The fourth and final part of our 4-part watchalong of the shojo classic Princess Tutu with Vrai, Chiaki, and special guest Miranda Sanchez!
Date Recorded: Wednesday 17th April 2019
Hosts: Vrai, Chiaki
0:01:33 The tears
0:04:21 Fanboy Fakir
0:16:10 Happy endings
0:20:07 Duck reveals
0:23:47 Character development
0:30:34 Writer and subject
0:38:34 Drosselmeyer’s fate
0:42:28 Needing to be loved vs loving others
0:48:02 Final impressions
VRAI: Hey there, listeners. Welcome back to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, and the final episode of our Princess Tutu watchalong, a.k.a. The Time When Tears Happen. My name is Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor for Anime Feminist. You can find stuff I do by checking my pinned tweet on Twitter @WriterVrai, or you can find the other podcast I cohost @trashpod. And with me to finish out this journey is still Chiaki and Miranda. Thank you so much for coming along on this.
CHIAKI: Thank you.
MIRANDA: Yeah! Thanks for having us! So, I’m Miranda Sanchez. I’m a senior editor at IGN. I help run our anime coverage in addition to covering games and everything else. And then you can find me @HavokRose—and that’s Havok with a K—pretty much anywhere.
CHIAKI: Cool. And I’m Chiaki Hirai. I’m an editor with Anime Feminist. And aside from working on the website, I am a beat reporter for a Japanese American newspaper in San Francisco. You can find me at @Chiaki747. And it’s a permanently locked account, but feel free to add me.
VRAI: And get your good meme takes.
MIRANDA: [chuckles] Ah! I just want to jump in. I’m so— [exclaims excitedly]
VRAI: [crosstalk] Do it, do it, do it. [laughs]
MIRANDA: All right, Vrai, I know I messaged you immediately after I finished it, which is actually— [chuckles] We got done recording the last show, and then I got busy that night, so I ended up not finishing it then. So, the week rolled around and I watched one episode, episode 21, and I said, “Okay, cool.” And then I was like, “Hm, I wanna watch some more.” Of course, it was at 12:30. I was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna watch another episode.”
MIRANDA: And then it was just like, “Oh, no! I’m crying! Also, I’m gonna watch the rest of the series at 12:30 at night.” Perfectly respectable.
MIRANDA: Was exhausted going into work on Tuesday and then messaged you immediately because I was just like, “I have to say something,” because this final stretch of episodes are just so, so good! And I’m just so happy for all of them!
VRAI: Yeah. Can confirm: time number four, tears still shed. It’s about the same place every time, too. I cry when Rue confesses her love, and then I cry again when Duck and Fakir do a pas de deux. And then I cry when Duck dances her heart out. And then I cry all the way to the end. Get really dehydrated. Chiaki, how you doing? Your watch threads are good.
CHIAKI: Yes. It was a very touching, touching last six episodes. Once I started, I couldn’t stop, definitely. I’m sorry: didn’t cry.
VRAI: It’s okay.
CHIAKI: You’ll need to do better. I’m sorry. [laughs]
VRAI: Oh, my heart.
CHIAKI: But it was touching. But it was touching.
VRAI: I feel like my standard is not a standard to which the average person should be held, because my brain is a broken mess of chemical insufficiencies. So, the things I cry at are perhaps not what everyone cries at. But it is my favorite thing on Earth when a happy story sincerely gets me to cry. It’s my favorite.
CHIAKI: But I was impressed. I was impressed.
VRAI: Yay. Yeah, every time I get fussy about two-cour shows, when the first six episodes aren’t immediately grabbing me with the deep feels all the time, I always remember this show as a reason to maybe give them a little more patience.
MIRANDA: Yeah, they gotta build up to it. Can’t give it all halfway through or else it’s too much to get through.
VRAI: It’s so much, you gotta earn all of them feelings. So, I guess we should start with the predictions that you two had from last time. How are you feeling about Library-kun now, Chiaki?
CHIAKI: I thought he was kind of an asshole. I was hoping he would be a little bit more dorky. Actually, I guess he is kind of a dork. He’s like the ultimate Drosselmeyer fanboy.
VRAI: Yep. Yeah.
MIRANDA: He’s so annoying.
VRAI: [laughs] I mean, you’re not wrong. I do kind of feel for Autor a little bit, because he’s like the dude who did all of the hard work but can’t do the thing because he’s not the “special from birth.” I feel for that a little bit.
MIRANDA: Yeah, but standing for three days straight to prove your stamina… That’s a little special. [chuckles]
VRAI: Oh, yeah, no, he’s also a dick. Fakir was able to turn from this thing he wasn’t meant to do as a physical fighter and find another role that was more fulfilling for him, whereas Autor took this thing he wasn’t able to do and became a shitty gatekeeper about it because he was mad he couldn’t do it.
MIRANDA: Wow, I know people like that, unfortunately. [chuckles] That’s the thing that gets me. It’s like, “I’ve seen you on Twitter.”
CHIAKI: Oh, no.
VRAI: I will say, I haven’t read a bunch of fanfic for this fandom. In general, I don’t like to go into fandoms where the characters are mostly teenagers, because I don’t wanna have to sidestep the porn. But there is a pretty good one where Fakir and Autor end up together because they’re both deeply traumatized and the only ones who remember what’s going on.
VRAI: That was pretty good, and I think that made me a little bit softer on the character. Good fan work is good. But also, yeah, he’s a shit.
MIRANDA: He kinda comes around by the end, but I think it’s only out of necessity.
CHIAKI: Yeah. I mean, being the only sane person left in town, aside from Fakir, I guess, is like… Yeah, sure, you gotta feel for him. But at the same time, he recreated Drosselmeyer’s study, book for book. It’s kinda much.
VRAI: The scene where Drosselmeyer pops into Autor’s study for a minute is one of my favorite scenes in the show, partly because he immediately destroys this entire fanboy work with “Ah, this looks a lot like what I had. Most of it are fakes, of course.”
VRAI: That’s beautiful. I also have a lot of feelings about that scene because I feel like it’s the anime equivalent of the #Discourse that you see on Twitter a lot, of “What’s the responsibility of an artist who’s getting their feels out, versus an artist’s responsibility to not hurt the people who might consume it?” And I feel like that’s just the conversation that Fakir and Drosselmeyer have.
MIRANDA: Yeah. That’s such a good point.
VRAI: Gives me feelings. I love what this show has to say about writing. As a writer, it makes me feel very indulged, but I want to hold off on that a little bit.
I feel like Autor is such a plot device. He’s there to guide Fakir to what he needs to do, and he’s there to make Rue feel a little bit appreciated, which she needs.
MIRANDA: Oh, no, Rue! I’m just getting high-pitched because it just makes me… [sighs] so sad.
VRAI: She’s a good girl. Yeah, I do want to talk about Rue very much. This many times through the show, I feel like if I wanted to step really, really, really far back, I would say that Rue’s story… I don’t think it breaks, but I think it gets the shakiest when you start to abstract it in terms of being a metaphor about abuse because of Mytho turning into a crow and what she thinks that she’s done to him—except she kind of literally did, but only under her father’s orders, but then in fact her love does bring him around. Did her love fix him?
But also, I can’t get mad at it at all, because I think it does a better job than most shows about “a stalwart young woman standing by a boyfriend who’s kind of a dick because of plot reasons” in terms of showing that she’s scared and miserable about this and pulling them apart when the story decides to do that. And also, I think she’s such a nice case of wish-fulfillment for kids who have had abusive parents and have been told that they’re worthless, and she gets to be the pretty princess, though!
MIRANDA: Yeah, she gets a gorgeous dress, she gets to be happy and in love, and I do like that at the end they do acknowledge that “You’ve had Raven’s blood in you for so long! Can you trust me?” And it’s like, “Yeah. I choose to.”
And obviously, there’s trauma there and it may come back up, but that’s okay because you can work through it. I think that’s also such a good message. You can still be the princess even though you’ve had some hard times. That’s okay. It doesn’t change that you’re still you.
CHIAKI: And I think it’s really nice that Mytho’s with her because he’s just as much gone through that kind of trauma, given that Raven’s blood running through his heart as well. It lets them be a couple that really understands each other, I feel.
MIRANDA: Right. And there was that scene when he was talking to Duck about why he needed to go save her. And he’s saying how despite everything that she’s been through, she still chooses to love in her own way and still tries to hold on to that despite all these things that are pushing her away from it or to selfishly desire something that’s all a bit more hurtful, and that she never had anyone to talk to and that she’s just doing her best; and he wants to go help her because she deserves it and deserves to be loved.
VRAI: I think Rue’s character becomes the strongest on rewatch, like you said, because Mytho gets poisoned with Raven’s blood and becomes a horrible crow monster who’s a total dick to everyone. And Rue has had this blood, or this coded metaphor for trauma, with her since she was an infant and still makes friends with Duck and is able to find joy in things and tries so hard. She’s such a resilient character and I love her so much.
MIRANDA: Yeah, and you even see that a little bit when, in the first half, as Kraehe, she’s like, “Who am I? Why am I doing this? This is dumb.” And she’s constantly fighting that within herself, with Kraehe and Rue. And seeing that come full circle at the end, just finding out why that all happened, just means so, so much.
And I’m really glad she got to be this great, dynamic character who… She was Rue. That is part of her, and she suppressed that whole Kraehe side, the Raven side, as long as she could so that she could just be happy and have friends and have a life. And then, when it came time to face it, she was alone in that, and I think that’s good, too.
VRAI: Yes, it’s really nice and… What else was I going to say about that? My thought flew away. Oh, well. [chuckles] Oh, well, if it’s important, it will come back. But yeah, she’s very good.
Oh, that’s what I was going to say: I feel like her story is also an interesting reversal of something that happens a lot in European fantasy, where the true heir of the noble kingdom is sent away at birth and has cruel parentage but always knows they’re special; whereas Rue is ostensibly told she’s special and evil and really, she’s just quote-unquote “normal” and unspecial. She’s just like any other girl, but she still deserves to be happy. I don’t know. I think that’s a really nice little flourish.
MIRANDA: Yeah, that’s a good observation.
VRAI: The thing I always wind up wishing that this series had done—that I don’t think is a failing of it, but I wish that it had pushed a little further—is that because these characters are all about 13, there’s so much with the fairy tales and taught gender roles… All four of the leads express these really strong attachments and this amount of caring for one another and express it in these very gendered ways about princes and marriage, and, like, you’re 13, though. You’re 13. Why are you doing this?
VRAI: And I wish it had taken the space to push a little more about what does the story being told mean, that I have to call this important feeling that I have about this person, this, but this important feeling that I have about this other person, this? It’s very much there.
I continue to love that Fakir and Duck essentially come together over how much they both love Mytho. It’s very sweet. But it’s one of those things where I’m like, “This could’ve been gayer!” It’s still pretty gay.
CHIAKI: Could’ve been poly!
VRAI: It could’ve! Aw. It still is a little bit.
VRAI: Except for two of ‘em are in a book and one of them’s a duck.
MIRANDA: [chuckles] It’s a little hard. There’s a little bit of distance there.
VRAI: I feel at least 60% of the fanwork is dedicated to writing sequels that make Duck into a human again.
VRAI: And I don’t blame anybody for that, and I think the last line of the series leaves the door open to that, but it’s not an additional form of closure that I have ever felt the need for.
MIRANDA: Yeah, when I reached out to you to talk about the ending, that was one of the first things that I came to, that I think that was a good ending. I don’t need more. I don’t want more. They’ve kind of accepted their true selves and that Duck… she’s a duck, and that’s okay. It’s good to be a duck, and her and Fakir’s relationship is still gonna be strong in their own different way. She can still dance when she wants to.
VRAI: She’s a duck who does a dance, and she can still communicate with him when he writes, and they have so many feelings, and he’s going to stand by her for the rest of her little duck life.
MIRANDA: [fondly] Yeah…
CHIAKI: What’s the average life expectancy of a duck?
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] I cannot do this.
VRAI: Don’t do this to me, Chiaki!
MIRANDA: That was one thing I was like, “You know what? I’m not gonna even think about that. They can write stories.”
VRAI: He has magical fanfic power. It’s fine!
CHIAKI: Okay. Okay.
VRAI: I mean, there is that sort of tension throughout the whole story, right? Drosselmeyer wants a tragedy and nobody else wants that. And I think what I love so much about this last stretch of episodes is that writing a happy ending isn’t as simple as saying, “And the good guys won and the bad guys lost, and everyone lived happily ever after.” There are still rules to a satisfying happy ending, and that’s what Fakir has to feel out, and I love that!
MIRANDA: Yeah, I love how, going back to your point about how him and Drosselmeyer had their whole discussion about being responsible and writing about your feelings, but also keeping in mind that other people are involved… I think we’re gonna talk about that here soon, but it’s just such a good point to see him obviously keeping that in mind, even after that discussion, and you can tell just by what they said at the end that he still is very into that and making sure that he is writing responsibly.
VRAI: Yeah, the way this show dramatizes the process of writing is so obviously written by writers—writers who want to feel important about what they do. But I also think it’s real. It’s a little bit backpatty, but it’s also real because people talk all the time about how stories have changed their lives or saved their lives or helped them connect with other people. And it is something that you can use in a really powerfully good or really powerfully bad sort of way, even when there’s not magic, reality-warping powers involved.
This thing that I am happy to see the story interrogate, because I feel like a lot of people— There’s this saying that sounds kinda shitty, of “Readers don’t know what they want.” It can be super dismissive, I feel like, if you’re not a very technically accomplished author, but there’s also this matter of… I think readers think they want “19 Years Later,” but then they get that and it’s not very satisfying.
CHIAKI: And then you get the end of Harry Potter.
VRAI: Yep. And everything is wrapped up, and everyone had 2.5 children with a picket fence, and they all got their dream jobs, and the world was fixed as long as we don’t look at it too hard, and it’s fine.
MIRANDA: Yep. [chuckles]
VRAI: But a really good happy ending is about everyone getting what they worked for and sacrifice being made in order to achieve an ending that feels right; that feels earned. From the very beginning of the story, we’ve known that Duck is a duck and she might fade away. She doesn’t have to fade away, but she’s also not not a duck. That’s part of who she is. Even when she’s pretending to be a human, we have so many comedy shenanigans of her changing back. It’s threaded throughout.
And also, this idea of “Who is she doing things for? Is it because of what the story wants? Is it because of her feelings? What are her strongest feelings about?” And I feel like the answer she comes to is something that she struggled toward for the entire show and chooses an ending that answers and is in line with how her character has grown. Which is so interesting with Drosselmeyer, because he’s complaining that she has had character growth!
MIRANDA: [laughs] Yeah. I do like how the other characters went on to address Tutu when they find out that she is a duck. For instance, I think it was the end of episode 25 when Mytho receives the last piece of his heart and Tutu turns back into a duck. And he doesn’t say, “Oh, you were just a duck.” He says, “Oh, something so small and fragile could do all this,” and not necessarily belittling her because she is a duck. I think that was really nice how they go on.
VRAI: And he kneels and thanks her, and it’s so good! I’m gonna cry.
CHIAKI: It was very touching to see. Duck is just a duck, but at the same time she knows that she has that power by the end to dance, and that final act of rebellion against who she is, while staying who she is, really felt meaningful.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah. Oh, go ahead.
MIRANDA: Oh, sorry, I think that and her claim to her emotions and her connections was also really special, just because she did that even while she was human Duck. But even Duck trying to save everyone else through her dancing, she’s like, “We have our own emotions. We’re entitled to those and those are ours alone, and no one can write that for you.” And it’s kinda nice to think about how that started: it was with her watching Mytho and falling in love with him, and that was her first strong emotion.
So much of this has been about her gathering Mytho’s Heart Shards to give him his emotion back, but I think a lot of the story was also her just learning about her emotions and growing those through her human life. And it was good to see that come full circle and the character development part of it.
VRAI: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. The problem isn’t that she’s a duck. She learned she had the right to connect to others, and just because she’s a duck—whatever you want to take that for—it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the right to the beautiful art of dance or to have her own feelings or to be the hero of the story. And none of that requires her to not be a duck.
CHIAKI: Would you say it’s a little authored? Throughout the latter half of this series, I felt like there were more and more animals making an appearance in school. You have an alligator in the dance class. And I started feeling like, “Okay, Duck keeps saying, ‘Oh, I’m just a duck,’ but, okay, does that really matter, as far as the context goes?” If she came out as a duck and just said, “Hey, I guess I’m a duck after all,” I think the school would be just fine with accepting her, in my opinion.
VRAI: I think her looking like a duck would be okay, but she can’t communicate when she’s a duck. I feel like that’s also a major problem for her, is she can’t use human speech like the other human animals can. So, there’s that big moment where she realizes that she can use the mime of dance to communicate her feelings.
MIRANDA: In a strange way, she’s kinda like Pluto. It’s like Pluto and Goofy. They’re both dogs, but one of them is still just a dog. [chuckles] It’s like, there’s that weird—
VRAI: That weird conspiracy rabbit hole.
MIRANDA: It’s like, what’s going on there? Okay.
VRAI: And then everybody goes back, and Mr. Cat is not their teacher anymore.
MIRANDA: Mr. Cat had some—
VRAI: And things worked out for him.
MIRANDA: Yeah, he had some good moments in this stretch of episodes. I particularly like when he sat down with Duck at the fountain and talking about her motivation to pursue her dreams. And he’s just like, “You’ve obviously lost this. You need to just think about it, like why did that happen.”
And obviously, he turns it into a thing about marriage, but the initial start of that conversation’s just really sweet, and it was good to see him be a teacher in some instances, too. Even with their pointe shoes, he was like, “You can’t have this yet. You’re not focused yet. You’re not here.”
VRAI: Pointe shoes: they’ll fuck up your feet.
MIRANDA: Yeah. [chuckles]
CHIAKI: All I’m happy about is that Mr. Cat finally fucked.
VRAI: A lot, apparently! [chuckles] He did it. Good for him. He got cat-married.
VRAI: Which is nice. I love… because there is that sadness of the epilogue of this special thing that came together because of the story happening—of everybody being able to meet at the dance school and to be able to talk and grow from one another—has ended. But that’s okay because they’ve taken that experience with them, even the ones who maybe don’t remember it anymore.
And it reminds me of the really good shoujo isekai where the protagonist goes home at the end, but she carries what she’s learned with her. And I feel like this epilogue is kind of the same.
MIRANDA: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like, sorry, we all have to go home, but the journey happened and that’s what’s important.
VRAI: You’re gonna graduate from high school. You don’t want to be in high school forever, viewers.
MIRANDA: [chuckles] We high schoolers.
VRAI: Please leave, but it will always be important and special in your heart if it didn’t suck. But maybe there was something that didn’t suck. Wait, we’ve gone off the rails.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] As long as it didn’t suck! [chuckles]
VRAI: [laughs] There had to be something. Hm.
CHIAKI: Anime Club was okay, I guess.
VRAI: [laughs] Oh, no!
MIRANDA: Anime Club was pretty good.
VRAI: Oh, no. Yeah, high school isn’t great for a lot of people. But, you know, the sentiment is there. Whatever was nice for you as a kid that you’re afraid of growing up from and losing, that’ll still be with you as a grown-up.
VRAI: I think we touched on in previous episodes that it’s a special thing when a story knows how to end itself and to call everything home at that peak moment when it’s most effective. And I feel like that’s why this continues to be such an effective last run, because it absolutely knows what it had to do.
And this is the part of the show that, I think, stays with people. And it’s so hard to convey the sappy, emotional mess you’re left as after it’s over with somebody who wants to start it from the beginning, and you don’t want to ruin it for them, but the emotions!
MIRANDA: Yeah, it’s very satisfying. I came out of it feeling like this did what it needed to do, and it answered a lot of questions, too. So, one of the things I wasn’t convinced on last episode was Fakir and Duck, because like, “Ah, they’re good pals and stuff,” but their little bubbling up just really took off in this last stretch.
I think it was episode 22 especially where I was just like, “Yes!” They just do such a good job of making their friendship something really, really special and different and showing how that evolves and how they can depend on each other to join up and save Mytho, because that’s what matters to them so much—because they both love him so much and they both want to take care of him—and then they want to take care of each other, and it’s really sweet. And I think it’s really hard to do a relationship like that in this span of time, and I think they bubble it up in such a good, good, good way.
VRAI: Yeah, I rarely get fussed about boy/girl relationships in anime in particular, because I feel like a lot of shows take perfunctory shortcuts because it’s so baked in. But this show is so dedicated to those two in particular and showing the very, very slow evolution of why they care about each other and why they rely on each other.
Those back-to-back episodes where she helps him get out of the tree and then he helps her get out of the clock, making sure there’s this sense of equivalence. And there’s that moment, as these episodes start, where it’s like, “Oh, no. Is Fakir going to be the protagonist now and Duck is going to be relegated to being the supportive girlfriend?” But it’s still very much about her struggle and the fact that she’s afraid she doesn’t have a role in the story anymore and her taking back what she can do, actively. Which is nice.
And I think this story doesn’t take what they have for granted, because these are such young characters and because strong feelings of affection—of love or friendship or familial bonds—are all still knotted together and puberty is starting and you don’t know what you feel about anything, but you know you care about this person a lot. And I feel like it captures that well.
MIRANDA: Yeah. I also did want to point out that when they were in the Lake of Despair and they dance, Duck does pointe, as Duck!
VRAI: [tearfully] She does! As Duck, she does! They do a pas de deux, and it’s really good! It’s really beautiful. I’m fine!
VRAI: I am secretly a giant ball of sap and emotions. My cool exterior of hating everything has been broken.
MIRANDA: [laughs] The secret’s out!
CHIAKI: [blandly] The evil is defeated.
VRAI: [laughs deeply]
CHIAKI: Going back to what you were saying about how Duck wasn’t relegated to being a supportive girlfriend… Tell me if I’m wrong, but I felt like she was pushing Fakir, how she was acting at the end, right?
CHIAKI: So, in contrast, I think it just really shows how much power she has or how much center stage she remains to be that powerful: to control somebody who should be able to control the story.
VRAI: Yeah, he becomes like the supportive conduit through which she can act. There’s all that dialogue about how he can only write a story when it’s about her, these two characters who don’t really have explicit roles. But, yeah, it’s all through her power and her determination to do something that he’s able to act at all.
MIRANDA: Yeah. It was interesting that they never say that the big thing that he was lacking, essentially, when he couldn’t write, was a subject. He knows what he needs to do and what the outcome has to be in order to give everyone their happy ending. And I think it’s kinda cool to see Duck force herself into that role, and she’s like, “I am your subject! Write about me. Here are my feelings. Go!” [chuckles] That’s how she got out of Drosselmeyer’s place, and it’s so good.
VRAI: It’s so good. And I think that ends up being the major difference between Fakir and Drosselmeyer, is that as soon as Fakir gets in touch with the magic weed tree, he understands how stories work and “Everything’s connected, man!” and then he takes another hit, this precious child.
VRAI: But what keeps him from becoming Drosselmeyer is the fact that he cares so deeply about what happens to the characters and doesn’t see them as puppets.
MIRANDA: Yeah, and just thinking about it, too, in that episode, when Duck is being put through the rinse and wash of being a puppet and being told that she has no agency and stuff, and then her essentially saying, “No…” and then just reaching out directly to Fakir and admitting all her emotions and that reaching him is just so powerful, and then also reminds me…
So, I’m reading this book about writing. It’s called Bird by Bird. And there’s a really great chapter about listening to your characters and how that is so important, because if you don’t listen to them, if you don’t get to know them, you will never write them well. Their endings are just gonna be a jumbled mess, the story that never really ends. But if you’re listening to them and you’re writing what makes the most sense to them, then you’ll have a better story, probably.
VRAI: That’s Ann Patchett’s book, isn’t it?
MIRANDA: I believe so.
VRAI: Yeah, I read a lot of her in college. Good stuff. I have definitely seen the other side of how listening to your characters can go really, really badly because I read a lot of Laurell K. Hamilton as a teenager, an author who got so sad that she killed off a character in her first book of her 20-book series that she vowed never to do it again. And that was not good for her book series, let me tell you.
I feel like there is a balance, but I do like that theory of… Listening to your characters doesn’t mean no sacrifices, but it does mean you have to care. You have to be invested in what happens to them. You can just be throwing them into the grinder. Thinking of Game of Thrones, that we were talking about before we recorded.
MIRANDA: [chuckles] Yeah. It’s like, if you treat them like tools and toys, then that’s how they’re going to come off as, and they won’t feel genuine or real or have good endings. Drosselmeyer was never after a good ending, but, you know. And Bird by Bird was done by Anne Lamott, so, the other Anne. Close.
VRAI: The other Anne. One of them.
VRAI: But yeah, it’s amazing how much of this stretch of episodes is about the craft of writing and these big old story nerds just getting that out. Michiko Yokote, I believe is her name. The Shirobako lady. She is so sharp at character beats.
To bring it back around to geeking out on the first episode, this is just such a stellar team of anime big names who have all made really impressive shows before and since this, who clearly have a lot of thoughts about what it means to make a show that is memorable and meaningful to people, and they just kinda geek out about it for a couple episodes.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I love it. As a writer, it’s like, “I love it! Tell me more stories!” Tell me how we had to fix ‘em because people are irresponsible!
VRAI: It always surprises me how much the show makes me not hate Uzura again by the end, because, God, she’s annoying in the last stretch of episodes.
CHIAKI: I feel she kinda cooled off, but…
VRAI: It’s less shenanigan-y. She’s still pwecious this run around, but in a more useful way where also there is less of her. And I like the scene between her and Edel. I think it’s really sweet.
MIRANDA: Yeah! Well, Edel’s just the best, though, and she kept her around, but I understand.
VRAI: [chuckles] I love how that show does this, of “I wish you’d done this, but I understand why you didn’t, because it was good, though! This is what I actually wanted.”
MIRANDA: Her sacrifice is so important. I did feel a little bad when Uzura was crying, just a tiny bit. I was like, “Yeah, I’m sad she’s gonna be a duck, too, but it’s okay.”
VRAI: I think this show is mostly very good at not being emotionally manipulative, and that’s why I have been able to watch it multiple times and still cry at it. That scene’s a little bit transparent! “I dunno, we made a sad child sad! Cry, audience! Cry!”
MIRANDA: And her tears are tapping the drum.
MIRANDA: That one was just like, “Aw, yeah, that is a little sad, but you’re gonna get over it. Go away.”
VRAI: Are you ever gonna grow up? Are you gonna be like this forever? Has Fakir been saddled with an eternal three-year-old? Has his father cursed him this way?
MIRANDA: Maybe one time where you use your writing abilities for self-gain.
VRAI: Oh, no, I’ve watched anime. That doesn’t end well.
MIRANDA: [laughs] Oh, she walks away.
VRAI: Oh, that’s right. She walks away with Drosselmeyer, which is also surprisingly nice.
CHIAKI: But also, that means that she’s out there somewhere with Drosselmeyer.
VRAI: [laughs] The two hellions of the story are out there.
MIRANDA: Just the bringers of chaos coming into your story.
CHIAKI: Every time an anime’s bad… [inhales as if breaking bad news] Yeah.
VRAI: Oh, shit! Cracked it.
MIRANDA: If you’re ever behind the scenes, if you hear a light tapping… [taps something] You’ll know what it was.
MIRANDA: [taps something] It’s a curse.
VRAI: The ending of Banana Fish? Drosselmeyer.
CHIAKI: [laughs with a hint of groaning]
VRAI: [laughs] I know that predates this. Events occur in the order in which I perceive them.
MIRANDA: [laughs] It all makes sense.
VRAI: It is kind of a bold move that Drosselmeyer essentially gets away without punishment at the end. I mean, he’s dead, but…
MIRANDA: He’s just a ghost asshole now. He’s haunting stuff.
VRAI: Yeah, he is effectively rendered harmless and he doesn’t get what he wants, but nothing super bad happens to him either, and I’m always surprised how much I’m not bothered by it, because normally I hate that shit.
CHIAKI: Yeah, I wanted to see his comeuppance a little bit more, and that’s partly why I was like, “I knew it, Vrai,” because I was like, “Oh, I knew it, Drosselmeyer’s the real bad guy. That’s what I thought. And Fakir’s gonna have to beat him up.” No. No. Never mind. Too early to make that call.
MIRANDA: So, he did get saddled with Uzura, so that’s a little bit of a punishment, but…
VRAI: I mean, I guess if I put on my meta hat, the single worst thing you can do to an author is consign them to historical oblivion, and all of Drosselmeyer’s stories have been taken out of the libraries and had their endings ruined, and now he can’t control the town anymore, so everyone is destined to forget who he was because The Prince and the Raven is over now.
So, I guess that’s effectively the worst thing you could do to him, but he doesn’t seem fussed about it. So, yeah, I can meta-wank it that way, but also, it would’ve been if he’d gotten a little bit of face-punching.
MIRANDA: Yeah, he deserved someone to punch him in the face, at least a few times.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Punchable face. He has a…
VRAI: It’s an extremely, extremely punchable face.
MIRANDA: That smile.
VRAI: By the way, how did you two feel about the plot brigade of axemen? [chuckles]
MIRANDA: Oh, my God! He’s like old… the Bookman.
VRAI: Yeah! He made me laugh every time!
CHIAKI: I was like—
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] This— Oh, please, go ahead.
CHIAKI: I was like, “Okay, that came out of nowhere. Oh… Okay! Oh… And he has an axe? Mm.”
MIRANDA: [sneezes] Excuse me.
CHIAKI: And that’s kinda metal. Oh, gesundheit.
MIRANDA: Thank you.
VRAI: That’s the element of this story that I feel like wasn’t really foreshadowed. It’s just “Aw, shit! We need an extra element to crank down on the conflict here. Fuck!”
MIRANDA: Yeah, Fakir needs his own adversary when he’s safe and writing somewhere. It’s like “Throw him in with an axeman.” It’s fine.
VRAI: Seems fine.
CHIAKI: I feel like that should’ve been Drosselmeyer, right? He should’ve been duking it out.
VRAI: I would suspect that there was probably a draft where that happened and then they realized, “Nah, we’ve established too hard that he can’t have physical impact on reality; it’s all through his words. So, as much as we all want to put that in there, let’s put that draft aside.” I hope that draft is out there, though.
MIRANDA: I also feel like that would take away from Tutu a bit, as well.
CHIAKI: I will say I do really appreciate, though, Autor going and tackling him out the door and going like… You know, you would expect anyone to say “Run, Fakir!” It’s like, no, “Write, Fakir!”
VRAI: Autor does warm my heart a little bit in that last episode where he’s using a book at a shield and being very brave. [chuckles]
MIRANDA: He’s trying his best.
VRAI: You tried. [chuckles] And it’s such a 13-year-old thing to say. “Oh, my God, this really pretty girl talked to me. I’m definitely in love with her and these feelings are real!”
VRAI: Like, I don’t care, because Rue needed to hear that, that she was lovable by somebody who was not the special prince who can love anybody, but also, like, dude, you’re a child! You’re all children!
MIRANDA: Oh, that brings up a good point, that we didn’t really talk about: the needing to be loved versus loving other people.
VRAI: Mm. Yeah, that’s probably… should talk about that. That’s a pretty important theme to the story. It’s such a shoujo thing.
MIRANDA: Yeah, so it’s especially interesting when you said that Mytho is the prince who loves everyone, and him focusing his love on one person is obviously very special. But I do like that the whole breaking his spell thing was Rue coming out and saying how much she loves him, whereas I guess I hadn’t really noticed the whole time that she was just asking for people to say that they loved her and asking for love.
And even Evil Mytho, Birdman, was just like, “Love me! Someone dance with me! Also, love me!” And it’s just like, “Okay. All right, guy.” And so, it was a nice point of… Yes, being loved is really valuable and important and we crave it, but obviously loving someone else is very powerful, too, and important.
VRAI: It’s so good because everybody wants to be loved, but to love somebody else is so scary. It’s like this inherent paradox that everybody faces up against whether you are a small child or very old. It gets to the purity of that emotion so hard, and that whole scene, and then I think of… Nope, I’m not going to gripe about Evangelion again.
VRAI: A show that I love but never actually gets its character to realize that there is a difference between wanting to be loved and the terror of putting yourself out there and loving other people. But that’s… Yeah, I feel like that’s such a good reveal of a thing that this story totally told you, but you didn’t necessarily look at it because it’s using such the expected language of romance that she never confessed her own feelings. It does play that neat trick where it puts so much effort on Duck confessing that you don’t think about it. That’s a neat sleight of hand.
MIRANDA: And it was nice especially to see her go on to tell Duck that she loved her.
CHIAKI: That was so sweet.
VRAI: They care about each other so much!
MIRANDA: I love this show because… [exclaims fondly]
VRAI: Now you understand. You understand what I meant four episodes ago when I said I ship all of the main characters and they’re very good children.
MIRANDA: It’s hard not to. I feel bad. It’s like Mytho’s just somewhere in there.
VRAI: Mytho exists. He’s fine.
MIRANDA: He can maybe fit in, but also, if he’s not there it’s also fine.
VRAI: It’s also fine.
MIRANDA: It’s like those dreams that Duck had about everybody. Just replace Mytho with her and then it’s great.
MIRANDA: They’re all dancing together. It’s a good time.
VRAI: Yay! There’s not really anything wrong with Mytho, and it’s not like he doesn’t have an arc because he has his Raven blood shit. But he’s such a passive character for so much of the story, effectively, because he’s Evil Mytho, which is not the responsibility of his own actions, except that maybe it is.
I feel like they could’ve hit on that a little bit longer: that even when you’re depressed or traumatized, even when it doesn’t feel like you, you still did that. The effect is that you still hurt the people you loved. And they almost get there, but I think they could’ve hammered that a little harder. But the effect is, I think, you don’t appreciate his struggle as much as you do with the other three.
MIRANDA: Yeah. Definitely confirming your point, but he’s essentially a puppet the whole time, and then only in these last two episodes is he really him.
VRAI: Also, Siegfried is a stupid name.
MIRANDA: Yup. Go back to your book, Siegfried!
CHIAKI: Maybe Drosselmeyer isn’t that great of an author after all.
VRAI: I saw somebody on Tumblr tag art of Mytho as Siegfried, and I’m like, “Who boosts that?”
MIRANDA: I am so glad that I didn’t look this anime up at all before I started watching. As soon as I finished, of course, I looked it up. And it’s just so many spoilers in top results, like, “All right. Good thing I waited.” [chuckles] So much fanart.
VRAI: Yeah. Like I said, the ending leaves such a potent mark on you that everybody wants to talk about that immediately, so it is a good show to go into knowing as little about it as possible. I’m glad you did.
MIRANDA: Oh, also, I would like to mention that the Shards were disgusted with Mytho when he’s a raven and I really appreciated that.
VRAI: Yeah, that was nice.
CHIAKI: That was a good intervention.
MIRANDA: They’re like “Ugh. We have to go back to that?”
CHIAKI: [chuckles] “God, I can’t believe we turned into a furry. Okay.”
VRAI: Is it still a furry when it’s a bird?
CHIAKI: A feathery? I don’t know. Don’t ask me. I’m just a cat.
VRAI: It’s true. I wouldn’t ask cats to know about birds.
CHIAKI: Eat ‘em.
VRAI: Well, I guess we’ve kinda been doing it all along, but how are you all feeling about this series overall, now that you’ve seen it all? What are your thoughts about the whole thing?
CHIAKI: It grows on you.
VRAI: [referring to their own previous words] That’s broad.
CHIAKI: It just grows. I enjoyed the first episodes. Coming into this, I was like, “Okay, this is kinda cool, just magical girl anime, villain-of-the-week stuff.” And I was enjoying that, but as you keep watching, it just continues to grow into a much more impactful, passionate story, and that’s good, too.
VRAI: Yeah, it takes its time and it blossoms. It does. And everyone’s power is through communicating their feelings and that’s how they change the world, and it’s really good!
MIRANDA: Wow. Imagine that. [chuckles] Communicating your feelings.
VRAI: It’s the most shoujo thing I’ve ever seen. It’s the distilled essence of shoujo. It really does make for a good gateway series if you want to show somebody “Why do people like shoujo anime?” It’s ‘cause this.
MIRANDA: Mm-hm. Coming into this, I didn’t expect it to be so heavily embedded with fantasy. I thought it was more theatrical and focused on ballet as a thing. I didn’t know anything about it really, except that I had seen some art of it. I didn’t know Duck was a duck, I didn’t know that they were trying to essentially get out of a story.
And I do really love how this continued to evolve and answer a lot of my questions or problems with it whenever I had something come back. I was like, “Oh, Duck’s kinda getting put to the side. That really sucks.” And then, “Ah, but we are addressing that right now,” and I was like, “Oh, thank you!” And then, “Aw, Fakir and Duck, I see that they’re pushing them together, but I’m not super convinced.” Like, “Oh, wait a second. Just give us a minute.” “Oh yeah, I’m on board.”
That’s kinda just how everything fell into place for me, so I’m very happy that I got around to watching it with you two and that we got to discuss it. And I will definitely buy it on Blu-ray as soon as that sale goes up on Sentai.
VRAI: Yay! It’s so good. I hope that nobody has made it through listening to all of these podcasts without having watched, because— I don’t think this is a series that diminishes in entertainment value if you know how it ends, but it’s fun to be surprised. But please go watch Tutu and go tell other people you know to watch Tutu and buy it and have feelings about it.
MIRANDA: Yeah. Oh, I did check out the Amazon version, and I think the only big change is that they change the logo so that it’s not in Japanese and it just says “Princess Tutu” and then whatever arc it is.
VRAI: Okay, so that probably is the home video release that they have on Amazon, then. That’s interesting.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I didn’t go back to check and see if all that German was translated, but I probably should. [chuckles]
VRAI: Well, that’s the first time the words “If you want to watch this anime on streaming, maybe watch it on Amazon” have come out of my mouth.
MIRANDA: Yeah, it’s a very rare thing to do.
CHIAKI: Just learn German. Just learn German.
VRAI: Yeah! Just learn some German. Das Gut.
CHIAKI: [crosstalk] It’s not that hard.
MIRANDA: Yeah, no worries. Only [unintelligible beneath laughter].
VRAI: Okay, German isn’t actually that hard. Also, its conjugations are very simple and also, they don’t invent new words. They just stack old words on top of each other. It’s sort of an endearing language. It’s very silly. But that has nothing to do with anything.
Yeah, so I want to thank you ladies one more time for doing this. And thank you to everyone who has come along on this journey. Like I said starting out, this show is very special to me, and I think it is one of the anime that will still be really good… It’s 15 years old, a little bit more. I think it’ll still be good in 20 years.
There’s a really special, enduring quality about it, and I hope that you will give it a chance, and then maybe it will lead you to more shoujo and other shows about good girls changing the world with their feelings, which is a nice thing. And I’m going to wrap us up before I cry again. [chuckles]
CHIAKI: If I could just get a quick word in edgewise, I’m not typically a shoujo person at all. You know what I want, really, which is all the worst shows every season.
VRAI: And we support you.
MIRANDA: Someone has to do it.
CHIAKI: But I still had fun with this show, and I can recognize a timelessness when I see it. This show isn’t gonna get old. It’s kinda stuck in that sweet spot of “Kinda modern but…” It’s like a fantasy setting that just…
VRAI: Yeah. It has that same timelessness that Castle of Cagliostro has, which you can still watch. It’s from the ‘70s.
CHIAKI: Exactly. Yeah.
VRAI: I’m so glad. Yeah, I should’ve asked before I did the spiel if you two had any final words you wanted to add.
MIRANDA: Go watch it if you haven’t somehow. That’s it. [chuckles]
VRAI: [chuckles] Okay. Well, thank you, AniFam, for joining us on another watchalong. If you liked this episode, you can check out more from us by looking up the website or searching for Chatty AF on Soundcloud.
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So, thanks to all of you, and remember: do your best and your feelings will reach other people.