Once upon a time there was a man who died. The man's work was the writing and telling of stories. But he could not defy death. The last story the man was working on was about a brave and handsome prince who vanquishes a crafty raven. But now it seems their battle will go on for eternity. "I'm sick and tired of this!" Cried the Raven. "I'm sick and tired of this!" Cried the prince as well. The raven escaped from the pages of the story and the prince pursued the foul creature. In the end, the prince took out his own heart and sealed the raven away by using a forbidden power. Just then, a murmur came from somewhere: "This is great!" Said the old man who was supposed to have died.And so the heartless prince is found and enrolled in a ballet school, whilst the story remains static for years. One cold, foggy day the old man (Drosselmeyer) sees a wistful duck watching the Prince. And so he brings her into the story in the hopes that she'll move it forward, bestowing her a mystical pendant that transforms her into Princess Tutu: a princess with the power to restore the Prince's heart to him, while soothing the hearts of those corrupted by the shards.But great changes are foreshadowed as these actions catch the attention of Fakir, a cold-eyed boy who dictates everything Mytho does, and Rue, the prince's enigmatic girlfriend. Unhappy with the Prince's restoration, both take activeroles in the story, hoping to halt its progress, while the story twists down a dark, complex path, revealing Drosselmeyer's story to have a life of its own. As Ahiru (Duck in the English dub and official DVD subtitles, to preserve Theme Naming) struggles with the decisions she makes and the impact they will have on others, her priorities shift and she fights Tutu's fate.The anime takes inspiration from a number of classic ballets; Most of the music is taken from these, and the two princesses' costumes are inspired by Odile and Odette of Swan Lake. Also, guitar ninjas.A markedly different manga was made after the anime. Spoilers will be marked when possible, but some spoilers are unmarked.The anime can be watched dubbed on Hulu.
This show provides examples of:
Abhorrent Admirer: On the occasion that Mr. Cat has a girl interested in him, it's usually someone undesirable like a goat or a sloth.
Advice Backfire: Drosselmeyer's advice to Duck in episode 6 makes her even more determined to quit being Princess Tutu.
All Therapists Are Muggles: Fakir and Rue could definitely use some therapy considering their issues, but they'd have to find a therapist who would be able to swallow the idea that part of their problems stem from being characters in a fairytale.
An Aesop: It's ALL RIGHT to be yourself, whether you are a duck, a prince with a messiah complex, a failed knight or the spawn of The Big Bad. Also, true love is not selfish.
Ancient Conspiracy: The men who killed Drosselmeyer are still around, just in case his power crops up again.
Angrish: What Mr. Cat devolves into when Duck is being klutzier than usual. Naturally, his screams are... cat yowls.
Animal Motifs: Very common, particularly swans (Tutu, Mytho, sometimes even Rue) and crows (the villains in general).
Anime Theme Song: Written for the show, both gently-paced pieces of music that are influenced by Classical music.
Animorphism: Sort of. The main character changes back and forth between a duck and a human; she is unable to communicate in her duck form, but there are plenty of other anthropomorphized animals who go around acting more or less as humans with no problems.
Arc Words: "Those who accept their fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory."
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At one point, Edel has a tray full of jewels and offers one to Duck. She says its name is "Dream." Duck starts asking what some of the others are... "Hope." "Adventure." "Mystery." "Artistic License." ("Author's Bypass," in the English dub.)
Bittersweet Ending: The fantasies are broken, the good guys win, Rue and Mytho show their true love and this lets them defeat the Raven with the help of Duck and Fakir...but not only do Rue and Mytho have to leave Gold Crown Town so he can reclaim his throne, but Duck/Tutu is stuck in her original duck form forever.
Bishie Sparkle: Both used seriously (in daydreams) and lampshaded in the form of One-Scene Wonder Femio followed around by an aide with spotlights and rose petals.
Blood Magic: Fakir uses blood in Akt 8 to revive the powers in Mytho's sword. The various applications of Raven's Blood apply here, as well.
Body to Jewel: The pieces of Mytho's heart are represented by jewel shards. Not only does it provide an opportunity to avert Squick, it could also be justified by the fact that Mytho is not truly human, but a character from Drosselmeyer's story who escaped into reality.
Break the Cutie: Arguably, everyone in the whole damn series. But mostly Rue.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: It's the very premise of the show, with Mytho literally coming from a story and Drosselmeyer's story breaking its own fourth wall to play out in 'reality.' Which is another story in and of itself in which the characters end up breaking the fourth wall repeatedly to essentially declare war on the author.
In an interesting variation, Princess Kraehe breaks the internal fourth wall in Akt 12 by speaking directly to Drosselmeyer. He is very put off by this.
Also Drosselmeyer talks to the camera and at some point wonders "Could I be in someone else's story as well?"
A Boy and His X: If you view the series from Fakir's perspective, you could probably call it "a boy and his duck".
Closed Circle: Though it's not obvious at first, the town is completely cut off from the outside world. It's not obvious, because people occasionally spontaneously appear at the town gate, and other, similar things are orchestrated to make it seem like the world is still connected; but as Duck realizes later on, you can't leave.
Comedic Sociopathy: Shows up in a lot of areas, but particularly Lilie's treatment of Duck. In fact, in the second season Lilie pretty much becomes the patron saint of this trope.
Comically Missing the Point: Mr. Cat in "The Maiden's Prayer" states that the runner up will marrying him, to which every girl has then vanished out of fear. Mr. Cat seems to assume that means every girl is focused towards winning the Runner Up prize and have all run off to start practicing.
Contemptible Cover and Covers Always Lie: The cover to the first compilation of Princess Tutu, while appropriate for the theme and character pictured, doesn't even have the titular character on it. Later compilations fixed the problem, though they had packaging issues.
Continuity Nod: A heart shard possessed lamp is taken home by Duck after she gives the shard back to Mytho, and it can be seen in her room in later episodes.
Cooking Duel: Not all of the dancing in Tutu are duels, but nearly all of the duels in the series involve dancing. Played more often for drama than laughs.
The Corruption: The Raven's blood has this effect on people, eventually turning them into crows.
Couldn't Find a Pen: Drosselmeyer wrote a story in his own blood after the Book Men cut off his hands. This is the story that is controlling the town.
Crapsaccharine World: The cutesy character designs and peaceful-looking fairytale town are deceiving. This is a surprisingly dark anime at times, particularly once the secrets of the town begin to be revealed.
Crash into Hello: Mytho is introduced in the first episode when Duck trips and is caught by him. Rue also met Mytho this way as a child.
Creepy Crows: If you see crows or ravens flying around, it's not a good sign. If they start flocking together and swarming, it's safest to shut yourself in your house until they're gone. If their leader shows up, you're screwed. This motif is also very prominent with Princess Kraehe and evil!Mytho.
Dance Therapist/Talking the Monster to Death: Tutu's "combat" revolves more around talking to her opponent/dance partner about why they feel a particular emotion so strongly in order to release the heart shards of the prince, and to counteract the Evil!Mytho's attempts to steal hearts.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Despite Kraehe fully believing there was no way she could lose to Tutu in Episode 13, she still has the Love Shard soaked with Raven's blood, which still kept him to her if the shard was returned to him.
Determinator: Drosselmeyer. Hands cut off? No problem, just keep writing your stories in your own blood. Executed? Extend your reach from beyond the grave. It all just adds to the drama of your epic tragedy.
Disappears into Light: If Princess Tutu ever confesses her love for the prince she will become a speck of light.
Domestic Abuse: Fakir towards Mytho in season one, and Mytho towards Rue in season 2.
Dramatic Unmask: Fakir in episode 8, when his mask gets cracked and falls apart after a confrontation with Kraehe. Overlaps with the trope immediately above.
And a more subtle one much later on in the second season. As Kraehe finds out the truth - that she's a normal human that had been kidnapped by the Raven as an infant, her Dark Magical Girl transformation gradually reverses itself back into Rue's school uniform. After this, Kraehe never again makes an appearance in the series aside from flashbacks.
DVD Commentary: Included in the North American and Australian releases of the show. Some are of the voice actors (and are usually goofy), but others include the staff that wrote the dub explaining some of the references in the show and choices they made during translation. One even explains how the packaging was designed!
Early-Installment Weirdness: Very minor, but the fairytale book is called The Prince and the Crow in the first few episodes before settling on The Prince and the Raven.
Relatively minor, but in the first episode at one point Drosselmeyer views Duck from the gear world through what appears to be a mirror. Every other time, he watches others through gears.
Subverted in that Duck spends much of the show worrying about and trying to avoid Princess Tutu's destiny to 'fade away' after saving the prince.
Traditionally done: Rue almost gets this at the end of the anime, when the Raven swallows her and sends her to "Despair", a ghostly world where she's forced to dance until she wastes away. Mytho saves her.
Faux Fluency: The show is implied to be set in Germany, and one scene has Fakir recite a long spell in German—but Chris Patton doesn't know German and had to memorize the lines off a recording. (Takahiro Sakurai likely had to do something similar.)
Feathered Fiend: The Raven and the crows, not to mention Princess Kraehe and Mytho, when he's turned into a crow.
A single rose in a vase in Fakir and Mytho's dorm serves as a simile for Mytho's current state when seen in the anime, Princess Tutu and Prince Siegfried have flower-themed powers, Femio hands out roses as declarations of "love"...flowers are all over the place in this anime.
Episode 16 in its entirety, since it centers around a girl who absolutely adores flowers.
Foreshadowing: All. Over. To the point where early episodes that seem like filler couldn't be removed from the show without removing a lot of build up for what happens later in the series.
Every episode has something that becomes important later on, even Episode 17.
In the very first episode, Duck comments that Rue makes a better match for Mytho than she does.
More and more crows start to appear around town the further the story goes in, foreshadowing the story becoming darker.
Friend or Idol Decision: Duck is given one of these at the end of the anime: Give Mytho his final heart shard (her pendant) and watch as he rides off into the sunset with Rue, or keep the pendant for herself and continue being a girl?
Furry Confusion: Many of the town's residents are barely-anthropomorphized animals that act, dress, talk, and are treated like humans, but look more or less like real animals, bipedalism aside. Ordinary, inhuman animals are also seen. Then there's Duck, whose original form is an "ordinary duck" that doesn't wear clothes, can't speak German, can't go to school... and looks nothing like an actual duck, being more of a cartoonish, emotive Funny Animal duckling.
Gratuitous German: The scene where Fakir retrieves Mytho's sword, plus nearly all of the text shown in the series. There's some hints that the show is set in Germany, or at least in the equivalent in the show's world.
Heart Trauma: Mytho is a Prince who sacrificed his heart to seal away the Raven.
At one point, Duck asks Mr. Cat if there's any way to repair a damaged love. Instead of delivering one of his outlandish marriage proposals like he does in every other scene, he freezes and turns away, telling her gently that sometimes lost love simply can't be repaired.
Actually pretty much anytime one needs advice, Mr. Cat is always there to give very deep advice that usually helps the character. Though he will more often than not lead said conversation back to marriage.
Hilarious Outtakes: The first two volumes of the anime in the US feature an extra of the dub actors cracking jokes and flubbing their lines.
Homage: The show is full of ballet and opera homages.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episode titles are in German, and the subtitles name the classical piece used as a theme in the episode. Also, instead of using the word "episode", they use "Akt" (German for "act").
Intimate Healing: In a flashback, Rue takes water into her mouth and kisses an unconscious, dehydrated Mytho to revive him.
Invisible Parents: Very few of the kids ever mention their parents, likely because they're all living in a boarding school. None of the main four seem to have parents over the course of the story. We never see any duck parents for Duck, Mytho is a storybook character and thus wouldn't have been born the same way as a genuine human being (note that he doesn't age because the story hasn't moved forward), Fakir's parents died to protect him when he was just a boy, and Rue was kidnapped as a child. Even if her parents were still alive at the end of the story, she would have no idea who they were or how to contact them. Given that it's been over a decade since her disappearance, Rue's parents likely stopped searching for her as well.
Involuntary Shapeshifting: Kraehe's transformation at first; it is never clear whether Duck/Ahiru or Drosselmeyer controls the Princess Tutu transformation - in the first season, it appears he does, while in the second it seems more like Duck/Ahiru is in control. However, Duck/Ahiru doesn't control when she switches back and forth from a girl and a duck—when she quacks, she turns into a duck, and when she gets wet she turns back into a girl, as long as she has her pendant on. However, she starts using it to her advantage pretty quickly.
In Name Only: The manga version bears little resemblance to the anime, including removing nearly all of the fairytale elements and turning Edel into a human shopkeeper who fills Drosselmeyer's role (including being the Big Bad).
Law of Chromatic Superiority: Rue, the school's best dancer, wears a red leotard instead of the typical blue that everyone else wears. On the flip side, Duck indicates herself as the odd one out in her ballet class by wearing a white leotard.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Duck and many other characters (usually those whom just entered the town) seem to notice something suspicious early in the show (mostly animals as people). However they quickly forget about this shortly after noticing.
Look Behind You: To keep Duck from telling Mytho that she's Tutu at the start of the second season, Fakir uses this. While his excuses seem very outlandish to viewers, it actually could have happened in the story.
Duck: Um, I... Well, the truth is... The truth is... Fakir: PRINCESS TUTU. Duck:QUACK! (Fakir yanks Mytho and faces him away from Duck just in time for him to miss her turning into a duck.) Fakir: ...Is flying right over there. ...No, maybe it's a crocodile? Mytho: There's nothing there. And Princess Tutu and a crocodile are totally different anyway, Fakir. ...Fakir? Fakir: Oh? Right. Maybe I was just imagining things. I really thought I saw a flying cow, but...
Loop Hole Abuse: Duck can't tell Mytho she loves him or else she'll turn into a speck of light. It didn't say anything about dancing.
Loss of Identity: Duck grapples over who Tutu is in relation to herself and whether she's just a part in a story or not.
The Lost Lenore: Akt 3 gives us a male example with the restaurant owner's husband. She finds herself completely unable to move on without him, to the point she no longer finds joy in her cooking and spends more time trying to persuade her customers to stay as long as possible. Of course, being possessed by the Prince's heart shard of loneliness doesn't help either.
Lovable Marriage Maniac: Mr. Cat, with his strangely endearing tendency to propose/threaten marriage to his underage students
Magic Pants: Averted when Duck turns from a girl to a duck, but played straight when she turns into Princess Tutu.
Magic Skirt: Averted for Princess Tutu (they aren't afraid to show the bottom of her leotard for the sake of accurately animating her dances, but then that's Truth in Television for lots of ballerinas). Played straight almost every other time a character dances in a skirt, though. Mytho also jumps out of a window twice! wearing nothing but an unbuttoned shirt that barely hits the tops of his thighs and manages to not flash the camera.
Male Gaze: In one scene, Autor is following behind Rue, and the camera focuses on Rue's back and slowly...pans down to examine her rear end and legs. The camera then switches to show Autor looking downwards and blushing, implying that the view we were seeing was from Autor's point of view.
Rue: My love has made you into this. I have no right to love you.
Narrator: Every episode begins with a narrator telling a story that relates to the plot of the episode in some way (some more than others). Drosselmeyer also serves as a sort of narrator in some scenes.
It turns out that five of the remaining pieces of the prince's heart are actually the seal that protects the town from the Monster Raven. Guess what happens when they're taken away.
Fakir does this around the midway point of the anime, as well. Kraehe tries to make Mytho destroy his feeling of love with the enchanted sword, and Fakir breaks Mytho's sword with his own to stop it from happening. Unfortunately, aside from The Power of Love, the only way to save Mytho's heart from raven blood is to remove it with the enchanted sword... As Fakir finds out one episode later. Oops.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the second season, Drosselmeyer taking Tutu captive, telling her about the fact that she's a story character and trying to force her into a Sadistic Choice made her realize she didn't want to follow his commands anymore.
Not Now, Kiddo: Duck tries to distract Rue from seeing Mytho with another girl, but Rue just smiles and brushes off the silly duck flailing about her feet. Duck tries again in her human form, but doesn't make it in time to stop Rue from seeing Mytho. It turns out that Rue's not bothered by it, since she knows that Mytho's heartless and not truly interested in the other girl. She does thank Duck for her concern, though.
Offing the Offspring: The Raven tries to eat the heart of his daughter, Kraehe, when she fails to deliver him a sacrifice. Later, he eats her as punishment for saving the Prince (but she gets better). Of course, it turns out she isn't his real daughter, and he kidnapped her as a baby.
Panty Shot: Quite a few in the anime during the girls' ballet sequences. There are more perverted instances in the manga, though.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Both Princess Kraehe and Princess Tutu look exactly like Rue and Duck, respectively, except wearing elaborate ballet outfits and with different hairstyles, and yet very few people are able to figure out who they really are, and those who do take quite a long time to accomplish it. It turns out that anyone outside the main cast simply sees Tutu as a huge, white swan; something similar may apply to Kraehe, but she never makes a public appearance like Tutu.
Everyone except Femio, who going off his dialogue when faced down with both Tutu and Kraehe, sees human girls, and not two swans.
Post-Victory Collapse: Happens to Fakir after he shatters Mytho's sword at the end of the first season. Also happens to Duck in "Wandering Knight ~ Egmont Ouvertüre" (after a battle with the titular ghost) and in the beginning of "The Prince and the Raven ~ Danse Macabre". Oh, and then there's Autor after he tackles the Book Man... okay, the series likes this trope a lot.
Show Within a Show: Four-fold, with 1) a ballet-structured story, about kids attending a ballet school, whose battles are ballet dances. 2) the school puts on both a ballet and a dramatic play. 3) the story of the Prince & The Raven. 4) Gold Crown Town itself is a story written by Drosselmeyer, and the characters from the Prince & the Raven story are reincarnated as actual people into the town's living story.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Tutu's more on the idealistic scale, particularly considering that in the end, the emotion of Hope is what is the key to the final victory—and what Princess Tutu has represented all along, and Fakir changes dramatically from Cynicism to Idealism over the course.
Slow Clap: In Akt 2, after Duck and Rue's pas de deux, the entire class remains speechless, until the silence is broken by Fakir clapping. Then Mytho starts clapping as well, and everyone else does the same.
Small Reference Pools: The show notably doesn't have one. You can impress college professors with the knowledge of classical music you get from this show!
Snicket Warning Label: The first season's ending is a perfectly normal happy ending, and except for a small reminder that there's still some loose strings to tie up, it feels like an actual ending. Then the second season rolls around...
Soundtrack Dissonance: In the final episode, the uplifting Waltz of the Flowers theme plays during a hopeful scene of Duck dancing and continues playing as the crows peck her and beat her up.
Stealth Pun: In episode 6, when Mr. Cat meets the lead ballerina of the dance troupe, he starts dancing a pas de chat. GEDDIT? BECAUSE HE'S A CAT.
Near the end of the series Fakir decides to rewrite the story instead of staying a Knight. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Story Arc: Every episode fits into the story of the series, but there's definitely a clear differentiation between the two seasons. They seem like two different arcs that form together to create a whole.
10-Minute Retirement: Duck's Heroic BSOD at the end of akt 6 eventually drives her to renounce Tutu and drop her pendant into a stream in akt 7. However, Mytho, who's come to realize he wants all of his heart back, is able to talk her into continuing to search for the heart shards.
The Teaser: All of the episodes open with a fairytale told by a female narrator and illustrated by charcoal drawings.
Theme Naming: Several people in this town, including the main character herself, have names that are either animal names outright (Ahiru/Duck, Neko-sensei/Mr. Cat) or are animal names with a name-suffix attached to it (Anteaterina, Miss Goatette).
Un Duet: Princess Tutu dances a pas de deux by herself.
Uncanny Village : Duck is quite possibly the first to notice that something is wrong. For starters, she is the only one that realizes the weirdness of having a talking cat as a teacher, and animal classmates. When Duck tries to get outside of the town, she is unable to. She also realizes that people spontaneously materialize, as if they had always existed, at the town's entrances. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that the town was actually a real town trapped in Drosselmeyer's story.
WAFF: Due to the Bittersweet Ending and there being even more female fanfic writers in this fandom than normal, WAFFy fanfics pop up quite often, particularly ones where Fakir either turns Duck back into a girl, or turns himself into a duck.
Weirdness Censor: Most of the people in Gold Crown are literally unable to realize there's anything odd about the town, thanks to Drosselmeyer's story controlling the town.Duck seems to be the only one who thinks it's weird having a cat for a teacher.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: There was one included at the end of the last episode while the credits rolled, but the future lives of the characters were so vague and quickly shown that many fans are left unsatisfied. On the other hand, it seems the purpose of the epilogue was to give a glimpse into the characters' lives afterward without revealing too much so as the viewer could widely interpret what would happen next.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: Kinkan/Gold Crown/Goldekrone isn't given a specific location, although fanon assumes it's set in Germany (since nearly all of the text shown in-series is German, including a map of the town where the "Goldekrone" name is taken from, and the town itself is heavily based on Nordlingen, Bavaria).