Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Princess Tutu's actions have temporarily ground the story to a halt, causing Drosselmeyer to pull her out of the story, but the situation cannot remain that way for long. The final heart shards still remain to be returned to Mytho, an act that may save him from the taint of the Raven's blood and allow his status as the Prince to be restored, but at the cost of freeing the Raven. The fate of Krahe and the Duck's status as Tutu ultimately hang in the balance as Duck and Fakir seek a way to defeat the Raven, help Mytho triumph as the Prince he is supposed to be, and overcome the tragic course of Drosselmeyer's story. Are they trapped by the machinations of Drosselmeyer, or can love and Fakir's newfound power enable them to construct a happy ending?
Every great story must have an ending, and what a glorious one this series has! An emotional and triumphant blending of music, dance, and storytelling, this sixth and final volume will surprise you, blow you away with its elegance, and quite probably bring many viewers to tears. It is, indisputably, one of the year's finest volumes of anime.
Many factors separate Princess Tutu from other magical girl series (and anime series in general, for that matter), but among the most important is its tone. This is a story being told here, not just a collection of sometimes-fantastical slice-of-life situations strung together as an excuse for cutesiness, as most magical girl series are. Oh, it's hardly the deepest or most complex of storytelling – this is a fable being spun, after all – but in this final volume one can see clearly how characters have changed as they struggle to fight or fulfill their destinies. Mytho suffers greatly before he regains his full status as the Prince in one glorious sequence, Princess Krahe finally discovers the lamentable truth about herself, and Fakir must come to terms with the fact that there may be other ways than his sword for him to help both Princess Tutu and the Prince. Though Duck/Tutu remains the most constant of the leading characters, she must also come to terms with where her priorities really lie and who she really is in any of her forms.
The quality of even mediocre anime titles can often be raised a notch or two by a superior musical score, but this one goes beyond that by constructing a total integration of music, dance, and storytelling. By the later stages of the series it's no longer anime with a ballet theme; it has become a ballet itself. The music helps tell the story rather than just set the tone and mood, and even fight scenes become dances of combat. This is particularly evident and affective in the final three episodes, although the series achieved such a beautiful blending on earlier occasions. The interwoven musical selections could not be finer, from Fanfare For The Common Man to The Great Gate at Kiev to Danse Macabre, with the final episode bringing the series back to where it began by using themes from The Nutcracker.
Moreso than any other element, the artistry reminds viewers that they are watching a fable rather than a traditional Western or anime fantasy story. Slight-bodied character designs, the godlike countenance of the Raven, and Drosselmeyer's disconcertingly weird look all contribute to the feeling of unreality, while the cityscape somehow always feels a bit distorted. (But that's the way it should be, given that the town is trapped within a story.) Nothing about the artistry is especially complex or flashy, but that doesn't stop it from producing some truly great visuals, such as the pirouetting skeletons in one late scene, the dancing crow-people in others, or the swan motifs in various places. Although it still uses a few shortcuts, the animation is good enough to make various dance scenes look quite graceful.
The final volume constricts the cast size a bit, as several significant supporting characters have little or no presence here. That focuses all the attention on the core cast members, but ADV's regulars deliver well enough for each scene to retain its full emotional impact in English. The Raven and Uzura sound a little better in Japanese, but Jay Hickman sells Mytho better and more believably in this volume than the original seiyuu. An English script which sticks quite closely to the original also contributes to a worthy overall effort.
As with previous volumes, ADV has piled on the extras for the final volume. A new chapter of Étude, this time narrated by Mr. Cat, explains musical and ballet references for each episode, while this edition of In The Studio offers a half-hour of clips of English VAs at work. (Which two break down and cry while voicing the final episode? You'll have to watch to find out.) “Vorfinale” is a half-episode TV special which preceded the final installment and reviewed the series to that point. English staff commentary is offered for episode 24, while VA commentary is available for episode 26 and often well off-subject. Clean opener and closer and Split-Episode Previews are back, and comments from key seiyuu and Japanese staff members can be found both in the liner notes and on the DVD.
The ending of Princess Tutu will leave fans a little sad but also quite satisfied, and not everything turns out the way you'd initially expect. If you have not been following this series so far, don't let the onus of it being a magical girl series discourage you from trying it out. It's atypical enough for its type that even those who normally despise the genre (such as myself) should appreciate it, and it is one of the hidden gems of the past two years. For all it is, Princess Tutu deserves a far broader audience than it has.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A+
+ Affective storytelling perfectly integrated with a beautiful musical score, great set of extras.
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