ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Animated by Hal Film Maker, a studio which hasn’t produced anything amazing other than this one and perhaps Aria if we count excecution. Directed by some nobody who didn’t take over any other worthy projects. I must say this show took me by surprise. The names behind it didn’t seem promising and neither did the artwork at first.
My first impressions were like “What am I watching here? Cartoonish anthropomorphic animals dancing ballet and doing silly magical tricks in some weird Wonderland. It’s probably a marketing trick to promote ballet dancing to little children.” I was really not fond of the cheery graphics and would normally give up on it early on.
But then I started to notice the finer details, like the the artwork, an example of fine art. Vivid but not tiresome colors, variety on objects and locations. Dreamy backgrounds like strolling through a fairy tale, filled with wonders and magic. A very special artistic concept that sets it apart from almost all other titles, something between a circus and the Renascence. The visual effects looked like smart optical tricks that are used in theatrical and puppet plays; they boosted the atmosphere and the artistic value tenfold.
This is not the result of some random brainstorming project and definitely not a work done on the run for little dumb kids. After awhile, everything felt dreamy without becoming impractical, planned through with care and with a specific aim behind them. Afterwards I noticed all the allegories behind all this weird decoration and how the cheery atmosphere was in fact hiding a terrible secret, which is not what it appears to be at first glance. Looks are very deceiving in this series and many details play out as hints, not just decorations. Well, that was more than enough to love it, since I am a sucker for subliminal and symbolic meanings.
If there is something I didn’t like that much, those would be the character designs; too simple and similar to one another. I mean, ok, I can tolerate the cute little girls, boys and fuzzy animals to the point everything borders moe but they lack variety and are a huge contrast to the wonderful backgrounds. They look simple, and seem to share the exact body and face structure, making it a bit hard to set them apart if not for the hairstyle. Yes, the cookie cutter syndrome strikes again.
Notice for perverts: All girls are wearing a weird skirt that hovers mysteriously, revealing their feet up to the knee. Just pretend to tie your shoelaces and voila! Pantsu land! Plus, the heroine can’t seem to be able to stay dressed for over 5 minutes without ending up naked because of all her continual transformations. And there are plenty of scenes with bishonens without shirts on, and bishojos in leotards. WOOOO! Fangirls and pervs will rejoice! … I also liked how the ecchi element is IMPLIED and not ADVERTISED. The series aims at kids too you know; and it’s very cool to have it there as subliminal as everything else.
Another glitch of sorts is the lack of motion. For a show based on ballet and magic it has plenty of stale images, crude chibi scenes, repeated magical transformations. The most disappoing part is the dancing choreography which is almost always just still images rather than a continual scene full of motion. It makes almost all action scenes to feel dull. Not that this is a show you watch for the action of course.
All characters really talk appropriately and in accordance with how they feel or what their personalities are. Ahiru DOES sound insecure as a girl and sure of herself when becoming Princess Tutu. Mytho REALLY gains coloring in his voice as he gains emotions. Neko-sensei TRULY sounds like a cat in heat. YOU WILL MARRY ME lol. Really sweet and funny talking most of the time, really serious words during dramatic scenes. Nothing sounds repetitive or retarded (Dragonball Z anyone?). Everything is spoken with a meaning and with realistic emotions backing it up. I got to laugh and feel sad several times because of them. Great voice acting.
You will find lots of all time classic ballet music themes in here. It doesn’t matter if you don’t appreciate that kind of music; they are masterful pieces of fine art and are recognizable no matter how ignorant of ballet you are. You KNOW THEM even without ever watching ballerinas dancing. And even past them, the lesser important sound effects are used properly and boost both atmosphere and the theatric feeling.
The first episode will give you the impression that the story is quite silly and fake. But as the scenario unfolds, you will come to realize that although still a slow paced mahou shojo series, it packs a great plot. It practically bends all the clichés Sailor Moon solidified so many years ago and made all later mahou shojo to imitate them. I ensure you that almost NONE of the expected plot twists happen in the story in an obvious way. The story is original in a sense for that, and even packs some really cool metaphysical concepts that go beyond romance and love. It is definatelly not simple or shallow for little kids; they will hardly get half of them on the first try. It also has far too many scenes of mystery, suffering and angst to count as completely “childish”.
The plot is uncommon in its own way as well. The story is divided into 2 story arks; both are very interesting during the beginning and the ending but rather boring in the middle. This normally counts as a minus but it was presented in such an elaborate way that makes the in-between episodes no to count as fillers. Although almost all of them have secondary characters that appear only for one episode and then disappear from the story, at the same time the main characters evolve and mature bit by bit in ALL the episodes. You may miss something important if you skip an episode.
I liked how all the stories are based on some famous fairy tale or ballet play. The premise remains the same but the plot is generally darker, as something unexpected always happens that turns even cheery fairy tales into a grim drama with a sad ending.
Also, everyone has a story to tell, one-episode characters included. None are irrelevant to the main scenario and some of them even manage to overshadow it in drama. You will not feel like they are dragging the story but rather they are enriching it. Plus, the rather boring inbetwwen episodes can also work as intentional relaxation points. They give you the impression that the series became dull but in reality they lower your expectations just to raise them again towards the end and leave you with a really good feeling of fulfillment. It is a lot more successful to have spikes of intrest and relaxation, since too much of only one of each would eventually tire anyone.
If the whole thing plays out in a plausible way is rather blurry, since you must accept the idea of magic performing miracles and supernatural forces bending reality to their liking, including memories and free will. It’s also a story where the characters dance ballet instead of throwing energy beams in order to win in a battle. But surely the story does provide explanations that somewhat reason all the wackiness, in accordance with the in-laws of the series. And it does a much better job than most others. Even without that you will easily be absorbed in the story, as nothing feels forced most of the times, and even most of those end up being fixed parts of a predetermined sinister plan.
There is a solid and wonderful ending to the series but unfortunately it is rushed and fake. It could have been a lot better if the scriptwriters had simply rearranged some events in the last episode or rolonged it a little bit more.
I would love to see the Crow King being aware that he was part of the story as well and not just a generic archevil that was almost asking to be destroyed. I would love to see Drosselmeyer’s writing/fate spinning machine to have been introduced sooner in the story. I would love to have listened mentioning that it simply resets when the story is over and starts all over again. I would love to see Fakir avoiding being killed by the Crow King just to be killed by that executioner with the axe. I would love to see where Mytho and Rue went. I would love to see the people of the city remembering everything that happened. Of course none of that took place and I got a bit disappointed for getting a lot less that what I hoped.
All characters are imposing, cute, funny and/or dramatic to the point of cherishing them in a few episodes. They have distinctive mannerisms, quirks, goals and feelings. You will never confuse one with another if the cookie cutter syndrome does not get in the way. Ahiru’s love for Mytho, Rue’s snobbism, Fakir’s cruelness, Mytho’s apathy are unique traits that set them apart. I can’t say much about their backdrops; the main 4 characters have a decent story behind them but all the secondary feel like they popped out of nowhere (and I don’t mean the ones in the fictional stories). The mains are also the only ones who develop but at least they do so in such elaborate ways to the point of becoming totally different people at the end. And I mean that in a good way; not like they were out of character or something. No loose ends or half-baked solutions either; they get their catharsis and it is NOT a predictably cheery one. It is a bit sad not to have the secondary getting some of that too instead of being introduced in an episode and having Princess Tutu aiding them before disappearing. But to hell with them; they are there just for flavor anyway.
For me this is the best mahou shojo of all times but it is surely not as famous as Sailor Moon or Madoka Magica. Not that those publicity tricks prove a show’s value; it’s closer to how much they milk the fans. It is still a show you could always watch at least once again for noticing all the details you missed the first time (since there are too many of those). And even if you don’t, it is an unforgettable experience that will forever be in the back of your mind for the rest of your life.
Those mid-episodes may make you feel bored a bit but as a whole it was an amazing watch. After watching over 2.000 anime, you feel like most just copy one another and cherish those who do it differently. This series is one of those cases. It is the most well-made mahou shojo ever!
Oh, and for all of you who will jump to tell me Madoka Magica is the best of the genre, I will vertically disagree. Its duration was short, its themes were a mess, and the ending was a cop-out. No thanks; I pick the better paced, better developed, and more humane Tutu over that shitty travesty.
Those who didn’t love it are sentenced to death by watching repetitive mahou shojo transformations.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
SOUND SECTION: 10/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 4/4, Sound Effects 3/3
STORY SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 2/2, Complexity 2/2, Plausibility 2/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 2/2, Catharsis 2/2
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: Historical Value 2/3, Rewatchability 3/3, Memorability 4/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 9/10
Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 2/2, Story 2/3, Characters 4/4