Princess Tutu

The title of this anime might scare away male viewers, as would a basic summary of the plot (magical girl ballerina helps people accept themselves through the power of dance/love), but really, this is a show for everyone who ever loved Disney movies or fairytales, while simultaneously wanting them to go much darker.

The background of the story revolves around Drosselmeyer, a creepy old storyteller who died before finishing his masterpiece, a fairy tale entitled "The Prince and the Raven," in which a heroic prince battles a demonic raven intent on corrupting the world. However, with no end to the story the hero and antagonist are locked in eternal combat, until the two escape to the world of Gold Crown Town. To prevent the raven from destroying the world, the Prince stabs himself with his sword, shattering his heart into pieces and imprisoning the raven. Doing this, however, turns the Prince into an emotionless unaging human doll, completely lacking in an sort of motivating force.

Fast forward a few years to the life of Duck, our main character. Duck is a young girl studying at the Gold Crown Town Academy, possibly the worst ballet student in the class of Mr. Cat (who is a literal cat, which only Duck seems to find strange). However, as she discovers, this isn't quite right: she used to be an actual duck, who fell in love with Mytho, the heartless prince, now a student at the Academy. Suddenly, Drosselmeyer appeared to her and offered her a pendant that would change her into a normal girl, as well as allow her to transform into a magical figure who can find and give back all of the emotions that Mytho lost.

This magical figure is the Princess Tutu of the title. Her pendent glows whenever she is near a piece of the prince's heart, most of whom have entered the bodies of people who have felt a need for an emotion. By dancing, Tutu is able to convince them to give up the pieces of the prince's heart, which she can then give to Mytho. However, Mytho's roommate, the gloomy and bad-tempered Fakir, as well as Mytho's mysterious girlfriend Rue, both stand in the way of Tutu regaining the heart shards for their own reasons, and with every shard returned to Mytho the raven becomes stronger....

This series is wonderful, mostly through the character of Duck. Duck is perhaps the most selflessly heroic heroine ever created, devoted to her mission to return Mytho's heart shards merely so he can be happy. Her determination, kindness, and bravery make her a perfect character for the story to center around. In the English dub, this is much helped through her being voiced by Luci Christian, who makes her sound both childish and kind and just makes you kinda want to go out and hug her.

As I mentioned this story is dark in some places. Each episode opens with a narration, mostly of very disturbing renditions of traditional fairy tales. Drosselmeyer, it becomes more and more clearer, is a great fan of tragic endings, and he appears to be setting up the story so that it must inevitably end tragically. In the second season,where the mission shifts from collecting heart shards to preventing the villains from corrupting the hearts of the innocent so they can be sacrificed to the raven, things get especially creepy and scary. In fact, for a bit I found the story a bit too dark, and for a few episodes the series seemed to be spinning its wheels in the mud of misery. But just about when I was worried it would continue like this, the show escapes from its funk, to create one of the most breathtakingly awesome endings ever.

The soundtrack is very well used. It's almost entirely music from famous ballets and the like, and its backing really helps make the dancing that occurs in the series more meaningful. It can also intensify the emotional impact of a scene, whether it's to make the scene sadder, scarier, more awesome, or indeed funnier.

All in all, a worthy effort for anyone who loves fairy tales and other stories with a dash of darkness. Anyone also who is interested in stories that themselves examine the power of stories should also check this out, particularly the latter half of the series, which gets really metatextual. A great show, and you should check it out if you can.


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