Magical Girls. Of all the genre's of anime out there this is largely the one I feel most people stay away from the most. It's been done to hell and back and even back when Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon WAS trying to do something new and innovative, there really isn't anything more cliche than a Magical Girl story. That was...until this came along.
Princess Tutu focuses nominally on the titular “princess” but there is a tad bit of backstory that is important to the series itself. Within the story there was a man that died and this man was Herr Drosselmeyer (and yes I will assume that it’s the same Drosselmeyer from The Nutcracker). Drosselmeyer was a writer and unfortunately he perished before his greatest masterpiece could be finished. This story was titled The Prince and the Raven in which a strong and handsome prince fought a cunning and evil raven. When Drosselmeyer died, the Prince and the Raven were fated then to do battle for all eternity and so the raven and the prince escaped from the confines of the book. The prince shattered his own heart with a forbidden technique and sealed the raven away. Now, we focus on Ahiru or Duck as she’s known in the English dub, who is a young girl attending a private school and studying ballet. Duck is clumsy, forgetful, scatterbrained, and overall is often compared to a duck and this shows in her clumsy ballet. Duck has a crush on her upperclassman, the emotionally dead but handsome and talented Mytho who is dating the top female student Rue. Eventually, it’s revealed that Mytho is really the prince from Drosselmeyer’s story and in that Duck possesses the power to transform into Princess Tutu, another character from the story who has the ability to recover the lost shards of Mytho’s heart which also restores his emotions. Four things complicate Princess Tutu’s involvement with Mytho however. First of which would be Fakir, Mytho’s best friend who doesn’t want Mytho to regain his heart. Second is Princess Kraehe, the daughter of the Raven who seeks to make Mytho her own prince. Third is the fact that Duck/Princess Tutu cannot confess her love to Mytho because if she does she will vanish into a speck of light and vanish. And the fourth thing that complicates this is the fact that Duck is…really just a duck who, through the power of Drosselmeyer, can become a girl and Princess Tutu thanks to the pendant she wears. As the series goes on, the characters find themselves fighting their predestined fate and their own free will. Will this story end in tragedy or will Drosselmeyer’s tale have it’s first happily ever after?
Alright now…let me take this time to say a few things right now about Princess Tutu. Princess Tutu…is an incredibly girly series. There’s little physical combat, and most of the series focuses on ballet! Prepare yourself for it! Princess Tutu is visually a very....I don’t even know! This series incorporates lots of shades and pastels in all the right places and for a shojo series, it can get REALLY dark! At the same time though, it’s quite bright and colorful especially in the earlier parts of the series. When the characters move in this series, their movements FLOW FAR BETTER THAN ANYTHING I’VE EVER SEEN. I believe that this is largely in part because the series focuses on ballet, as I’ve already said. In a series like this the characters and their movements can't be rigid and stiff because it uses ballet so predominantly. That being said however…the designs are rather simplistic, namely those of the characters themselves. This isn’t a bad thing though and it doesn’t set off the tone of the anime. As a shojo series the characters are all quite thin with large expressive eyes and this is something that works well for the series. Another interesting thing about Princess Tutu is it’s selection of music. Now before I get into the background music of the series I should take this time to stress my opinions on the opening and endings of Princess Tutu. The openings and endings are somewhat deal breakers for me when it comes to watching anime. I usually judge the series, first on whatever I’ve read and heard about it and then the opening of the series itself and usually the way it goes is that if I like the opening song I’ll be able to sit through the rest of the anime itself. This is kind of what gets me hooked more into long running series that change their openings every so often so even if I don’t care for a particular song I know it’ll change. Series like Princess Tutu that only have about 30 episodes don’t often have the luxury of changing their opening song but every so often they’ll revise the opening or use the second half of the song a la Gurren Lagann. The opening for Princess Tutu is done in the style of a classical music piece with fitting vocals behind it and it’s become one of my favorite songs period. I’m not usually one for slower songs but this one was an exception. The ending on the other hand, while usually fitting, had a bad habit of leaving me angry after watching a depressing episode and is skipable in my opinion. Now for the background music. Princess Tutu’s soundtrack does something I’ve never seen an anime do before and that is to insert well known classical pieces into the series. This will be a plus to any and all who have an ear for classical music and even if you don’t you might develop one as I did after watching it.
Wow, that has to be the longest I've written on just the art and music and now to get onto my long list of what I like about this series and what works well in it before moving onto the negatives. Now I am personally a fan of the Magical Girl genre, despite not really watching it very often and despite Princess Tutu being placed in that category I don’t quite believe it to be a Magical Girl series. It’s more along the lines of…a supernatural drama with Magical Girl elements. Now what works in Princess Tutu? First of all, the art works wonders for the series tone as does the music. What else works for the series? The talking animals. Yes you heard me right. Princess Tutu has talking animals and for a very good reason which is my next positive about the series. Princess Tutu is a Fairy Tale. All of us have grown up with Disney and the Mouse in the Sky sugarcoating some once tragic tales but Tutu is an animated adaption of a ballet and a Fairy Tale in its own right. This is where the talking animals come into play. The setting, Gold Crown Town is a place where reality and fantasy intertwine and while many of the characters are not the least bit surprised to see human sized animals dancing ballet or walking around, Duck certainly is as are the rest of us when we watch this. Along with being a Fairy Tale Tutu does something else quite interesting and innovative and that is the inclusion and referencing of other famous fairy tales and ballets throughout the series and putting some dark and unexpected twists on their meanings. Personally I thought that the fate of Princess Tutu should she confess her love was a call back to the original Little Mermaid in which the mermaid turns to sea foam at the end of the story. Another great thing about Tutu is it’s five main characters, Duck, Mytho, Rue, Fakir, and Drosselmeyer. Most 26 episode series develop their characters in the later part of the series but what Tutu does is develop it’s characters every time they’re on screen. The changes they go through are quite fitting , at least for the four main leads. Drosselmeyer himself doesn’t get any development and frankly I don’t think the troll of this series needs any development. Duck is probably my favorite character. She’s one of those characters that really has a sense of charm about her despite her many shortcomings and these flaws often help her to win over others. One of my favorite things about Duck though is how determined she is to help Mytho. Duck is a Fifth Business, a character who is neither the hero nor the villain but is nonetheless essential to the plot of the story. Duck herself is also a major expansion of the Princess Tutu character from The Prince and the Raven. In the story, Tutu is given about a sentence worth before she vanishes into a speck of light. In the series though, she becomes a principal character and is directly opposed by the villain. Duck knows her fate should she confess her love to Mytho and while she muses over him falling in love with her this quickly takes a backseat to the job at hand of recovering all of his heart shards. I also thought that this showed a genuine love for Mytho when everything was all said and done. Another major plus for me was the ballet surprisingly. Before Tutu I’d never really been into it or paid much attention to it but it’s use in the series changed that about me as well to the point that I’m going to start watching ballet’s on YouTube in my free time. The Swan Lake story was also a definite plus for me as well. Before watching this series, the closet thing to Swan Lake that I’d ever seen was the Swan Princess and it’s sequels and yes I loved them but the Swan Lake elements were a bit too much for a little kid to wrap their heads around but it made a great animated fairy tale. In Tutu however, the elements of Swan Lake are present from the start and continue to remain all the way until the end of the series. Tutu and Kraehe’s outfits are heavily based on the outfits of Odette and Odile from the Ballet and much of the music is from the Ballet itself.
Now for the negative aspects of this series. first of all Ducks friends Pique and Lille don’t work well for the series. Pique is okay but I wanted to strangle Lille and I was glad when she wasn't in the series. another negative would be the repetitive nature of the first half of the series. for the first few episodes, Duck finds a heart shard, becomes Tutu, dances the problem away and returns the shard to Mytho, rinse and repeat. But while this quickly ceases to be the norm, I think that some people watching it will be turned off to how repetitive it is. And…that’s about all that I can think of other than the ending song in my personal opinion.
Now, I realize that any men reading this review will probably laugh it off as something that only girls can get enjoyment out of but THAT is wrong. Real Men watch Princess Tutu! If you can still watch Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast as a man past the age of 15 and be prideful about it like I am, then this series is perfect for you. Princess Tutu is a gripping tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end come the middle of the first half. It starts off a bit slow, but it just keeps going and going all the way without letting up pulling off twists and turns that I didn't think possible for any series. this series is great for people of all ages including small children. There’s barely any fanservice and it’s all quite Disneyesque in the way I think many of us would like to see Disney, dark but positive, thought provoking but enjoyable without being preachy. However….those expecting a classic fairy tale ending…never mind I won't say it! I give Princess Tutu a 10 out of 10 for being practically flawless and even the flaws don’t distract from the series itself. Anyways, that's all from me! See you next time with another review! DaWaRou~!