Princess Tutu (2002) and Master Keaton (Masayuki Kojima, 2003)

From Pinoyexchange.com:

Princess Tutu (2002)

First five episodes of Princess Tutu were a chore. The heroine's voice is annoyingly squeaky, Prince Mythos is prettier than anyone around (I actually wonder if there isn't anything going on between him and Prince whatsisname, Fakir or Fakia, or something), the humor's forced, the premise--she's got to recover shards of Mythos' heart by applying dance therapy on various people (dancing with them while psychoanalyzing em) is a tad repetitive, the animation and artwork didn't feel like anything new.

I do know lighthearted animes darken towards the end, and there are hints early on, which is why I'm slogging on. This better improve soon.

That said, the outtakes were fairly amusing--easily the best thing in the disc.

DKL: Don't worry, just wait for the actual conflict to show up (which, hopefully you didn't spoil for yourself yet by doing research on the series… as crazy as that sounds, it’s totally better if you’re in the dark since a lot of the stuff is genuinely surprising), it ties all of what you've seen so far up really really well (in fact, maybe you’ll like it better when you look back on it afterwards).

Well, it starts rolling on at the end of episode 6, so, yeah.

... in fact, the first thing you'll probably think when you get that far in is "how the hell are they gonna close all of this with just X more episodes in the first season?"

But I dunno, it's nice to know that you're giving it a shot though; I really appreciate it with the full extent of my otaku-ness.

The outtakes were nice, but I think Jin Ho Chung did away with them after the first two volumes mainly because it might seem inappropriate at that point. Or they ran out of production time to slap one together, I dunno, we should go and ask David Williams (we hinted at it, but he didn’t really give us a straight answer last time… yup, when you’re in the biz, you gotta have that ambiguous poker-face kinda thing going on to keep everyone guessing).

Did you sit through the Etude and Beginner for Ballet sequences? The music seems to be re-interpreted to a certain degree, but I was impressed at how well researched everything was (And Mike Yantosca, the ADR scriptwriter, is pretty hardcore with the research himself, for the adaptation I mean)

As for the dub... it was pretty okay for the first 2 volumes (Marty Fleck as Drosselmeyer and TJP as Mr. Cat pulling in the most hardcore performances), but the quality jumps the hell up on the third volume (this was when there was a several months break between recording because some issues with the Japanese packaging came up)… it’s as if Jin Ho Chung spent all that time trying to figure out how to make stuff better; there was a lot of subsequent spot-on delivery on the 3rd disk that I found it hard to believe that it was the same ADR director.

For one thing, Luci Christian (duck) used a deeper projection disk 3 onwards, which I thought was a lot better (reminds me a little of her Kaname voice from Full Metal Panic! but then spliced with Duck’s voice… uh… yeah, that’s better than it sounds)

As for the actual show, I was immediately “enthralled” by the idea, because I found it strangely thought provoking (I mean, about identity and stuff… which actually reminded me of Kon’s Perfect Blue at the time… and no, I’m not kidding)

Who’s is Duck? Who is Tutu? Is she a bird, a girl or is she the prima-ballerina that returns the prince his heart? But if she’s a prima-ballerina, then how come she’s such a clutz? Who’s the real person behind the 3 personas?

I like that the idea didn’t feel muddled by the actual story.

I also like that they didn’t just stop at the idea and that they actually DEVELOPED it and provide a simple, but pretty brilliant, answer at the end (of the first season).

As for the “darkness,” I was actually surprised at how dark the series got… I mean, even with the expectation in there, I was taken aback by some of the darker story elements that moved everything forward. It came out of left-field (or right-field… whichever one conveys surprise a lot better).

As for the production… I dunno, I thought it was pretty great looking. The art director was doing his/her job since the way everything looked and felt helped convey a lot of the surreal/fantastic direction Koumoto was aiming for; I was surprised given that it came from HAL FILMAKER since they don’t exactly put out the best looking stuff. Arguably, the character designs cancome off as overly simplistic, but never has Ikuko Ito’s adapted art looked better (the recycled attack footage from Sailor Moon doesn’t count)… what’s more, from a character animation point of view, a lot of the movement is fairly realized when it’s at its best, so that’s always a plus for me; it just flowed well.

Yeah, labor on, you might be surprised (or you might not be… but then, you’ll at least have seen the first half like I wanted you to)

Oh… but then I’ve hyped you up and raised your expectations :P

The art direction is about level for most Japanese anime--better than American fare, but not as good as, say, Gainax or Watanabe's work.

As for the surrealism mentioned--I don't see it. It's no wackier than, say, Ranma and definitely more sane than Fooly Cooly (which I love). At least from what I have seen.

DKL: As for the surreal in Tutu, I dunno, I thought that it was pretty dreamlike and the atmosphere could get pretty thick. One scene in particular that I can think of is where Rue asks Mytho to tell her that he loves her (and then asks him to go and fetch some water after his lifeless reply… at least, that’s how I remember it going). I thought it was pretty cool. I also like the dynamic feel of the choreographed sequences. The dance-off between the ghost-maiden and Rue (and later, with Tutu) to Giselle was SOLID; I was also impressed that they got the timing down with the music.

Although, they do resort to using still images to save money at some points (it jives with everything else anyway, unlike other shows that use the whole still-frame thing and fail since the imagery is inconsistent and has a jarring transition)… but still, a lot of the cooler sequences get some nice animation in (I loved the Cinderella ballroom sequence in… episode 11, I think).

Oh yeah, there’s also a six-foot cat ballet teacher that threatens to marry his students if they don’t shape up. That’s pretty odd in itself.

The cat is cute, but hardly what I'd call surreal. Maybe if he turned his testicles into a dance floor...?

Well, the "surreal" feels fairly seamless since it's in the context of ballet/folklore/something... but still, there were a ton of peculiar elements like having animals coexist with humans I (which isn't particularly new), a whole town based in european fairy tales and... well… a lot of ballet dancing and even an entire ballet school (in fact, the medium of education seems to be something based in art... dancing, painting, acting, etc.).

It's not the normal surreal I usually see in anime... I mean, there's Hiroshi Hamasaki and stuff (like what he did with Texhnolyze), but most of that is still based in a reality kinda setting.

A nifty little thing in the art direction (that helps with conveying that surreal I was talking about) is how all of the settings change when Duck turns into Tutu... like... the first episode where everything in the backdrops suddenly has chalk-outlines and they change the setting in order to make it appear as if she's on a stage. That’s pretty dreamlike right there.

And Drosselmeyer, I mean, he’s the dead author who wrote the Prince and the Raven, yet he’s here right now somehow narrating the story. That can’t be normal :P

(In fact, he’s a deliciously evil character since he takes joy in the tragedy of the characters in the story… a lot of people don’t seem to like him because of that, but I was actually rather fond of him like how I was fond of Hamdo from Now and Then, Here and There… they’re just too crazy to not like).

But yeah, in the end, most of this is really explained, so it isn’t really all that strange without a reason (if being necessarily mysterious has to do with attributing to how surreal something is).

I don't know; Haibane Ranmei felt more surreal to me. This doesn't seem strange, only sloppy.

Appreciate the use of classical music, but that doesn't seem so strange either. "Fly Me to the Moon" in Neon Genesis Evangelion, that was strange.

Finally saw the second disc of Princess Tutu. Opinion improved, marginally. Prince Mythos (His head looks like an artichoke, was that intentional? I keep calling him 'Chokehead') just as annoying as ever--he's prettier than Tutu, and you just know he and Prince Fakir are having a Brokeback moment.

Keep thinking: Haibanei Ranmei felt stranger, the first ten minutes of Spirited Away felt stranger.

The outtakes are the best thing in the DVD.

I really hope this improves.

Haha! Yeah, it only gets better and the climax on the third disc is immensely satisfying... well, I thought so

And well, strange is... I dunno anymore *hahaha*

So, what'd you think about the whole insertion of Princess Kraehe thing?

Oh, and the whole "He looks prettier than her" thing is like... that whole Androgeny thing right?

Ever seen Gackt? Or that other guy, Hyde? *hahaha*

But yeah, that's considered handsome... in Japan, anyway (from what I recall)

Spike in Cowboy Bebop's good looking, and I never doubted his masculinity. Same with Kenshin, or Naruto, or any of half a dozen anime heroes--that androgynous thing gets doubly annoying when the android--sorry, androgyne--is a passive wet noodle like Mythos. Fakir's more interesting; he's at least as bitchy as Princess Rue and the rest about having his piece of the Prince's ass.

Princess Kraehe--didn't feel anything special. Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Magical Princess Akazukin Cha Cha. Although, come to think of it, she didn't have any limp-wristed princes to deal with either.

Finished all 18 episodes of the series (that's what's available)--it gets better, and the climax at episode 13 has better than average (for the series) animation. Mythos continues annoying, but with the second story arc, which doesn't finish, at least they give him a nasty edge--not his own tho; it's a form of mind control so obvious you wonder why no one realizes it sooner.

I guess all in all, this thing isn't my speed. I really miss the outtakes, they were worth the rental.

Maybe part of why I can't appreciate Tutu (so far, anyway), is because I keep remembering Michael Powell's The Red Shoes. Great ballet film, maybe the greatest ever. Also very strange.

Master Keaton (Masayuki Kojima, 2003)

Okay… while in the shower a while ago, I decided that I think that Masayuki Kojima is a superior director in comparison to the likes of Hayao Miyazaki (well, I saw Princess Mononoke last night, which is now my new favorite Ghibli movie *whisper was my last one*)

So… anyway, I’m going to take this “controversial” stance in my upcoming review for Master Keaton by going into detail as to why I think so… yeah, controversial… Mmm… good.

But… maybe this will help promote the show, since, you know, maybe people will be interested in why the hell I thought this way… or something.

But, so I don’t fall into the “Oh my god! Miyazaki is t3h overrated” mindset, I’m actually going to have to study his touch very comprehensively for the next few weeks… I mean, so I can pick it apart

First five episodes of Master Keaton I like better than Tutu--maybe because Keaton is like a male version of Miyazaki's heroes: pacifistic, low-key, smiling all the time. The eyes aren't the huge, sharply defined kind with standard-issue blue irises, and the hero has an intriguing pug nose that makes him less boringly handsome, and more good-naturedly attractive.

If there's a flaw, it's the details in some of the episodes, like the first one--stepping out in the open with only a spoon, against a handgun? Granted Keaton claims the spoon's more dependable on a windy day, but I wouldn't count on wind blowing my enemy's bullets of- course; besides, the opposition can fire twice in the time it takes to swing that spoon up and over, no matter how fast I am.

Stuff like that. The opening of the second ep in the market--if he's such a surveillance expert, why wasn't he aware of the men tailing the woman he's following? And why did he allow himself to be picked up? Was he so certain they wouldn't beat him up or silence him? I wouldn't be so confident of predicting what 'amateurs' will do.

And when they stage the assault on the terrorists' lair--weren't the terrorists worried about a large truck, however innocently marked as 'maintenance' being parked outside the building? It was close enough as to be almost touching, and I'd imagine a terrorist would be too paranoid not to worry.

Some of the other details ring true--like shooting the hinges and not the lock, or using seven or more people to shadow a house.

The lasagna episode--it seemed too callous, how Keaton just told the girl that her father died from drunk driving; I guess it's meant to be honest, but still. I do like the showdown between Keaton and the former boxer (even if the boxer is your run-of-the-mill thug), the relationship between him and the girl, and the ultimate joke he tells the girl, which is nicely lame.

The immortal man was the first episode I really liked; for one thing, the old man kept showing up Keaton not so much with tactical smarts as with his philosophy in life (so what if he does the wrong thing sometimes?), plus he's both irritating and charming in an amusing way. That said, shouldn't it have occured to Keaton that when the weather improves the Russian mafia would be looking for them (they're just walking in the snow, out in the open)?

The fifth is more of a character development type episode, and we learn more of Keaton's weaknesses, vulnerabilities, doubts. It's okay. I could have used a little more humor.

Been looking at volumes 2, 3, and 4 of Master Keaton. Can't remember too much, but my impression was: not bad. My favorite episodes would be those that involve some crotchety old man or woman ('A Case for Ladies;' his own father in 'Memories of Summer Pudding') who was actually smarter than Keaton, or able to exploit him or abuse his hospitality; not that the turnaround is surprising (it isn't), but it's so much fun abusing him, and the filmmakers seem to have a gift for depicting these walking anachronisms. Even that earlier one "Immortal Man" was enjoyable precisely for its familiarity, and deft way with details.

I do seem to notice that the plots, especially the crime capers, seem to be getting predictable--I realized, for example, in 'Mansion of Roses' that the gardener's body was buried in that empty plot (just one look and I said 'there's a body buried in there.'), and that in 'Walls in One's Heart' the long-lost daughter was actually the nanny, and that she wasn't up to any good.

Plus the plot for that faker episode is a direct lift from Nagisa Oshima's 'Boy,' only in Oshima's film the parents force their sons--one 10, the other 3--to fake their own car accidents...harsh and funny film...

And I found 'Negotiator's Rules' especially problematical--if two to three million is the standard ransom amount, why didn't the kidnappers ask that in the first place, instead of going through all this rigemarole? It's so unusual a request you can't help but think either the kidnappers are morons (which the police assure us they are not), or there's more to it than just the money--but the episode never answers that for us. Shouldn't have raised our expectations if it's just going to be an ordinary kidnapping.

As mentioned, plenty of similarities with Miyazaki--not sure that the manga writer wasn't influenced. Maybe what I'm missing is the kind of inventive visual imagery Miyazaki can toss off, even in a TV series (I'm thinking of his Sherlock Hound series, Disc 1, Disc 2 & 3.

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