30 December 2010

Anime rec: Princess Tutu

Long time, no update, and I come bringing a recommendation!

Princess Tutu is a magical girl show in which the battles are fought with ballet.

No, wait. Come back! I promise it's not like Minky Momo with toe shoes. Let me try again.

Princess Tutu is a deconstruction of fairy tales and tropes and a consideration of fate versus free will.

That makes it sound really boring. Have I mentioned that the magical girl is a duck?

Now that I (hopefully) have your attention, let's get more into the details of the story. There once was a man who died. He was a writer of fairy tales, and before he could finish his last piece, the story of the prince and the raven, he died, and the prince and the raven escaped from the story. The prince had to shatter his heart to seal away the raven.

Ahiru (Duck) is swimming on her pond, when she sees a beautiful boy with sad eyes dancing ballet. She wishes she could make him happy, and a creepy old man pops out of the air and asks her what she would give to make him happy. She answers, "My life." The creepy old man gives her a pendant that turns her into a girl. It also turns her into Princess Tutu. (Got that? A magical girl who's really a duck.)

The beautiful boy with sad eyes is the prince from the story, and it's Princess Tutu's job to return the shards of his heart. His name is Mytho, and he's best friends with Fakir, another student at Gold Crown Academy's ballet section. His girlfriend, Rue, is another ballet student. But, naturally, none of them is just a ballet student.

It's not that simple, of course, and every magical girl needs a nemesis. Tutu's comes in the form of Princess Kraehe, the raven's daughter. The tale of the prince and the raven is about to begin anew, and the principal actors in the tale rebel against their fate: the knight refuses to die, the puppet refuses to be on its strings, the princess who's fated to vanish upon confessing her love refuses to speak the words that will turn her into a speck of light.

Gold Crown Town is a place where stories become real and where nothing is quite normal. Ahiru's ballet teacher is a slightly anthropomorphic cat. There's another student who's a goat, along with meerkats, aardvarks, and cows. A traveling troupe comes to perform a show, and the troupe leader turns into an electric eel. (One of the dancers says, "He wasn't like that until we came here.")

It's an excellent deconstruction of both fairy tale tropes and magical girl tropes, and the characters are very realistic. There's no lack of stock characters -- the lovelorn widow, the show-off who's really awful -- but the handful of characters who matter are well drawn, and they're active, which you'd expect in a story that's all about challenging your fate. Speaking of well drawn, the character designs are perfect.

It's a magical girl show in the vein of Revolutionary Girl Utena, which is also (technically speaking) MG and about revolutionizing the world.

You can buy the complete collection.

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