Princess Tutu is a show that’s pretty low-profile. Or rather, its somewhat childish name forces it into obscurity. It’s also not normally a show people turn to when looking for biblical parallels, but hidden behind its shallow initial impression is a story that explores concepts such as free-will and sacrifice in depth.
Ultimately (spoilers), the greatest sacrifice comes from Ahiru, the main character. Originally a lowly duck who felt pity for a prince without a heart named Mytho, Ahiru was given a pendant that would turn her into a girl and also give her the power to transform into Princess Tutu, a magical girl filled with the grace and power Ahiru lacks. As she tries to return the prince’s heart shards to him, she shows a great amount of compassion and kindness towards the other characters, even the ones who oppose her, mirroring the love of Jesus. She also becomes very attached to her life as a human girl.
In the finale, the prince must fight his enemy, the Raven, who is holding the girl Mytho really loves hostage and has turned most of the townsfolk into ravens, in a battle that could potentially bring tragedy upon everyone. He can’t do this without his last heart shard, which happens to be the pendant that turns Ahiru into a girl. Now that Mytho has decided to be with someone else, her life as a human is all she has, and without it, she’s just a duck.
Ahiru experiences deeply conflicted feelings, but eventually resolves to sacrifice her own happiness, not just for Mytho, but for everyone. After she hands Mytho the final piece of his heart, Princess Tutu vanishes and is replaced with a duck. Though she doesn’t exactly die on a cross for the sins of all as Christ did, she gives up a huge part of her identity and the part of life she loved so that the monster Raven can be defeated and everyone she cares for can be saved, and is subsequently battered by ravens as she tries to continue to help the prince.
Ahiru defies the expectations of her helpless state, however, and harnesses the power of the final heart shard, Hope, to help defeat the power and despair of the Raven. In a similar way, Christ’s death served not only as the payment for our sins but also to free us from the power of Satan over our lives.
You can read some other reasons why I think Ahiru is an excellent example of a Christ figure here:
Princess Tutu: God’s Love and the Gift of Free Will
How Princess Tutu falls short as a Christ Figure:
Even though Ahiru ends up saving everyone, ultimately there is no resurrection for her, if her state as a duck is to be likened to death (there are quite a few fans who believe that there could have been a way to change Ahiru back, had the story been continued, but sadly it was not). In fact, it is not likened to death in the story. Ahiru initially feels that way, but another character reminds her that she was a duck to begin with, and therefore she’s returning to her true identity. This is in contrast to Jesus, who never lost his identity as God, even when he gave himself up to death.
She also felt some serious hesitation and doubt over giving up her pendant, though I suppose some might liken this to the feelings Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane. I personally don’t feel this is a fair comparison. Ahir, in the end, is imperfect, and although she loved the prince, to give up everything was a sacrifice she needed encouragement from someone else to make. Though Jesus was human, and therefore didn’t relish the thought of pain and suffering and being forsaken by the Father, it was a sacrifice he was already aware of and was more than willing to make because of his great and incomparable love for us.
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8 thoughts on “Holy Week: Princess Tutu as a Christ Figure”
Interesting piece on an anime I have never even heard of! It’s always interesting when we can see parallels to Christ’s sacrifice in different series, including ones others wouldn’t even think about in that regard. Thanks for the insight!
I may ask, though, how appropriate is this series for kids? Cause I have 3 little girls and a series about a duck who turns into a magical girl may be something my 4 year old (almost 5, my goodness!) daughter may find interesting 🙂
Well, errr….it depends on what you mean. XD Like, there’s very little sexually explicit imagery, cursing, graphic bloody violence (Although there is some definite violence— Fakir almost loses his hands and some characters are hurt extremely badly), or really anything that could be considered “morally objectionable.” Heck, the show’s outlook is Christian enough (And resonates enough) that I actually experienced a substantially troubling, interesting train of thought with regards to Kraehe/Rue and the Raven.
But the show despite all this is really in no way meant for children. It posits a universe controlled by a morally debauched and Fae-like Creator who really just wants to mess with people, it brings up some very complicated moral questions about agency and choice and God, and it’s talking about vicious things people do in the name of love and strong emotion.
So while I might have benefited from things that raised these questions when I was young (See: The Last Unicorn. Forever), it’s up to the discretion of the parent.
Thank you! I’m glad you liked it ^^
This is an excellent series, one of my favorites, but I actually wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, partially because of mild violence, the most intense I can think of being where a character stabs his own hand to stop himself from being manipulated by someone (there is blood), but also because this story contains themes young children would either completely miss or would be bored or scared by. Woven into the series are background stories inspired by ballets or fairy tales (the original, non-disney kind) that contain themes about death and grief. The stakes are very high and the ending is bittersweet. The story doesn’t get anywhere near as dark as, say, Madoka Magica, it is not a traditionally light-hearted magical girl series, although it does have some very sweet moments.
That being said, it doesn’t contain much inappropriate content (Here’s a review for more on the content: https://paperchimes.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/on-my-toes-princess-tutu-anime-1010-streamers/ ) I think that older children (10, or 11 if they’re sensitive to dark themes) would probably enjoy this anime, so maybe when they’re older.
Thanks, Lynna & Luminas for the thoughtful responses. It’s always hard to figure out what will and will not be appropriate for my rather young children, hence me asking for recommendations/thoughts from others when I haven’t seen things yet 🙂
Sounds like this might not be good for my 4 year old daughter. Or my 6 year old son, who seems to scare easier than his younger sister! It happens, though. Anime-wise, they like some Digimon/Pokemon (they get distracted/bored easily by both), Yo-Kai Watch, Chi’s Sweet Home, & they all loved My Neighbor Totoro. So, new suggestions are always appreciated.
TL;DR? Thanks for the responses, I’ll wait on this for my girls 🙂
If I may offer a few recommendations, Hikaru no Go tops the list, and I can also recommend All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku the TV series, maybe the OVA also. I would also recommend Twin Signal, but I can’t remember how violent the fights were; though, the show was definitely for kids. Hope one of those works!
I think this is a great post, by the way, and it’s about one of my favorite anime. 🙂 Easily my favorite scene of all time, which I occasionally use to show what a non-magical “Limit Break” looks like (A moment when a protagonist seems to draw on nobility and power way beyond what they’re normally capable of, almost as if from God…) is the “pas de deux with nobody” scene. That was spectacular.
“Ahiru was given a pendant that would turn her into a girl and also give her the power to transform into Princess Tutu, a magical girl filled with the grace and power Ahiru lacks.”
Although, all things considered Drosselmeyer is a really terrible person (XD), I think what happened to Ahiru may be more similar to a disciple of God than Jesus Christ, God himself. Ahiru was given power and strength that she didn’t naturally have, and so it couldn’t be hers like Jesus’ Godhood was his. It was something she was borrowing from someone else. I suspect, when you pray to God for strength you don’t have, you yourselves are drawing upon this effect. 🙂
Thank you! I’m glad you liked it ^^
Princess Tutu is filled with things to analyze, and I enjoy hearing your thoughts. I did consider, while writing this, that Ahiru’s overall position is actually more like the reverse of Jesus. While he humbled himself and became a human, Ahiru gained powers she hadn’t previously had. In this sense, Ahiru is more like a Christian receiving gifts she wouldn’t otherwise have from God, although (I believe this actually came up in the comments of the last article I wrote on PT years ago) I don’t really like comparing Drosselmeyer to God. As you say, he’s awful and manipulative, and although there are plenty of people who suppose that God is the same, my experience God is quite the opposite, and I’d rather not compare them.
And yet, Princess Tutu is (from what I remember–It’s been a while since I watched it all the way through) largely silent on the idea of there being a power higher than Drosselmeyer, but also shows that he is not all-powerful, nor is he even all-knowing. He tried to manipulate events, but in the end his characters overcame him. If Ahiru was drawing on a higher power, it was not Drosselmeyer, as he had no intention of helping her.
Some Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of comparing powers characters receive in fantasy to the things we receive from God, probably because they think the analogy would make God into some sort of genie who’s just there to grant wishes. But I think it’s interesting, and sometimes quite accurate. There was many a day during outreach where I had to rely on God for energy I didn’t have after a sleep-deprived night. God gives us strength and gifts we don’t naturally have, not because he’s a genie who’ll do whatever we want, but because we’re weak and need his help, and because he genuinely wants to work with and through us, rather than just doing everything himself.
Anyways, the pas-de-deux alone scene is beautiful. It’s interesting, though, because what you see as a Limit-Break, others would probably criticize as a Deus-Ex-Machina. I think I prefer your point of view, in most cases, though.
“God gives us strength and gifts we don’t naturally have, not because he’s a genie who’ll do whatever we want, but because we’re weak and need his help, and because he genuinely wants to work with and through us, rather than just doing everything himself.”
I think the problem there is in assuming that the grants of great power to the protagonist are equivalent to God granting you “whatever you want” like a wish-granting genie. That’s actually not how this moment tends to actually be portrayed in a lot of shows. Instead it usually happens when the character is basically facing down the Devil, and it’s become abundantly obvious that however strong Our Hero is, he’s nowhere near as powerful as the villain. So instead of drawing on his own strength….
He draws on some kind of higher moral ideal, appealing to the idea that fighting against what the villain represents is far better than giving in even if he ultimately dies fighting. And that’s when the Hero gains impossible power, by having faith in righteousness— In God.
I think that the moral of the story there is actually kind of good. If we rely on only ourselves and our own strength, we cannot possibly obtain enough power to overcome our difficulties. Let alone the Devil—- It’s ridiculous to think that any one human can overcome an archangel in a contest of skill and strength. We can barely overcome the guy mentally without help from God.
And so that’s just it. We’re pretty weak and sinful, but God is much, much stronger than the Devil, and He represents the most glorious and pure things that matter above power and Self. Love, Friendship, Compassion, Will, Sacrifice. It’s not about getting a wish granted, because sometimes however much you’d like Him to, God won’t save you. It’s about sacrificing the idea that you can take on all your sins and problems alone, and having faith in God’s Grace and Love for you. That He will be there when it really matters, and that He works through you, too.