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Princess Tutu

Grade: A-

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Reviewed: Sub

Episodes: 26 (see notes below)

Notes: Was televised as 38 episodes (14 regular episodes and 24 half episodes which were later combined on DVD for a total of 26 episodes).

Introduction:

Drosselmeyer, an infamous writer, died before completing his last story. The raven and prince of the story were thus locked in eternal combat. Then the raven escaped into the real world and was pursued by Prince Mythos. The prince sealed the raven in his heart, which was then shattered into many pieces to prevent it from escaping. Only Princess Tutu can collect the pieces and restore the prince's heart. But at what cost?

Animation/Music/Voices:

Beautiful animation and music, but then again it's hard to go wrong with a score based on classical music and ballet, most notably Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker." The opening and ending themes, which are not classical pieces, are still lovely. The character designs are very cute, too cute, in fact for this anime which has a dark frame. The cute characters might be a turn off at first to older viewers, but keep watching - you'll be surprised.   Some of the characters in the story are animals, such as the cat ballet instructor and the anteater in love with the prince, which make for some interesting relationships. The voices are expressive and fit the characters well. Princess Tutu/Ahiru's seiyuu shows nice range going from an annoying quacky little girl/duck to a sophisticated prima ballerina.

Review:

At first view, this series appears to be geared toward children with its fairy tale like setting, talking animals, and cute character designs. But the series develops into something much darker, more complicated, and more adult.

What makes this series particularly special is the framing of a story within a story within a story. The setting is a ballet school where the main character, Ahiru (means "duck" in Japanese), is given a magical pendant by not-so-dead Drosselmeyer that allows her to sense the presence of Prince Mytho's heart pieces and which allows her to transform into Princess Tutu to recover the fragments from the misguided or misfortunate. Each fragment represents an emotion, but most of them are negative. The fragments are attracted to those who suffer from the same emotion, such as loneliness, sadness, frustration. Princess Tutu uses her dancing to draw out the true selves of the possessed owners.

The series is not episodic but takes a little while to develop. But once it does, there's a number of nice twists and good strong character development. Although Ahiru is too cute and a bit annoying, the other characters, including her alter ego Princess Tutu, are depicted more seriously.   Rue/ Kraehe, Ahiru's rival and main antagonist is a complicated villain and becomes quite likeable and sympathetic by the end. Fakir, who at first seems to be a controlling jerk, has his own reasons to protect the prince and discourage Princess Tutu. There's a lot more going on than it first seems and by the end the viewer should feel satisfied that he/she has just seen something quite different, original, and complete.

The first half involves collecting the pieces of Mytho's shattered heart while the second half deals with Kraehe and the raven. Pay extra attention to the intros framing each episode. The discourse is not always what you think the episode will be about. Rated PG and recommended for children and adults, more for women than men.