Back in the day, when Anime Network was a thing, I was introduced to a lot of anime series that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise: Excel Saga, Slayers, Noir, Saiyuki, and Petite Princess Yuci. One of the series I frequently saw but avoided like the plague was Princess Tutu. It just looked too cute, I didn’t enjoy the dub, and I skipped it entirely. Then, many years later, after watching a JesuOtaku video where they listed it in their top pics, I decided to check it out … and I’ve never looked back.
Princess Tutu is both a magical girl anime and a fairy tale, and it was created by Ikuko Itoh, who was a character designer and animation director on the original Sailor Moon anime series.
Once upon a time, there was a writer named Drosselmeyer, who had the power to make his stories come to life, which is already a power no one should have. Drosselmeyer died before he could finish his last story, The Prince and the Raven, and that left the two now-living titular characters locked in an eternal battle with no endgame. Somehow, the Raven broke free into the real world, and in order to seal away the evil, Prince Siegfried shattered his own heart with his sword, losing all his memories and emotions.
Drosselmeyer ignores the literal Death of the Author and, in ghost form, decides the story must have an ending.
He finds a way to make this happen when he meets a little duck (Ahiru), who has fallen in love with the prince, and gives her a magic pendant that can transform her into an ordinary human girl, as well as the ballerina magical girl Princess Tutu. As Tutu, it’s Ahiru’s duty to find Mytho’s heart and return them to him.
And that is just the very tip of the emotional iceberg that is this story.
For me what is so beautiful about Princess Tutu are the themes of the story and how it pushes the characters. This isn’t a sweet fairy tale; the characters are being pulled in different directions by “destiny,” but what does that even mean? What makes you the hero, the heroine, the villain, or the chosen one? Those are all things that Princess Tutu questions, and while it takes a moment for you, as the viewer, to fully understand the scope of the story, once it takes off, it takes off.
Some people might be put off by the dancing, but I think of the dancing in Princess Tutu serves the same function as a battle in a shonen. It’s just the climax of the emotions; it isn’t the meat of the story. Besides, ballet dancing is one of the most athletic things the human body can do, so I’d like to see Goku turn Super Saiyan en pointe!
It is hard to talk fully about the series without spoiling it, but I will say that if you were turned off by the name, give it a chance. First off, there is nothing wrong with princess stories, and secondly, there is a reason so many people, even those who don’t usually like magical girl anime, hold it in high regard. It is beautiful, makes good use of classical music, and tells an amazing story.
I will say that, right now, only the dubbed version is streaming. I am not a huge fan of the dub, but it gets the job done.
Also, once you watch the series, you’ll be able to fully understand the awesomeness of this classic AMV.
(image: Sentai Filmworks)
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