Editorials · On Scenes

With Regards to Drosselmeyer

Princess Kraehe is the best. Spoilers for Princess Tutu follow.
Princess Kraehe is the best. Spoilers for Princess Tutu follow.

I suppose I’m a rather huge fan of Princess Tutu‘s ending. It’s a touching send-off to the small town of Kinkan and I couldn’t help but stare with damp eyelids when Ahiru refuses to give up her dancing, even as she passes on her final heart fragment to her beloved prince, Mytho. The dancing quartet take up arms and pens against Raven, the townsfolk, and the sadistic pen of Drosselmeyer, fully prepared to sacrifice their deepest dreams and desires for the sake of true individuality. A final montage that cuts like hot knife through butter ends with a final shot of a duck and former knight by the pond which is as cathartic as it is bittersweet; the icing on the cake for a beautiful series.

But what stands out to me isn’t the beauty of it all but rather its brevity: there’s a cynical bite to the ending that makes my mouth water months after I’ve finished it. Throughout the final episodes, Drosselmeyer, the depraved storyteller behind the scenes, warns of the dangers of the Happily Ever After: it is unfulfilling and boring in its brevity and the happiness found in fairy tales is often portrayed as no more than a few lines of prose. Drosselmeyer treats this as a universal truth and no story which he finishes ends in happiness. The stories he creates and even his own are replete with tragedy and defeat, each with an ending and orchestral piece just long enough to let the grimness set in.

Drosselmeyer’s refusal to write a happy ending is plenty fair, considering that much of the original fairy tales to begin with were fairly grim. Although written with children in mind, much of them end on extremely bitter notes. Ashputtle, Little Red Cap, and Rapunzel use the horrific aspect of the fairy tale in order to drive home a lesson, usually along the lines of independence or developing sexual awareness, and act as negative reinforcement. Women are forced into unwanted marriages, princes have their eyes gouged out by thorns, a child eats the flesh of her grandmother, etc etc. What’s more is that happy endings truly were short for the 19th century short story and oftentimes cover a horrific event anyways. Although Disney’s success drastically changed general perception of what fairy tales are like once the VHS tape became just as relevant as the book, the first fairy tales nevertheless remain an important prototype for modern horror.

Princess Tutu‘s ending plays into Drosselmeyer’s fears freely. There is no care for his warnings about the brevity of the Happily Ever After and the finale is just as short and quiet as he had ranted. Kraehe and Mytho fly off together on their chariot and set to only faint classical music, Kinkan quietly adjusts to a world without Ahiru, and a knight and duck rest by the bedside of a lake without so much as a sound. It’s a quiet whimper for the story to go out on, but the whispering feelings breathed out by Ahiru’s and Fakir’s happy ending are so raw and undeniably affecting that any credibility of Drosselmeyer’s fades to dust.

It’s an incredibly cynical jab in an otherwise sweet and even cleansing ending, far better than Drosselmeyer could ever write. A finely composed middle finger, so to speak.

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7 thoughts on “With Regards to Drosselmeyer

  1. The one thing I loved about Princess Tutu is how Drosselmeyer was so idealistic about his cynicism that he was devastated at the idea of a happy ending. You’d think being cynical would be about losing faith, but I guess with Princess Tutu it just goes to show that you do need a level of faith to be a cynic as well.

    1. Drosselmeyer’s combination of cynicism and faith in his writing is what makes him one of the most interesting people in the show. What’s important to note about the guy is that even when he chooses to write himself into the story, essentially making him an immortal, is that he chooses to make even his own story a tragedy. Perhaps it was from the brutal treatment from the nobles that made him so dangerously cynical or maybe it was the countless novels he’s written before, but his dedication to the tragic end is fascinating, and maybe even admirable.

      Still though, dude was an asshole.

  2. Glad you enjoyed watching Tutu and got a kick out of its metafiction elements. It’s one of my favourites in the genre along with Revolutionary Girl Utena. I loved how the characters broke free from their fates in the story and were able to achieve their ideal ending. However, unlike most conventional tales, Princess Tutu was focused around the very elements of the story itself, the roles of the characters and the pre-determined course by the writer, Drosselmeyer. All of these elements seamlessly coalesced together and as the story approached its inevitable climax, as the boundaries between fiction and reality blurred. It’s a work like no other that I’ve seen in the animated medium, and it was a both a beautiful and intriguing journey.

    I enjoyed reading your analysis about the small amount of cynicism present during the epilogue. It was a nice, bittersweet twist to what seemed like the typical happy ending that I initially missed. Looks like you’re on your way to becoming a full-fledged mahou shoujo at this rate. 🙂

    1. Looks like you’re on your way to becoming a full-fledged mahou shoujo at this rate.

      Heh, pretty much lately. I’ve been dabbing in the genre a lot lately and I’ve found it pretty damn enjoyable (well, everyone says DokiDoki Precure sucks, but I’m behind on that anywyas). Any solid recommendations from the genre?

      1. Well going off your twitter stats, you seem to be enjoying conventional mahou shoujos like Sailor Moon so I’d probably suggest checking out a Precure season at some point. I know some people will kill me for saying this but I’d suggest starting with Heartcatch right off the bat since it’s considered by many fans of the franchise to be the best. My reasoning is if you’re somewhat interested in the franchise but still kind of hesitant, it has the best chance of reeling you in. Whereas with a really shaky season like DokiDoki it could easily turn you off.

        In terms of other picks, you can’t really go wrong with a classic like CardCaptor Sakura either. Just make sure to watch the original version and not the terrible dub since that cut a ton of episodes central to the character’s relationships. I’ve also recently started Fancy Lala, which is less of a mahou shoujo and more a slice of life about Japan’s entertainment industry. The show still contains many themes and elements central to the genre so I thought I’d throw it in there due to its lovely down to earth charm.

        If you’re just in the mood for straight-up badass fights and don’t care much about things like coherent writing and believable characters, check out Nanoha. Nothing says friendship like a magical atom bomb to the face.

        If you’re feeling truly adventurous though and want a somewhat similar experience to Tutu, give Revolutionary Girl Utena a shot. That one is my personal favourite, mainly due to its absurd thematic presentation and theatrical elements. The cast is also extremely diverse, well-realized and dynamic. It’s definitely a show that won’t resonate with everyone, but it’s certainly one of the most innovative experience this genre can offer.

        Anyway, I kind of just threw every title and franchise I could think of off the top of my head that had some form of merit. Not sure if you’ve seen some of these already but hopefully this gives you a starting point of some sort. :3

      2. Ohoho, although I’m only a few episodes in, I’m actually watching Revolutionary Girl Utena now! Although I believe that the series is certainly less in line with the traditional mahou shoujo much like Princess Tutu, Ikuhara’s bombastic style and taste for interesting erotic imagery have always made him one of the more interesting directors. Ikuhara’s one of the reasons I decided to pick up Sailor Moon and it’s been interesting to note his influences, especially concerning adolescence and roses.

        Also, the guy’s hair absolutely the best thing ever.

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