Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anime Review: Princess Tutu (rewatch)

I first saw this show back in 2008 and liked it enough to buy it right after I finished watching it (plus, TRSI happened to have an ADV sale going at the time) but haven't had time to watch it since. Mostly that's because I've loaned out the series to a few friends over the years and it usually takes MONTHS to get this series back. I kid you not when I say that I loaned this series to a friend in high school, her little sister saw some of the show, fell in love with it, and then ran off with the set and hid it in her room. It literally took me three or four months to get it back that time and similar things have happened a couple other times I've loaned out the show. Actually, I think I'm probably going to be loaning out the show to a few other people soon, at this rate it's a good thing I only loan to people I can easily get in touch with so I can my stuff back!

Princess Tutu

Summary: Once upon a time, a storyteller died with his greatest story left unfinished. But even though his story was unfinished his characters, a prince and a raven, continued to do battle for many years until the raven couldn't take it anymore and burst out of the story. The prince then sacrificed his heart to seal the raven and the story hadn't moved forward since. Until one day a little duck wishes that she can help her sad prince and the storyteller decides that this could make an interesting addition to his tale.

The Good: I was worried that the story wouldn't be as good as I remembered but I think I loved this series even more the second time than I did the first. Even the first half, which plays the traditional magical girl idea more straight, kept me enthralled and it was so interesting to know how the characters would turn out in the end and watching them develop to that point. And then the second half (ie, the reason why this show gets so much praise), I think I was actually squeeing for a good deal of that. One problem I have with so many fairy-tale retelling is that the authors have a hard time walking the line between being too literal or too liberal but in Tutu the show takes so many elements that it practically becomes a fairy tale itself (and a Grimm one too, another big change from the first half to the second). There is so much focus on the plot and twisting it that I can' help but love this show, it's the kind of show (or book) that I go looking for but rarely find.

The Bad: It's really hard to recommend this show because of the title* so please don't be put off by it. Also, while the show certainly has it's moments, it's not an action show so don't expect the characters to solve their goals by fighting. The show is a bit slow paced for some (in the first half anyway, the second half whips by**) and the first half is very much a magical girl show and some people are put off by it. So yes, this is a girly show (to a degree, I think it's the ballet that makes people call it that) but I fail to see this as a bad thing frankly, you never see people complaining that a show like TTGL is "too manly" which sounds suspiciously like a double standard. 

The Art: This is a low budget show so the art and animation aren't the best out there. Granted, I still don't really like the character designs (there's just something about the proportions that feels off to me) but I loved all the ballet sequences. All of them do have a large number of still shots, this is true, but most of the stills show the characters doing a mime (with their thoughts doing a voice-over for those of us who don't know mimes) and I thought that was a very clever way to stretch the budget and still convey the story. So, while I don't think it's the prettiest art, it's very well planned out.

The Music: I remember not liking the opening song the first time I saw this show but I kind of like it now. Not as much as the ending song, which I still think is adorable, but I like it more now. I also enjoyed and noticed the background music in the actual show as well which, most people who've heard of the show probably know, is all classical music from famous ballets. Each episode lists which story it got it's music from in the title and I looked up a few of the songs on a whim, it's pretty surreal to find a video on youtube of music students playing the exact same theme you just hear in Japanese animation. I have seen a few people be dismissive of the soundtrack, since none of the pieces are new compositions, but I honestly can't think of a better way to flesh out a story with strong references to other stories than to go ahead and use the original music. It's not lazy and it works wonderfully.

In short, I love this show to death and it's in my top five favorite anime and I would even buy it again if I have to (and, considering some of my discs are already scratched, I might have to in another five years or so, at least the newer version doesn't have the hideous cover art mine does). And if you're still on the fence about this series, and don't mind a few spoilers, there are some really great AMVs for this show out there. I prefer this one myself,  but this one is responsible for quite a few people watching the show so I'd be remiss to leave it out. So, go watch this, it's streaming on the anime network's site, ANN's site, youtube, I think even hulu now, it's not that hard to find.

*I've found that the best way to do so is to deadpan so that when people give you a weird look or ask "Princess Tutu...?" you can go "Yeah, it's called Princess Tutu, anyway...." and try to turn it into a non-issue. However, I still call it "the best example of why the Japanese shouldn't be allowed to use foreign titles" and I'm sure many of the fandom would agree with me here.
**Partially because the second half of the show only had a 15 minute timeslot, not a full half hour, so there is plenty going on in each episode.