I don’t know how many times I’ve written up a preview article for Princess Tutu. Every time, I wasn’t satisfied. “This gives away too much.” “This doesn’t say enough.” “Will this convince anyone to give the series a chance?” Maybe this final attempt will be just right.
There is happiness for those who accept their fate. There is glory for those who defy their fate.
This is Duck, your average school girl. She spends time with her close friends, and she takes ballet class at school. She’s well-intentioned, but can be a bit forgetful, and at times is clumsy. But, isn’t Duck a strange name for an ordinary young girl?
The teacher for Duck’s ballet class is Mr. Cat. He…is not your ordinary teacher. He teaches ballet with cat-like grace. His hope is for his students to be happy when they dance, and his dream is to one day marry. Who might he look for as a prospective wife?
One of the upperclassmen is Mytho, a senior. He loves to dance ballet. There isn’t much to say about him, as he is a quiet person, with no show of emotion.
Another of the higher students, and a top performer in the school’s ballet class, is Rue. When she can, she spends her time with her boyfriend, the handsome-yet-emotionless Mytho. What kind of girl wants to be with a guy with emptiness in his heart?
A dancer whose skill equals Rue’s is Fakir. Girls may fawn over him, but Fakir spends his time watching over Mytho closely. Why the protective older brother complex?
From time to time, Duck will get useful, although confusing, advice from Miss Edel. What advise might an ordinary school girl need? And, is that hair style even possible?
Finally, there is old man Drosselmeyer. An author of stories, he died long ago, and therefore has no place in today. But what’s this? When he died, his novel about a good prince and an evil raven went unfinished. What happens to an story when its author dies before its conclusion?
Actually, there is one more character not to be forgotten. There is Princess Tutu, but doesn’t she almost look familiar?
Is there anyone missing? Someone not pictured here? How about a little duck, and a princess of ravens? What might their purpose be?
I intended to tell about the basic plot next, but decided to move that to the end, in case one wants to skip over the potential for early episode spoilers.
When it comes to animation, Princess Tutu does everything right. The character designs are well developed. The colors look wonderful. The different kinds of scenes are well themed, from the misty dreams, to the saturated scenes when a certain character mystically appears. They might not be the highest budget backgrounds you can find, and there may even be cut corners at times, but the backgrounds fit the olden German town, fairytale mood of the series. Further, extensive research of ballet dancing means the dances in the series are animated to be as true-to-life as possible.
Even if you’ve never seen an episode of Princess Tutu, you’ve certainly heard some of its music before. Princess Tutu makes heavy use of classic ballet music. Such music introduces characters, represents characters, accompanies scenes, and moves climatic scenes along. Whether Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz, a piece from Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals, or Ludwig van Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Princess Tutu puts animation and emotion both to the music we’ve all heard before and lesser-known pieces alike.
The Japanese voice acting is some of the highest quality voice acting I’ve ever heard, and I’ve seen a good deal of Japanese animation. Duck’s voice may be a little rough early on, but voice actress Nanae Kato fits into the role quickly. Every other voice matches its character instantly. The director of Princess Tutu must have gone far to make sure every voice fit just right.
However, the reason I bring up voice acting is because of the English dub. For anyone who prefers watching a series in its original language, please do so. Then, take a break from the series, maybe six months to a year. Return to it and watch it in English, please.
Many of ADVFilms’s prior English dubs have had wonderful voice acting, but Princess Tutu tops everything I’ve heard from ADVFilms before their work on this series.
Generally, there is no objectionable content within Princess Tutu. With the exception of a few “scary” scenes, such as a man with an ax attempting to chop off someone’s hands, Princess Tutu is friendly for the youngest of viewers, and will be appreciated by the oldest.
The objectionable content which does exist revolves about scenes with Duck. Because of her situation in the story, at times she briefly lacks clothing. While she’s usually covered by something onscreen, a few times her bare rear shows. This is comparable with what’s seen in North American cartoons for children such as Rugrats and Dexter’s Lab, only with a preteen girl. The more so objectionable scene is whenever Princess Tutu appears. She appears nude, her small chest visible, for a couple of seconds before her Princess Tutu outfit appears on her. None of these instances are presented in a lewd fashion, and at best lead to embarrassment for Duck or another character. If you find these rare and brief moments of content objectionable, I recommend giving Princess Tutu a try nonetheless. You won’t regret it.
The other objectionable content is a mild use of harsh language by certain characters, but only in good taste.
Is it that strange to have the final thoughts before I even tell about the plot, the story of the series? I wanted to put in as much as I could before getting to minor spoilers.
To me, Princess Tutu can be summed up in four words: the greatest fairy tale. Perhaps I should go with a less subjective sentence? How about this: “Princess Tutu is a wonderful, complex, unpredictable novel.”
A novel well written begins at the beginning, and ends at the ending. Along the way, the characters grow, they change based on their experiences. The plot takes unexpected twists and turns. The characters transform in ways unexpected, and new plots intertwine with the old plots, forming new paths for the story to take. If these are the signs of a good novel, then Princess Tutu is a novel done right.
Viewers must be careful not to skip over the series because of its premise: a ballerina heroine. Taking its cues (and music) from ballets such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and making use of fairytales such as Hänsel und Gretel for inspiration, Princess Tutu tells a fairytale like no other.
Long, long ago, there lived a man named Herr Drosselmeyer. Drosselmeyer wrote stories, but he grew old, and he died. One of his stories, the story of a prince who fought a raven, remained unfinished. The two story characters could only battle continuously in the never ending story. The raven grew tired of this, as did the prince. Finally, the raven left the storybook, and the prince followed after. The prince trapped the raven. Using a forbidden power, the prince set his sword to his own heart, and shattered it, sealing the raven away.
Meet Duck. A young girl at an arts school, she is one of the lower students in her ballet class. She looks lovingly at senior ballet student Mytho, and wishes to know why sadness always fills his eyes. These two hold a secret, for neither is as they appear to be. Mytho is truly a prince from a story, wandering around without emotion, without drive, his only desire to help others in need, even at the risk of his own life. When Mytho’s life is endangered to save another, Duck transforms into the prima ballerina, Princess Tutu, and dances to his aide.
Actually, Duck isn’t a young girl at all. A duck from the lake near town, she was given a pendant from Drosselmeyer which allows her to become a human girl, and with it she can become Princess Tutu, a character from Drosselmeyer’s story about the prince and the raven. The role of Princess Tutu is to return the shards of the prince’s heart to him, but this is a pitied role, for if Princess Tutu ever tells the prince of her love for him, she will vanish in a speck of light.
Not to be forgotten are two friends of Mytho. Fakir is the cool, commanding type, always looking out for Mytho and scolding him for mistakes. And then Rue, she is Mytho’s girlfriend, content to spend time with Mytho as he does whatever she asks of him, without question. Add in Miss Edel, a mysterious character who provides Duck with advice along the way, and the prince’s tale is set in motion once more.
Over time, the plot imparts growth and change upon the characters, forcing them into taking on new and unexpected roles, changing the direction of the plot which had first changed them. Interactions at one point drive change at another. Not only does the plot of the prince missing his heart and Princess Tutu’s efforts to recover its shards move the story, but other plots keep things from becoming stale. Whether it’s Fakir pressuring Princess Tutu to stop recovering Mytho’s heart (for reasons unknown), or the arrival of the princess of the ravens to compete with Princess Tutu for Mytho’s love, Princess Tutu is without a dull moment.
The series splits nicely into two parts. The first half of the series revolves around Duck, her interactions with her best friends Pique (pronounced pē-kā) and Lilie (seen above), and the quest to restore the shards of Mytho’s heart against the will of Fakir. By its ending, everything appears to be wrapped up, with happy and sad endings for the characters. Yet, it’s only the beginning, for there is much still to be learned about the massive plot working to keep the story of the prince going. Twists, turns, and role reversals await the second half. The story builds nicely, evenly throughout, from episode one to episode 26, the plot and characters that of a well crafted novel.
There is happiness for those who accept their fate. There is glory for those who defy their fate. These words, spoken multiple times by Miss Edel, envelope the true experiences the cast must face. Do they become a part of Drosselmeyer’s tale of the Princess aiding the Prince, of the Prince’s Knight and the Raven? Or do they reject their position in Drosselmeyer’s world, and take control of their own lives?
I welcome you to watch, and to find out.