Once upon a time there was a man who died. All the stories the man spun came true, so the king, the nobility, and the kingdom’s rich all went to him to get him to write them stories. But when they saw their wishes granted, stark terror of his power seized them, and they began to abhor him. When the man finally died, the people rejoiced that this wellspring of misfortune had dried up. No one heard the echoing sound of the man’s scornful laughter.
I’ve been trying to put a finger on what bugs me about this episode. It’s just relentlessly depressing (yes, they make attempts at comic relief, but that’s very hit and miss and doesn’t significantly lighten the mood anyway). After much pondering, I think I know what the problem is: Nothing happens (or precious little). The episode is almost all exposition right up until the last five minutes or so, which is even more frustrating because the characters themselves are bemoaning how little they can do. On top of that, it lacks any sort of episodic framework, which makes it all feel pretty aimless. There’s just a series of events involving either Duck feeling useless or exposition for Fakir.
Duck: Did Mytho get to go back to being the Prince? He defeated the Raven’s blood! I get it, Fakir wrote a story about Mytho. Oh, and Rue went back to being Rue, too. I’m so glad! I’m so glad, everybody looks like they’re having fun. I want to dance with them, too! Oh, so I went back to being a duck? Right, the Prince got all of his heart back, so that means Princess Tutu’s role is finished. I’ve gone back to being a plain old duck. Fakir, Rue, Mytho…it looks like I wasn’t able to help the Prince at all. I just watched.
Duck’s dream actually involves a very telling musical selection. It sounds really cute and happy and it’s from The Nutcracker (one of the more recognizable pieces, at that); its name is “Dance of the Mirlitons”. A mirliton is a clockwork puppet (made by Drosselmeyer, because of course).
And then Duck even gets sidelined in school, during the first pointe lesson.
Mr. Cat: Miss Duck, I am sorry, but at the moment I’m afraid I can’t give you toeshoes. Your concentration, Miss Duck, has been lacking even more than before, as if you’ve even lost your eagerness. Is it possible you’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t do anything, and so as a result, you’ve decided to stop trying to move forward altogether?
Mr. Cat’s a lot sharper than he looks.
To be fair, Duck does try to help Fakir, but she gets shut down by this guy.
Meet Autor, a Drosselmeyer fanboy of dubious sanity.
Autor: But remember this: Brute force has no power in the face of words. You want Drosselmeyer’s power because you are also aware of that truth, yes? The power to make stories into reality. It’s splendid, isn’t it?
He offers to teach Fakir the ways of the “Spinners”, and since Fakir is feeling a bit directionless, too, he agrees.
Autor: Things relating to Drosselmeyer are gathered inside this house. It is a holy place.
Well now you’re making this sound like a cult, Autor.
As pointless as a lot of his instruction is, Autor does know at least one thing that Fakir doesn’t: Fakir is a direct descendent of Drosselmeyer.
Fakir: I have Drosselmeyer’s blood…does that mean those books missing their endings are things that Drosselmeyer wrote? Then the fact that I saw one of those endings is…
But Duck is currently locked out of that (both literally and figuratively).
Duck: I’m just watching again.
We don’t really see much of Rue and Mytho this episode, either, but they do have a notable interaction which Duck witnesses.
Rue sees that when she moves to take Mytho’s hand, draws back, and Mytho gets mad at her and hurts her for it.
Mytho: You hesitated to take my hand! Can you really say you love me?
So now he’s moved from verbal to physical abuse. And all Rue can do to rationalize it is keep saying what she always has.
Rue: Someday the Prince will become my prince alone.
At least this prods Duck to check in with Fakir.
Duck: Mytho was always kind to Rue, but he’s changing more and more.
Then there’s a thing with an Oak Tree that’s not quite fully explained, but the long and short of it is that Fakir is sucked in by it because Autor is insensitive and impatient.
The section with the Oak Tree is easily the highlight of the episode, and honestly it’s one of the standout sequences in the entire series, if only for the bizarre imagery.
But Fakir’s conversation with the Tree is quite fascinating as well.
Oak Tree: Everything is one, one is everything. All stories are spun into one. The beginning is the end, the end is the beginning. […] The start is a happy accident, the end the fate for which it’s meant. Existence is false, truth is nothingness.
Fakir: Yes, you’re right. All go to nothing, in the end becoming one with everything else. I will watch over everyone in this way, and go towards the eternal ending.
Oak Tree: To those who accept everything, happiness. To those who resist everything, glory.
Some of what the Oak says is surprisingly resonant to me as a writer, but I couldn’t even begin to explain how or why. As for character development, the main thing to take away is that Fakir is determined to use his power responsibly and try his best to write a happy ending for everyone.
Princess Tutu: I’m sorry, Fakir. I couldn’t do anything. Nothing.
Fakir: I heard a voice. It was yours.
She called Fakir, and he heard her. Duck finally found a way to help, and for once it had nothing to do with Tutu (Fakir recognizes her voice as Duck, not Tutu). Now at least there’s some forward momentum with these two.
There are several reasons why I attached so strongly to this show. This image is one of them.
There are a couple of images from this show that have simply become a part of my mental-visual lexicon, if you will. Sometimes you can’t help how you feel, but having an image to describe it is often more helpful than just a word, because words have different meanings for different people. I’ve felt exactly that image before. I understood that image as a description of that feeling long before I was able to name it Depression.
It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, but it will get better.