(Anime Review) Princess Tutu: Of Identity Issues and Dance Battles

Merry Christmas everybody.  I decided that this was going to be my Christmas post a while back and what better way to celebrate Christmas with imperfect characters, tragedy, and dance battles?  Nothing.  There is no other way that makes sense at all.  *Looks at Tokyo Godfathers’ DVD * Nope, not at all.  Besides, it also used some of the songs from the Nutcracker in it so it’s completely Christmassy.  *uses mind powers* Yes, say it with me.  Princess Tutu is the epitome of Christmas anime.  Muahahaha, you are now under my control.

On a more serious note, Princess Tutu is yet another anime that I fell in love with as I watched one episode, then another episode, then another one, and you can see where this is going.  It started out as this girly and clichéd anime revolving around one girl who is really in love with this guy who might have been a prince?  There was also a ballet school, a cat that wanted to marry our main character or any other girl for some reason, and magical girl transformations.  More information was revealed at the end of the first episode that revealed to me that more was going on here then I realized.  Princess Tutu is a surprising and fantastic magical girl anime that needs more recognition then it gets.

(Plot/Story)

Princess Tutu setting.png

This one is a little more complicated than the other two I have described and I will only explain the general aspects of it all.  Princess Tutu takes place in a town in which fairy tales are real.  While a lot of fairy tales are true, the main one that the town runs on is the tale of The Prince and the Raven.  The prince sacrificed his heart to keep the raven at bay.  He is a permanent member of the town, but without any personality.  It is up to Princess Tutu to gather these shards and return them to the prince, but only if he wants them back.  There is also another Princess in the story, Kraehe, who is there to distract the prince from his goal of returning to normal along with a knight meant to protect him.  The first half of this story follows this format in a way that the viewer can expect and it’s great, but the real gold of this franchise is when the show strays from the fairy tale and examines each character under a microscope.  Yes, the second half is amazing.

(Characters)

I dove into this aspect a little bit in the last section, but let’s dig into this a little more?  Princess Tutu has a central cast of four characters.  Two males and two females, so it is well balanced.  There are a lot of side characters that have the slightest bit of development and maintain gag character status. Those three are Pike, Lilie, and Mr. Cat, the ballet teacher.  (Why does Mr. Cat want people to marry him so badly?)  Pike and Lilie are there for Duck to express her feelings too and to get Duke into trouble to further her arc.  Mr. Cat is a ballet teacher who is also a cat.  I won’t say that he doesn’t add anything to the story, but it’s minimal at best.

pike-and-lilie
Pike and Lilie messing with Duck
mr-cat
Mr. Cat

There are even some side characters that stick around for one episode long enough for us to get to know them, then we never hear from them again.  That doesn’t sound like much, but those characters have some effect to the story and the characters in one way or another.  I may not remember their names, but they are important one way or another.

Now to our main character Duck.  Yes, Duck.  She is an actual duck who is disguised as a human who later is disguised as the magical girl, Princess Tutu.  Try to figure out that hidden identity because not many people have.  Her character arc is about figuring out her identity and whether or not she lives up to the story Princess Tutu.  After hearing that she is a duck that is disguised as a person who is disguised, that’s not too hard to figure out now is it?  She is originally in love with the prince, but that perspective shifts as the story goes on in a way that is completely natural.  Just beware duck to girl transformations because those come with some nakedness out of nowhere.   It just adds some forced comedy that doesn’t belong there.  Oh well, that’s a thing that needs to be lived with.

duck-princess-tutu

The Prince isn’t worth talking about much because he is more an empty shell and a plot device throughout most of Princess Tutu, but his protector Fakir is.  When we first see Fakir, he’s a complete jerk and is super protective of the prince.  Fakir doesn’t want anybody near him.  Especially not Rue, Duck, or her two friends.  As time goes on and he sees Duck in her true form, we see more of what drives him.  From there, Fakir becomes a much more layered person.  He assumes knight from the story who died a tragic death and is scared of where that will lead him.  Fakir is another imperfect soul that is forced into this story.

fakir
Fakir
the-prince
The Prince (also known as Mytho)

And finally, Rue.  She is my favorite character of the series because she is the most dynamic.  She faces the light and the dark equally and doesn’t know where she belongs.  She is the best female dancer at Duck’s school and is also given the role of the Raven Princess Kraehe.   She also forces the Prince to love her for reasons we see later, but that becomes less forced later on.  Rue’s resolve is always put into question and there is a reason for it that I don’t intent to spoil.  She is the most complex character in a cast of complex characters.  I’m glad she got a happy ending at the end of this story.

rue
Rue 

(Art/Animation)

Princess Tutu’s animation is below average for the early 2000’s.  This is a time period that Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain, Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) came out Princess Tutu isn’t as good as those.  There are some good animation movements, but also a lot of recycled bits and still frames.  In the end, I think that is okay because the incredible art design balances this aspect out.

A lot of the different settings look like sets in a play and a lot of the enemy entrances feel like they came out of a trap door from a stage.  Princess Tutu is presented as a ballet form of a magical girl show and all of that makes sense.  Combine the stage design with how much imagination is put behind each set and there you have it.  The character designs are also unique and memorable and you can tell who each character is by their unique silhouette.

princess-tutu-set-design
Example of some of the scenery
raven-set-design
More scenery shots

Also, the dance battles.  Those are fantastic.  Not just because they are epic, but also because they add a lot of emotional depth to each character without words. they are way more entertaining than you would think they are and this is a ballet anime.  It just makes sense for one reason or another.  Think of them as a Jojo kind of thing, but with dancing and magical transformations.  They are so wonderful.

dance-battle
Tutu vs Kraehe

(Final Thoughts)

I think everybody should watch this show, because in the face of all the darker sort of magical girl shows that are popular today, Princess Tutu is the most original and has been around for longer.  It should be popular, but barely anybody is talking about it.  It does have a girly title, has some girly moments, and girly magical girl transformation scenes, but there is so much more to this series then aesthetic.  It is a dark story about characters forced into their roles that they don’t fit, dancing, fairy tales, and a lot of sincere, emotional trauma.  It’s an anime that deserves attention.  Please give this one a watch.  *Uses mind powers* you will watch this one whether you like or not.  MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Ray says:

    I remember getting into this series. I started but never finished so many years ago… Yeah it is deeper and more of an interesting fantasy than the usual magical girls!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, it really is.

      Like

  2. pokeninja90 says:

    This show is perfection!! Princess Tutu is one of the few shows that can pull off epic dance battle as a form of combat, without me rolling my eyes at it! Also I agree that this is definitely a fantastic Christmas anime!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Best Christmas anime!

      If only other Anime could pull off epic dance battles. I’m okay with it just being this one though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pokeninja90 says:

        LOL though, I must admit that I rather enjoyed Tokyo Godfathers 😛

        OMG, yes! I’m still holding out for another that can pull off the action and majesty of dance battles, but alas none have stepped up to the plate!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Krystallina says:

    I bought this because of all the positive comments several years ago. Definitely had some surprising moments! Such a good series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, it really is something special.

      Like

  4. dreager1 says:

    Glad to hear that the show is so good. My brother just bought the complete series on DVD so I look forward to checking it out!

    Liked by 1 person

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