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Anime: Princess Tutu


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#1 olddude

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 01:02 AM

I'm not really a fan of anime (except of course for Miyazaki - nobody can fail to admire that!). But when I stumbled onto a mention of this series while surfing the net, I had to follow up. I could only find a couple passing references to it in these archives, a couple years ago. It turns out the Seattle public library has the entire collection, 26 episodes on 6 discs. I've now watched the first 13; the rest are on order.

This is seriously fun! The ballet connections run through everything, along with classical European music and stories - all as refracted through the cultural lens of Japanese anime. Very, very clever stuff - I'm sure I don't get half the references. For instance, it took me a while to realize that bits of "Pictures at an exhibition" would appear every few episodes, sort of bridging the story lines. And (I blush to admit) I did not know that the branches in Giselle were specifically rosemary. I did however recognize the ballottés the students were practicing in the background.

For some reason I especially enjoyed the Kabuki Drosselmeyer, executing stylized pirouettes, en dedans in attitude derrière, to mark the commercial break in the middle of each episode.

The whole question of marrying the cat puzzles me though. I know there must be a story there - maybe Major Mel knows?

#2 Tuesday

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 01:51 AM

Oh this is great news! My son is a dancer and a huge fan of anime and manga. He will love this, I think. I'll look around for it.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:23 AM

Princess Tutu is in the shojo (girl comic) genre, and while I'm only aware of it, I haven't followed it, being more of a Rurouni Kenshin/Inuyasha/Hikaru no Go sort of fan. Catgirls and catboys are legion in anime and manga, usually being good luck characters (based on the Japanese traditional manekineko, the beckoning cat). Marrying a cat is also part of western fairy tale tradition, as in Mme. d'Aulnoy's "The White Cat". (remember her pas de deux with Puss in Boots in Sleeping Beauty?) Cat-people can also be scatterbrained, as Aisha in Outlaw Star.

There's also a rather well-known anime short "Return of the Cat" which is another shojo in which we have not only catgirls and -boys, but characters who are part anteater, pangolin, duck and a lot of other beasties. In its English version, it's voiced by some pretty high-powered actors, like Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, and René Auberjonois.

And even Swan Lake itself is a hard-to-find bit of anime.

There is a manga called Swan, which asks the eternal question, "Can a poor but honest ballet student from the sticks (read Hokkaido) find love and happiness in the world of international ballet?" I don't think it's been made into anime yet, anyway. One of the more interesting characters seen in passing is "Garina Uranova".
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Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:58 AM

Major Johnson....you truly know something about everything!! :wink:

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 08:09 AM

Except math. Even long division without a calculator can send me screaming off into the woods!
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#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 11:23 AM

Swan was originally created in the '70s, so Uranova was still around. Maya Prisetskaya puts in an appearance doing, what else, "The Swan". Kyoko Ariyoshi was the creator, and she obviously had a treasure-trove of famous ballet photos to draw (literally) from. The English translators were also equally obviously not as familiar with ballet as Ariyoshi, so they translated phonetically. Masumi (the lead character) admires a photograph of Arregra Kent as Odette.
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Posted 08 January 2008 - 11:31 AM

Major Johnson, did you spend time in Japan during your military career, post WWII, of course?

#8 gimpydancer

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 11:44 AM

:D This is totally off topic but when we were stationed in Japan (Sasebo) I rode horses at a local Japanese woman's small barn. One of the horse's names sounded like "Row rah roo". When I saw the name on the stall it was spelled "Laurel". Now that's a tricky one to pronounce phonetically!

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 11:57 AM

nevermind!

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 12:10 PM

Yes, even though I was stationed in Korea, at a remote base, they kept sending me as a courier/escort for patients enroute to Tachikawa Air Base Hospital which was the Far East Mental Facility. Rather a lot of people couldn't take the remote assignment, and needed professional attention. When they sent me, I was "on TDY" (Temporary Duty) for seven days at a time. My duties at Tachi were capable of being done in one hour in the morning, so after they were done, I caught the train east into Tokyo. At night, I came back to the base, checked my patient, and so to bed.
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#11 olddude

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 01:36 AM

... Marrying a cat is also part of western fairy tale tradition, as in Mme. d'Aulnoy's "The White Cat". (remember her pas de deux with Puss in Boots in Sleeping Beauty?)...

In this case, the ballet teacher is a cat. And yes, in the episode connected to Sleeping Beauty, when he is interrupted by some students, that's the variation he's practicing on his time off... He keeps the young students in line by threatening to marry them if they don't behave.

There's also a rather well-known anime short "Return of the Cat" which is another shojo in which we have not only catgirls and -boys, but characters who are part anteater, pangolin, duck and a lot of other beasties....

And the king of the cats want to marry the girl - that's why I though it was a Japanese thing :D

Most of the students are girls, but there are a goat, an anteater, and a crocodile among the student body. The accompanist is a penguin. The only boys in the school all seem to be seniors, but they are quite good dancers.

And even Swan Lake itself is a hard-to-find bit of anime.

The girl hero here was a duck, transformed into a girl at the ballet school, but she changes into Princess Tutu when necessary - once an episode, naturally. She is costumed a lot like Odette, except for the little fairy wings :unsure: Her nemesis is an older student who transforms into a raven-based Odile. (No owls, so far!) Of the 13 episodes I've seen, the one called "Schwannensee" has most of the Swan Lake references. There is an extended bit of very familiar Odette vs. Odile choreography!

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 07:06 AM

In Japanese folklore, owls aren't wise and dangerous, they're stupid and lazy. They sleep all day, and only hang around at night, when all the sensible people have gone to bed. Their folklore is full of people who are inhabited by the souls of spirit animals, sometimes to the good, sometimes to the not so good. Foxes (kitsune) are a great favorite, especially those who have lived for more than 1,000 years and have grown multiple tails. Princess Tutu is drawn in the "chibi" style, with a lot of the characters in sort of Kewpie-doll mode. The other extreme in shojo comics is where everybody is built like a Barbie doll!
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#13 primasylph

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 06:19 PM

I've recently descovered an anime series that I think would be of interest to many on this forum; Princess Tutu. It's of the "Shojo" genre, meaning that it's an anime focused on the teenage girl demographic with the plots revolving around issues of friendship and romance and of course magical powers bestowed on the main character to fight the forces of evil; giving her a butt-kickin, superhuman alias! (well known titles in the genre include Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Revolutionary Girl Utena etc...)

What sets this shojo anime from its counterparts is the fact that the storyline is based around various aspects of classical ballet, including variations many well-known characters and stories such as Drosselmeyer of The Nutcracker and Prince Sigfreid and Odette/Odile of Swan Lake. Each episode has a theme based on a perticular ballet such a Giselle or Sleeping Beauty. The musical score of the show even features many favorites of the ballet world. The characters in the show (which all live in a ballet boarding school) use the correct movement terminology and Princess Tutu, the heroine dances a Pas De Deau with her opponents instaid of fighting them - all in a very Swan Lake-esqe costume complete with pink pointe shoes!

If interested, you can watch episodes 1-12 on YouTube. I'd call it a must-see for all ballet enthusiats!

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 07:04 PM

We've been aware of this anime for some time now, primasylph, but good that you found it for yourself. Just run a search on that title in quotation marks on All Forums.
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#15 olddude

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Posted 03 February 2008 - 07:13 PM

...
If interested, you can watch episodes 1-12 on YouTube. I'd call it a must-see for all ballet enthusiats!

There are 26 episodes total, available in a boxed set of 6 DVDs. The Seattle library system has 10 sets! Can you tell that I'm a fan too? :P