I took a break at the structural cliffhanger; turns out sad emotions make people sad.
Princess Tutu got me good. Coming out of episode 4, I was starting to wonder about Princess Tutu only restoring Mythos’ negative emotions to him. “Surely this can’t last. Surely Tutu is aware that imbuing a boy with only negative emotions won’t restore him to wholeness, only crush him beneath the weight of them, right?” Heck, even Drosselmeyer throws this out (although I’ll note I thought of it before he offered his take). And then episode 5 came, with all the gentle warmth I’d felt Tutu to be capable of from the very first episode. Like the ghostly lady in episode 4, the lamp in episode 5 is suffering loneliness – but this loneliness is generated out of lack of object for its inherently affectionate nature. That’s pretty moe anthropomorphization, if you ask me. When do we get our lamp moegirl slice of life anime?
The duality of the deceased woman and the lamp to be a really nice way to frame the differences between episodes 4 and 5 (and it’s also interesting how Rue is a focal point for both of these stories), making the the comparative warmth of 5 stand out all the more by attributing a positive emotion with a character other than Princess Tutu. And so, at this point I was starting to think I’d figured Tutu out – that it was going to strike a balance between downer emotions and uplifting ones to keep Mythos balanced out until the end, but then episode 6 showed up and turned all of this on its head.
Making the prince fear the saving princess as a result of her actions is a pretty gutsy move, but where Princess Tutu really wins is by achieving the one-two punch of upsetting its own established story structure and blasting the audience with the emotional weight of Duck’s sudden agonizing doubt.
Because, let’s be real, if you aren’t rooting for Duck at this point, you must be a callous stone-hearted monster. She’s acting out of well-intentioned ignorance, chucking traditional gender roles out the window, being totally cute, and dancing all at the same time – of course she’s going to impulsively assume she’s got one track towards the final ending (in fact, her insistence on forcing the heart shard to return to Mythos feels a little more than slightly motivated by the desperation of knowing her feelings will never be reciprocated). “You may not ever recognize me the way I want you to, but just let me save you, dammit!”
The other thing that came clearer in this batch of episodes were Mythos’ relationships with Rue (who I still like a lot! she danced herself to exhaustion trying to save him!) and Fakir. It’s hard to say if either of them really love Mythos at this point, but I do think it’s obvious both of them care about him – even if it might be in a somewhat unhealthy way. Fakir, in particular, despite his verbal abuse of Mythos, seems like he’s trying to protect Mythos as best he can from the agony of being human. An empty shell can’t feel anything, and therefore cannot be hurt.
Even more interesting that Mythos’ one-sided relationships with Rue and Fakir is their relationship with each other, which appears to be a weird sort of alliance for/rivalry over Mythos. Both of them want to possess the prince (and both know who he is, which implies they came from the story?) and protect him from hurt, but they’re both too headstrong and too possessive to entirely give him over to the guardianship of the other. But the ways they relate to Mythos differ wildly – Rue will send Mythos off alone to fetch her water while Fakir basically wants to lock Mythos up permanently. It’s all sort of shades of unhealthy either way, but when Mythos can’t feel pain who’s gonna stop you…… especially with Princess Tutu dunked in a pond…
Oh, by the way, I still have no bloody idea what’s going on with random (random! not Duck!) characters being animals… electric eels… shocking…