Princess Tutu is a Japanese magical girl anime series created by Ikuko Itoh in 2002 for animation studio Hal Film Maker. Inspired by ballet and fairy tales, particularly The Ugly Duckling and Swan Lake, the story follows a duck who is transformed into the mythical ballerina Princess Tutu in order to save the shattered heart of a storybook prince come to life.
The first season was broadcast in Japan in 2002 and the second in 2002 and 2003. It was also adapted into a two-volume manga. Both the manga and anime series were licensed by ADV Films in 2004 for distribution in North America, then by AEsir Holdings when ADV Films closed in 2009, but it’s upcoming Blu-ray Disc release will be distributed by Sentai Filmworks, as the latter two are parts of Section23 Films. The series explores the concepts of destiny and free will. Reviewers point out that although Princess Tutu is nominally a magical girl series, it is more of a “fairy tale set to ballet with a few magical girl elements mixed in,” and its use of dance in lieu of violence to solve conflicts carries “surprisingly effective emotional appeal.”
A manga adaptation of the anime series was written by Mizuo Shinonome and published in Japan by Akita Shoten in the shōnen manga magazine Champion Red. Two tankōbon volumes of the manga series were published in 2003. The Japanese manga series was translated to English and published in North America by ADV Manga in two volumes.
Note: The English language manga continues to use the Japanese name “Ahiru” rather than the name “Duck” used in the English language version of the anime television series.
Once there was a writer named Drosselmeyer, who had the power to make his stories come to life. But he died before he could finish his final tale, The Prince and the Raven, leaving the two title characters locked in an eternal battle. After many years, the Raven managed to break free into the real world, and the Prince pursued him. To seal away the Raven’s evil, Prince Siegfried shattered his own heart with his sword, causing him to lose all his memories and emotions.
Drosselmeyer, now a ghost, decides the story must have an ending. He finds it in the form of a little duck, who has fallen in love with Mytho, the empty remainder of Siegfried. He gives her a magic pendant that can transform her, first into an ordinary human girl, then into the graceful ballerina Princess Tutu, another character in the story. As Tutu, it’s Duck’s job to find all the scattered shards of Mytho’s heart and return them to him.
But not everyone wants Mytho to get his heart back. Rue, the Raven’s daughter reborn as a human, has fallen in love with him too, and worries he might not return her feelings if he has a heart. Her desire to stop him from regaining his emotions unleashes her ability to transform into Princess Kraehe, Tutu’s evil counterpart. Fakir, the boy who found and took care of Mytho after he escaped the story, also tries to stop Tutu, fearing that the story progressing means the Raven will return and Mytho will have to risk his life fighting it again.
What’s more, Duck learns that part of Princess Tutu’s story is that she can never confess her love to Mytho, or else she’ll turn into a speck of light and vanish. However, it becomes clear that Mytho wants his heart restored, so despite Fakir and Kraehe’s interference, she persists.
Eventually Fakir accepts Mytho’s choice and decides to help Tutu, even discovering her true identity as a Duck and becoming good friends with her. He also learns he’s a descendant of Drosselmeyer, meaning he too has the power to make what he writes a reality. Rue finds out she’s not the Raven’s daughter, but a human child he stole to serve him.
After most of Mytho’s heart is returned to him, the seal trapping the Raven begins to break. Finally able to feel love again, Mytho realizes he loves Rue – just as the Raven kidnaps her. Duck discovers her pendant is the final shard, meaning she must give up her life as a human to return it. She eventually finds the courage to do so, and becomes a humble duck again.
Mytho and the Raven battle once more. When the fight turns bleak, Mytho considers shattering his heart to seal the monster away again. Duck begins dancing to show him he must not give up. As she does, Fakir writes a story about how she never stops, no matter how many times the Raven’s minions attack her. Together they create hope, which gives Mytho the strength he needs to rescue Rue and defeat the Raven. Mytho asks Rue to be his princess and they return to his kingdom inside the story. Duck and Fakir continue their relationship, even though she’s stuck in her duck form. With nothing left to do, Drosselmeyer departs in search of another story.