Reviews: Princess Tutu

Season two

My main thought while watching this season was "wow".

Season one was good, but in season two everything gets better: The funny bits are funnier, the clever bits are cleverer and the sad bits are freaking heartbreaking. It's clear this was made by people that cared about their story and took their audience seriously (then gave their work the sugariest title possible, but anyhow).

The animation, music and designs create a good atmosphere (or a bad one where required), but the real strength of this series lies with the characters and the story. While season two also starts with a few Monster Of The Week episodes, the plot continues to move fast and quickly takes over. Expect lots of "Holy shit what just happened"-moments. Nothing is how it seems, fairytale tropes are deconstructed and played with until the show reaches true unpredictability and the main characters are so earnestly human (the archetypes went out of the window too) you can't not care about what happens to them.

I recommend this show to anyone that's able to deal with the whole ballet-thing, since it really has a lot to offer and is a really clever take on the fairytale genre.

Curiouser and Curiouser (Episodes 1+2)

Warning: As part of recent live blog experiment I have been binging on shoujo anime. Although I try to be fair in reviews this is definitely outside my interests and it will probably show.

Princess Tutu is a shoujo anime about a duck who transforms into a girl who transforms into a ballerina princess in order to collect portions of a young man's soul through the power of interpretive dance. I wish I could say I made that up but I'm nowhere near creative enough. This show plays out like a Lewis Caroll acid trip fused with Sailor Moon. More I couldn't tell you since it was only a few episodes before it felt like I was going to start vomiting rainbows and had to stop. There's girly anime and then there's GIRLY anime, and be ye fairly warned all you Y chromosomes out there this is most definitely the latter.

That said I can't let this go without acknowledging its merits. Lots of animes revel in their weirdness but Princess Tutu is so earnestly weird without a shred of irony that it manages to maintain a sort of goofy charm. Everything from its paper cut out puppets intro to its leotard wearing cat dance instructor is played so feverishly straight that there's really nothing left to do but grudgingly nod your head in approval. The characters are generally likable with Duck being genuinely funny and well voice acted (Jp) despite the low standards for her profession. Crazy eyes narrator man also turned in a good performance, channeling a vaguely threatening chesire cat vibe while doing his best to keep the plot moving. The exceptions to the rule are Mute, whose pure dedication to being stuffed shirt manservice is almost admirable (almost), and his perpetually scowling handler whose sole purpose seems to be interrupting potential romantic subplots.

To sum up there is no way in hell that I could watch this, but I definitely get the feeling that it's not unwatchable. If you have a high tolerance for weirdness and a love for ultra-cheesy magical girl romance you'll probably get a kick out of this show. It appears to have run for 30 episodes, enough length to develop its mind bending plot and characters. I just regret I'll never get that far.

Season one

Princess Tutu is a Magical Girl anime about a duck, who's a girl, who's a magical ballerina. She is surrounded by Shoujo archetypes in a fairytale-esque world. She uses the power of dance to collect and return pieces of an emotionless prince's heart. It works.

Explaining why is not easy. It's setting is weird even by fantasy standards, with anthromorphic characters taking ballet lessons with normal people. The justification makes things even weirder: the setting is the creation of a writer, whose being dead won't stop him from interfering, providing commentary and messing with the Fourth Wall. He seems to be the Big Bad and his motive for messing things up is to make the story more interesting. All this weirdness is used for clever comedy and drama, and done in a way that makes your Willing Suspension Of Disbelief go “Sure, why ever not!”

This Post Modern villain and the opening narration, which is usually a short disturbing fairytale summary, make for a much darker (Unhappy endings, suicide and blood. You know, for kids!) and smarter anime than the premise alone suggests. The characters also work better than you'd think, particularly Ahiru/Duck, who is insecure, sweet and strong. Her transformation into Tutu is a better metaphor for 'growing up' than most of her counterparts, because she doesn't beat the crap out of her enemies, but is all about accepting and dealing with emotions. Not to mention you can't not want to hug her as she goes through the plot without complaining.

The show borders on Melodrama on occassion and has moments that would have been stronger if they had been less disturbing (I'm looking at you, Out Of Clothes Experience, although I would rather not) and the dancing gets kinda silly, but it's tone is usually good. I'm wondering about the Darker And Edgier second season and what is going to happen to the seemingly happy ending it has now.

While I think the demographic of teen girls likes this best (even the ones that generally dislike things that teen girls should like, such as myself), I'd recommend this to anyone that likes a clever fairytale and doesn't feel their cool is threatened if they root for a ballerina.