Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Maral Agnerian, Mar 3rd 2003
Ahiru (literally 'Duck' in Japanese), is a petite young girl in a junior high school's beginner ballet program. She's prone to stammering and clutziness. She has a huge crush on her sempai, Mute, a sad-seeming young man who doesn't speak much.
Ahiru discovers that Mute is actually the prince out of a story written by the mysterious writer Drosselmeyer. When Drosselmeyer died, the prince and the evil crow he was battling in the story escaped. The prince defeated the crow, but only at the expense of shattering his own heart. Mute is a boy without feeling or understanding. Drosselmeyer, however, has somehow returned, and has offered Ahiru a chance to help Mute. She must become Princess Tutu, a magical ballerina, and help reclaim the pieces of her prince's heart. There is a catch, of course--Mute is being controlled by his roommate Fakia, also a dancer, who seems to want to keep the boy soulless and heartless.
Drosselmeyer also told Ahiru that a certain dream she's been having is real. She really is just a little duck, and has been transformed into a girl only so that she can become Princess Tutu. If she starts stammering-- quacking like a duck-- she'll turn back into one.
Synopsis by Chris Jones of Funrikan.net.
If you're saying 'er....what?' to that storyline, so was I. Princess Tutu is, well....weird. It would be weird just with the whole prince-versus-crow-out-of-storyline-who-survived-when-storyteller-died thing. Add in a magical ballerina duck, and you've got genuine head-explody material.
The character designs are nice enough, and are a bit reminiscent of Mahou Tsukai Tai (Magic-User's Club), but the designers frequently stray into excessive floral ornamentation à la Utena...but if you're into that kind of thing then you'll probably love Princess Tutu. It has a lot in common with Utena, actually; misfit heroine, vaguely lesbian best friend, flowers randomly sprouting out of the background, completely nonsensical plot...but I digress.
Despite all that, the animation is high quality and clean, and the colour scheme and art style are occasionally a bit too ornate but quite nice for the most part. The music is classic Tchaikovsky, so it's hard to go wrong there. The voice acting is fine, with Ahiru's voice having just the right element of cuteness without becoming annoying.
Everything in the show, from episode names to magical attacks, is tied to a ballet by Tchaikovsky, such as the Nutcracker or Swan Lake (Ahiru's Magical Girl outfit is directly ripped off from the classic Odette costume). I'm still not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. I suppose it's one way to get kids interested in classical ballet...
There are, however, a lot of really odd things in this show, such as the ballet teacher who's a 6-foot walking cat (who, in all seriousness, threatens to marry his students if they don't behave), or Mute who leans out of windows while not wearing pants. And then, of course, there's the whole duck thing. I guess they decided to take the Ugly Duckling story, add Swan Lake and a whole bunch of ballet slippers and throw the whole mess in a blender...and this is what came out. I spent most of the first episode either with my mouth hanging open in disbelief or laughing hysterically, especially when Ahiru did her magical ballerina transformation. Then there's the dancing anteater, which I'm not even going to go into.
Princess Tutu was *very* surreal; it's one of the silliest premises for a Magical Girl show in quite awhile. There's some interesting stuff there, but it's buried underneath all the bizarreness. If they just had one or two strange elements, it would be okay, but instead they choose to completely drown us in nonsensical weirdness. Some people seem to love this show, however, so you might want to give it a try. As for me, it was just too silly and saccharine and....well, weird. At least I got a good laugh out of it... Recommended only to fans of very bizarre shoujo.
Story : C-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good art and animation, cute heroine
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