Yeah I hear you out there. Sounds like a very girly anime. Very likely a very silly anime.
But its not. This anime breaks a lot of the stereotypes of a magical girl anime. If you might even call it that!
We begin the story seeing a plain, ordinary duck watching a young man dance on a foggy lake. She is taken in by his lonely, sad eyes. She feels for him. She is infatuated. But there is an unworldly observer.
Drosselmeyer sees the duck watching the prince and is greatly amused. And so he decides to use her. And he gives her the ability to be a human girl. She awakens to find herself a dance student in Kinkan Town. Not only this, she is in the same school as her prince Mythos…. And his overprotective companion Fakir and the quiet beauty Rue.
A lot is discovered in the first half of the series. First, Mythos the Prince is devoid of all emotion. He is from a story called “The Prince and the Raven” – where he had been locked into an eternal battle there. However, somehow the raven monster had managed to escape from the story and into the real world. The Prince followed him and was forced to shatter his heart to seal the raven away.
Lost, and without emotions, he is taken in by Fakir’s family. He is basically a living, un-aging doll. Fakir decides he will be his knight and is severely overprotective of him. To the point of being a bully who keeps Mythos locked away in his own room. Rue meanwhile has grown up with them and has been in love with Mythos since she saw him. She is constantly trying to keep him to herself and away from the over protective Fakir.
The first thirteen episodes Ahiru (Duck in Japanese, and the name used in the English version) realizes she has the power to change into Princess Tutu, a character from a story like Mythos is. But perhaps, Princess Tutu’s story is far more tragic than the Prince’s own tale. For her story only had a few lines. Princess Tutu was in love with a Prince. She confessed to him that she loved him and vanished in a spec of light.
Duck is told by Drosselmeyer that she should help Mythos get back his emotions by finding the shards of his heart in the town and return them to him. Duck agrees because she wants to help him, to rid him of the loneliness and sadness that sees in his eyes when he dances.
However, she meets resistance from Fakir who wants to keep Mythos a mindless doll and not have him beset by his emotions. And then from Princess Kraehe who appears and wants Mythos to only love her and wants to possess him. At first Kraene stops Tutu from returning the shards, but then her father the Monster Raven tells Kraehe that Tutu needs to return the shards so he can be released from the seal so she allows it with much taunting and agitation.
Meanwhile, as each shard of the heart is returned Mythos is beset with some of the worst of human emotions. Fear, sadness, loneliness and very little positive. Duck begins to angst over what she is doing and it takes the Prince telling her to continue for her to consider doing so.
So she follows her heart pendant to the shards of the Prince’s heart – often living within the hearts of other people or objects. And she figures out what emotions those shards represent and she dances with them and soothes them and comforts them. And instead of fighting them into submission, her gentle persuasiveness wins them over and she is able to return the shards to Mythos.
Meanwhile we also learn that Fakir himself is a tragic figure of a story. He is the Knight who fights the Monster Raven to protect Mythos, but is torn apart by the Raven and dies. He actually has an acute phobia of the birds, something that Kraehe takes advantage of while pawing Mythos or antagonizing Tutu. By the 13th episode he decides to rebel against his fate in the story and not die. Refusing his roll in the tragic story.
However, half way through the series Princess Kraehe cannot stand how the Prince feels about Tutu and kidnaps him. Duck is forced to reveal herself to Fakir and together they go down to fight the Princess and save Mythos. However, Kraehe has the heart of the Prince and demands a contest. They must tell the Prince how much they love him and he must pick one of them.
Of course Tutu cannot do this or she will vanish. But she comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t need words and we get perhaps one of the most tragic and symbolic dances of the show. Tutu dances solo a dance for a couple that generally represents the couple’s deep eternal love for one another. Wordlessly she performs alone in the moonlight. Performing as if she had someone dear next to her.
It would perhaps put into form her fate. To be alone in the light. The heart of the prince is moved and his body moves to her to finish off the dance and Kraehe vanishes into the darkness. And the Prince and Tutu escape from the prison and dance into the night. Supposedly having a happy ending.
However! Drosselmeyer calls out through the darkness as someone reading a book to the reader – The Prince’s heart is still incomplete!!! And is it really all over?
Unlike the lighter tone of the first half of the series, the second half is much darker. Rue’s alter ego, Princess Kraehe reveals she has dipped the heart of the Prince in the blood of the Monster Raven and the Prince is now a villain – seeking out the hearts of pure hearted girls to sacrifice to the Monster Raven. The people of the “story” begin to act out of the storyline and a lot of questions of Free will, fate, love and affection are raised.
Angst is abundant as the characters look within themselves. Who they are. Why they do what they do. Drosselmeyer becomes a twisted god who’s creations are rebelling against the tragedy he’s creating for his own amusement. I would describe this half more but its really where the best of the series comes out to me. The ending isn’t want everyone wants. But it holds a very true and good lesson. Be true to yourself.
My favorite Character in all this: Duck / Ahiru / Princess Tutu
Duck is a small yellow duck with a gentle heart and innocent heart. She sees suffering and wants to help and soothe. She is given a magic pendant by Drosselmeyer to this end (For his own amusement and to get his story going) and turns into a girl : Ahiru (aka: duck in English).
As a human, Duck loves Ballet. However, she is clumsy, lacks focus, and her performances are very bad when you look at them from a technical standpoint. This causes her a lot of grief in school because of mocking from the students or the teacher. And yet, its often noted that her dancing has a lot of heart that makes it fun to watch, winning her viewers over. Duck has a very sweet and outgoing nature, if not incredibly ditzy and gawky one – yet despite her flaws, and sometimes even because of them, she wins over many people and makes friends easily.
However! Unlike Duck’s human form – Princess Tutu is one of near perfection. She is poised, graceful, elegant and extremely skilled in dance. Her dance is filled with pure feelings and wins over the emotions of any who dance with her. Duck often struggles throughout the series with compairing herself to her alter ego. She questions if Tutu is really her or simply a character from the story somehow working through her. --- In "The Prince and the Raven" (the story Mythos is from) Tutu was a minor character that confessed her love to the Prince -- which, because of a curse, caused her to turn into a speck of light and vanish. --- Tutu can retrieve Mytho's heart shards by dancing with them and helping them to realize their true feelings. However, Tutu's curse still haunts her. So even though when she encourages others to be true to themselves she can never speak of her own feelings out loud. Also, she suffers an additional angst through the series. Because with every shard of Mythos’ heart returned, he learns to feel sadness and pain, which cause Duck to doubt her own actions – is she really helping him or hurting him? But she pushes forward, hoping that in the end she'll be able to see Mytho smile.
In all three forms, she displays her best trait : Her willingness to put other ahead of herself. Even at the cost of her own happiness. Her self sacrifice and love make her a real hero.
Princess Tutu has a very girly and silly title. But I think this is perhaps one of the most underrated anime series ever created. It takes many classic ballet themes. Its music is also almost entirely classical. I really would recommend this anime to people. I went back to it about a week ago and just fell in love with it all over again. I even made some anime music videos on it (thus sealing my fate to being a terrible nerd)!
Princess Tutu: Dark Waltz -- A video created to illustate my feelings on the tragicness of Princess Tutu fated to never be with who she loves
Princess Tutu: You Must Love Me -- A video created (SPOILERS) for who Duck (the girl) likely end up with.
EHEM! So Anyway! If you can, go out and get it. Watch it in the Japanese first, then the English since you lose some translation and ... the voice of Fakir is Cloud Strife.. cough... anyway! Peace.