Mark Watches ‘Princess Tutu’: S01E03 – The Princess’s Vow

In the third episode of the first session of Princess Tutu, Ahiru vows to protect Mytho, but then learns the price this vow will require. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Princess Tutu.

Okay, I can’t claim to understand this show, but COUNT ME THE FUCK IN. “The Princess’s Vow” demonstrated the layered complexity of the storytelling behind the writing, the framing device I can expect in future episodes, the way Princess Tutu can balance disparate tones, and the emotional punch in the heart that’s inherent in this tale. I assumed from the title and the very few images I saw prior to starting this (the banner for the site and the placeholder image on the Netflix page) that this would be an anime about ballet. While ballet is integral to understanding aspects of the show, it’s really not what the show is about at all. I think I feel safe saying that Princess Tutu is going to be an exploration of the fairy tale. Why are they so popular and everlasting? Why do they follow certain archetypes or tropes, and when are those tropes broken? What agency does a character have in a tale where they are fated to end in a specific way?

I’m enjoying that each cold open/prologue changes slightly from the one before it. For this episode, I learned that the heart shards settle within a person who has that specific void within their own heart. I suspected as much in “Heart Shard,” but it’s confirmed here in a way that’s not obvious at all. However, before we even get to the point where this show punches me right in the feelings over and over again, I wanted to talk about how endlessly adorable this is. I love Ahiru’s friends, Pike and Lilie. (I KNOW THEIR NAMES NOW, I AM A REAL FAN. Though, oh god, are they really animals, too? I don’t understand the rules of this fictional world yet. I’LL GET THERE, I PROMISE.) I love their adoration and concern for Ahiru, and the way it plays out as the meta-comedy about how we, as fans, obsess over the tiny details of our favorite characters. (Which, honestly, is probably not canon whatsoever, but come ON. I have shrieked just like Pike and Lilie while watching Laura Roslin, so you are not allowed to judge me.) I think the way that the narrative pauses so that Ahiru can make fun of her interactions with Mytho is FUCKING GENIUS. We are seeing her internal monologue acted out before us! It is hilarious. And I just love that this show has room for this sort of humor, one that pokes fun at Ahiru’s behavior in a way that isn’t mean, but also allows us to empathize with her because oh god SHE REPRESENTS EVERY GAY CRUSH I EVER HAD IN MY TEENS. 

Like I said before, I’m still figuring out the rules and logistics of the Princess Tutu world, so I know I am butchering this show’s canon. PLEASE FORGIVE ME. It’s fun that the show isn’t spelling this out for me just yet. It allows me to discuss what I’m seeing in-depth, which is always fun for me. In particular, I was intrigued when Pike and Lilie confirmed that “The Prince and the Duck” is a real story in their world. Not only that, but it’s exactly the same as the one Drosselmeyer told Ahiru. Oh, right, that’s because the author’s name was Drosselmeyer. This show deliberately fucks with perception and reality in a way that gives me the impression that all of this is real. There’s no fake world, there’s no “true” real world, and pushing the show into that dichotomy is silly at this point. (And I do mean at this point. Later, I might get more information that helps be discern what I’m seeing better.)

So, as these characters act out the stories that already exist in their world, do they have agency? If the story of loneliness ends a certain way, can Ahiru do anything to change that, and do her actions matter at all? I don’t think this show is setting up these characters to be pawns because there’s so much emphasis put on stories going “awry” here. Things are not happening as they are supposed to, and it’s Ahiru’s action that save the day.

The basic mystery of “The Princess’s Vow,” then, surrounds the location of the next heart shard. It wasn’t surprising that Ebine had it, but this episode does a fantastic job of hiding the nature of that shard from us until Princess Tutu reveals it. Is it obsession? Grief? Paranoia? A desire to please others? While we’re left to wonder what void Ebine had in her heart, the writer of this episode, Michiko Yokote, TERRIFIES ME WITH SOME SUPER CREEPY SEQUENCES INVOLVING COLD FOOD. Holy shit, the tone of this episode instantly changed when Ebine started to pester Ahiru and Mytho with dish after dish, and Mytho couldn’t refuse anything because he literally does not understand how awkward and terrifying this is, and then all the food is mysteriously cold, and then WHO IS EBINE TALKING TO WHILE SHARPENING KNIVES WHAT HORROR FILM DID I JUST STUMBLE INTO.

As remarkably creepy as this all is, what will stick with me is Princess Tutu’s confrontation with Ebine. I’m amazed that the “fights” on the show consist of dance moves and heartfelt conversations. Literally. As Ebine reveals that she’s consumed by loneliness after her chef husband died, Ahiru as Princess Tutu imparts a crucial message: The dead sometimes leave behind things to help us move on. In this case, Ebine’s husband left his recipes to his wife, and she now has a way to continue his food in his honor.

My heart. My heart.

But y’all, I cannot believe that this show just told me the ending to the whole thing in the THIRD EPISODE. You see, Ahiru put the story back on track. Ebine’s tale is no longer awry. Her fairy tale can continue on. Ahiru’s fairy tale? The second Princess Tutu proclaims her love to the Prince, she will disappear. Drosselmeyer’s narration cuts in. Who says all fairy tales have to have a happy ending?

EVIL. THIS SHOW IS EVIL. NO, I CAN’T.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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