High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.
Picture from karmaburn.com
Now, if we go by Shojo anime standards (or any standards, alas), we will recognize Rue as the antagonist from the moment she steps daintily into the room to give Ahiru a massive inferiority complex. She’s beautiful, she’s talented, and she’s Mytho’s girlfriend. The show isn’t subtle about it either, making it clear she is possessive and jealous and pretty scary (though fashionable) from the very start.
However, since this is Princess Tutu, we know nothing is what it seems. For the first half, Rue plays her role well - she’s as antagonistic as they can be. However, it is clear that there is more to her, even before her interactions with the Dark Prince. Case in point - it takes her nine episodes to become Princess Kraehe. Do you really think Princess Tutu would spend so long without giving us some character development?
In the nine episodes before Rue dons the Very Revealing Villain Outfit (TM), she is seen as being very cool, very confident, and also very private. She isn’t worried when an anteater (O.O) steals her boyfriend, but she dances with ghosts until she drops to save Mytho from following them to the underworld. At the same time, however, close human interaction disturbs her - she is shocked when Mytho starts showing affection towards her, and is initially mistrustful of Ahiru when the latter tries to make friends.
So Rue’s character development in the second season of the show is really not that surprising.
Before I continue, there are a few aspects of the Rue/Mytho relationship that need addressing. First of, it is revealed later in the show that they met years prior, when Rue was a little girl, and Mytho was frozen in time as a teenager (?). He was the first person to show her kindness and save her from the ravens, which in turn made her fall in love with him. When she was a kid. Yeah, ew.
The second thing is that Rue became a ballerina, and practised as hard as she did, because she wanted to impress Mytho, and make him smile for her. That doesn’t sit too well with the otherwise pro-feminist undertones of the show (nor does the infamous DVD cover which shows Rue in a suggestive position and squeezed into a corset),
HOWEVER, there is a good reason for that. And for Rue’s entire character, actually.
In the last episodes, it is revealed that Rue was raised by the monster raven since she was a baby. As you might imagine, her “father” doesn’t subscribe to “Parenting Weekly” and was very cruel to her. Like Mytho, Rue is made victim to her own insecurities, but it’s the raven who installs and reinforces them. She was told, from early childhood, that she’s not worthy of being loved unless she makes herself useful, and so she turns into this cold, reserved woman who is unable to maintain a close friendship or a romantic relationship without her fear of rejection coming up.
And that vulnerability is what explains Rue’s whole character - her devotion to Mytho, her desire to keep him at all costs, her attempts to shatter his heart again and her attempts to please him are all born from there. It’s not like she isn’t self-aware: later, when Mytho becomes the Dark Prince, she is horrified and tries to make it all better, but is ultimately defeated by her guilt and her inability to reach out for help.
It’s all incredibly compelling, and incredibly tragic at the same time. You’d think that Rue would be impossible, if only to be an antitheses to Ahiru, but she isn’t. She is as real as Ahiru is, if not more, because she constantly lives in the vicious circle where we find ourselves sometimes - realizing that we did wrong, feeling guilty, and unable to break out because we think we’re not worth it.
Ultimately, Rue sacrifices herself instead of Ahiru, so that Mytho would wake up and save the day. In a way, that’s the pinnacle of her tragedy, but this self-sacrifice is also her ultimate act of redemption: her way of atoning for all her evil actions up to that point.
More importantly than that, though, Rue’s sacrifice is what allows for the other characters to defeat Drosselmeyer and the raven. Without her, Mytho would have been driven mad with evil, or Ahiru would have sacrificed herself, or Fakir wouldn’t have had the time to write the story. It’s absolutely essential.
(image via Google)
Rue remains, at her core, a tragic character, though. The end leaves her character in a very uncertain place - she has been rescued, and has made amends with the others, but she is still very insecure. I think that in this aspect, her relationship with Mytho is at its most positive, as the prince isn’t afraid of showing vulnerability, and helps her justify her feelings to herself. Both Mytho and Rue will need to do a lot of growing, but the ending is hopeful, suggesting that they will help each other through the difficulties.