Mark Watches ‘Princess Tutu’: S01E01 – The Duck and the Prince

In the first episode of the first session of Princess Tutu, Ahiru longs for the affection of Mytho, causing her to transform into Princess Tutu to save him. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start Princess Tutu.

HOLY SHIT, WHAT DID I JUST WATCH???

Before we get to perhaps the most bewilderingly entertaining thing I’ve done for Mark Watches, let’s get a few necessary things out of the way!

Here’s what I know about Princess Tutu:

  • It’s a magical girl anime, or it at least fits in that genre generally speaking.
  • It’s got ballet.
  • It’s got classical music.
  • People dance?
  • I am supposed to watch it.
  • That’s it?

On top of that, in case you’re only following along with Princess Tutu and are new to my site, I’d like to remind you of some of the rules around here. Please read the Site Rules, the FAQ, and the Spoiler Policy before you post a comment if this will be your first time. This community has a very strict spoiler policy, and even things you might think are innocent statements are probably considered spoilers. Your comment may be edited or deleted because of them, and you may lose the privilege of commenting here if you do not follow the rules.

The gibberish you see in the comments is rot13. You may talk about spoilers only if they are in rot13. This is so that you can participate in conversations without spoiling myself or anyone else who is following along.

Hopefully, I won’t have to remind folks about these again, and we can just enjoy this experience. Now, let me return to what I was saying:

WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH?

This is a strange, confusing, and unendingly adorable premiere episode, one that’s layered with what seems to be three different stories on top of one another. I admit that it’s overwhelming, but it’s not to the point that I am irritated or annoyed. I want to figure out how all of these things relate to one another.

Stylistically, Princess Tutu makes some fascinating choices in terms of storytelling and animation. The dance/classical sequences are slow, detailed, methodical, and beautifully rendered. At times, Ahiru’s behavior is animated in an over-exaggerated way meant to inspire humor. Even the color palette is largely full of bright colors and pastels. The only glimpses of darkness that we get are from the world of the man introduced in the narrated cold open. As far as I understand it, there are at least two worlds at work here, possibly three:

1) Ahiru’s world

2) Ahiru’s dreamworld.

3) And it’s possible the unnamed man who battles the raven eternally is from a third world or third storyline, though he can interact with Ahiru’s dreams, so perhaps that is a shared world?

The show has a distinct fairy tale quality to it. From the opening, we’re introduced to the perpetual struggle between the “man who died” and the “crafty raven.” Having left his work unfinished upon his death, the man has given some sort of life to the characters of the prince and the raven, and they are locked in a fight that continues on until the prince gives up his own heart to seal away the raven. And here’s the part that confuses me:

Just then, a murmur came from somewhere. “This is great!” said the old man who was supposed to have died.

So… what? I’m sure that the old man is the same old man that Ahiru sees right before she transforms into Princess Tutu during the final scene of “The Duck and the Prince.” Was he given life once his creations ended their battle? How does he have the power to make Ahiru a magical girl, and why does he do this? I think it’s intentional that he speaks in storytelling terms. He insists that Ahiru keep telling her story, and I don’t get it. Granted, I know I’m not supposed to. I JUST STARTED. So I’m trying not to ignore what little information I am getting about this story.

In terms of characterization, YES. YES, PLEASE. I adore Ahiru’s friends, who are not only sweet to Ahiru, but they clearly ship her and Mytho. I am going to assume that Mytho has some connection to “the prince,” but I’m intrigued as to why he’s so somber. What does this have to do with Fakir? Why does Mytho accept Fakir’s horrific treatment of him? Fakir is the worst, y’all. He’s rude, presumptuous, and I don’t like how bossy he is of everyone. Who is he to Mytho? I DON’T EVEN KNOW.

Also, there is a cat teacher. What the fuck is this show? WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?

As exaggerated as it is, I think I like Ahiru the most. It’s no secret that I’m drawn to characters who have low self-esteem, and there’s definitely a part of me that will queer up Ahiru’s story. Admiring cute boys from afar who don’t know you exist? Hello, my life. Yes, she’s written and drawn in a hyperbolic way, but it conveys her characterization rather well. It helps to explain why she might become Princess Tutu to save someone she admires. Plus, I think it’s a neat way to introduce Ahiru’s struggles with her identity. In her dreams, she is Duck, a direct reference to The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson, and she must observe her prince in her dreams, unable to speak to him or dance with him. This loneliness is a part of her own life at school, too, since her strange behavior distances her from her peers. (At least, that’s how she perceives things. I think Ahiru’s friends demonstrate that they love her just the way she is.) It’s why she believes that Rue is the only one who could ever win the heart of Mytho.

So when Mytho asks Ahiru who she is after she saves him as Princess Tutu, the old man reminds her that she is merely Duck, and that she’ll always be Duck. It’s a stark reminder for Ahiru that she could never attract Mytho or get his attention in her “normal” state, so she instantly reverts to… a duck? Okay, I’m confused by the lines of reality here, but I assume that will be explained soon enough. Regardless, I’m fascinated by this. Despite having seen Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I really don’t know that much about magical girl anime, so I’m unsure how a more traditional story usually unfolds. Fuck, as long as Kyubey doesn’t show up, I think Ahiru will be better off.

And my god, THE MUSIC IS SO GREAT. “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Wedding March,” and the “Waltz” from Swan Lake all make appearances, and they’re totally intentional. The themes from each of those stories are relevant here, especially Swan Lake. Princess Tutu’s dress seems rather swan-like to me, and the show itself is also a transformation story like Swan Lake. Ugh, I love when the music matters, y’all. (Obligatory mention of the original airing of Life on Mars, whose music before it was licensed away was FUCKING FLAWLESS.)

So: I want to see more. This is totally unlike anything I’ve ever watched, and I’m also kind of eager to see if it gets weirder. There was a sweating cat as a ballet teacher! WHAT THE HELL.

[vimeo 56861136 w=500 h=281]

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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One Response to Mark Watches ‘Princess Tutu’: S01E01 – The Duck and the Prince

  1. Dragonsong12 says:

    I was really interested to see what you thought of this one. I genuinely enjoy Princess Tutu, but it’s such a strange little show that I rarely suggest it to others. It’s an interesting show as it celebrates the art of storytelling and the art of ballet, and it’s rare to see something that celebrates ballet like this.

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