Movie: Have you ever read a book that was missing the first few chapters; the ones where the characters and situations are set up? It kind of adds a mystery to the rest of the book that you're always wondering about as you set forth to solve the intricacies of the story, yes? Well, I have long had mixed feelings about such things and reviewing titles that have already started has long been somewhat frustrating for me since the whole point of a review is to convey a sense of what the story is like, what features are on the DVD, and whether or not the entire package is worthy of a decent rating. Taken out of context, a DVD might be far better (or more typically far worse) which is why the anime reviewers at DVD Talk strive for a sense of continuity in handling series. The net effect of watching an entire series at once, with shows like Kaleido Star for example, is substantially different and reviews tend to reflect that. Today's review is of Princess Tutu V2: Traum, a series that already started before ADV Films sent the second volume. The review will, therefore, contain some leaps in logic and reasoning that may not pan out so bear with me loyal readers as I try to do justice to an interesting show.
The show centers on a young gal named Ahiru who is a student in a prestigious ballet school. One of the others at the school, a boy named Mythos, seems to have had his heart magically yanked out of his chest and the result is that he essentially sleepwalks through life without emotion or passion. As this set of four episodes played out, it became increasingly apparent that Ahiru is no ordinary girl but a character known as Princess Tutu who appears to have had a spell cast on her as well (changing her into a duck at times of stress). For whatever specific reason, likely a deep-seated attraction to Mythos, she makes it her quest to find and return the missing pieces of Mythos' heart in order to restore him to normalcy. In doing so though, she angers a powerful rival that has appointed herself as his protector, and likely the one responsible for the spell cast on him in the first place (to save him from a lost love or something).
Okay, as the pieces of the heart are restored, Mythos seemed to slowly evolve, perhaps returning to his original state from before the spell. This angers the forces of those who think he's just fine the way he is and they intercede to prevent further restoration by Ahiru. The twisted thing was that her very realistic dreams take on a life of their own and the spell that changes her into a duckling becomes more obvious to be something else; she's actually a duck who can change into a Princess (in this case, the titled character, Princess Tutu). The specifics were confusing to a guy that didn't have the background on the characters needed to decipher the situations and for that, I apologize, but the main question these four episodes raised was whether or not ignorance is truly bliss (restoring Mythos will ensure he feels all the pain once again, causing him some amount of suffering)?
In all, I think I liked the show more than I should have based on what I knew about it but there was a level of depth this time that appealed to me. In that sense, I thought it was worth a rating of Recommended although I'll reserve judgment of the series until I've seen it all to be fair. The show appears to be aimed at young girls who dream of love and happiness but there was more to it than that often enough to check this one out if you get the chance. The musical elements alone added a significant measure of detail to the show that shouldn't be underestimated.
Picture: Princess Tutu V2: Traum was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as it was broadcast in Japan a few years ago. It was a dark and moody show for the most part with the visual elements reflecting this but there was minimal grain or other defects to the picture. This was a nice surprise since many releases these days don't handle darker material well or at least the problems are more noticeable. There also seemed to be a visual aspect to Mythos' dilemma that was subtle and understated. I saw no compression artifacts during my two viewings of the DVD.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of a 2.0 Dolby Digital track in either the original Japanese or the well made English dub track by ADV Films. The vocals were pleasing on each track and I found different nuances to appreciate on each but the music was very well done on both, perhaps slightly richer on the dubbed track. If you listen to the show on a decent audio system with the picture turned off, you'll find the audio quite a bit better than average, especially for a 2.0 track.
Extras: ADV Films has not exactly been known for providing the best extras on their DVDs lately but this was an exception to the rule. I enjoyed the audio commentary between Mariela Ortiz (the ADV Films producer) and Mike (the dub writer) on an episode. The two were engaging and probably better choices than the voice actors as they knew more about the bigger picture matters than the hired help would have. There were some bloopers, the usual clean opening and closing, some trailers, an "Etude" section that focused on some of the music involved in the show, but my favorite outside of the commentary was the short feature on some of the voice actors doing their lines while the screen split to show the material they were dubbing. Lastly, there was a double sided DVD cover and a paper insert; the insert containing a commentary by the Japanese executive director Junichi Sato.
Final Thoughts: Princess Tutu V2: Traum offered up episodes 6-9 (with 6) Dreaming Aurora, 7) Crow Princess, 8) The Warrior's Fountain, and 9) Black Shoes) with no major discussion of what took place previously. It was an interesting series with a special attention to the classical music employed to flesh out the sequences, making it well worth a look (and listen) for fans of anime. Granted, the story was designed for a younger, female audience but it had some appeal nonetheless and you might want to check it out if you'd like to see something worthy of your time and energy.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk