Some anime are quickly forgotten after they first air, becoming a mere footnote in anime history. Other series cement themselves as legends, maintaining a devoted fanbase even when no new content is being released. These fans encourage others to check out the show, leading to more success despite the franchise being officially dormant — and one such anime is Princess Tutu. Despite only running for 26 episodes in 2002, the show remains well-loved today.
Princess Tutu is so loved that it will be honored at a special 20th-anniversary event in Tokyo on September 25th. The event will see the staff and voice actors talk about their experiences working on the show, and they’ll even read fan letters. Interestingly, there will be two sessions of this event — one in the day and one in the evening — both of which will be live-streamed. This suggests the company behind it expects many people will want to watch and share their memories of the show, which is impressive for such a short series.
Why Princess Tutu Remains a Classic 20 Years Later
That said, it is easy to see why Princess Tutu remains so beloved. One reason is that the show had an all-star team behind it; Ikuko Itoh, who had previously worked on Sailor Moon, came up with the concept, while Sailor Moon alum Junichi Sato handled direction alongside Shogo Koumoto. The screenplay was done by prolific screenwriter Michiko Yokote (Call of the Night, Red Data Girl and Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! ).
Princess Tutu starts with a writer named Drosselmeyer who can bring his stories to life, but when he passes before he can finish his last tale, his protagonists — the Raven and Prince Siegfried — get locked in an eternal war. Desperate to defeat his foe, Prince Siegfried shatters his own heart and seals the Raven away. However, this removes Siegfried’s memories and emotions.
When a little duck falls in love with the shell of the prince, Drosselmeyer sees a chance to end the story. He gifts the little duck a magical pendant that turns her into a human girl and lets her transform into the magical ballerina, Princess Tutu. The duck is tasked with collecting the parts of Prince Siegfried’s heart so he can be restored, and the story can end. However, some forces want to prevent this from happening.
One reason Princess Tutu still holds up today is its wonderful atmosphere. The story draws from fairytales and ballet and perfectly captures the feelings of both, giving the whole series an almost dream-like air. The anime is also visually stunning, blending several different visual styles. While some elements look like other anime from the period, Tutu also features landscapes rendered in a soft watercolor-like style that looks like they’ve been taken straight from a vintage picture book. The setting likewise delves into more metaphorical and surreal locations, especially as the story progresses. This unique combination of visuals helps convey Princess Tutu‘s complex themes and story while making it look distinctive.
Princess Tutu Makes Original Use of Classic Fairytale & Magical Girl Elements
However, Princess Tutu‘s most stunning visuals come from the ballet sequences. These are wonderfully animated and utilize many classic ballet moves and positions, with the animators using the nature of anime to have the dancers perform in ways not possible in real life. This leads to beautiful dance sequences that reflect real-world ballet while never feeling restricted by this accuracy. These ballet acts are some of the show’s most memorable and moving moments, conveying much emotion and allowing viewers to really immerse themselves in the characters’ inner lives.
Another strength is the anime’s stunning originality. While it clearly shares some stylistic elements with other magical girl shows, it uses these elements uniquely. While Princess Tutu looks and transforms like a magical girl, she doesn’t do the usual magical girl things. Though the story is based on fairytales, it approaches the genre from a more meta-textual angle, breaking down what it means to be a character trapped by destiny. All these elements fuse together perfectly, giving Princess Tutu a unique feel and tone that no other anime has been able to capture.
It is easy to see why Princess Tutu remains one of history’s most loved anime series. While it didn’t run for long, it told a unique and touching story that used the anime medium to its full potential. Under all the clever flourishes and subversions, Princess Tutu was a series with heart; this spoke to people, leading to them intensely relating to the characters and their struggles. Because of this, the series’ 20th anniversary is the best time to dive back in — or for newcomers to enjoy it for the first time.
Princess Tutu is now streaming on HIDIVE.