This is a bit unusual–an anime based on ballet. The story draws heavily from Swan Lake and the The Nutcracker, with individual episodes inspired by various other ballets, operas and pieces of classical music.
This gives the series the singular advantage of having some of the world’s most beautiful music for its soundtrack. It also features clever and thoughtful writing. However the animation is, overall, only mediocre. It’s regrettable that this was not produced by one of the top-ranked animation studios (I’m thinking of Madhouse in particular.) If it had been this would surely have deserved a full five stars.
GenresFantasy, Drama, Musical, Romance, Magical Girl
Contents26 Episodes on 6 DVDs (1 box set.)
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles
Original StoryIkuko Itou
Chief DirectorJunichi Satou
Series DirectorShougo Kawamoto
Series CompositionMichiko Yokote
Character DesignIkuko Itou
Art DirectorKenichi Tajiri
Chief Animation DirectorIkuko Itou
Animation StudioHal Film Maker
Region 1 DistributorSection23 Films
As in a real ballet, all of the violent scenes take the form of dance numbers. So this must be totally innocuous and ideal for children, right? Actually it’s worth being a bit cautious.
The dark imagery and dark themes may be disturbing to younger children. If you show this to a five-year-old she may well have nightmares.
A ten-year-old will probably not be unduly disturbed, but most ten-year-olds are not the world’s greatest fans of classical music, and many might be annoyed that the fairy tale premise does not lead to a standard fairy tale happy ending.
Given that this is about ballet, I presume that most American boys could not be induced to watch it even at gunpoint. (This is not necessarily true in other countries. A modified version of the story was published as a shounen manga in Japan.)
The bottom line is that this is most likely to appeal to a viewer (of any age) who likes classical music and has developed a degree of tolerance for nuanced storytelling.
Premise and Characters
Once upon a time there was a man who died. The man’s work was to write and tell stories, but he could not defy death. The man’s last story was about a brave and handsome prince, who vanquishes a crafty raven. But now, their battle will go on for eternity with no end.
“I’m sick and tired of this!” cried the raven.
“I’m sick and tired of this!” cried the brave prince as well.
The raven escaped from within the story and the prince, in pursuit of the raven, did as well.
Then the prince took out his own heart and sealed the raven away by using a forbidden power.
Just then, from somewhere, the man who was supposed to have died murmured “This is great!”
Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to dance very much. The girl made the mistake of putting on a pair of red shoes that would force her to dance for eternity once they were on. The girl continued to dance day and night…
Oh my, this is a different story. But perhaps it is not entirely different after all.
Long ago there was a warrior. In order to protect his friend, the warrior took his friend’s life.
Long ago there was a sword. This sword had continued to fight for the sake of peace. It realized that in order to protect the peace, It had no choice but to kill the one who wielded it. Thus it took its master’s life.
The warrior and the sword had no choice but to do as they did, but was that really what they ought to have done?
Uncertain of the answer even now, they wander aimlessly.
If you have read a lot of my anime reviews you have probably figured out that I am not a fan of English dubs. I almost always find the acting on the original Japanese soundtrack to be better. Since it would be boring to say “The Japanese soundtrack is better” every time, I usually say nothing about the English dub unless there is something unusual about it (good or bad).
In this case Nanae Katou, the Japanese seiyuu for Ahiru, seems to find a perfect voice for both Ahiru and Princess Tutu. Conversely the American voice actress plays Ahiru with a voice so shrill and whiny that it makes me want to gouge my ears out. I can’t stand to listen to it for more than a few seconds. 
The most interesting extra included on the DVDs is a section on each disc called “Étude”, which discusses the musical theme chosen for each episode. Unfortunately this requires you to listen to the American voice actors.
Wikipedia entry. (Spoilers.)
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
My own spoiler-filled notes on the symbolism and the ending.
 Mytho is pronounced “Myuuto”, from the Japanese pronunciation of “mythos”, even on the English soundtrack.
 The American actors may be especially handicapped in this case by the fact that the name “Princess Tutu” naturally sounds ridiculous to any native English speaker. To the original Japanese cast, “PURINSESU CHUCHU” probably sounds rather cool.