There are a lot of genres and sub-genres in the world of anime and throughout the years we have seen many ideas come and go. Sure giant robots, cyborgs and superhuman warriors are the standard, but what about a show featuring ballerinas? I suppose in the grand scheme of things Princess Tutu falls under the Magical Girl category, mostly because of the magical transformation the lead character goes through at just the right moment.
Just like my fellow Anime Talker Don Houston I came into this show without a lot of knowledge of what transpired on the first volume. Having to sit down for the second installment or a latter one without really knowing what's going on can be a very difficult thing to do. It's tough to give an anime a fare recommendation or judgment based on a batch of episodes that take place after characters and a plot have already been introduced. The nice thing about Princess Tutu though is that the series wears its concept on its sleeve and most of the characters here are seemingly reintroduced.
I want to call Princess Tutu a fantasy series, but in reality it seems to be more of a fairy tale than anything else. The main character is a ballerina princess in disguise who also used to be a duck; if that makes any sense. We see her human form more than her magical ballet princess transformation, but Arima Ahiru (or Duck) seems to be a personable and well-developed character. She is on a quest to find the fragments of her lover's (Mythos) heart since he sacrificed them to vanquish an enemy called the Raven.
Mythos is basically the prince of the tale but since he lost his heart shards he has become emotionless and about as entertaining as Al Gore. Through dancing bits of his humanity are resurrected, though Mythos is "protected" by a bitter guy called Fakir. If you can't tell by now the show has a certain young girl spin to it and because of that it may not appeal to older viewers right off the bat. After going through these four episodes though the series caught my interest thanks to outrageous humor, touching sentiment and colorful artwork. Although I do have to be honest and admit that at first I was put off by the idea of a ballerina anime.
There is a little bit of a conflict of sorts between Ahiru and her friend Rue. It would seem that Rue is Mythos' one true love and while Ahiru may not like that as much, she still wants the prince to be happy. Rue can also turn into Princess Kraehe, who is kind of like Tutu but works with a different agenda. We learn in this volume that she wants to collect Mythos' heart by force instead of dancing and that she wants to destroy them. It's kind of a "if I can't have you, nobody else can" type of thing I suppose.
Even in this volume the progression for the show is noticeable from the viewpoint of someone that didn't see the first installment. New characters are introduced and seemingly older ones are reinstated at the right time. The episodes here were entertaining with a lot of story, intrigue and a few points of interest. If you liked the first volume I would imagine that you'd dig the material here. As someone who didn't see the introduction of the show I have to admit that my perception of what it was going to be was proven wrong. It may be a show filled with classical music, magical ballerinas and talking animals but there's enough personality and plot to keep things interesting.
Princess Tutu originally aired in Japan in 2002 and is presented on DVD with its broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The image quality for the transfer is very good with next to nothing to complain about other than the aspect ratio. The video remains free of grain, speckle and aliasing, plus the colors are well saturated and vibrant. This is a show with very unique look with imaginative design and very fluid animation. Sure the look may match the overall theme, but that means it's attractive and will appeal to a wider audience than you'd think it would.
Released here in the States by ADV, Princess Tutu comes with two 2.0 Dolby Digital selections. Naturally those are Japanese and English, but it surprised me that ADV didn't opt for the 5.1 English dubbing that they usually do. As it stands, the quality is very good for both tracks considering that they are presented in stereo, but the diversity of the mix isn't very strong. Sound effects and music tend to sound better on the English track though that's not by a lot really. English subtitles are included as well.
Any serious digital otaku will tell you that most DVD releases have disappointingly little in the subject of bonus material. In that regard I was pleasantly surprised by Princess Tutu. Naturally there are clean opening and closing animations, but there are also some outtakes too, which always prove to be one of my favorite extras in anime. There was a selection called "Ballet for Beginners" that shows some steps and a feature called "Etude" which featured some of the music. Aside from these there was an audio commentary with the producer of the DVD and the scriptwriter for the show that proved to be informative and entertaining. There was also a cool feature called "In the Studio" which showed the voice actors acting out the lines for their characters.
As a show, Princess Tutu is an eclectic collection of characters and concepts that come together to make an interesting premise. The anime was nothing like I was thinking it was going to be when I sat down to watch it, and really that was a good thing. If you enjoyed the first volume then the second is a no-brainer, but if you haven't checked the show out yet, you may want to because it seems to have all of the pieces to make a cult classic. The DVD also scores high marks with a wonderful video presentation and some outstanding extra material. In the end I'm going to recommend the series even though I haven't seen the first volume yet. Recommended
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