Once upon a time there was a man who died. The man had the power to make stories come true, so his hands were cut off by the people, who were afraid of tragedies becoming reality. When the man died, the people heaved a great sigh of relief. As it turned out, however, when his hands were cut off, the man had been writing a story in his own blood. That was a story he could continue spinning even after he died – a story of the man himself.

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Here in its penultimate episode Princess Tutu lays out its thematic conclusion in preparation for the emotional climax next episode.  Also, there will be lots and lots of quotes, because these ideas are better presented by the show itself than I could do. Ye have been forewarned.

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Drosselmeyer: To think the words of true love Tutu was supposed to say Princess Kraehe ended up saying instead, even though she was raised on Raven’s blood and shouldn’t even know how to love! Regardless, you still won’t be able to escape tragedy, my dear little Duck.

It would seem that the stage is finally set for the battle between the Prince and the Raven – all that’s left is for Princess Tutu to give back the last heart shard.  Or at least, if this was just the story Drosselmeyer intended, maybe the story would end here, but things have changed.  Duck was drawn into the story, and because of her Fakir has discovered a power to challenge Drosselmeyer with.  But nobody said it would be easy to avert tragedy.  This episode is all about Duck and Fakir finding the courage to change fate together.

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Mytho:  Princess Tutu, I would like for you to return my final heart shard. Please give it to me. I have to save her. No I-I want to save Rue. The excruciating pain of having Raven’s blood eat at your heart – I know that pain. It starts at the weak places in your heart and spreads ruthlessly. You can’t even stop yourself from hurting the people who are important to you. Rue has stood up under the burden of that suffering all alone ever since she was small. Her love was frail, and she was always afraid of losing love. The more she loved, the more she suffered, and there was no one she could even seek help from, but she never thought to stop loving. With words of true love, she led me out of the Raven’s darkness. It’s my turn to protect her now, and if possible, I’d like to take Rue as my Princess.

This is an important thing to keep in mind about Rue: She rescued Mytho already; he just wants to return the favor.  I’ve seen people complain about how Rue totally forfeits her “strong female character” status just because she needs to be saved at the end by a man, but she only lost her freedom in the first place because she saved him.

But then Tutu finds that she can’t remove her pendant.

The Raven: Bathed in this noble blood, all people will become crows!

O hammy villains, how I’ve missed thee. Anyhow, the Raven turns all the residents of Goldcrown Town into crows with a literal blood rain and gives Tutu a day to actually return the heart shard.

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Whether Drosselmeyer orchestrated this turn of events or not, he relishes the opportunity to make Duck and Fakir suffer.  By appearing before Fakir and forcing him to write “the sorrowful yet beautiful story of little Duck.”

Drosselmeyer: You’re trying to be responsible about your writing, aren’t you? Well, that’s why you can’t write! You have to understand that when you’re writing stories you should do it more freely and irresponsibly! Just follow your own feelings.

Fakir: I have no desire to become like you: A demented, sadistic fossil who toys with people’s fates for a lark.

Just wanted to acknowledge that this is a magnificent insult on par with Dr. Seuss’s, and I only wish it were more generally applicable.

Drosselmeyer: Rue would be carved into the Prince’s heart for eternity because she gave herself over to the Raven, and by keeping the heart shard, Duck would live on in the Prince’s heart as Princess Tutu, and not as an ugly little duck.

Duck: Is it all my fault?

Drosselmeyer: Yes, it is. And in order to take off the pendant you will have to lay down your life.

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Fakir puts a stop to this by stabbing his hand with what appears to be a letter opener.  Ouch.

Then Uzura proves her worth once more by leading Fakir to where Duck is: The Lake of Despair.

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Duck: I’m sorry. I’m sorry Rue. I’m sorry Mytho. If I vanish, the heart shard will return to you. […] I thought I was doing my best for Mytho’s sake, but was it for my own sake? Just like Mr. Drosselmeyer said. I’m really thinking that I don’t want to return Mytho to the story.

She thinks that she’s being selfish for wanting to remain a girl (if not Princess Tutu) forever, but honestly, this is what the audience wants (and even expects), too!

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And then we get a beautiful pas de deux between Duck and Fakir, set to the music and choreography of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet – specifically, “The Last Farewell”.

Duck: Mytho said he wants to make Rue his princess, and I know he wants to save her from the Raven…but it just won’t come off! All this is my fault. Because I’m thinking that deep inside my heart I don’t want the story to ever end.

Fakir: Idiot. You’re not the only one, Duck. I don’t want to- no, the fact of the matter is that nobody wants to see the story come to an end. Nobody save Mytho himself. I still can’t write a story about Mytho either. Stop blaming just yourself. Everyone is scared of being restored to their true selves. They’re used to being given roles in stories that shelter them from the business of living. The real you is a duck, and the real me…in the end, the real me has been protected since my childhood. I can’t protect anyone, but even if that is what I’m truly like, I want to end the story once and for all. I want to protect Mytho and you because of my own feelings, not some role given to me, even if I use up all my power.

“You’re not the only one.”  That’s a surprisingly freeing idea when you’re in pain, even if it’s often hard to accept when we’re young.  Both Duck and Fakir are weak as their “true selves”, and it’s terrifying for them to leave the shelter of the story for the great unknown that is Life.  Their reluctance also mirrors that of the audience.  The best stories make us want them to go on forever, but they can’t.  Sooner or later all stories must end to make way for new ones.

Duck: When that happens, I’ll go back to being just a bird, and I’ll never go back to studying ballet with everybody again.

Fakir: That’s fine, isn’t it? After all, that’s who you really are. And even after that time comes, I will stay by your side forever.

Duck (internally): It’s strange. Until a short while ago, I thought it was okay to simply vanish, but now…I’m weak, but for some reason Fakir always makes me stronger.

Fakir: Let’s compose an end for this story, not just for Mytho’s sake, but for our own sakes as well.

So to top off his character development, Fakir takes on the role of Princess Tutu by dancing with Duck and helping her sort out her feelings.

Duck: Fakir, will you write a story about me, just one more time? That way, we’ll combine our “We want to protect Mytho” powers!

They know what they must do now: Go back to their real selves, regardless of pain or uncertainty.

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Fakir: Princess Tutu ran, determined to return the last heart shard to the Prince. She didn’t do it just for the Prince, but for all the people. When she thought of it that way, there was no more hesitation. […] Tutu quietly gazed into the Prince’s eyes, then took off the pendant. The final heart shard was shaped like a pair of fluttering wings. Wings for the people who had spent a comfortable time inside the story to leave the nest with.

Both: Wings for the Prince to return to himself with!

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Mytho: Something so small and fragile accomplished this…Thank you, Princess Tutu.

The stage is set for Drosselmeyer’s great tragedy (notably, he ceases to address Duck and only addresses the Prince now).  What can Duck (and by extension, Fakir) do when she’s just a bird?  And does Mytho, even with his heart whole again, have the power and resolve to save Rue and defeat the Raven once and for all?

Onward to eucatastrophe…

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