In a fairy tale come to life, the clumsy, sweet, and gentle Ahiru (Japanese for "duck") seems like an unlikely protagonist. In reality, Ahiru is just as magical as the talking cats and crocodiles that inhabit her town—for Ahiru really is a duck! Transformed by the mysterious Drosselmeyer into a human girl, Ahiru soon learns the reason for her existence. Using her magical egg-shaped pendant, Ahiru can transform into Princess Tutu—a beautiful and talented ballet dancer whose dances relieve people of the turmoil in their hearts. With her newfound ability, Ahiru accepts the challenge of collecting the lost shards of her prince's heart, for long ago he had shattered it in order to seal an evil raven away for all eternity.
Princess Tutu is a tale of heroes and their struggle against fate. Their beliefs, their feelings, and ultimately their actions will determine whether this fairy tale can reach its "happily ever after."
I remember when I first heard the name "Princess Tutu". First impression: Girly. However, I was intrigued by the praise it received so I looked for a description. Second impression: Cheesy. Still, I was curious about how the show took advantage of ballet suites, so I watched the opening. Third impression: Too pink.
There were few reasons for me to watch Princess Tutu, but I still had a strange feeling about it. Today I regret not having watched it sooner for what I saw was one of the most engaging, clever and downright beautiful shows I had ever seen, overflowing with soul and passion.
Story: A unique fairytale which goes far beyond it's limitations. Masterfully written, the story is a perfect blend of powerful moments, unexpected twists, comedy and romance. The fairytale structure takes the best out of classic ballets and weaves a story that is both coherent and diverse. The endings to both seasons are particularly outstanding.
Art: The series has a stylized and clean art style combined with great animation. Although I felt it fit the series very well, not everyone feels that way. Some believe the art style is a bit too girly or misleading, but it actually fits the fairytale theme very well. The backgrounds are great and the ballet scenes are beautifully animated (although some use too many stills which, even though beautiful, aren't as good as the animated moments).
Sound: The "coup-de-grace" of the show, the soundtrack doesn't simply support the show: it is part of the story itself. Each episode is accompanied by a certain ballet suite and takes the most advantage of it. The suites were carefully chosen and superbly performed by a bulgarian orchestra. I had heard many of them before and I was amazed by the quality of the performance. Every single note fits perfectly and sounds delightful, even the songs that were composed for the show. Truly mindblowing, the music adds a whole new layer of depth to it. The voices and dialog are also very good and fitting.
Characters: With such a great story and soundtrack, some would think that the development team wouldn't be focused on character development. Wrong. All characters are believable, feel real and evolve throughout the story. Even secondary characters show a glowing spirit that many main characters wish they had. If you allow yourself to, you will be able to feel a strong bond and sympathy for those characters, even those you didn't expect. The multi-layered Ahiru is an amazing and strong main character, and the others will surprise you as well. Not only do characters evolve but they also take advantage of a distinct way to show their "persona": dance.
Enjoyment: A show that you won't be able to put down until you finish it. The episodes are so engaging and fantastic it's easy to get sucked in. A surprisingly rich experience you won't find anywhere else. Surprisingly, I found myself rewatching several scenes shortly after finishing the show. I recommend you to use headphones so that you don't miss a single note of this visual and musical wonder.
Overall, Princess Tutu is a living, breathing anime that, unlike most magical-shoujo shows, truly feels magical. Yes, I may sound cheesy, lame and corny, but don't miss out on this unique gem. A true masterpiece.
Ok, here's a scenario that doesn't appeal to me in the least, a magical girl series that sound incredibly girly with copious amounts of pink and it's actually called "Princess Tutu". The only positive note I saw going into this was that I really like classical music, it was this and other reviews that convinced me to even give it a shot in the first place and am I ever glad I did, I've seen it through 4 times in less than 18 months and I'm always tempted to watch it again. The first point here is that even if it doesn't sound like your
thing in the least, this series is a complete shock at how amazing it is, this is the series that changed how I should look at watching potential anime in the future.
Story and Characters:
Well, the series starts off a little cliche and trope ridden. In fact, I had subconsciously made a list of every cliche I expected to play out during the series. But boy by the end of that series was I eating that list right back, this series completely redefines how magical girl series can be done. The series frequently takes plot lines and ideas from ballets and other classical pieces of music and then it takes all of them to make its own original and unique thing. And to anyone as concerned with the girly factor as I was, I really didn't find any of the main plot as overly girly as I was expecting (I found it mildly girly to be fair). The ending has to be one of the best and most rewarding endings I've seen in an anime ever, this is a series that definitely delivers, even if you didn't know what you wanted delivered.
Characters designs and animation are all crisp and beautiful and fit into the world so incredibly well. There's also frequent CGI at times that is never jarring and fits ever so perfectly. But sound is where is where it was really at for me, having been an already existing fan of classical music. The series didn't just use common pieces all the time, it used whatever piece fit, no matter how obscure and the series was made better for it. All the pieces that they picked intensified the mood of whatever scene it was in to make a perfect compliment. I'm not sure if I'll ever find soundtrack usage this perfect again personally. It wasn't only about having a strong soundtrack, but it was also about using it well.
This is one of my very few 10 series and quite possibly my favorite anime of all time. I think this series should be seen by everyone, you'll find a lovely diamond in the rough with a great and memorable story. I really can't think of anything else quite like it, this is a must watch.
I think the only thing I didn't like about Princess Tutu was the name of the show. With a story that, while original, hails to the great storytellers such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, set at a pace that presents itself willingly to ballet, and refusing to pull punches, Junichi Sato's dark fantasy about a duck who wanted to be a girl, and the prince whose heart she wished to piece back together is a fairy tale that children can enjoy and adults can adore.
Like all good fairy tales, the story is most crucial. It must be whimsical yet cautionary, quickly paced,
and tightly-knit. Tutu follows this formula well, though not so much the "quickly paced" bit. This is because Tutu has an episodic monster-of-the-week nature that can become an irritance, and would have been if every episode didn't, in some way, tie directly back to the main story. Much like director Junichi Sato's other hidden gem Kaleido Star, the story is broken into two distinct parts, which while seperate, are directly connected. This storytelling works best in that it provides two distinct and memorable climaxes while never feeling rushed or out-of-place.
The main story itself is flawless. A fantastic tribute to the forgotten and oft-dismissed power of fairy tales and ballet, whimsical enough to never forget its true nature, and dark enough to invest interest and revoke the idea of it just being a children's show.
It's characters range from the absurd to the sinister and some even manage to play both during the course of the series. The characters alone are uniquely crafted. Though some follow certain Junichi Sato molds, such as Fakir and Mythos, Ahiru stands out as a subversion of the cheerful, determined heroine his works are often known for in that her efforts do not always deem satisfaction, and her ultimate goal is not met with her ideal ending. Everyone interacts sincere to their motives and personalities and no one ever feels like they're doing something they shouldn't be.
Of course the art, provided by Sato's mainstay HAL Film Maker is divine. Every scene is fluid and graceful, especially the dance numbers. Character designs and backgrounds are very imaginative and hold the Germanic fairy tale motif that the series sets for itself.
The accompaniment for the series is a numerous array of classical music and ballet numbers, most of which will be recognizable by ear even if you can't remember the name of what you're hearing. Moreso, the music provides a direct parallel to the conflict in each scene it is used, and often scenes are choreographed around the music, making for dramatic impact mostly unparalleled.
Yes, the title is a turn-off, and I'm sure many of you out there think ballet is for 6-year-old girls, but Tutu takes the most universal and respected elements of the things children love and craft something everyone can and most likely will enjoy. Though it trudges in a few places, Tutu never forgets where it's going. It's magical waltz always catches up and makes sure it ends on the best note it can.
When you look at the picture cover of a show, that’s usually the deciding factor on whether or not it is worth your time to experience watching it for most who don’t bother to look into depth on what the show is mainly about. There is the common notion of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” by many forms of fiction, but that saying shouldn’t just be limited to books. If there are things to be said about Princess Tutu in relation to this quote, it definitely fits that description on every account.
It can be conceived that Princess Tutu isn’t your average Magical Girl
anime, even though it does follow the formulaic structure of one where the girl goes off into one plot arc to help save this person and so on. What is particularly unique about the show isn’t so much of its own style but of how it treats its own narrative in a meta-style of storytelling. It gives the show a very fairy-tale feel to the atmosphere whenever you see them try to mimic the classic fairy tales that involved princesses, in which Princess Tutu quickly turns its own spin on the genre and make it fresh and new to its own writing. The meta-narrative is nicely written to give us an abstract feel to the story and feel more attached to the characters and the struggles that they have to overcome that eventually drives them almost to mere madness. It almost becomes a self-parody of tragedy in how the characters want it to be a happy ending to the story because of stories of these typically end, even though the meta-narrative is at odds with that philosophy; of course I won’t get into it further to obviously avoid spoilers.
When we step into the world of Princess Tutu, it definitely has a lot of influence of old fantasy tales that have since been existing since the rise of Western Folklore, something that anime isn’t really known for a lot. Tchaikovsky would definitely be proud to have his symbolic nature of his artistic music to be portrayed on-screen. Anthropomorphic animals run about in the world but unfortunately it isn’t given enough clarity as to why the world around the characters even exist or how the society is the way it is, though it can be forgiven in how the plot is more focused on a minimal scale from the character interaction that goes on. It is, nevertheless, a very imaginative world to experience and quite unlike you would see in most anime in recent times.
To describe Princess Tutu’s authenticity in short terms, it would be like an actual theater production in animated motion. The ballet aspects of the show feel like it is structured like an actual ballet play in motion from how the dialogue is preformed and how the characters interact between one another. That’s where the uniqueness of the show jumps into gear and gives you a very fresh take on how you can portray a story in a show. Your typical magical girl show usually involves fight scenes that involve actual physical fighting involving magical powers that are mostly just their to be flashy and entertaining for younger audiences. While there are definitely key scenes that involve swords and physical confrontation, Princess Tutu actually involves ballet dancing to invoke their own powers to psychologically best out their opponent. This may seem a bit silly when you think about it in your head but what makes it work wonderfully is how well it’s directed and how it sets the tone of the show to new heights of tension and emotion, all without the single swing of a blade; that is if crows are considered a weapon of choice.
Memorable characters are extremely important in a show like Princess Tutu to help keep its world and story unforgettable, which it most definitely succeeds. Our lovable magical girl protagonist Ahiru might not break new ground in how we look at magical girl characters in the same way as say maybe Sakura in Cardcaptor several years ago, but she is nonetheless portrayed with absolute bravery and elegance. The way Ahiru comes across as a sometimes clumsy girl in rather very hilarious well-written comedic moments and as a deep involving sympathetic character who you always want to see overcome any obstacle that keeps her from obtaining her goal is not only deeply moving but also charming to say the least. Her voice might be a little grating at first when you come across her in the beginning, but thankfully she eventually warms up and you do feel a nice charm to her lovely personality as she transforms into Tutu.
The rest of the main cast actually have a lot of complexity to their own character archetypes to where there isn’t anything that is remotely cliched in anything about them from how unpredictable they are written into the story. Fakir is a great example of this where he is, at first, portrayed as the villain that stands in the way of Ahiru wanting to help Mytho regain his heart. It isn’t until later where we finally see the true reason for his own demeanor in protecting Mytho and provides extraordinary development to him, where we see him in a completely different light. His actions and reasons for doing the things that we were left with in mystery now come full circle and made Fakir a well-rounded character that we can empathize. To our main villain Rue, she is given the same kind of treatment as Fakir, albeit a little differently. Since she is the main villain, her archetype isn’t fully explored until the very last parts of the anime where we see her own tortured self that craves for love and acceptance from her prince so that she won’t feel lonely ever again by anyone. Rue contemplates about her own existence as someone who will forever be associated with her adopted father, who is a crow of all things. Her development at this point is in full circle and by that time we can now understand the pain she is going through, which puts her on a sympathetic light to the story that involve the dark themes that involve fate and death.
There are definitely side characters that pop up in most of the story arcs that happen, but they mostly only fill in their own roles to move the plot forward and nothing else that can be of significance. The ones that do make an impression are some of the students such as Ahiru’s two best friends who are always up to no good in their mischievous misdemeanor into pushing Ahiru into a relationship with either Fakir or Mytho. However, the one that is the most entertaining of all is the almighty Neko-sensei who’s gags all include how if any of the girls mess up he will force them into marriage with him. Not only is this absolutely hysterical but it never gets tiring or overly done in one episode and because of this, this useless form of entertainment that contributes nothing to the plot is always welcome if it’s Neko-sensei.
With the show’s implementation of ballet, music should be the main driving force in keeping the spirit of the ballet portion strong and poignant. The music ranges from composers from most periods of music that delved into ballet music. The most obvious one would be Tchaikovsky with his famous “Swan Lake” featured throughout most of the show and used to great effect and some other well-known composers who’ve wrote for some ballets such as Johann Strauss, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Erik Satie. What makes the score work so magnificently well is how it almost feel like the score is a part of the story itself and fits perfectly with the emotions that the characters exhibit whether it be sadness and despair with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade or happy and optimistic with Leo Delibes’s Coppelia. However, I felt the original score for the opening and ending didn’t leave a big impression on me whenever I came across them because of the weak vocals and downplayed instruments that hardly contribute much into the songs, which is kind of disappointing.
For people who feel discouraged about seeing this with the Magical Girl genre tagged into it, I wouldn’t necessarily call this mainly a Magical Girl show in so far as it is more of a show about tragedy and drama than anything else. Not to say that Magical Girl shows can’t do that and do it well, but it’s best to look past your bias and see Princess Tutu as something that may surprise you on so many levels in how much depth it has in store for you. The drama doesn’t feel forced in any way and flows very naturally to where it doesn’t treat you like you don’t know how a tragedy should be portrayed. The anguish that characters in Princess Tutu get into feel absolutely real and genuine that don’t push empty melodrama to make you sympathize with them.
With pure honesty and clarity, this is genuinely a heartwarming show to experience for yourself. Classical music, beautifully choreographed dances, and memorable characters make for an experience worth having in all of Princess Tutu’s running time. A modern fairy tale for the ages. One that we might not see again in the near future.
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