It took me a long time to watch Princess Tutu from start to finish, and not just because it’s directed by Junichi Satou and that this tends to happen when I try to watch his shows (the Aria series and my rewatch of Tamayura, to be specific). It was also because Princess Tutu is so extremely dense when it comes to, well, almost all aspects of it. The first thing one might notice is the way the background of the story is set up: It’s more or less literally a fairy tale.
This fact also immediately spawns a number of off-shoots, such as referencing classical music and ballets, and incorporating them into the story. There is also an ever-ongoing mystery regarding the nature of reality and whether the world the story takes place in is real or not, and if not, to which degree? Making the distinction is made even more difficult by the fact that “reality” is never really well-defined, even less so than, for instance, in Haibane Renmei, which also sports a relatively vague world. And if that wasn’t enough, Princess Tutu also, though maybe indirectly, raises the question whether realising reality is in itself worthwhile or not.
Or, rather, that’s what the show is like in the beginning, with its short episodic fables and, how should I put it, anime-isms, like the school setting, Neko-sensei’s running joke, and the wealth of funny faces. And I have to actually emphasise the latter, because this is a show with many goofy faces, and I think they make the show outstanding in their own right. Later on, however, the story gets less lighthearted, less episodic and, in many ways, more absurd. The ill-defined line between reality and fairy tale break down even more, and very strange things happen. At the same time, the character narratives start transforming.
Around this point, Ahiru’s character is no longer about being desperately in love with Mytho, and Fakir’s character is, well, no longer about being desperately in love with defending Mytho. Instead, all the characters sort of start tackling the same dilemma: Free will versus predestined fate. And this is where I think the writing and direction of the show really shines. The characters’ internal struggles are relatable in ways that most stories aren’t, despite the fact that the details are essentially right out of a bunch of different fairy tales. Watch it and you’ll understand what I mean.