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Princess Tutu, Vol. 4: Prinz and Rabe
"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)."
The second half of the series now continues with Princess Tutu V4: Prinz und Rabe set about a week after the defeat of Rue and her Raven father. The English translations of the episode titles were: 14) The Raven, 15) Coppelia, 16) The Maiden's Prayer, 17) Crime and Punishment, and 18) The Wandering Knight. The basic storyline showed that Fakir, still down in the dumps about his inability to protect Prince Ahiru, seems distant and aloof while our heroine Duck soon finds that while defeated, the Raven and his daughter are not out of the picture yet. One of the heart shards restored to the prince was coated in poisonous raven's blood and is causing him to fall under the spell of evil woven so well in past episodes. The Raven can't directly affect matters but orders his daughter, Rue/Kraehe, to leave Duck/Princess Tutu alone since she's the only one with the magical ability to restore the prince's heart, a feat he now embraces as making his new charge even more persuasive with the sole goal of providing new hearts for the Raven to feed upon. Tutu fights this not knowing the full extent of the control, seeking to do the right thing while dealing with another, more foppish, prince and Fakir's near death at the hands of the evil minions wanting him out of the way. Events are further complicated by the manipulations of someone outside of Drosselmeyer's control, a person or force not immediately identified with all else that was going on.
I was glad that the show didn't end with Princess Tutu V3 even though many of the immediate plot twists were covered pretty well. That said, the quality of the fusion between music and dance were still up to par; making the show a lot of fun to watch, even if the target audience was younger females looking for unrequited love and a strong female lead. The questions surrounding the inevitable outcome of the show remain, especially given the repeatedly stated prophecy that once her love is revealed, she's out of the picture, but I thought the dub provided some significant improvements over the original at times here. In all, like most such things, your mileage will vary according to how faithful to the material you are but the spirit of the original series was nicely handled and ADV once again show that they are more than just a bunch of parroting monkeys by enhancing the experiences of the series accordingly. I'm rating the DVD as Recommended although you'll want to watch it in order to gain the fullest experience of the material.
Picture: Princess Tutu V4 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: With five full episodes, I'm always pleased to see plentiful extras on an anime DVD. I really liked the audio commentary between ADV's translater, Sarah Alys Lindholm, and obsessive writer, Michael Yantosca, on the episode 16 commentary track. The two were focused on the show as a whole but still managed to provide some episode specific insights as well. I've heard many audio commentaries on anime in the past and I hope these two are given more opportunities to share their wealth of information. There was the usual clean opening and closing, some trailers, a special "Egg Suite" that recapped the previous episodes from the series in comic form (at least most of the time), an "Etude" section that focused on some of the dancing involved in the show but also provided a narrative on the volume's episodes, but my favorite outside of the commentary was the feature on some of the voice actors doing their lines while the screen split to show the material they were dubbing (focusing this time on the hotty Kaytha Coker as the English dub voice for Freya, geeky Adam Conlon as the voice of Autor, and the lovely Cynthia Martinez as Pike). Lastly, there was a double sided DVD cover and a paper insert; the insert containing a commentary by the Japanese voice actress Nana Mizuki (the voice of Rue), Sachi Matsumoto (Pike), and Yuri Shiratori (Lilie).
Final Thoughts: Princess Tutu V4 is not the kind of anime designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator or a broad audience but it had a tremendous amount of heart for a show so openly willing to focus on the restoration of one. Yeah, it gets kind of juvenile from time to time but the darker nature of the source material was a bit too serious so adding in silliness is just one way of providing some tongue in cheek relief to balance things out. Fans of dance, music, and romance (nods to Prince) will enjoy the depth of this one since it had solid replay value and good extras. If a guy like me can appreciate it, I'm willing to bet many others that never gave the show the time of day would do likewise.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.