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The Ninja Reader

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci

Character Deconstruction: Ahiru from Princess Tutu

 (image by wikia)

 

Ahiru, or Duck, as in the English version, is literally a small yellow duck. She was transformed into a human girl by Drosselmeyer’s magic pendant, which also allows her to turn into Princess Tutu. She can turn into a duck whenever she quacks, or she loses the pendant, which is quite important as the series progresses.

 

Early on, Ahiru is established as a sweet, loving, klutzy girl. She has two best friends, and is crushing on Mytho, the most beautiful boy in school. In typical Magical Girl anime fashion, she’s drawn to his air of sadness and gentle soul, not realizing that there’s… really not much else besides that. 

I said in Mytho’s deconstruction that Ahiru’s character is very much dependant on those of the other leads, because while she’s excellent on her own, she would not have had her extraordinary development without having to play against the others.

 

The first significant relationship is that with Fakir, as during the first season she goes from thinking he’s evil and abusive to realizing their goals are very similar, and becoming his ally. I think I’ve covered quite a bit about that relationship in Fakir’s section, but I think there is one thing Ahiru gets out of it specifically, and that is a deeper conviction in the goodness in others, which will come to play often in the show, especially in regards to Rue.

 

Now, if this was a typical Magical Girl anime, Mytho and Ahiru would easily be established as the main couple, and it certainly seems like they are meant to be throughout the first thirteen episodes. However, Mytho’s dark prince arc does to develop their relationship quite a bit, and I think it offers a pretty important piece of commentary. 

 

First of all, Mytho wants to regain his heart, but it’s not just because he wants to love and smile. Even in his soulless state, he is very protective and concerned with standing up for the weak - to his mind, lacking a heart is keeping him from doing what’s right. He doesn’t just need Princess Tutu’s help so that he could tell her he loves her, he needs her help to live a full life.

 

Ahiru picks up on that, and it’s this realization that makes her realize that what she’s doing is bigger than both of them. This is very important, and it comes into play during the climax of the show where she has to pick between staying a girl or saving the day. 

 

Secondly, the dark prince arc is also a period where Ahiru slowly starts to give up her illusions that she and Mytho can have a happy ending. While she is still bent on restoring his heart, she also realizes that she doesn’t really know him, and that her love for him is not quite like she first imagined. It’s what causes her considerable hesitation, and it’s actually Rue who sacrifices herself to the raven.

 

Ahiru’s relationship with Rue is complicated - at first she’s envious of the girl who not only gets to be Mytho’s girlfriend, but is also a talented dancer. Then, of course, they’re rivals, but in season two, when witnessing Mytho’s treatment of her, Ahiru starts to feel sympathetic. Instead of fighting her, Ahiru tried to reach out to her (and remember that part about believing in the goodness in people?), and in the process, she sees through Rue’s facade.

 

Actually, Rue and Ahiru both share a plight, in their relationships with their fathers of sorts. I already talked about how the monster Raven made Rue incredibly fragile, by installing all sorts of insecurities in her, but Drosselmeyer does the very same thing with Ahiru. 

 

Think about it: Ahiru wants nothing more than to be a girl and enjoy life, but she needs her pendant for that. Moreover, all her powers, all her grace a beauty come from there. Tragically, the pendant is also the last shard of Mytho’s heart, the thing keeping him from becoming whole, and defeating the ravens. 

 

Ahiru has to, quite literally, fight for her right to exist, and when you think about it that way, it reinforces the feminist narrative in the anime. Ahiru struggles to assert herself and be strong without her maker, but she is constantly forced to subject to his will.

 

When she’s first unable to take off her pendant, Ahiru panics, not because Mytho has told her he loves Rue (though there is that moment), nor is it because she’s selfish. I strongly believe that the reason why the pendant wouldn’t come off was because Ahiru was reaching the breaking point of her personal conflict - she is made to feel insignificant without her powers, and that makes her feel horrible. She’s not confident enough to throw off those shackles until Fakir goes and admits his own fears and insecurities to her.

 

(And do you see why I love this ship? They make each other grow!)

 

(image by wikia)

 

Seen like that, the season’s finale where Ahiru, now permanently a duck, dances with the ravens to buy Mytho time, is actually quite a triumph, not just in the general sense (she’s Hope!), but also in her character arc, because she is still capable to reach out to people, even though she “can’t wear toeshoes”. That’s pretty amazing.