The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Princess Tutu

Title: Princess Tutu
Company: Hal Film Maker
Genre: Drama
Format: 38 episodes
Dates: 16 Aug 2002 – 23 May 2003

Synopsis: Once upon a time, the famed writer Drosselmeyer resided in the town of Kinkan. Obsessed with his true-to-life stories, he toyed with the fates of others through his pen until he was executed by the country’s noblemen. Years later, the lovelorn duck Ahiru spots her beloved prince Mytho dancing by a pond. Distraught that she will never be able to confess her feelings as a duck, Drosselmeyer reappears offering her a powerful necklace: one that allows her to transform into the beautiful Princess Tutu.

The Highlights
Voice: Inspired by famed ballets and fairy tales, but never struggles to find its own.
Mood: Transitions between comedic and dramatic freely and effectively.
Metafiction: Heavily interactive but never once feels intrusive.

Approaching another decade of cinema, more than several recent films have attempted to either interpret or reinvent fairy tales of years past. For every hit comes several failures; though some succeed in their modern revisits several others crash and burn in a glorious blaze of hackneyed storylines and explosive 21st century special effects. But at the heart of these revisionings lies something special that is captured by Princess Tutu,  a fairy tale more genuine and heartfelt than nearly any princess story ever told.

Although Princess Tutu’s story is wrapped in countless layers of famous fairy tales and fables, each story is spun in a way that remains not only fresh, but extremely satisfying. Taking a cue from its roots, underneath the pep and dreamlike veneer lies dark and mature themes only accentuated by pitch-perfect switches in the visual and audio direction. And yet, though the influences remain clear, the presentation is wholly unique and never predictable. The script frequently employs unexpected turns with the stories used as Princess Tutu’s foundation as the show veers towards the dramatic, never sticking to the same beat as its predecessors. While Princess Tutu tackles each of these stories in an episodic format for the most part, the medley is never the same; each story stands toe-to-toe with the next while still retaining its themes and the overarching plot with poise and grace.

Accompanying the gentle, surreal nature of the show come frequent shifts in atmosphere which flow freely all-throughout. Few times does a segment miss its mark and both the comedy and drama shine consistently. The dance sequences are especially a treat; while lacking the raw animation quality of a show such as The Idolm@ster, the abstract nature of interpretive dance and superior art direction make the dancing feel emotive and real. This is only bolstered by the excellent use of classical music, many of which are famous ballet compositions of Johann Strauss II and Tchaikovsky, that never feel jarring or out of place. The command over atmosphere is nothing short of outstanding and shifts from cheerful to dreary and brooding without a hitch.

The heavy use of metafiction in Princess Tutu provides a fascinating storytelling element for the series. Instead of being utilized solely as satirical outside commentary or as a means for comedy, it instead takes a radical role in influencing the narrative. Although the main quartet actively reprises their parts in fairytales at first, this is only a ruse which becomes gently undone as the story unfolds. Instead of confining its characters to tropes, the metafictional spin allows for a deeper glimpse inside the minds of the characters. Countless folds of their true personas are revealed through unspeakably genuine means as each of the characters struggle with their fates and identities. Their emotions are nothing but authentic, and the self-awareness of our heroes only gives way to brute honesty.

More authentic than the stories from which it originates, Princess Tutu never fails to ring true. Watching Ahiru and her companions continue to dance a pas de deux true to them is infinitely more beautiful and wonderfully more grim than any wave of a wand or pumpkin carriage. Raw in its emotions and complex in its character’s portrayals, Princess Tutu is truly as wonderful as the swan she becomes: elegant, mystifying, and inspired.

The Rating: 9

7/10

Reviewed by: Click

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