Watch In a Weekend #1: Princess Tutu

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?

A duck.

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

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Chickadoodle’s 5-minute guide to anime-con-going

So, this weekend is pretty awesome for a few reasons: It’s Easter, and it’s my city’s annual anime convention.

This is about my 5th year of regular con attendance, and it’s always a blast, but there are a few things that you have to keep in mind, just as with any festival.

  • The con staff is generally super nice and helpful, but being any sort of jerk/otherwise flouting the con rules will get you kicked out.
  • Plan where you want to be and get there at least 15 minutes early if it’s a timed event. Lines are generally huge, and there’s only so much standing room they can fill without exceeding fire code.
  • If you want someone’s picture, chase them down (but not like a madman) and ask them. Chances are, unless they’re heading for a specific event NOW, they will say yes.
  • Keep anything really important on you where you can feel it at all times. By and large, con attendees are amazing, wonderful people, but all it takes is one pickpocket.
  • Give yourself a spending cap, and do not, no matter how awesome that sexy Hobbit dwarf body pillow (seriously–saw some of those today) is, give into temptation.
  • Getting separated from your group is really easy to do, and finding them again in a crowded exhibitor’s hall will be nigh on impossible without a fully charged phone.

That’s just a short list. Most cons have a huge list of rules that you pretend to read and claim to agree to when you register, but seriously, for things like appropriate footwear, you need to make sure you’re following the rules.

Oh, and one more rule I forgot to mention: You are there to have fun–make the best of your time!

To Those Who Defy Fate, Glory

I will openly admit to anyone who asks that I watch anime. I usually get one of two reactions when I do this:

“Aren’t cartoons just for kids?” Well, no—unless the Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and oh, let me think here… South Park are for kids, too.

“Isn’t that porn?” Oh, it definitely has a subset of NC-17 material. From what I’ve heard, I’m glad it’s not something that’s piqued my curiosity. But no, not all of it—not by a long shot.

Anime (and its comic-book counterpart, manga) span just as many genres as does your average library. Heck, I’m sure that for any book you could find in, say, Powell’s, you could find something on that same subject handled the same way in an anime or manga.

I happen to be attracted to a certain subset—the subset about how life goes on, even as it changes. Considering that I got into this whole scene as a teenager, this is pretty unsurprising. From the school-days stories of Fruits Basket and ToraDora! to the mystery of Spiral, from the adventures of FullMetal Alchemist and the political intrigue of Saiunkoku Monogatari to the… somewhat genre-defying but probably overall magical girl Princess Tutu, one thing has stayed constant: dealing with change.

I won’t bore you here with a billion different summaries of all the amazing things I’ve read and watched, though I highly recommend each of those and more, for what that’s worth. Instead, I’ll head straight to the heart of the matter.

As I’ve said before, I’d like to think I’m adaptable, but the truth of the matter is, I’m a big picture person, and so, big changes cause me great anxiety. I have a pretty nasty fear of the unknown, and when I try to conquer it all at once (my MO), it usually gets the best of me. Even so, things usually turn out fine, but my experience would be so much better if I could just relax and take life one thing at a time.

This hasn’t stopped me from forging on, of course. Through moving past (thankfully fairly minor and infrequent) middle-school bullying through the hormone-addled confusion of high school and onto college, where I’m supposed to have figured out my whole life, or so it seems, no matter the setbacks I’ve encountered, I’ve soldiered on because I’m just horrible at giving up. When I get sad or fearful, my first instinct is to get angry. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It gives me the courage to keep going; to do what needs to be done.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty low, so I sat down to watch some Princess Tutu and just have a good sob-fest. After all, it’s good to just let it all out every once in a while. But no, even though this is a magical girl anime with a horribly bittersweet ending that has me reaching for my tissues every damn time, it does have a bit of grit to it; a bit of that fighting spirit. At one point (and repeated again later as an echo), the puppet Edel says this: “May those who accept their fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory.”

It’s an interesting little quote. The second part makes a whole lot of sense. We’re the heroes of our own stories, after all—why shouldn’t we fight what we might see as fate? And why shouldn’t we come out better than ever? When I can, I take that tack in life.

However, the first part is a poignant reminder that even when we have to accept things as they are, we can be happy. It’s all a state of mind, after all. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever be sad. Grief and sorrow are completely natural, but we can’t let them rule our lives. At the risk of sounding self-important, I am going to include my own flowery quote from a fanfic I wrote a little under three years ago:

 “Why does the rain have to fall?”

 “So that when we see the sun shine again, when we feel its warmth, we realize just how much we take it for granted, and we are all the more grateful for its presence.”

Yes, it is horribly romantic—this was part of a romance because I’m a not-so-closeted romantic and I like my fluffy happy endings. I refuse to apologize for it, though, because it’s the best way I can frame my point. There are good things and bad things and meh things in life, and through it all, we just have to keep going, because that’s what we do.

And some day, we’ll see the sun again.