rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
[personal profile] rymenhild
(Or: In which [livejournal.com profile] rymenhild spends a dissertation afternoon writing 680 words of anime critique instead of analyzing medieval literature.)

In episode 15 of Princess Tutu, Fakir, Rue, Ahiru and Mytho, while standing outside in full view of everyone in the school, engage in some sort of altercation. The sequence of events goes as follows: Fakir grabs Rue's arms and shakes her violently. Ahiru wraps her arms around Fakir. Mytho steps in, places his hand on Fakir's arm and says, "Stop it." Fakir says, "Let go of me!" and slaps Mytho's face. (I'm using the English dub here, but the subtitles are more or less the same.)

That's when Mytho says, loudly enough for everyone to hear him, "Don't worry about me. I'll be just fine." Immediately, the audience to the scene begins to interpret it: Fakir's an immature brat, possibly crazy, perhaps insanely jealous of Rue (possibly because she's got Mytho and he doesn't) and he's probably attacking Rue to get back at Mytho. Mytho's mature enough to survive Fakir's betrayal.

Of course, we as the audience outside of the story, having background information that the Kinkan Academy students don't have, know that Fakir's attacking Rue because he believes that Rue drove Mytho mad. We know that Ahiru's trying to keep Fakir from doing damage to Rue, and that Fakir slaps Mytho because he's interpreted Mytho's touch as an attack. We also know that whatever else is going on, Mytho is (a) not all right and (b) telling, not lies, but highly disingenuous truths. But the audience on screen doesn't know that. Mytho's given them a narrative frame, a set of tools with which to interpret the evidence that they see, and they have no reason to realize that the frame is misleading.

Meanwhile, the scene ends (switching, significantly, to a gleeful Drosselmeyer) without another word from Fakir. Fakir could speak. He could take control of the story by offering an alternate narrative frame with which to read the scene: "Mytho is insane. He jumped from the window himself. Rue drove him mad." But Fakir doesn't. He lets the story pass out of his control.

On a second viewing of Princess Tutu, when I knew where the series was going, I was struck by this scene. The most interesting part to me is Fakir's passivity. Fakir, as you know if you followed my instructions and only clicked on the LJ-cut if you've finished season two (which reminds me that this is your LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SERIES-KILLING SPOILERS, so if you haven't finished, CLOSE THIS TAB NOW), is in the process of changing from the archetype of the Knight to the archetype of the Storyteller. The Storyteller's job is to take control of the narrative frame, to explain events as they happen and therefore cause them to happen in meaningful ways. But at this point in the series, Fakir refuses to take on that role. I'm very interested to see how the series plays it when Fakir finally does take control over the narrative. He'll have to.

Of course, all of Princess Tutu, from beginning to end, involves play with narrative frames. The fairy tales introducing each episode give us as viewers frameworks with which to interpret the events of the episode, and these frameworks are often intentionally misleading. In Episode 15, the fairy tale describes a man who loved a doll that came to life. The doll is clearly Mytho, but I had to watch the introduction three times before I realized that the man stood for Rue rather than Fakir or Ahiru. Other introductory stories are even more likely to lead us astray in our interpretations of the episodes. Drosselmeyer, as Storyteller, and beyond him, the makers of Princess Tutu, constantly want to trick us into thinking we're observing one story, when the story we're actually seeing is something else entirely.

(I admit I'm especially fond of the way that the love between Ahiru and Fakir sneaks into a story that we're repeatedly – and falsely! – told is primarily about Ahiru's love for Mytho.)
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rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

January 2017


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