For the past few weeks, I've been watching an anime series with my daughters, Princess Tutu. We just finished it last night. I can't recommend this series highly enough. And I find that very, very strange.
Princess Tutu is a japanese anime of the shojo, or magical girl, genre.
Magical girl stories feature young girls with superhuman abilities who are forced to fight evil and protect the Earth. They generally possess a secret identity... Magical girls generally obtain their powers from some sort of enchanted object such as a pendant, a wand, or a ribbon. By concentrating on this object, in addition to speaking a special phrase or command in some cases, a girl undergoes an intricate transformation sequence and changes to her fully powered form. A major theme of magical-girl stories is learning to harness these powers and develop them fully.The LumpenProf is not really the target audience for "magical girl" animes -- I'm a few decades too old and the wrong gender -- but I was fascinated by this unlikely story. It concerns a duck that is changed into a girl, who can then transform herself into a magical ballerina who tends to resolve each episode by inviting the antagonists to dance with her -- which sounds like crap, and which ought to be crap, and yet somehow manages to be very, very good instead. Even stranger is the character of Drosselmeyer (yes, the mysterious uncle from the Nutcracker) who is the author behind the story and who intrudes every now and then when things are not tragic enough for his characters to suit his tastes. Mixed into these Western ballet motifs are some thoroughly Japanese mythologies as well of soul-stealing crows and a ballet-teaching cat who threatens to marry the young girls in his class if they don't practice and pay attention. It makes for a wonderfully disorienting mix.
This series is so much more interesting than any Disney fare. The plots and and characters are complex and subtle, even though the basic story revolves around a thoroughly Disney-esque plot of Princess Tutu's quest to restore the lost pieces of a handsome prince's broken heart. It's wonderfully strange. It's also wonderfully strange that the LumpenProf finds himself moved to write about a cartoon of a magical pink ballerina.
I recommend watching at least two episodes before you decide whether you want to commit to watching the entire series. I also recommend watching it with subtitles and the original Japanese voice actors.