by Paul Jensen,
It's Preview Guide time again! Actually it might be streaming review announcement time on the day this column comes out. They've rolling the new shows out pretty darn fast this season. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Black Clover - Season 1 Part 3 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 250 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $54.98|$69.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.71 Amazon|$42.20 Amazon
Synopsis: Asta and friends face internal conflicts with the other Magic Knights and external conflicts against the undead.
Synopsis: Gon and Killua take on a dangerous new species known as the Chimera Ants as the search for Gon's father continues.
Extra: We don't have any specific coverage of this span of episodes, as our most recent reviews cover episodes 53 through 65 and the part 1 Blu-Ray. The series is available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.
Synopsis: Ains continues to carry out his plans to conquer the world while also taking on missions using his adventurer alter ego.
Synopsis: High school student Yukari Morita agrees to work as an astronaut for a small space agency in exchange for their help finding her missing father.
Shelf Life Reviews
I feel like most folks have at least a handful of classic anime that they've been meaning to watch but have never gotten around to. Princess Tutu had been on that list for me until this new Blu-Ray collection arrived at my doorstep, but now I can finally check it off. Here's my review.
The story begins with an unfinished story; a writer dies before he can finish writing a tale about a valiant Prince's battle against a sinister Raven, and so the characters spill out into the real world. The Prince is able to seal the Raven away by shattering his own heart, but he loses his emotions as a result. That's where our heroine, Duck, comes in. As her name implies, she's a duck, but she's been given a pendant that not only turns her into a girl, but allows her to become the graceful ballerina Princess Tutu. Determined to help the Prince, she sets out to recover the shards of his heart, but not everyone wants to see the Prince restored to his former self. Duck will need to overcome opposition from her rivals as well as the narrative force of the unfinished story if she's going to help the person she loves.
All that sounds like an odd premise on paper, but in practice it makes for a remarkably good show. Much of the credit goes to the four main characters, all of whom grow and change over the course of the series. Duck is forced to question the motivations behind her mission to help the Prince, while her presumptive romantic rival Rue ends up being far more than meets the eye. Prince Mytho struggles to cope with the mental strain of regaining his emotions one by one, and his sworn protector Fakir fights to escape a seemingly inevitable fate. Along the way, the heroes make mistakes, the villains find redemption, and our first impressions of people often turn out to be wrong. This is a nuanced and well-developed cast, and their presence adds dramatic impact to both Duck's episodic quests to find the heart shards and the larger narrative of trying to put the unfinished story back into order.
That overarching narrative also makes Princess Tutu a little smarter than the average anime series. As Duck gradually figures out what's really going on, the “story within a story” opens the door for some interesting questions about the power of fiction. It may be a little too self-referential for some viewers' liking, and the increasing complexity of the plot means that the pacing bogs down in a couple of spots, but overall it's a fascinating look into the storytelling process. The series is also notable for its use of ballet as both a visual theme and a major component of the plot. This can take a little getting used to in the early going, but it has some really interesting effects on the show. Not only does dance open up another avenue for characters to express their feelings, it gives Duck a way to advance the plot in a way that's much more satisfying than just blasting her foes with magical energy.
Of course, Princess Tutu is starting to show its age in a few areas. The character designs are fairly simple by modern standards, and the mysterious old man Drosselmeyer in particular looks too cartoonish for the role he plays in the story. While the comedy in general is decent, some running jokes are used so often that they become tiresome, with Duck's ballet teacher's obsession with marriage being a prime example. Time has also been less than kind to the animation, which doesn't make the jump to HD particularly well. Swift character movements and pans across detailed backgrounds tend to betray Princess Tutu's standard definition origins, and while I didn't find this to be a deal-breaking issue, it does mean that this Blu-Ray set may not be much of an upgrade if you already own the old DVDs.
One thing that has held up surprisingly well is the English dub, which is carried over from the old ADV release of the series. While there are minor things to gripe about here and there, the performances are pretty strong across the board, and I was able to jump back and forth between the two audio tracks without developing a clear favorite. There are also a ton of on-disc extras in this set, most of which I believe are carried over from the old ADV discs as well. There are episode commentaries, outtakes, and extra videos explaining how ballet influences the series. Heck, I'm pretty sure I even found an easter egg in one of the menus. Now that's a blast from the past.
If you've never seen it before, Princess Tutu is absolutely worth watching. It's smarter than it lets on, and the story is compelling enough to give your tear ducts a workout on more than one occasion. I'm also impressed by the amount of extra stuff packed onto these discs, though the jump to Blu-Ray may not be enough of a visual improvement to entice folks who already own previous releases of the series. Either way, this is a great show, and it's one that I can definitely see myself revisiting in the future.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from BodaciousSpacePirate:
"I thought it would be fun to send in pictures that focus on the most eye-catching shelves in my collection: namely, those that contain my SD Gundam model kits! I've been collecting Gundams for almost twenty years, and a couple of years ago I came to the realization that I vastly prefer these cutesy and ornate designs to those of the more anime-accurate Master Grade and High Grade kits. Recently, I have been going back to kits I assembled over a decade ago, sprucing them up, and giving them the paint jobs they deserve. Enjoy!"
Wow, these are awesome! I know a few people who are really into Gunpla, but I've never seen so many SD models in one place before. I love how much personality and character you can see in their designs. Thanks for sharing!
Want to show off your own anime collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]!
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