Ducking Good: Princess Tutu Episodes 1-2

People told me I would like this, nobody told me I would like it this much.

Princess Tutu Episode 1-1

As part of my ongoing quest to diversify my blog offerings, I’ve chosen possibly the least appropriate show possible to do episode impressions blasts of: Princess Tutu. There are several reasons for this. The first is that I’m sick of being in a blogging slump and the best way to break such slumps is to write. The second is that Princess Tutu makes me want to write about it, but waiting until I have fully-formed essay ideas to write will likely mean it would take me a year to write about it (like what happened with that AKB0048 post, which you should go read – despite the fact that is has nothing to do with Princess Tutu besides the fact that they’re both in the top 10 of Draggle’s anime list).

I read somewhere in advance of starting Tutu that it’s a “metafictional” story, which means jack squat unless you’ve actually seen an episode of the show. Having seen two episodes, though, I get it. Tutu is a story within a story, or maybe like 30 stories inside one story. This is cool, partially because the literariness of it coupled with the cartoonyness lets me feel like an educated consumer while also getting to giggle about how ducking cute Duck is and how silly her faces are. Are all Junichi Sato shows like this? If so, I’ve been doing myself a disservice by unintentionally keeping my distance from him.

I also found out during “research” (aka I was looking at the Wikipedia page for the show to remember Luci Christian’s name) that the original story concept, character designs, and chief animation direction are all done by the same man woman, Ikuko Ito. This is interesting because such a trio of roles might make you suspect a kind of harmony between the story, designs, and animation, but I certainly don’t have the verve to try and make an analysis of how the formal qualities of Duck’s design are inherently synchronized to the story.

Princess Tutu

Anyways, my first impressions of Princess Tutu are that Sato finished storyboarding Utena 34 for Ikuhara and was like, “What the hell’s this tryhard artsy grimdark junk? Your henshin sequences are pointlessly inscrutable. Nanami was the only character in your show with halfway decent silly faces. Let’s give this another go, but cuter.” Between weird marriage threats from Cat-sensei and Duck effortlessly being cuter than Utena and Chu Chu combined, I’d say Sato and co. have successfully modulated the Utena mold [J.A. Seazar is playing the background as I write this; I am chastened].

I’m pretty darn fascinated by the ballet school Duck attends. It’s obviously tiny and apparently resides within a town, but you would know about the latter point until the second episode, which is interesting. The pond she keeps seeing in her dream apparently has its “real life” (lol) parallel outside the town, so it’s the story that liberates her from the confines of her reality (personal and physical).

A word on role-playing and the theatre: the point of acting is that the actor effaces the boundary between self and character for the audience. It’s not clear yet to the extent which Duck is doing this. She’s a duck, Duck, and Princess Tutu at alternate times, but when she’s one how much is she the other? If Princess Tutu is a character in a story that Duck has to play (or is that backwards? has Princess Tutu been forced out of her proper role into being Duck), she’s got to erase Duck or else risk failing to convince the audience, which is Mythos primarily now I suppose. In other words, it’s the opposite of method acting, find the self in the character. Of course, that boundary is ephemeral – it all bleeds together.

Last word: Rue’s gonna be the school-world incarnation of the Raven? Drat. Why is it always the cool beauties?

Princess Tutu


I stumbled upon Princess Nine while trying to see if Crunchyroll had Princess Tutu. Baseball is not as good as ballet, but it’s pretty good even so.

9 thoughts on “Ducking Good: Princess Tutu Episodes 1-2

  1. “and make an analysis of how the formal qualities of Duck’s design are inherently synchronized to the story.” IIRC, the Sentai discs have a making-of slide show that showed some of the design work for Tutu from it’s early concept stages so you should give those a look (the story started off much more “realistically” which I think is fascinating)

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    • I’ll probably not watch those until I finish the show since that just how I do physical release reviews, but it’s good to know that I can keep an eye out for that!

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  2. Ooh, you’ve stumbled upon Princess Tutu! One of my all-time favourites. Not sure if you’ll feel like that, too, but it loses steam near the middle. If that happens, don’t worry. It’ll come back with a vengeance.

    No, not all Sato shows are like that. But he’s usually got a very good sense setting. Of the other things I’ve seen:

    Tamayura is his brainchild. It’s a show that runs a consistent streak of sadness and anxiety under a very calm and sweet surface. The show is ultimately re-assuring and doesn’t have a mean bone its body. It’s theme is photography, and our main character is pretty good with snap-shots (you can see the motion in some of those stills). The order is: Tamayura (OAV) –> T. Hitotose –> T. More Agressive (because it couldn’t possibly be less agressive) –> T. Sotsugyou Sasshin (a series of four movies – with the last one outstanding). This is a lot to watch, and it’s probably not a good idea to watch all of it at once, since it’s very consistent in tone all through the series.

    Aria. Well, I’ve only seen the first season so far (and the first episode of the second), but I’ll definitely get back to that. Of the shows of his I’ve seen, Aria probably comes closest to how you descibe Princess Tutu above. The juxtaposition of a terraformed Mars and Venetian architecture (with our gondola-riding protagonists) is surprisingly detailled and subtle.

    M3 (with Mari Okada) is a horror-mecha show, and it’s quite atmospheric at times, but ultimately this isn’t one of his better shows. I liked it well enough, but don’t have any particular feelings for this show looking back. And judging by the feedback I read online I liked the show more than avarage.

    If you’d like to see a good Okada/Sato collaboration, I suggest Zetsumetsu Kigu Shoujo Amazing Twins; it’s a two-part OAV about a Magical girl who borrows the magic from her still-born twin, who’s ghost lives on in a teddy bear. It’s a really charming two-parter, and I remember wishing they’d expanded this into a tv-series instead of doing M3.

    But Princess Tutu is in a class of its own. I wish I could address some of the points above, but I won’t spoil anything. The story is very, very good.

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  3. I’m excited for these episode impressions! I’m so glad you’re enjoying Tutu (although honestly, it never even crossed my mind that you wouldn’t enjoy it), and very interested to see what you think of the characters once you’ve had a chance to see everyone in action. It’s been a long time since I last watched the series myself so I can’t remember exactly when stuff happens, but I do recall loving every second of it – there was some definite fangirling going on.

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  4. Oh, you’re watching Princess Tutu. Excellent! I own that series, though I haven’t actually gotten around to re-watching it since I bought it (last time I saw it was maybe 8 or 9 years ago). Maybe this’ll give me a push to go back and see it again.

    Sato’s best work has primarily been in three areas: shoujo, magical girl, and iyashikei, but one of the common threads that runs through most of his best work regardless of genre is that he has a knack for establishing a really strong chemistry among his core cast, and Tutu is no exception in that regard. I’ve also seen the first season of Aria (again many years ago) and his short OVA One Off, along with a few scattered episodes of Ojamajo Doremi and the original Sailor Moon, and that was something I noticed in all of those shows.

    BTW, Sato’s next series will be Amanchu!, which premieres this summer and is adapting another manga by Kozue Amano (the creator of Aria). And the series composer is going to be Deko Akao, whom you’re already familiar with as the series composer for Flying Witch, Noragami, and Shirayuki-hime. Sato and Akao working together could be a really good match, especially for that type of material.

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    • I’m still early in the show (finished episode 6 earlier this week), but I do get a sense of some of the things you mention as being his strengths already. More to come!

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