There’s an anime in the world that is so incredible, so precious, yet so under-appreciated.
The First Impressions of Tutu
I have a confession to make, although it’s not a surprise to many: I love ballet. I’ve been dancing for 20 years, and 12 of those years have been Ballet. I’ve danced En Pointe for 10 years, and because of my schedule I haven’t been able to find a pointe class recently and I miss it terribly. People often view Ballet as a “frilly” thing, mocking men and boys who dance and reject the notion that Ballet is a sport (technically, it isn’t a sport, it’s an art. But anyone who’s gone through an hour and a half class knows it’s as rigorous as a sport!)
This is where I find Princess Tutu: an amazing work of art that people ignore because they assume it’s ridiculous. And to be perfectly honest, I thought it was pretty dumb when I first heard of it. After all, this is a Japanese animation — an Eastern animation — depicting Ballet — a Western art. What could possibly go right with this scenario?
The answer: everything.
Princess Tutu seems to be nothing more than a “magical girl with dancing,” but that is far from the truth. The story of Princess Tutu is dark, full of hope, and still brings me to tears (and I’ve seen the entire 26-episode series at least five times).
Ballet stories in Princess Tutu
There’s a book called 101 Stories of the Great Ballets By George Balanchine and Francis Mason. As the name suggests, it is a storybook of 101 different ballets. Everything from Swan Lake to Le Corsaire, and from Coppelia to Giselle. These stories are the backbone of Princess Tutu.
Princess Tutu has, essentially, three layers of stories. There is the story of Princess Tutu itself: the story of a young duck who wants nothing more than to see the prince she loves smile, and through that one wish becomes a storybook Princess who is searching for the Prince’s shattered heart.
And from there, it breaks down into ballet themes and influences. There are two major overarching stories that influence the plot of the series itself. Those are the two famous Tchaikovsky Ballets, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. In fact, Princess Tutu herself is directly inspired by the White Swan, Odette, in Swan Lake.
The third layer of storytelling is similar to the overarching themes. Each episode has a “ballet” associated with it. The plot of the episode often derives themes from the ballet in question, and most of the music is a re-orchestration of the music from the Ballet. For example, in the Ballet Coppelia, there is a sequence where the girl Swanhilde pretends to be a doll and dances. In Princess Tutu, a character dances this dance while the Coppelia Doll Variation music is playing.
The Dancing and Music of Princess Tutu
The dancing of Princess Tutu is very well done. They paid attention to subtle details of ballet itself, and animated only the necessities. Each of the different lifts and movements done in the anime are real, and someone could take the choreography from Princess Tutu and dance it. Although dancing a swordfight is impractical, it is done in real Ballets (I just wouldn’t suggest trying it off the stage).
Contrary to popular depictions, pointe shoes are hard at the toe and are comprised of layers of glue and satin. Princess Tutu animators did an excellent job showing the substance of a pointe shoe. They even laced the pointe shoes correctly, as opposed to the “Deedee” from Dexter’s Lab way of lacing them.
(It is to note that the pink shoes in the anime gif aren’t pointe shoes, they are the soft ballet slippers)
As noted above, the music from Princess Tutu is mostly re-orchestrated Ballet music. It fits with the themes and tone of the anime, and adds yet another layer onto the already complex Ballet themes of Tutu. They often paired the variation (solo part of a ballet) with the appropriate music, which adds a richness to the dancing.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m quite biased with Princess Tutu. It’s perhaps my favorite anime, and most definitely one of my favorite stories.
What do you think of the overall story?
What was your first impression with the main character being a duck?
What do you think of the Ballet in Princess Tutu?
For more information on Princess Tutu: