I know what you’re thinking right now: Oh God, this Princess Tutu thing again. What is she—obsessed?
(To be said with a slightly insane, but affable grin:) In the worst way!
You see, Princess Tutu is your typical magical girl anime: It’s short… ish. (Clocking in at 26 30-minute episodes, it amounts to about 13 hours of watching, unless you skip the intro and outro.) It has transformations. It has a silly schoolgirl in love.
But it’s so, so much more than that. It is actually a very powerful, emotional exploration of not only love, but of the human condition, specifically emotion. It’s an exploration of how feelings surprise us, how they confound us, and how, at the end of the day, they are so much of what makes us human.
That said, it is full of humor and so many freakin’ ballet scenes it is not funny. In fact, it’s pretty beautiful. I have a younger cousin who dances, and watching this show always reminds me of her. (And the physics of ballet do actually stay pretty real, for the most part.)
So, what’s this all about, really?
No, I’m not kidding: a duck. She sees a prince dancing (yeah… who’s who and what’s what and why everything is as it is is a bit hard to follow for the first few episodes), and falls in love with him. She wishes to be with him, and that’s where Herr Drosselmeyer (who cranks the insanity of his Nutcracker counterpart up to eleven) comes in: a writer, Drosselmeyer grants Duck (yup, that’s the name she sticks with) a magical pendant that, depending on the circumstances, changes her into a “regular” schoolgirl, or into the heroine Princess Tutu. (The catch: if she loses the pendant, she turns back into a duck.)
She attends school with the prince (Mytho, pronounced mew-toe), the prince’s… paramour, Rue (Also Kraehe, daughter of the Raven who is trapped by Mytho’s sacrificed heart… I did warn you it was complicated! She’s also Princess Tutu’s arch-nemesis.), and the prince’s knight protector, Fakir, who is also a writer. It’s a ballet school, so the only instruction you ever see them getting is ballet, but it’s obvious that they study other subjects, and ballet is kind of central to the plot, so… yeah.
If this all seems incredibly confusing and jumbled, it’s because there’s so much going on. Duck/Tutu is trying to win Mytho’s heart, Rue is trying to keep it, Kraehe is trying to feed it to the Raven, Fakir is trying to protect it… and that’s just the main plot!
Speaking of plot, fate is central to the story, quite literally in a “your book has already been written” way. To say more would give a key point away, so I won’t. But there is at least one powerful line directly concerning this idea: Drosselmeyer’s puppet (Oh, the symbolism/shoutout! Puppets figure quite heavily into the story.) Edel says “May those who accept fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory.” For the first half of the show, the central theme is how integral our feelings are, how they make us into who we are, and it does actually carry through the rest of the show, as well. It’s also a show about being who you are (duh…), and about finding those who love you and will be there for you, even if you’re a (literal) awkward duck.
The other great thing? The Japanese dub is well done, and the English dub is on par with (if not better than in some places, I think) it. It really has an all-star cast.
To introduce you to the series, here are a few music videos, each showing a different aspect of the show:
Creepy: “Hall Om Mig” by Nanne Gronvall
Touching: “You’re Not Alone” by Savage Garden
Deal with the devil: “Devil’s Dancefloor” by Flogging Molly