Note: Still busy studying for midterms–have this review I’ve been saving in my buffer!
Since Itachi (moeronpan) has finally finished reviewing the Princess Tutu anime, I thought it’d be a good time to review the Princess Tutu manga. Although many fans have decried it as being so bad that it’s been dropped out of the PT canon, I still think it’s worth a review.
Spoilers ahead! (manga and anime)
The story begins when a girl named Ahiru Arima wakes up from a dream where she is dancing ballet with a prince. Believing that she’s late for ballet class, she rushes to school, where she sees a boy dancing ballet who looks exactly like the prince in her dream! His name turns out to be Mytho, and although she wants to get to know him more, another boy named Fakir angrily tells her to mind her own business.
On her way home from school that day, Ahiru comes across a new ballet shop run by a mysterious woman named Edel. Because she’s the first customer to visit the shop, Edel gives Ahiru a golden egg-shaped pendant as a gift. Later on, Ahiru finds Mytho in danger, and transforms into Princess Tutu to save him. Asking Edel about it the next day, Edel reveals that Mytho is actually a prince whose heart was shattered, and it is Ahiru’s job as Princess Tutu to return his heart shards back to him.
Ahiru (as Princess Tutu) is able to return the first two heart shards without too much trouble, but when trying to return the third one, she meets a rival—Princess Krahe.
After a short struggle, Princess Tutu is able to return the third heart shard back to Mytho. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the feeling of “loneliness,” and after Mytho gets it back, he starts to cry, leaving Ahiru in a state of anguish. Although she doesn’t wish to cause Mytho any more pain, Ahiru realizes that she must press on to gather the rest of the shards quickly—because only then will he be “whole.”
After this incident, Ahiru formally meets Rue, who she had seen dancing in ballet class before. She tries to become friends with her, but Rue simply rebuffs Ahiru’s attempts. After a few more clashes with Krahe, (and a few more heart shards returned to Mytho), Fakir, who finds that his control of Mytho is weakening, tries to shatter Mytho’s heart. When Princess Tutu asks why, Fakir simply replies that Mytho is “better off” having no emotions whatsoever.
By holding Princess Tutu hostage, Fakir attempts to make Mytho shatter his own heart. However, this plan fails because Mytho now understands how important his emotions are to him. After hearing this, Fakir realizes that he can no longer control Mytho, and (grudgingly) leaves Princess Tutu to continue her quest. At the same time, Rue is also upset, finding that Mytho doesn’t “love” her as much as he used to. She then vows revenge on Princess Tutu.
The story continues directly where the last volume left off.
Ahiru finds that Mytho’s dancing is now more beautiful than ever, believing it to be because he is regaining his emotions. Meanwhile, Rue hatches a plan to stop Princess Tutu’s efforts, by cursing a pendant and telling Mytho to give it to Princess Tutu as thanks. Rue then transforms into Krahe and lures Princess Tutu out by letting loose a heart shard. When Ahiru transforms into Princess Tutu (upon sensing a rogue heart shard), Mytho gives her the pendant, which transforms her into a duck. After falling into a river (…long story), she’s rescued by Fakir.
It’s here that Ahiru realizes that Fakir is actually a lot nicer than he looks, though she doesn’t have much time to muse on it as the rogue heart shard is wreaking havoc (as a giant hamster, but once again… long story). Ahiru manages to return back to her human form and captures the heart shard as Princess Tutu. After yet another squabble with Krahe, Krahe finally just kidnaps Mytho outright, forcing Princess Tutu and Fakir to work together finding him. It is during this time that Fakir finally reveals how Mytho lost his heart—he was a boy with the power to grant wishes. The evil raven wanted Mytho’s heart to restore his body, so Mytho wished for his own heart to be broken to prevent evil from ever using such power.
Shortly after telling this story, Fakir and Princess Tutu find Rue and Mytho in an underground lake. Rue reveals her identity as Princess Krahe, and reveals Princess Tutu’s identity as Ahiru. Ahiru/Princess Tutu is absolutely shocked as Krahe announces that she’s brainwashed Mytho, and that he no longer has any need for Princess Tutu. Fakir and Krahe fight, giving Ahiru/Tutu the chance to snap Mytho out of his hypnosis, by dancing a Pas de Deux alone. Ahiru succeeds in this feat, and Mytho returns back to his normal self. After seeing this, Rue/Krahe realizes that Mytho truly loves Tutu, so she gives up her powers to let Ahiru finish the job of finding his heart shards.
All Mytho’s missing now is just one heart shard, which Ahiru has been unable to find. She decides to visit Edel to ask for help, but finds that the ballet shop has completely disappeared! It’s not long before Rue, Fakir, and Mytho are kidnapped; as does Ahiru when she transforms into Princess Tutu to find them.
Princess Tutu then finds herself in a large bird’s nest, where Rue and Fakir are being held prisoners and Mytho is laid out on an altar. It is here that she finds out Edel’s true purpose—to make Mytho’s heart whole again so it can be sacrificed to the Raven. Edel reveals that the last heart shard is in Princess Tutu’s pendant, and says that if she doesn’t return the shard back to Mytho, she’ll kill Rue and Fakir. After a fierce struggle, Ahiru decides to give up the last heart shard, believing that Mytho’s pure heart could never be used by the darkness. She then faints from exhaustion.
As Edel is about to cut out Mytho’s heart, Mytho and Ahiru are amazingly revived, and the two dance a Pas de Deux(with Ahiru in Princess Tutu form, despite giving up the pendant). Overwhelmed by the light, Edel disintegrates into nothingness, and Princess Tutu disappears—possibly forever.
All that’s left is Ahiru, the normal, clumsy girl. But despite this she continues to study hard at ballet, hoping that she’ll someday be able to dance with Mytho again, who’s heart is finally whole.
If you think those summaries were kind of confusing well—that’s basically how the story’s laid out in the manga…
It’s not really fair to compare the anime to the manga, as they’re two completely different mediums (and almost two completely different stories), but the anime is definitely the more superior one in this case. I think the biggest drawback the manga suffers from is length. Come on, only two volumes to fit a story that took 26 anime episodes to fill? That’s practically impossible. So instead of a really good, complex story, we get sort of a condensed, sugar-coated version.
First of all, Ahiru is not a duck, but an actual girl. Secondly, this story isn’t a “story within a story.” Mytho isn’t a prince from a story, he’s just a… prince. (Yeah, I really don’t know wtf, they don’t explain why he’s called this at all in the manga.) Fakir doesn’t have the gift of writing (and doesn’t even get all that much screen time) and Drosselmeyer doesn’t exist. Thirdly—most of the minor characters have been replaced; the most drastic example is Edel. She’s no longer a puppet, instead she’s some kind of servant for the Raven. And Pique and Lillie don’t exist; instead are two stand-in characters: Mai and Yuma.
Most of the fairy tale elements have also been scrapped, so the plot’s now just plain mahou shojo fare—with ballerinas! At least Ahiru x Mytho fans can rejoice, as this is probably the official couple here (despite their relationship at the conclusion being left open-ended).
I think the best thing about the manga is the art, and even some people out there will only see it as generic shojo crap. I personally think the style FITS. It’s somewhat story-book like, which fits the original theme of the PT series. And at least the characters have been translated into manga format well. There ARE a few moments where the mangaka flubs her anatomy on the characters, but it’s only noticeable when you pay really close attention. Ballet poses are pretty hard to draw in itself, so I personally give the artist a bit of slack in this area.
I am totally going to beat this into the ground, but I can’t stop bitching about the length. It’s the absolute worse thing about the manga (and also makes my summary read like a train-wreck). The Princess Tutu manga could have been so much better if it was just maybe even one or two volumes longer. Although the writers did a decent job cramming so much PLOT into two volumes, things go by at a breakneck speed, and a lot of things are left unexplained. (Like who the hell “the Raven” is supposed to be, and why he needs Mytho’s heart so badly. Also, why does Fakir have this giant freaking sword?!) People who’ve never seen the anime will be totally lost at the pace of the manga, and people who’ve already seen the anime won’t want to touch the manga with a ten-foot pole. Either way, people end up despising the manga.
This makes me rather sad, because as much as I try, I just can’t bring myself to hate the manga. It’s not that bad—okay, you know what? It’s pretty terrible. But I just can’t hate it. For some reason (maybe it’s the cute art or a different take on the PT story), I don’t loathe it as much as… well, a lot of other PT fans. I think it’s an interesting view of how the PT series COULD have been. (And thankfully, I’m glad the PT anime turned out the way it did.) This is basically what Princess Tutu would have been if it were a generic magical girl series. I have a soft spot for the mahou shojo genre, so maybe that’s why I’m not so harsh on the manga…
Hate it or love it, that’s really based on your personal opinion. (Go read it yourself if you really want to find out.) As for me, I don’t particularly like or dislike it—I just appreciate it for the fluff it is. In a way, it’s kind of like the Galaxy Angel anime. Not much to talk about in the end, but a nice little entertaining thing to watch/read when you’re bored and don’t want something too complex or involved.