Episode 1 of our 4-part watchalong of the shoujo classic Princess Tutu with Vrai, Chiaki, and special guest Miranda Sanchez!
Date Recorded: Monday 18th March 2019
Hosts: Vrai, Chiaki
0:08:57 First impressions
0:10:19 Introducing tropes
0:13:49 Narrative roles
0:17:57 Nudity and the ‘90s
0:20:51 Fakir, Rue, and Mytho
0:26:25 Duck vs Tutu
0:31:56 Unfinished and endless stories
0:41:41 Sub vs dub
0:50:35 Final thoughts
VRAI: Hello, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. And this is our watchalong of Princess Tutu. Very excited about this one. My name is Vrai Kaiser, and I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can find out more about what I do by checking my pinned tweet, @writervrai. Or you can find the other podcast I cohost, @trashpod.
And today I am very lucky to have two guests with me. Not really guests. One of them is Chiaki. She’s a member of our staff and she’s making her sterling podcast debut with this one. And our other guest is Miranda Sanchez, who you all may remember from the Kill la Kill podcast. If you guys wanna introduce yourself and plug the internet things you do?
CHIAKI: Sure, I guess I can go. Hi, I’m Chiaki Hirai. I guess I am the newest editor to start at Anime Feminist, recently last year. Aside from working here, I’m a reporter for a Japanese-American newspaper in San Francisco, and you can find me online, @chiaki747, at Twitter or Mastodon. Yeah, that’s about it.
MIRANDA: And hello! I’m Miranda Sanchez. First off, congrats, Chiaki! That’s awesome to work with Anime Feminist. I love the crew over there very much.
MIRANDA: Yeah, that’s awesome. I work at IGN. I kind of run a lot of our anime content, except for the bad stuff. I always like to say that.
MIRANDA: I officially unofficially kind of run what we do over there. I am a senior editor, so I also cover a lot of video games. I help our Wiki team. And, of course, our core editorial for game reviews and everything else. And then you can find me online pretty much everywhere @havokrose—and that’s “havok” with a “k,” because I was 12 years old when I made that handle, and I said, “A ‘k’ looks cool!”
VRAI: That’s a bold commitment. I respect that.
CHIAKI: I mean, it’s the same for me, too, right? I’ve used “Chiaki” since middle school.
VRAI: That’s adorable.
All right, well, let’s go ahead and get into it. I have been wanting to do this particular watchalong for at least a year. Princess Tutu is one of my favorite anime of all time. In my mind, it is the embodiment of everything good that shoujo can do as a genre, basically. I think if you are used to me being sort of the cranky pedant on other podcasts, don’t worry. I will be nothing but gushing, and it will be a problem for this one.
MIRANDA: I’m very excited to hear you excited about the show. [laughs]
CHIAKI: I’m happy to see happiness from you, for once.
VRAI: [laughs] Yep, yep. Okay, this confirms all my worst fears about myself.
VRAI: Uh, so a little bit of info. Just basic background. This show actually connects to a lot of shows we’ve already covered on the podcast. It came out in 2002. It was an anime original. Although there was later a manga, which: don’t bother. It sucks. It was directed by Junichi Sato, a very big name in the anime industry. You may know him as the head director for the first season of Sailor Moon and also the Doom Tree Allen and Ail segment of Sailor Moon R, although he continued to work on the series all the way through Super S, I believe.
He also most recently served as the head director for Hugtto! Precure, the Precure everybody likes. So, he’s still working very much today. The series composition is Michiko Yokote, who people might know from these watchalongs for being the head writer of Shirobako—although while researching this, I also discovered that she did series composition for Gravitation, and it’s kind of messing me up. Not gonna lie.
CHIAKI: I know her more for Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, is what I watched.
VRAI: Ah, yeah. That was… She was big in on that. And the Ah! My Goddess movie she wrote as well. A lot of stuff in the industry. And she’s also currently… Well, it’ll be over by the time this comes out, but the winter season, she was the head writer for Magnificent Kotobuki as well.
The studio that made Princess Tutu is sadly defunct. It was made in 2003 by former Toei employees, and it was subsumed in 2009. But their last project was yet another podcast favorite: Yamada’s First Time, which was the last full series that they did before being absorbed back into a larger company. Which is kind of sad.
All right, I think that settles it up. I could geek out all day about voice actor stuff. There’s a weird mix of still-very-active seiyuu on this one, and people who just kind of didn’t do stuff after the 2000s. But I recognize that that’s of interest only to me. And also, as I discovered, Princess Tutu is only streaming in dub format.
MIRANDA: Yeah, that was what I found first, and I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll just stick with the dub for simplicity’s sake, and I already have a HiDive subscription, so might as well use it.”
VRAI: So you both watched it in English, then?
VRAI: Okay. I mean, I have watched this in both versions. I think it’s a good dub. I have an immense fondness for it, although I respect that it’s a weird and kind of annoying thing when you can’t access the original-language version at all. And it makes me kind of sad that that’s not even an option. Sentai did just do a really nice rerelease in Blu-Ray that’s high-def and cleaned up all the colors, similar to what Funimation did for Escaflowne, and it’s pretty affordable. So, if people are interested, it’s worth picking up.
VRAI: So, you two are watching this for the first time. You wanna give any sort of personal… Had you heard of it before? Was there a reason you hadn’t given it a shot? This is the part where I stop talking for a while.
MIRANDA: Yeah, okay, sure.
MIRANDA: So, for me, at least, I knew about Princess Tutu, but I didn’t have any reason to watch it, I guess. I had this massive backlog of older shows that I really wanna get to, and I knew that some of my friends had really enjoyed it, and that was about it. That’s all I knew about it. And then, of course, getting into it, I was very surprised to see that Duck was actually a duck. Completely baffled.
MIRANDA: So, that was pretty much my extent of Princess Tutu.
[Audio skips slightly]
VRAI: Unexpected. Yeah, completely fresh. That’s neat. ‘Cause this series has got quite the reputation at this point, after all these years. Chiaki, I know you’d been hounded about it for a long time.
CHIAKI: Yeah, so as much as I enjoy shoujo, it’s not something that is first-choice for me when I get to watching things, and I, too, have a huge backlog. So, back in college, people started telling me, “Oh, you should really watch Princess Tutu.” And I never did. The only thing I really watched was that “Hold Me Now” AMV and I was like, “Oh, this looks really great.” Which I’m guessing is totally different in tone from the actual show, now that I’ve watched the first six episodes.
VRAI: It’s a good AMV… ?
VRAI: Oh, actually, that does lead me to my next question. Are you two, then, fans of—do you watch a lot of shoujo in general?
MIRANDA: I do. I like shoujo. I kind of watch a little bit of everything, but, that’s usually my motto. Very fond of shoujo.
CHIAKI: Yeah, not against it at all. I’ve enjoyed a lot of shoujo, but I think I’ll go for more seinen stuff, usually.
VRAI: Yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at as well. It’s kind of one of those things I feel compelled to ask, because Princess Tutu had a very strong contingent of crossover, especially in the 2000s. There was this very bro-y posturing contingent of male fans who are like, “Real men watch Princess Tutu!” And it was always kind of interesting to watch this wanting to acknowledge this show is good but also having to couch it in “Well, we don’t normally watch this kind of girly stuff, but this one’s really good, so… ” So, it’s always kind of interesting to me.
I feel like this is a good shoujo gateway series for a lot of people. And, like I said, I feel like it embodies a lot of what the genre does really, really well. And I guess… Having come in with all of that, what did you think of these first six episodes?
MIRANDA: My first thought was… I was surprised by how theatrical it is. It really buys into the idea of “this is a story and a play” and you have these very obvious chorus characters. And, of course, a lot of Nutcracker music, which is very intentional for other reasons. And I was really impressed with how much I liked how sweet it was? I dunno. Just overall, I was really excited to keep watching more. Of course, ’cause I think we ended at a good point, where it’s like, “Oh, you should keep watching.”
VRAI: Stuff’s gonna get real.
MIRANDA: Yeah! I really like Duck as a protagonist. She’s very interesting and cute. I like her own internal dilemma of always saying, “I’m just a duck.” You know? And how she addresses situations and how… I think this is a really interesting one, too, ’cause it does feel like a show that’s very aware of what kind of audience it could have.
It leaves a lot for you to figure out, but it also has that helping hand aspect of, in the very beginning, it gives a very quick description of what the episode’s kind of about, or some thematic things. And sometimes it just straight-up tells you super-important information that, if you didn’t put together yourself, just at least kind of confirms that, which I see being helpful for younger audiences.
VRAI: Yeah. It’s definitely… And I don’t mean this as a knock on the show at all, but I’ve always thought of it as “Baby’s First Utena” in that it is made for probably a 10-to-12 audience and it is teaching you to learn to pick up on those thematic threads in a way that I think is really neat and important.
MIRANDA: Absolutely! It doesn’t feel belittling in any way, but it definitely has those moments where you’re like, “Ah, yes. You’re trying to help me understand this thing that I understand. Thank you.” [laughs]
VRAI: And I’ve been noticing this time around that you can actually… Underneath the titles of the episodes, it lists the major musical movement from ballets that is in the soundtrack. It lists them in German, which is a little bit nostalgic for me because my dad spoke a lot of German around the house growing up. I can’t speak it, but, you know, it comforts me to see it.
So, it’s nice to see that. And, actually, another interesting thing is that this is a series that plays a lot with intertextuality. Obviously the fairytale stuff is obvious right off the bat. You’ve got Giselle and Sleeping Beauty. But watching it, it’s also very much commenting on shoujo archetypes as well. I am just endlessly delighted by the fact that Lilie is this incredibly vicious takedown of Tomoyo, because she’s absolutely adoring of Duck’s every movement, but in a really condescending, kind of sadistic way. And it makes me laugh so hard.
MIRANDA: Yes! Those are always really good. Tell your friends when they’re wrong or being goofy.
VRAI: Yeah, they are all archetypal shoujo characters and archetypal sort of fairytale characters. I’m really interested in places where those kind of meet and overlap, and also where they chafe against each other. I feel like Duck has inherited a lot of Usagi’s physical comedy from the first season of Sailor Moon, which is so nice to see.
MIRANDA: Yeah. It makes sense with the director, so…
CHIAKI: I guess so.
VRAI: You don’t see enough of that. Chiaki, you watched some of Hugtto, didn’t you?
CHIAKI: No, I have actually not. I have not actually seen Hugtto. Just the tweets online.
VRAI: Ah. Which, I mean, is like watching Hugtto.
CHIAKI: Yeah. I feel… I mean, from screencaps, there seems to be a little bit of that, but I’m not sure if it was as big. It did really stand out to me when I was watching Princess Tutu, though. Yeah. Especially in the first two episodes, I feel they really went overboard almost, even, on that.
VRAI: It’s wacky.
VRAI: She’s got them noodle-y limbs. But, I mean, in a way… It is definitely very… It’s a lot. But also I kind of miss it, because I’m old now, and I really like that kind of slapstick-y shoujo protagonist, which I don’t think you see as much anymore, even in… We’ve had a spate of good otome protagonists lately, but they’re still never quite as ridiculous as Duck or Miaka or Usagi were allowed to be.
VRAI: These are always hard, to be the person in the know… Actually I think this is the first time I’ve had to do it. But I guess I wanted to know if you had noticed anything about… You mentioned… The show is certainly not subtle at all about “these are the roles you’re destined to play.” You have the prince and the raven and the princess. And I guess I wanted to know your thoughts on that and what you think the series is doing with it at this point.
CHIAKI: I thought that was kind of an interesting convention of storytelling. It feels almost fourth-wall-breaking. Or, I guess it is fourth-wall-breaking. To say, you know, “Hey, your story just started yesterday and it’s okay. That’s just where you’re at.” That was an interesting concept that kind of stuck with me.
VRAI: Yeah, that idea of “stories begin suddenly.” It’s such a good line. Edel’s full of whole quotes that you put on your wall.
MIRANDA: Oh yeah. I love Edel. Anytime she talks or I start hearing the music, it’s like, “Yes! Edel time!”
VRAI: She’s very comforting.
MIRANDA: Yeah! I really like these roles, ’cause I feel like… Well, somebody messaged me on Instagram when I was saying that I was watching this, and said, “Oh, yeah. This is one of the best twists.” And I was like, “Oh!” But I kind of figured that?
VRAI: [intensely] I will reach through the internet and crush them if they ruin this for you!
MIRANDA: They didn’t tell me what it was. Like, “This is one of my favorites. I don’t wanna say what it is, but it’s really good and stick with it!” I was like, “Oh I’m planning to!” But I kind of feel like that’s the case, just ’cause of the art for Princess Tutu on HiDive is a little bit, “Oh! Okay, well, this is interesting.” It looks a lot darker than I think the show comes off as.
I like that this whole thing is about this unfinished story [that] just kind of took on a life of its own. And so I’m really into the idea that, although they’re trying to play out these roles, their roles don’t really matter in the same way anymore, because the story is kind of in its own place and kind of just following its own direction, and that means that their roles aren’t necessarily determining their fate.
So, I think that’s something that Duck still needs to realize in the first six episodes, and definitely hasn’t, but she’s a young girl. Still figuring it all out. Just found out she’s Princess Tutu. So I’m gonna give her some time.
VRAI: Yeah, these characters are ostensibly 13, 14 but they feel 12. They feel like wee 12-year-old babs. Chiaki, did you have anything to add on that one?
CHIAKI: Uh, I mean, I think… And this kind of goes to what I felt… I saw the part where it’s like, “Dream and your wish is granted.” That’s the great thing about stories. Drosselmeyer gives Duck her wish to become a girl, right? And I kinda read that as sort of a trans narrative as well? It’s kind of what spoke to me about the series at the very beginning. It’s like, “Oh yeah, you can be whatever you want as long as you really believe it.”
But, at the same time, in that same breath, right afterward, he says, “If you do or say anything that resembles a duck, you turn back into one.” And that’s kind of a thing that also reflects to me… It’s like, “Oh, yeah. I totally can be a girl any time I want, until I think back and dysphoria hits me hard.” [laughs]
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that… I guess I never thought about it watching the series, but it definitely has… Although I will say that the series doesn’t really play on that in any kind of useful, triumphant manner. The series is doing a lot of other interesting things, but that one, I feel like…
CHIAKI: Yeah. That was definitely a one-episode… One moment of, “Huh. Interesting.”
VRAI: [excitedly] “Oh shit!” Yeah. It’s one of those where I don’t want to stop on this, but this one in particular, I know it’s going to end up being disappointing if we follow that throughline to its full conclusion.
CHIAKI: Oh, yeah. No, I felt like the whole “transform into a duck” thing was very much underplayed throughout the six episodes.
VRAI: I do love how much there’s a lot of comedy nudity that’s never gross, and anime has battered me in my soul so deeply.
MIRANDA: Oh my gosh, yes. It’s like, “Hey! Everyone who’s trying to do this, here’s how you do it correctly.”
CHIAKI: I feel that’s more prevalent in shows that are a little bit older because nudity in Japanese anime, especially children’s shows, is pretty prevalent, I feel. Just not as gross, because it was for children.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, between… So much ‘90s glow-y nudity… Like, Sailor Moon had a lot of it. Or even wacky comedy penises in Dragon Ball. And even then, it was goofy. Ridiculous. I miss that.
MIRANDA: Me too.
VRAI: I miss being able to watch a show and not say, “Is this person gonna get arrested in five years?”
MIRANDA: Yeah… And this is such a good way to do it, too. You see it, just how… It’s like the camera angle and the way they’re drawn and everything around it is just done so much better, and it’s actually funny, and it doesn’t make me feel bad for watching it.
VRAI: It does occasionally get very convenient. “Duck needs to not be around to intervene in something.” “Don’t worry, we’ve got a Duck for that.” I mean, not that she could anyway, because her actions are, to an extent, constrained by the avatar of George R.R. Martin and Gen Urobuchi: Drosselmeyer, the lover of tragedy porn.
MIRANDA: Oh, indeed. Everyone just gets to be sad.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s so interesting to look at his character from a modern perspective, in a post-Madoka anime landscape, where he’s just this gleeful figure about how sad everyone is and how everything is going horribly and it’s going to be a delightful tragedy.
MIRANDA: Really reminds me of Panic! at the Disco. That’s what I was saying. It’s beautiful, but also very sad always.
VRAI: Mm-hm. There’s very much a sense of: there’s the story, and then there’s the story being enforced, and then there’s all these other stories, ’cause you have the element of fabulism as well. Characters come into town, they’re like, “Was it always like this? Well, I guess it must have always been like this.”
MIRANDA: Yeah. I particularly like that episode, I think, maybe the most. Just because we finally get that confirmation that this town is very weird. And everyone’s just fine with it, ’cause that is the status quo at this point. I dunno. That was episode six, right? Yes.
VRAI: Yep. That was the last one of this set.
MIRANDA: I also always appreciate it whenever a show lets us all be very impressed by a woman, and everyone can be impressed by a woman no matter their preference. And be very attracted, like, “Wow! So beautiful! So cool!”
VRAI: Duck is a Disaster Bisexual and I love her.
MIRANDA: It’s beautiful. I love it so much.
VRAI: [cracking up] It’s so good. I feel like this is the part of the episode where I have to ask about Fakir, my son, who I always forget is so terrible early on.
CHIAKI: Yeah. Sorry. I mean, you’re promising me a lot by saying I’m gonna like Fakir, but at this moment, I’m just like, “Man, I hope Duck just steals Mytho away and just leaves those assholes behind.” [laughs]
MIRANDA: Yeah, there’s no violence at this point, but I’m like, “Wow, I hope there’s a little bit of violence, ’cause Fakir needs to go down.” [laughs] But you say “your son,” Fakir… I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I’ll keep a closer eye on him.
VRAI: Yeah. It’s… Well, it’s interesting from a rewatch perspective, I guess. Because Fakir, no excuses, is awful in the first couple of episodes. He’s very controlling and belittling and he’s just kind of a dick to everyone.
But you do get an interesting shift towards the end of these where, when he… In that sixth episode, when Mytho collapses and he realizes that he is… Okay, I have confirmed… ‘Cause he has that moment of, “Are you having an emotion? Are you just doing this to fuck with me? Am I annoyed at this?”
But in that episode six, you have that shift where he says, “Okay, an emotion is happening.” And he changes into this very definite caretaker role, which I find to be an interesting… A sort of interesting indicator of his character and where they’re trying to go with it, even at this stage. But it looks bad, right? ‘Cause he’s awful.
MIRANDA: Yeah, it’s really interesting, ’cause Mytho alone is just this blank person who just stares off into the distance and can’t do anything and probably wouldn’t even take care of himself if no one else did it for him. So, I think the abusiveness of their relationship is the most off-putting part, of course, but I see the need for it, because I guess not having a heart means you can’t do anything, or have any thoughts of your own, so… I see why Fakir is so strict with him and is so surprised when he doesn’t have to be as strict, or feels maybe the need to be even more strict.
I think the thing that has me most curious is why there’s so much of: “He does not need a heart. Do not give him his heart back.” It’s like, “Why? Wouldn’t… If you care about him, wouldn’t you want to let us know why? Tell us?”
VRAI: No, no. By all means, I encourage you, Chiaki, to spill your terrible bile. This is not my attempt to stomp it.
CHIAKI: I feel like Fakir and Rue are almost even abusive in the sense that they’re trying to keep Mytho all to themselves.
VRAI: Yeah, I think that’s fair.
MIRANDA: Oh, sure.
CHIAKI: By just, you know, not letting him be himself. And it feels very Sleeping Beauty: caged, hidden away sort of thing. Just, no. That’s kind of rude. I hope Mytho can become whole again, and I hope he’s not an asshole when he wakes up.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I was curious, because the emotions we’re giving him back first are I guess the ones that Princess Tutu is finding… are mostly negative. They’re mostly really awful things. It’s like, “I’m gonna give you affection and sorrow and loneliness. Good luck.” Okay, if that’s the first things you feel… Man, it’s gonna be a little difficult.
VRAI: Right. Right. The series hits on its not-too-fine a point of being like, “Is Princess Aurora really happier being woken up, or was she happier dreaming?”
VRAI: And I think… I do sort of love the way the series structures that, in that I think shoujo is a genre about very powerful emotions, that allows emotions to be powerful, but the lesser examples of the genre don’t always honor the importance of bad emotions. It’s important to be angry and scared and sad, and those kinds of things—to be allowed to feel those things. And is that a part of having them come back first? What is the importance of these emotions to being a full person?
MIRANDA: Right. And I think it is nice to see them explore that even more with Fakir, too, at least in episode 6, when he was actually frightened of Princess Tutu—Mytho was. And seeing Fakir change a little bit, at least, there, and seeing maybe why he was worrying about his emotions being returned to him. Even though, at the same time, as Chiaki was saying, still very abusive! Still very weird and controlling.
VRAI: Uh-huh. You don’t just get to lock your roommate boyfriend in a room because he didn’t do what you say. You don’t get to do that.
MIRANDA: Yeah. Absolutely not. That is a big old no.
VRAI: I know you’re a shitty middle schooler, but you still can’t. You still can’t do it.
MIRANDA: I think one of the biggest things that is curious to me, too, is how Duck is looking at these emotions all as good things, and not really considering what she’s doing. She’s just so gung-ho about, like, “I want to make him happy! Here is sorrow.”
MIRANDA: It’s kinda… Duck, do you even see what you’re doing? I feel—
CHIAKI: Yeah, it’s—No, go ahead. Keep going.
MIRANDA: It’s like… Well, she is a duck. I mean, she keeps saying that, but at the same time, when we see her as Princess Tutu, she acts so different, and I feel like obviously those are both parts of herself. I’m just curious to see when those two start to feel more like the same person.
CHIAKI: No, I was about to lead into that same point, where it’s like Princess Tutu feels like an entirely different character from Duck a lot of the times. She just kind of deus-ex-machinas right in and gives Mytho back his emotions, and then just kinda goes off.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s by far the clearest case of a character wholeheartedly accepting the role she’s been given, to the point where, yeah, she disappears. She’s not Duck anymore, really. She’s like this force, almost.
MIRANDA: Yeah, and it’s weird, because you know people see that side of her, especially in episode six, where they say, “We see this passion in your dancing. We see this.” But she doesn’t quite bring that out when she’s still Duck. But it’s obviously there, and it is the same person, and they keep pushing on that.
And I really appreciate that. It’s like a part of you that’s just not come out yet, and you just need to find that part of you to persist through you as a whole. And I think she’s just trying to, of course, get over the fact that’s like, “No, you’re not ‘just a duck.’ You are you, and you can embrace all of that.”
VRAI: Yeah, I feel like the series is trying to be like… I think, in an imperfect way, it’s trying to push this wide variety of “You’re you, and that’s okay and you should be you.”
MIRANDA: Yeah, and not necessarily hold yourself back, ’cause… kind of what I was going back to saying earlier. She keeps telling herself, “I’m just a duck.” And it’s like, “Don’t hold yourself back, Duck! It’s okay!”
VRAI: I mean, it’s doing it using the fact that it has personified animals now, but I have a soft spot for the Anteaterina episode, ’cause it’s like, “You are a large girl for a very strict body type that’s allowed in ballet.” Ballet is extremely exclusionary, in terms of how tall you can be and how thin you can be, and it fucks up your body the fastest of any dance type. [disappointedly] Oh, ballet.
But I feel like, in those moments, even if it’s afraid to have actual fat human characters, it’s trying to be like, “No, no. You’re okay. Different body types are good. You just have to dance in a way that’s good for you, like Bob Fosse. He made it work.”
CHIAKI: Yeah, I wanted to say, Rue just telling Anteaterina off, like, “Nah, you’re not ever gonna be as good as me.” It’s like, “That’s super rude,” but at the same time, I can see it. And I guess it leans into more self-acceptance, or being able to love yourself more than anything.
MIRANDA: The way I interpreted their conversation was that she’s telling Anteaterina that she could never dance the same way as Rue because it’s like, “This is my style. You can’t copy it. Don’t be me. You’re you. Stop.”
CHIAKI: I see.
MIRANDA: And that’s… I think when we first met Rue, I thought she was a cool, nice person. Like, “Oh, it’s Senpai coming in! Being the best in class!” And now I’m just like, “Excuse me? Who are you?”
VRAI: Yeah, she’s kind of got the scary oujo thing going on. The mean, upperclassman. But, also, the series complicates that right off the bat, ’cause Duck’s gonna make friends. She’s gonna make friends though.
MIRANDA: Right, and she’s obviously interested in helping… Not necessarily helping, but letting Princess Tutu recover Mytho’s memories, ’cause she doesn’t say anything about who Princess Tutu is, and she probably put the pieces together: Duck disappearing, Princess Tutu’s here. Wonder what that’s about.
So, I’m really curious about her character, ’cause I have my own theories of who the raven is, and how this all is gonna play together, and I also accidentally saw the title for the next episode, and I was like, “All right! Yeah! Confirmations!”
VRAI: I mean, that counts. It’s in the episode preview. You’re allowed.
MIRANDA: Yeah, so it’s like, “Oh, yes!”
What does the raven have to gain from Mytho getting his emotions back? Well, I guess he threw away his heart to seal the raven. But why does the raven have to be put away? What was the raven doing in the first place?
VRAI: [quietly] Questions.
CHIAKI: Maybe the raven’s the good guy after all.
VRAI: What a twist. Yeah, I was very amused, Chiaki, watching your flailing on Twitter as you realized this was where we had to stop for this recording.
CHIAKI: I was like, “Finally, a Rue episode… NO!”
VRAI: Yeah, Rue is great. I feel like on the continuum of character-cinnamon-roll-ness, Rue is much less mean than Fakir, but she definitely has her stakes at being terrible in these early episodes.
CHIAKI: Just pours a lemonade out. “I want water.”
VRAI: I loved the thirst metaphor of that scene.
VRAI: She knows what she wants.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I was very tempted to keep watching and was like, “But what if I don’t tell them?” I was like, “No, no, no. I just gotta wait one day,” and then continue on.
VRAI: And continue. That’s a good sign!
MIRANDA: I’m so into this show. I also love the idea that it’s a guilt trip for writers who have unfinished stories. It’s like, “Hey, your stories are just suffering over here. What are you doing?” “Oh, sorry!” [laughs]
CHIAKI: Yeah, all my OCs can die.
VRAI: Oh no.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I have a few… I do creative writing as well, so it’s just like, “I’m so sorry!”
VRAI: Yeah, it gave me flashbacks to… I think the earliest example of this in at least this specific format is a play from the early 20th century called “Five Characters in Search of an Author,” who are all sitting around griping that—and I think it was a German play, too; well-played, Princess Tutu— Of a bunch of characters sitting around griping that they don’t have anywhere to go with their stories. Deepest lore!
But they have that quote… or, Edel does, because she dispenses thematic wisdom along with Bea Arthur, the narrator, which I can’t unhear, that a story that never ends is a cruel thing. Which is such an interesting line, I feel like.
VRAI: ‘Cause, I mean, I love fanfic. I will defend fanfic to the death. But there is that… There’s that thing now, right? Where people always want another official installment. They want to know the Pottermore details. And this is how we get J.K. Rowling.
VRAI: I feel like J.K. Rowling is the embodiment of “A story that never ends is a cruel thing.”
MIRANDA: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy to see that. Like whenever… You’ve got so many properties that just kept going, and you’re like… We know why people wanted that, and obviously money is involved, but there’s an end, and there should be an end.
I think that’s one thing that I really love about anime, is that a lot of it ends up having just a story to tell, it tells it, and then it’s done. For a lot of them. And I think that’s really great, ’cause we don’t get that a lot in Western TV shows that have to go for a billion seasons until it just dies.
And I think that point is just such a good thing to make, because I’m always an advocate of creators getting to do what they want. It’s like if they want to stop telling their story, then let them. Because that’s so important to let it just come to the conclusion and appreciate what you had from the story, and move on to the next thing.
CHIAKI: And I feel like some of it is also not just that a story doesn’t end, but sometimes a story does end, but it just keeps going, especially in the case of Dragon Ball or something, where you finish an arc, and you’re like, “Okay, everyone can go happily ever after. No! We’re gonna have another huge battle and the next Big Bad comes out.” And I think that, especially with an episodic story like Princess Tutu, where there’s a constant new enemy of the week, it has that threat of doing that.
VRAI: Yeah, no, I totally feel what you mean. Like, at what point do the characters’ struggles become meaningless because there’s always another power-up. There’s always another thing.
CHIAKI: How many more emotions can you get after “all of them” are collected?
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, I love that. I’m fascinated by that element of the story, and obviously, I have a lot of feelings about writers who won’t stop writing a thing, because of Anne Rice.
But I think an element of that, too, is that an author changes as the story they told when they were 20 and that meant a lot to them and that meant a lot to other people who are also 20 is not the same story that they can write when they’re 35, even if they’re writing the same characters. What they believe in and what they’ve experienced is changed.
And I feel like Drosselmeyer literally being a dead author—the author has died, but he won’t stop! Fucking love that.
MIRANDA: [laughs] Yeah! I hope we get to find out more about him, too, which I’m sure we will, but he’s just such an interesting character. I love him slinking around the shadows and just kind of appearing–of course–when Princess Tutu needs him.
VRAI: His horrible face!
CHIAKI: Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around him. I’m just like, “What is this dude?”
VRAI: Yes! Do tell me your Drosselmeyer thoughts.
CHIAKI: No, I’m constantly thinking… Okay, he seems like an ally to Duck, but at the same time, it almost just seems like he’s just playing with her? So, is he just having fun? Is he just an asshole ghost that wants to see people suffer, as you say?
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah. He has no audience. He’s dead. He’s just doing it for him. This is a story for the self-satisfaction of one person, with no audience.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I could see him wanting to be an asshole at that point.
VRAI: They say “write for yourself,” but stories that you don’t have to write for the expectations of an audience get weird. They get weird and they end in Tarantino’s weird foot fetish.
CHIAKI: Is that how this ends? Drosselmeyer’s weird foot fetish?
VRAI: [laughs] No, this isn’t—
MIRANDA: [Unintelligible beneath laughter]
VRAI: Oh no! Oh no! [laughs] Oh, God. That’s horrible. No. I don’t know. That’s how… I don’t want Fate stans at my door. Nevermind. I never said anything.
MIRANDA: I was gonna say, I think we could go with this a few ways, but what if we don’t?
VRAI: What if we don’t?
CHIAKI: All right, moving on.
VRAI: Ah-hem. Ah-hem.
Yeah, so, I feel like this is… It’s something that’s so nice about… And I think we’ve talked about this in other podcasts. We talked about it on the Kill la Kill podcast. But, when a show is two-cour, essentially this first crop of episodes, the first six, is essentially all setup. You spend it all doing, “Here’s the premise, and here’s the basic crew of characters that you’re going to use.” And it really isn’t necessarily indicative of what the show is going to be. So, I guess this is the part of the show where I ask: what do you think is going to happen?
MIRANDA: Ooh. I think Mr. Cat’s gonna get married eventually.
VRAI: [laughs] That’s… That whole subplot. I feel like it’s aged a lot better than the creepy teacher in Azumanga Daioh. But..
CHIAKI: I still think he’s kinda creepy.
MIRANDA: I think it’s ’cause he’s a cat.
VRAI: He is. Uh-huh.
MIRANDA: That makes him a little less creepy, ’cause it’s like, “Well, you’re a cat, so that’s weird, but, you know.”
CHIAKI: He has that whole, “I gotta lick my face. Hold on. I’m real nervous.”
MIRANDA: He goes over to the wooden board as a scratcher, and it’s just… I love cats so much. So I was very into Mr. Cat and his weird “As punishment, you’re gonna marry me!” It’s like… “Okay?” Question mark?
VRAI: You had no idea that in another universe, Woody Allen became a ballet teacher.
MIRANDA: [chuckles] Oh dear…
VRAI: I’m sorry, I made it dark.
MIRANDA: I was like, “Oh, he’s just funny!” But, yeah.
MIRANDA: I think he needs to get married to someone his own age and it’ll be appropriate and great.
CHIAKI: Maybe it’ll be a cat.
CHIAKI: It’ll be a cute cat.
VRAI: All right. We’ve wrapped up that narrative thread.
MIRANDA: But next, obviously, we’re getting a Rue episode, and that’s exciting. I think we’re gonna go into the raven side of things, because I don’t think they wanna reveal the Prince Mytho stuff yet. Just because we need him to suffer more first. [laughs] And then we can discover more about his background.
I think Duck’s gonna do some investigating here, soon. Or, we’ll stumble upon something that will reveal a little bit more about the story that she doesn’t really know about, evidently.
VRAI: Yeah, there’s a lot of mentioning of: “Oh, yeah. Drosselmeyer is writing fanfiction of his own work.” It exists, but we haven’t actually seen what it is yet, aside of the narration; besides what the author has told us.
CHIAKI: I feel, as far as Rue and Fakir goes, you’ve promised me that they’re gonna get better, so I’m guessing that they’re gonna watch on Mytho. They’re just gonna keep watching him grow as a person, and grow themselves into it somehow.
VRAI: Mm. Part of me feels like I’ve done you a disservice by giving you any indication of future episodes, but also, they’re all my children and I love them.
CHIAKI: [laughs] Well, I mean, as far as differences, though, I feel Rue’s gonna be a little bit more gung-ho… Well, not gung-ho, but she’s gonna watch over Duck and Mytho. Just kinda letting it happen and be amused by it. Fakir, I’m not sure.
VRAI: “I don’t know, but maybe he’ll fall in a hole.”
CHIAKI: Just hoping he gets a spell or something, you know?
VRAI: You know, there’s a lot of options.
MIRANDA: He could get stuck down in those tunnels, with those skulls. That surprised me. It’s like, “Why are there skulls down here?” I guess this is an intense town.
VRAI: Sometimes there are just towns with scary catacombs under them. Sometimes that just happens.
CHIAKI: It’s Europe.
VRAI: That’s true. It’s vaguely Europe-y-Austria-Hungar… nuh.
I am, by the way, delighted that you two are coming into this in a modern context, and are completely comfortable calling her “Duck.” That’s not… Fandom really likes to insist on calling her “Ahiru,” because it sounds prettier when you put it in the pairing name.
MIRANDA: I saw that she was listed as her name—
MIRANDA: —and I was like, “Oh is that part of the sub?” I guess? Is she not called “Duck?”
VRAI: No, it’s a fandom thing. It’s kind of like No. 6 fandom, where we all call Nezumi “Nezumi” because it’s weird to have a romantic kissy scene where you call somebody “Rat.”
MIRANDA: Eh, just call them “Rat.” It’s fine.
MIRANDA: No, I get it. I totally get it.
VRAI: Yeah. But it’s part of the story, where “This character’s name is not a name. That’s weird.”
MIRANDA: Yeah. I am really… I kind of remember us talking about in the beginning that we don’t get a chance to listen to the sub, because whenever I watch a dub—which, I actually do like this dub—I like to also listen to the sub just to hear the differences in the characters and how they’re portrayed in different ways.
VRAI: Yeah, I wish I could send you my sub. Chiaki definitely sent me a message of, “Does Mytho sound this dead inside in the sub?”
CHIAKI: No, I mean, there was that sort of English dubbing voice of like, [softly] “Yeah. Yeah. I’m kinda stoned.”
MIRANDA: That’s totally fair.
CHIAKI: Is this a case of that, or… From his characterization, it seems like that’s what was supposed to happen, so I’m like, “All right. Benefit of the doubt. This was supposed to happen, right?” [laughs]
VRAI: Completely in fairness, I have listened to some bad dubs that also sound like that while they were trying to emote.
MIRANDA: Yes. Yes. Have heard those.
VRAI: Mm-hm. But yes. No, I promise this isn’t on purpose. This dub has a pretty robust cast of superstars of… not the Funimation circle, but the “ADV who went on to work at Viz circle.” You got Luci Christian, and it’s good. I really like her Duck. It warms my heart.
MIRANDA: Yeah, Duck is great.
VRAI: Yeah, and as I mentioned at the top of the episode, Duck and Mytho’s voice actors kind of aren’t around as much anymore, at least in the anime dubbing scene, which is kinda too bad. But Fakir is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai, who’s extremely busy. The Fruits Basket reboot will probably be out when these are released, and he’s in that right now voicing Ayame. So that’s a thing. And Nana Mizuki, who plays Rue, is doing Persona 5. I love it when voice actors are still working 20 years later. It warms my heart.
VRAI: My last question for this episode, and even if it’s just as a way to point your attention to it, is: are either of you at all familiar with ballet, or with dance in general? Do you have any interest in it?
MIRANDA: I’m very mildly familiar. So, I was a clarinet player, so we played all sorts of music back in the day. So I’ve had some interactions with ballet, and then my twin sister is actually very, very into dance, and she did take some ballet here and there. So, I’m a little familiar with it, but not to the extent I understand every reference in this show.
VRAI: There’s so many.
CHIAKI: Yeah. For me, I was playing in symphonic concert bands throughout high school, so I had a lot of interaction with a lot of the music here. Especially Tchaikovsky is a big one. But. I, personally, don’t know the dances as well. I think the only ballet I’ve ever seen is The Nutcracker, which, I guess, is very pertinent here. But I fell asleep.
VRAI: It’s okay. It’s okay. Ballet is soothing in that way. There’s pretty people and there’s music and there’s not a lot of words. And it’s very warm in the theater, and I’ve fallen asleep at a concert or two, is what I’m saying.
CHIAKI: [laughs] I was in fourth grade.
VRAI: Oh, Baby Chiaki. That’s adorable.
MIRANDA: Yeah, that’s a little early to take a group to see ballet, maybe. Maybe not. A good, calm experience.
VRAI: Well, ’cause there’s a whole physical language to ballet, and I… It’s something I would encourage both of you to keep an eye on in the show, because you’ll notice during the third episode, with the restaurant, Tutu has dialogue, but she’s also doing a lot of movement with her hand. She has dialogue about feeding people, but she also rubs her stomach.
So, there’s a lot of physical language and mime in ballet that might be talking subtextually alongside the overt dialogue. Kind of in the same way that stories and subtext do. And it’s one of those things that doesn’t necessarily always come through, but it’s… You can tell that the creative team did a lot of research.
And they’ll actually point this out at a later point in the story, but I’m just giving you Cliff Notes now. It’s something that they’re using quite extensively. In ballet, every movement… every major dance move that chains together to form a piece will often have a storytelling piece of meaning as well. I love that. [passionately] Love that!
MIRANDA: Oh, I’ll definitely have to pay attention to that, then, ’cause I didn’t notice that at all, somehow?
VRAI: One wouldn’t think to, right? ‘Cause in anime, a lot of times, you have to… This show definitely saves budget where it can. It’s got that good old stock transformation like any good magical girl show, but…
MIRANDA: Which is very cute. I like that she’s in a li’l egg.
VRAI: It’s cute. Yeah, this is actually… I noticed they didn’t translate… ‘Cause I stopped to watch one of the episodes on HiDive because I was too lazy to get out my next DVD, and I noticed they didn’t translate the subtitle. The show is actually broken into two halves, and this is called “The Chapter of the Egg.”
MIRANDA: Oh. Interesting.
CHIAKI: Oh, yes. It does say that, yes.
VRAI: Yes. Yes, Chiaki is our very informed and knowledgeable fluent speaker on the team. She does all those cool interviews and gets the scoops on cool queer manga coming out in Japan, because she rocks.
CHIAKI: I’ve only done one. [laughs]
VRAI: [hushed] This is my way of getting you to do more.
CHIAKI: Okay. All right. I’ll work some of those out.
MIRANDA: I look forward to the others you do.
CHIAKI: I mean, as far as the choreography goes, I don’t understand a lot about what each individual movement really means, but I can really see that everything is very well-researched, as far as just how all the characters move in the anime. Even for an early-2000s anime, I was impressed by how everyone just dances.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s not always like, “Oh my God! Sakuga!” But there’s a lot of deliberateness to the way scenes are boarded, I feel like. And I respect that.
MIRANDA: Even kind of without the powers that they start pulling in when they get into their little dance battles, you can definitely feel the emotions of each of the characters, especially with Anteaterina and how aggressive she was and each of that. And it’s really cool.
That’s another thing I’m curious about is what sort of powers go with Princess Tutu, ’cause she can just make vines and stuff? That’s pretty cool.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot to plumb there.
VRAI: Oh, oh if you think we’re getting out of this anime without some Sugarplum Fairy, you’re mistaken.
MIRANDA: Oh yeah. I feel like I need to start writing down every single parallel to other things. On Mytho’s sword, there’s the two swans. Swan Lake. Yeah. [laughs] And they meet in the lake, kind of, and Duck is looking off as he’s dancing over the lake, and it’s like, “Hmm. Hmm. Okay.”
VRAI: Every so often I think about doing recaps of this series, and then I think about how much research I’d have to do, because I don’t know that much about classical music. And then I sit down for a while and do something else.
Well, we’re getting a little bit on towards an hour. Do you guys have anything that we didn’t touch on that you wanted to say about these first six episodes?
MIRANDA: Oh, I do like how it predicted that Fyre Festival would be a disaster, a little bit.
VRAI: [Wheezes] I laughed so hard.
CHIAKI: Shout out to Ja Rule!
MIRANDA: Just a little thing.
CHIAKI: Thank you.
VRAI: Amazing. Thank you, I was gonna [unintelligible beneath laughter].
CHIAKI: Thank you. I needed to say that too.
MIRANDA: It must be mentioned.
VRAI: What about you, Chiaki? Besides the amazing synchronicity of Fyre Festival?
CHIAKI: [laughs] I mean, that’s about it, I think. I’m looking forward to finding out more on the raven side. I’m definitely enjoying myself watching this.
VRAI: I’m so glad. You always have that moment, you know, where, like: “I like this show. What if I show this to people, [darkly] and they hate this show?”
MIRANDA: I did really like Palimony and her husband. Their engagements of, “You’re trying to dance this character that’s not right for you. Let’s do something better for you.” That was good.
VRAI: Yeah, that was good. There’s a lot of good, supportive husbands and boyfriends in this show. It’s nice. It is a very heterosexual show, despite the fact that literally all four main characters are shippable in just about every configuration.
MIRANDA: Yep. Totally noticed that.
CHIAKI: I’m just saying. They all just need to kiss together. Just a hug pile.
VRAI: Yes, good. Polyamory. Mm, good.
VRAI: Well, if you are following along with us at home, next episode, we will be covering episodes seven through 13, which is the rest of the Chapter of the Egg. It ends the first cour. And as we mentioned, you can find it only in dub, but you can find it on Hulu if you’re in the US, or HiDive, which I think covers some other regions. Or, you can get that really nice remastered Blu-Ray. The colors look so pretty.
I’d say that wraps it up for this first episode of the Princess Tutu watchalong. If you enjoyed this, you can find more episodes of our podcast by searching “Chatty AF” on SoundCloud, and if you really liked it, you can toss us a dollar on Patreon, which goes a long way to creating more Anime Feminist content on the website and in your earbuds.
If you want to hear more from our contributors, including Chiaki and including Miranda on the podcast side, you can go to our website, www.animefeminist.com. You can also find us on social media. We are on Facebook, @animefem. We’re on Tumblr, @animefeminist. And we are also on Twitter, @animefeminist.
Thank you so much for listening to us, AniFam, and until next time, dance to your heart’s content.
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