The main character is Ahiru, who is really a duck. She watches a sad prince dance from afar, and a myserious man gives her a jewel that enables her to turn into a girl -- and even into Princess Tutu. The prince, Mytho, has lost his heart, and it is Princess Tutu who can give his the scattered pieces of his heart back!
And it all happens in a small town, where Ahiru and Mytho attend the ballet section of an art academy. We meet the mysterious Fakir, who seems to guard Mytho, and Ru, Mytho's girlfriend and dance partner in the advanced class. And there is a host of other characters, like the marriage-obssessed Neko-sensei and the mysterious Edel-san who guides Ahiru in her quest through various cryptic messages...
Whenever her pendant lights up, a piece of Mytho's heart is near, and Ahiru turns into Princess Tutu. With her ballet, she consoles the vessels of the pieces, and returns those pieces to Mytho.
But that's just the first layer. Every episode starts with a short, Grimm-like fairytale -- and at first this seems like some sort of extra side-story. But these pieces actually describe what is happening in the series!
Drosselmeyer, the shady guy that gives Ahiru her pendant, is a deceased storyteller -- and the town is actually his story. It takes the characters some time to realise they are inside some Grimm-like fairytale -- and they start to develop their own ideas as to how the story should develop.
This adds another, and later, when Fakir uses Drosselmeyer's powers, even another layer! This makes for really interesting viewing, when the purposes of the characters and Drosselmeyer start to conflict. Suddenly, it's not about magical girls anymore, but it's about how stories develop.
Design-wise, Princess Tutu is really something: the village and the backgrounds are realistically colored in a charming Bavarian style (it's set in Germany -- wait for the Japanese voice actors pronouncing German phrases!), and the character designs are more realistic than in most magical girl series. The animation is really good, but it's a pity not every dancing scene is completely animated.
And then there's the music. This being an anime about ballet, music plays an important role. Every episode has it's own music (announced in the opening titles). And the pieces have a connection to the contents of the episode. For instance, when Ahiru has to explore the cellars underneath the library, the music used is the "Catacombs" part from "Pictures at an Exhibition".
And then there's the ballet itself. Where most magical girls express themselves via magical attributes and powers, the characters in Princess Tutu express themselves via dancing. I had the benefit of watching this series together with klik, who used to dance ballet. She could point out certain techniques that the characters used, or explain how a certain move works. While not essential for enjoying the series, it does add some extra depth.
The only downside to the series is that it seems to lose some of it's narrative thrust at the beginning of the second season, but towards the end of the series the pace picks up again. The finale is breathtaking.
- Grimm-like darkness just below the surface;
- Music and ballet really fit the story;
- Original concept.
- Loses some narrative thrust at the start of the second season.
If you're into multi-layered stories, fairytales, ballet and/or classical music, then this is for you. I'll give it a 9.
This series has something for everyone to enjoy, I think. If you're into multi-layered stories, then you should really check this one out.