Telling a Story with Princess Tutu (Ep 14-26)

Who’s telling the story here?

I finished watching through the Princess Tutu anime, and overall it was an enjoyable story. The characters were fun and likeable, and had a surprising amount of development over the course of the series. The main four characters at least changed a good deal, made clearly evident if you compare Duck, Fakir, Mythos, and Rue as they are at the end of the series to how they are at the very beginning. I think I particularly liked how the romance subplots turned out for the four, which worked with the shoujo tropes nicely.

Overall Princess Tutu is a pretty bizarre anime,  in that it needs to be watched with a couple things in mind: namely that it’s very ballet-centric, and the plot in general reflects this. The story itself though is pretty interesting to analyze, because it’s essentially a story within a story. Or rather, it’s about how an old man named Drosselmeyer somehow could bring stories to life (effectively changing reality), and how even after his death the world of his story was still alive and well–and oblivious to the fact their lives and actions are under his control.

Or are they? As is made clear early on in the series, the characters often do things that Drosselmeyer didn’t expect! “Duck wasn’t supposed to do this.” “Why would Mythos be thinking that?” Etc. I found this quite fun, because I (like so many other people who blog) fancy myself a writer. I’m currently working on my eighth novel, so I’ve encountered this phenomenon many times before. I have things in mind for my characters, but they often end up doing things I didn’t plan for! This element of surprise I feel is important for authors to tap into, and to work with in order to create a cohesive, unique, and engaging story. If the story goes from point A to B to C and finally D with everything running its expected course… well, then it feels like a story we’ve all read a hundred times before.

Like many authors, a bitter Drosselmeyer wanted his characters to suffer. This is conflict! This is what makes anyone care about the story. If there’s no obstacles to face or inner struggles to deal with, there is no arc, no character development, and little reason for readers to care what the characters do. At times I have found myself excited at the prospect of finding new ways to make life difficult for my protagonists. Cruel? Yes, but as long as it’s something the characters can deal with in a way that will satisfy the readers, then these challenges are typically necessary. Does the story need to end in tragedy though? I suppose this depends on the story, but also on how the author is feeling at the time. =P In this case, the characters had an ending in mind that was quite different from Drosselmeyer’s, and it was nice to see how they managed to defy fate… and achieve glory!

Writing is tough.

The actual plot of Princess Tutu sufficed for its purposes, I felt. It fell into bouts of repetition in both halves of the series, but for the most part it was still entertaining. The ending also seemed rather rushed, but it at least gave the story a satisfactory sense of closure. And to be honest, there were moments that felt a bit contrived–but seeing as this is a world of magic and ballet/theater-style storytelling, this didn’t bother me too much. So in the end, I can say I enjoyed the Princess Tutu story, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. (I can, however, see why there would be a small, yet very devoted fanbase for the show.) I’ll strongly recommend it if you’re in the mood for a fairy tale type of story, as it plays with that sort of atmosphere for both comedic and dramatic effect. Also, if you like ballet, all the dance sequences are nicely animated. And if you like classical music–well, you’re in for a treat there. I also thought the English dub for this was above average, so you may wish to give that a try too (this was how I watched the series, along with some friends).

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2 responses

  1. Zammael

    Sorry to admit that I’ve never visited this blog before, but I would like to hear your thoughts on this show in comparison to Madoka as a subversion or deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre.

    Personally, I enjoyed the meta-narrative of this show, that it was self-referential enough to lift it above the rest of the offerings in the genre, and that the characters were all rather intriguing takes on an old fairy tale.

    April 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    • I liked the characters more in Princess Tutu, and the storyline was a bit more interesting as well (and had some nice humor as well). But Madoka gets kudos points for its fascinating art direction and the intensity of some of its conflicts. I think in the end I liked them both about the same, though for different reasons.
      I felt Princess Tutu worked well within the mahou shoujo genre, though I felt it was more a deconstruction of fairy tales rather than anime topes. I probably haven’t watched enough mahou shoujo to delve too deeply into how much of a subversion it is.

      April 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm

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