Once upon a time there was a man who died. The man tried to keep spinning a story even after his death, but the story just wouldn’t move along. Frustrated, the man lost his patience and called a duck into the story. The little duck tried her best for the Prince. She transcended her standing in the world, and came to love the Prince. However, she was only a duck. She was fated someday to turn into a speck of light and vanish. Yes, that was the tear-jerking ending the story had decided on…
Drosselmeyer: Sink into the depths of despair as you vainly dream of a happy ending! The greatest tragedy has no finale!
Sorry Herr Drosselmeyer, you were defeated in the title of the episode alone. The story ends, and it ends in hope, if not in happiness, for all. And I can’t imagine a better ending for this story (brought to us by Junichi Sato and Michiko Yokote, naturally). Before they can strive for happiness, however, our heroes must first glimpse the Depths of Despair.
Poor Rue doesn’t just glimpse Despair, she goes there – I think it’s a place she’s been to before, as have many. I’ve been there myself.
Rue: The Depths of Despair…I feel so calm here. No one to trick me, no one for me to resent. There’s nothing here, not even loving. I’ll just keep dancing until I die away.
This place features “The Dying Swan”, and its inhabitants perform the solitary dance created for the song (which has nothing to do with Swan Lake).
This is another image that has stayed with me. I call it Sheol, likening it to the underworld of the Old Testament – and that’s actually a hopeful idea for me. Sometimes you want to scream, to cry out, anything to get someone to notice your pain, but you still go through the same motions. Sometimes all you can do in defiance is to cry silent, bitter tears. Yet it’s still hopeful, because “You will not abandon me to Sheol.” I know that there’s a way out.
Duck: Don’t give up, everyone. Don’t let them beat you. Let’s give this story a happy ending. […] Let’s all dance together and remember our true selves. The real me is just a duck, but I can still dance, so I should be able to communicate my feelings through dancing, too! I won’t sit and do nothing and then decide I can’t do anything, because I’m the one who’s going to be making my story.
Fakir: It was true that her dance did not possess the grace and beauty of Princess Tutu’s, however it was overflowing with intense, powerful emotion that shone a warm light on the hearts of all the people who saw it.
Thus, as The Nutcracker makes its final reprise, Duck uses her art to express her own feelings, with support from Fakir that’s more emotional than anything. She accepts that she’s a duck, but not just a duck. Her experiences as a girl and as Princess Tutu both inform her actions and give her the resolve to act. It’s a magnificent testament to the power that ordinary people possess. You don’t have to be a great warrior or a famous and respected person to make a difference; you don’t even need a voice. All you need is a desire to help and the courage to persevere through adversity.
Fakir: Her tiny body was so wounded that she couldn’t even stay on her feet, and yet, in order to guide the Prince and everybody else from dark despair to a happy ending, the duck danced on and on, disregarding the pain, never losing hope. The power flowed out from deep within the duck’s body, unquenchable and inexhaustible.
Mytho: What is that? Is that the light? That’s right, it’s the light that always burned in my breast when I thought of Tutu.
Fakir: One by one, that power warmed the people’s hearts which had been frozen by the Raven’s blood. That power was…Hope.
Hope is the antidote to tragedy, to look forward to a new day and see the possibility of change instead of looking back at the mess you’ve made and the inevitability of pain.
Hope reaches even into the Depths of Despair, and the two people whose hearts were stained by Raven’s blood pierce the Raven’s heart together.
Fakir: The story will end!
With the Raven defeated, Uzura leads our heroes to the entrance that leads back into “the Story”, where they discover a story machine (and promptly break it).
Fakir: I see…everything that happened in Goldcrown Town this thing was recording as a story. A mechanism that gives birth to the tragedy Drosselmeyer enjoys. […] I will write the rest. The Prince can live freely, as he pleases.
Rue: You’re Duck, aren’t you? I truly am glad I got to meet you. I love you Duck.
It’s wonderful to see Rue so open about her feelings at last – and Mytho, too, for that matter.
Mytho: Rue, I want you to come with me into the story as my Princess.
Rue: But I-I have the Raven’s blood inside of me.
Mytho: Raven’s blood…I wonder if it’s still running inside my veins as well. […] Fakir, according to the story I’m supposed to love everyone, but right now I simply want to love Rue the most out of anyone.
Fakir: Idiot. What’s wrong with that?
Thus, everyone is able to return to their true selves, but not to the same people they were before. The Prince has faced evil and pain within his own heart, and that’s not something that can be easily forgotten, but it is a thing he can learn and grow from. He’s a little selfish now, perhaps, but also less reckless, and I imagine he’s learned a bit of empathy, too.
And now for the real question, the question that everyone is dying to know the answer to: Did Mr. Cat ever find a Mrs. Cat?
Yes. Yes he did.
If Goldcrown Town is a little less magical now, then it’s happier for it. They’re back to the business of living, and that’s quite enough.
But I think it’s safe to say that Rue lived happily ever after with her Prince. They earned it. Also, they’re totally performing the wedding dance from Sleeping Beauty.
Drosselmeyer: Wait! What if it happens that all this time I’ve been a character in someone’s story, too? Oh well, even if I am, I’ll just do what I want. […] Now, why don’t we go to another story? And this time actually be useful to me.
Uzura: I don’t get it-zura.
I find the idea of Drosselmeyer invading some hapless story and trying to turn it tragic with Uzura immensely amusing. I foresee much facepalming in his future.
And there was another man who began writing a story. That story, full of hope, has only just begun.
Sometimes, when I’m in a romantic mood, I like to think that Fakir eventually found a way to change Duck back into a girl. But more and more I begin to feel like they would be happy just as they are, being friends who can understand and help each other.
Some people dislike the ending because Duck remains a bird, but to borrow from Edel, who is it sad for? It’s really just sad for the viewers who were invested in Duck ending up in a relationship with either Mytho or Fakir, in which case it’s hard to appreciate the show for what it is. Duck made a sacrifice, and if she had just been allowed to change right back into a girl, it would have nullified the whole point of the episode (if not the entire series) by turning that sacrifice into a passing inconvenience.
I’m going to miss working on this series. It’s been refreshing going through it an episode at a time and giving thought to them individually, since anime is so easy to binge on. Even if I’m forced to acknowledge some flaws in the main body of episodes, I’ll stand by the ending. It’s still one of the best endings I’ve yet encountered.
It’s still astonishing to think how much love and care went into the making of this children’s show. This is a story about art, in just about every conceivable meaning of the phrase, and that’s not often attempted even in stories aimed at adults. It also presents one of the better love stories in children’s media with Rue and Mytho.
Next time we begin our journey through Fruits Basket, another love story…