Princess Tutu


Watched via DVD



PLOT: Princess Tutu makes leaps and bounds for the shoujo genre. Sure the title sounds super corny, but it is a must watch for shoujo and fairy tale fans alike.

The premise for the show is a little particular. Duck, yeah that’s her name, attends a dance school (more on that below). During her time there she suddenly and inexplicably remembers that she isn’t a normal girl but an actual duck. She decides to become a magical girl and real girl for the sake of protecting her beloved sempai, Mythos, and return his emotions to him.

In the beginning the plot is very formulaic with Duck helping to heal her fellow classmates from being possessed with Mythos’ emotions and returning them to their original host. Little does she know that there is a whole lot else going on, which I can’t say anything about because it would be really spoilery. Let’s just say the show is pretty meta and there are some very well thought out twists to the story.

PLOT: And now to go rewatch my beloved Princess Tutu AMV…. Let’s just get it out there: I name Princess Tutu as my favorite anime, so you can see where this review will be going. This show’s fabulous.

Like Whitney says, Princess Tutu’s premise is a little weird, as it’s a blend of a standard fairy tale and a magical girl show. You’ve got your everygirl who transforms into a princess (Duck -> Princess Tutu), a prince (Mythos, which is pronounced “myu-to” for some reason), a princess (Rue), and a knight (Fakir). Rue is, of course, a love rival for Duck and therefore disliked from the start, and Fakir never takes well to Princess Tutu helping Mythos regain his emotions.

I like magical girl shows, so I took to Princess Tutu pretty well from the get-go, when it follows the major tropes of the genre. However, I came to love the hell out of it at the halfway point, when it turns everything on its head and goes meta. Let’s put it this way: I never would have guessed how the second half of the show turned out, and I came to love characters I never thought I’d like. Unfortunately, you can’t tell how well you’ll like the entire show without seeing over half of it, but I think the show’s worth watching no matter what.

I’d just like to add that I was playing that AMV on repeat the whole time I was writing my review.

SETTING: As I said above, Duck attends a dance school. We aren’t really told why there is a dance school in the middle of no where or why they’re there. Duck isn’t even particularly good at dancing, so it doesn’t seem like an academy where you’d have to pass through a competitive application process. Really it’s best to just go with the flow, because it never really makes more sense than that. Then again, why would a fairy tale need to?

Aside from the school we get glimpses into the “outside” world where a mysterious old man seems to control the gears that move the story forward. I’m just going to leave that thought there since that part is at least partially shown in the first episode.

The setting and story are completely intertwined and bring us viewers a completely new type of anime experience, that I at least haven’t seen done before.

SETTING: This show’s setting was designed especially for the story it’s telling. It takes place in a small town because that’s where fairy tales take place; it has a dance school because, as Whitney mentions at some point, fairy tales tend to be told via ballet. Additionally, ballet was chosen as Princess Tutu’s tactic of choice in her battle for Mythos’ emotions, so having a dance school also naturally follows from that.

What I like most about the bizarre setting of this show is how fully it’s realized. Though talking animals show up everywhere, no one finds it strange because that’s how the show (and fairy tales) are. Though the town is isolated from the rest of the world, that’s par for the course. Fairy tale logic has been so totally enforced that, while the setting raises a lot of questions for the viewer, everything feels normal for the town’s citizens. It even takes Duck a while to realize that her origins as a duck are kind of strange.

CHARACTERS: I love the characters in Princess Tutu. Duck is so annoying. Really I can’t even say that she is easy to empathize with since most people don’t act as naive or whiney as she does, but at the end of the series you can’t help but want her to kick some serious butt.

Aside from Duck you have Mythos, who is pretty much a gender reversed damsel in distress. As Mythos is completely devoid of emotions, he is essentially an empty shell. His transformation throughout the show is probably the most physically obvious as we watch him slowly regain his humanity.

Then there are fellow classmates Fakir and Rue whose stand off attitudes and appearances put them at first glance as antagonists. Throughout the series their histories slowly unravel to give us a glimpse into what makes them tick. I think this is brilliantly done. And of course there is the mysterious old man, and for the sake of non specifics, I’ll just leave it at that.

You didn’t mention Edel! How could you?! She’s one of my favorite characters! T_T~

CHARACTERS: I love every main character in this show, whether because they’re cleverly thought of or because of their development. Duck’s a wonderful protagonist to follow, and I enjoyed seeing her piece everything together throughout the show. Mythos’ okay, but by the end of the show I really love and respect Rue and Fakir. The show uses the well-worn tactic of slowly revealing characters’ pasts in order to make the viewer feel more sympathetic for them in the present, and it works incredibly well here, as we take a look at how fairy tales tick.

I can’t believe Whitney didn’t mention Edel! She and Uzura are some of my favorite characters~ Edel’s a wooden puppet who gives Duck advice throughout the series, but she comes to play a very major role later on. Edel might be my favorite example of how the show exceeded my expectations and began to break away from standard fairy tale rules. She eventually gets replaced by Uzura, who’s a heck of a lot cuter, though you might find her annoying if you have a low tolerance for her speech patterns. Along with the old man behind the story, Edel and Uzura round out the main cast and emphasize the show’s fairy tale origins.

Whoops. I suppose they didn’t leave much of an impression. I’ll agree though, there isn’t a character that wasn’t well thought out. Even Mythos, who is on the bottom of my list is understandably that way.

You’re a horrible person. How can you live with yourself?!

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Check out those big heads! Princess Tutu is very stylized. Then again the animation in this series just screams younger audience to me, so that’s probably why everyone looks big headed and prepubescent. Don’t get me wrong, the series is not for kiddos and many of the later elements to the series are rather dark. In fact there are stylistically a lot of similarities to Madoka Magica. So if you loved one, you’ll most likely love the other. You could even say that Princess Tutu acts as a good precursor to the various animation choices Madoka Magica used to depict time and meta moments.

What I like about the art style is that the characters are abstracted down to the point of being archetypes. This is especially apparent with the choice in the cat as a teacher or classmates who are literally animals. The animals also create a nice little tie in to Aesop’s fables where his animals all have distinct characteristics.

Ooh, I like that way of putting it, that the character designs are basically archetypes. Of course everyone has their own quirks, and the style is distinct from every other anime, but the characters definitely look like they’re supposed to embody certain archetypes from fairy tales.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Princess Tutu’s art style takes some getting used to, especially if you’re into anime for how different it looks from normal cartoons. Each character has a very round, childish design, and the colors are all bright and plasticky. Really, it looks designed to sell kids’ toys, like most other magical girl anime. However, this is all part of the series’ façade of being a normal magical girl series, just like it pretends to be a normal fairy tale. Dark, sinister things lurk beneath that surface, and the bright surface heightens the eventual realization of how dark the show is. I guess in that way it has some parallels with Madoka Magica, though I think they both take this idea in very different directions.

Also unlike Madoka Magica, Princess Tutu was created as a shoujo anime, which means it got a smaller budget with which to tell its tale. The show has some great sequences that blend the music and dance, but a good portion of the show uses animation shortcuts and some repeat animation. If you demand great visuals out of your anime, then Princess Tutu may disappoint you, but if you can overlook a limited budget and a cartoony style, then you will be rewarded for giving this anime a try.

MUSIC: I have to be honest, I know very very little about classical music. However I think it is important to note that every episode highlights a new classical song. In addition the music serves as a way to move plot forward with students practicing, or Duck saving classmates through dance. Really I promise it’s not as cheesy as it sounds. And even if it is, it’s so charming you won’t care.

The music and dance elements of the show tie in very nicely with the fairy tale motif as it creates the atmosphere of a ballet. And as we all probably know, a lot of fairy tales were told through ballet, at least at one point or another. There is also the connection to the idea of “the stage” and “breaking the fourth wall”, which in theater means to allude to the cast knowing they are in a performance, either in words or actions. It’s clear to see that the creators of Princess Tutu really thought of everything.

MUSIC: Every time I hear music from Swan Lake, I want to watch Princess Tutu (yes, this even happened while watching Black Swan). Same goes for hearing music from The Nutcracker, which is used in the series’ eyecatches. If you are interested in watching Princess Tutu because of that “Hold Me Now” AMV, don’t think the music is like that at all. In reality, ballet music and Princess Tutu are inseparable.

For me, part of Princess Tutu’s genius comes from its ability to make ballet music mean something. Like Whitney, I’ve never been a big fan of classical music. Without a narrative to connect it to, I can’t make sense of the sounds, and it puts me to sleep. In Princess Tutu, though, the music gets paired with dancing and stories, so it all makes sense to me. I loved watching every dance sequence and hearing the beautiful music. Even without everything else the show does well, it gave me an appreciation for classical music. I’m still not as big of a fan as my cello- and piano-playing boyfriend, but I’m getting there.

OVERALL: This series is brilliant. For the longest time I refused to watch this show because the name was stupid. And to be honest, it is very off putting. But, if you continue to refuse to watch it based on an unfortunate name, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Unless by chance you happen to seriously hate shoujo. And even if you don’t like shoujo, if a tiny little part of you can at least stand shoujo, watch it!

Princess Tutu easily falls into my top favorites list. Granted I can’t tell you off the top of my head where it ranks, but I’ll just say, at least top 10. And, as you can clearly see below, it even gets a 10, which if you remember correctly I have only given 1 show so far (Madoka Magica). So that clearly says something.

OVERALL: Like I said, this is my go-to favorite anime. It plays with many things that intrigue me, as well as bringing in ballet and classical music, and it does it all perfectly. Yes, this show may appeal more to me than others because of my interest in magical girl shows and fairy tales, especially when the whole thing goes meta. What better way to appeal to an English major?! Regardless, I think it’s worth watching for all anime fans because of how its plays with genres and does something unexpected. Like Evangelion, Utena, and Madoka Magica, it shows what anime can be capable of when the rules are ignored. It’s also the least appreciated of these series, so go watch it! It’s currently available for free on Hulu, so you have no excuse! Give it some love. <3

FINAL SCORE: (10/10) FINAL SCORE: (10/10)

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