“The Storyteller Drosselmeyer Mocks One of His Characters”

Japanese anime used cels up to 2000, at which point technical advances in computer-generated imagery (CGI) techniques led to a change-over to a digital process. However, studios continued to generate the images through pencil-on-paper sketches in the traditional way before scanning and colorizing them on a screen. And the plots of popular series continued to show growing awareness of folk narrative and increasingly sophisticated metacommentary on its nature.

Princess Tutu was produced from an original concept by Ikuko Itou, one of the central animators of the Sailor Moon series. Created by Studio Hal, with animation supervised by Itou, the series ran in 2002-03 and generated a large niche following in both Japan and North America. It follows the story of a group of characters who become self-aware that they are playing roles in an emerging fairy tale. They rebel against the narrator of the story, the tyrannical Drosselmeyer, crafting an alternative ending more to their liking. This sketch, executed by the scene’s animation director, depicts the storyteller in a scene in which he sarcastically confronts one of his creations, asking what right has he to claim the right to change a fairy tale, a thing generated by social and structural functions.

The sophisticated ways in which this anime comments on the role story-telling plays in the construction of social reality are discussed by me in “The Fairy-telling Craft of Princess Tutu,” The Folkloresque ed. Foster and Tolbert (Utah U Pr., 2015), and by Hatsue Nakawaki in “Japanese Heroine Tales and the Significance of Storytelling in Contemporary Society,”
Re-Orienting the Fairy Tale: Contemporary Fairy-Tale Adaptations across Cultures, ed. Murai and Cardi (Wayne State, forthcoming).

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