a way that I didn’t quite feel it previously. 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. And I really enjoyed seeing it in this high definition form with a higher bit rate that enhances the dreamlike nature of the style of it well. It doesn’t make it brighter or sharper but the enhancements, subtle as they are, binds it all together in a really good way to make this the definitive version of the property. Very recommended..
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Voice Actor, Translator & Staff Commentaries; Outtakes: Etude; Ballet for Beginners; In the Studio; Japanese Pre-Production Promotional Video; Chapter of the Egg Suite; Mr. Cat’s Love Lesson; Vorfinale; The Path to Tutu; Clean Opening Animation; and Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 11th, 2018
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.