High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.
Just cross-posting from tumblr.
SPOILER WARNING: I don’t play around.
Princess Tutu tells the story of Ahiru (Duck in the English version), a girl who, despite her epic clumsiness, enrolls in a ballet school. She has two sadistic friends and a crush on the prince, Mytho, who has less personality than Bella from Twilight and Rei from Evangelion combined. However, that, and other things, are explained by the premise of the anime: Mytho is actually a prince who drove a sword through his own heart in order to seal away a monstrous raven.
Ahiru, in true Magical Girl fashion, discovers that her own pendant has strange powers, and that it transforms her into the elegant princess Tutu whenever a shard of Mytho’s heart is near (she also discovers that she is, in reality, a duck, and the pendant’s power is the sole reason why she has human form to begin with). Through feats of dance, she retrieves those shards and returns them to her prince, hoping that by reconstructing his heart, she would help him smile. However, that puts her in direct conflict with Mytho’s girlfriend, Rue, and his roommate, Fakir. Moreover, Ahiru soon discovers that her innocent quest has unleashed something a lot more dangerous.
What really sets this anime apart from others of its ilk is that, unlike Sailor Moon, it doesn’t play its element straight - the story takes place within a story, and the characters are often victims of the whims of the writer, Drosselmeyer. Princess Tutu is, therefore, a subversion and deconstruction of its entire genre, and the end result is truly fabulous.
The reason why I just spent so long talking about the basic premise is that it has a lot to do with Fakir’s character, and how it is built. It’s also important because Fakir is one of the reasons why Princess Tutu is one very feminist anime.
Which is surprising, since Fakir starts off as… kind of a dick. He’s controlling, rude, hostile towards Ahiru and downright abusive towards Mytho, going as far as to lock him in a basement to stop him from going to a carnival with Rue. Unlike Ahiru, he knows that restoring Mytho’s heart would mean getting back the painful feelings as well as the happy ones, and reasons that the prince is better off without one.
It’s not revealed until later that he started off much like Ahiru - as a kid, he had the power to bring stories to life (an ability he shares with Drosselmeyer). He tried using that power to save his town from the ravens, but his attempt got his parents killed, and left him badly injured. This event made him shun his power, and take up the sword, thinking that the only way to save his loved ones is through brute power. Later, when he realizes that Mytho wants his heart restored, he decides to fight for his sake by Ahiru’s side.
Like a lot of things in Princess Tutu, Fakir’s character development is shown mostly through dance. He only actually dances with Ahiru twice, but both of those scenes are important because they signify the start and end of his character arc, and both tell volumes about the dynamic between the two of them.
It’s also important to note that he dances with Ahiru, the clutzy girl, not her graceful alter ego. Once those two actually realize that they have the same goal - helping the prince - Fakir becomes Ahiru’s closest ally, and the person who sees her clearly. It’s one of the reasons why I, and a lot of other people, ship them - the fact that he knows the girl behind the graceful, fearless dancer, is why their relationship gains profoundeur.
The first time Fakir and Ahiru dance is because they are forced to. They perform a pas de deux from the Sleeping Beauty that actually looks more like a pas de bataille, if such a thing even exists - they avoid looking at each other, Ahiru is being Ahiru, which is to say, a very poor dancer, Fakir pulls her and lifts her around unceremoniously and the two are just generally antagonistic towards each other. Each sees the other as the enemy, and each is determined to win. It won’t be for many, many episodes, that they learn to trust each other.
It’s actually Ahiru who reaches out to Fakir - having witnessed him struggle to help Mytho and failing, and seeing him cry privately, she understands that he’s just as worried about him as she is, and the two team up to save Mytho when he gets abducted by the ravens. They go searching in the catacombs below the city, and somehow end up in a trap. Ahiru figures out that they may leave if they swim through an underground lake, and reveals her true form to Fakir.
Fakir reacts at first with anger and shame at having exposed himself as weak to her. But then Ahiru tells him she found a way out, and in the very next scene, they’re shown swimming through the canal - Ahiru is leading, holding his hand, pulling him through.
It’s a very telling scene, and it shows the reason why I think Fakir supports the feminist subtext in Tutu - he’s a textbook example of how patriarchy hurts men as well as women. Throughout the show, he is seen trying to fit the mould of what is considered masuline - he is the knight, the protector, the one who never loses his composure and protects what’s important at all cost. He’s not mean-spirited, but he’s embarrassed Ahiru saw him cry. By the end of that sequence, however, he has realized that this isn’t the most important thing, and accepts that she has seen the real him (I mean, look at that face he’s making!)
In reality, Fakir fails horrifically as a protector figure. He wants to shield Mytho from pain, but our heartless prince doesn’t want others making decisions for him. He wants to protect Ahiru, but gets his ass handed over to him again, and again, and again. In fact, it’s often the tiny ballerina who saves the day. Fakir struggles with his role because he’s worthless as a knight, and it is only through embracing his actual gift as a writer that he saves the day.
When Fakir tries to influence the story through writing, however, he almost gets his hands chopped off by the village hate squad, who is afraid of his gift, and wants to prevent “another Drosselmeyer” from happening. Fakir can’t protect himself from that, and again has to rely on Ahiru to save his hands, but this time he accepts the fact that others protected him, because there are more important things to focus on.
Which bring me to the second dance he and Ahiru share, right before she goes to give Mytho the last shard of his heart. As it turns out, the last shard is actually Tutu’s pendant - the thing that helps her transform, and the reason why she can take human form in the first place. Ahiru is terrified, and can’t bring herself to take the pendant off - which in turn makes her hate herself, because everyone she loves would suffer because of her selfishness.
That scene… it just breaks my heart. Not just because of how it is animated, not just because of the music (Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev), but because of what it signifies. This is actually the first time Fakir saves Ahiru, and it’s not through fighting a giant monster (she can handle those well enough, thank you very much!), but by admitting his own weakness.
"The real me has been saved by others ever since he was a kid. I can’t protect anyone."
Those words bear so much weight because of all the struggle Fakir has gone through. He accepts that he’s not a knight, that he doesn’t fit the “role given to him in the story”, which in the larger subtext can translate as to: “I don’t fit the role society has ascribed me”. He shows Ahiru it’s okay to be afraid, and justifies her feelings. Moreover, he helps her come to terms with what doing the right thing means - that they would have to return to their true selves, as coward and as duck.
Because at the end of his character arc, Fakir understands that value is gained by doing what’s right, not what you think is the best. Even if it means that you’re not cut out to be what you thought you would be. Even if it means giving up the girl you love. It’s a powerful, profound statement, and it shows just how Fakir has grown.
I don’t know how to end this, so here, have some more Fakiru moments!