When, in Ride Back‘s first scene, Rin dances, she looks to me like she has weight. I don’t mean that she looks like she’s heavy, I mean that she doesn’t look ethereal. It helps that the first few shots we see of her show her testing and adjusting her ballet shoes.
We even hear the noise her right shoe makes when she places it on the bar here:
The name of the music that’s playing, which is usually translated as ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ (apparently), also draws our attention to the physical. That title doesn’t tell us much about ‘The Great Gate’ (except, I suppose, that it’s in Kiev), but something tells me it’s not a little postern that swings silently open with a gentle touch. (That title probably refers to a picture, which is itself weightless, of course, but I won’t tell you that because it doesn’t help my argument.) And check out the suggestion of muscle here:
This embodiedness is appropriate because the dance leads to a physical catastrophe in the short term, and to an involvement with lumpy metal motorcycle mecha in the long term.
Compare Princess Tutu, who looks weightless. She appears magically (she never has to put her ballet shoes on) and can walk on water.
Tutu’s disembodiedness is just as appropriate: she is a bird – it’s a long story, and I’d rather you watched the anime than read it here – and birds almost always weigh less than they look like they ought to, because they’re optimised for flight (their bones are honeycombed rather than solid). It’s also appropriate because Tutu’s a child. It’s okay for Rin to be very ‘embodied’ (if you will), because it’s okay for Ghostlighting to say ‘Rin is hawt’. If my memory serves me correctly, Tutu occupies the same age bracket as those fourteen-year-old girls in that anime with the crosses, so it’s possibly not okay to say that she ‘is hawt’.
Princess Tutu‘s weightless characters are in keeping with its general attitude to the physical world. The floor of a ruined building can become the stage for a ballet performance, replete with lighting, in seconds. Tutu’s arrival turns her world into scenery, a change which is in my opinion an enhancement, not a cheapening:
Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as diverse poets have done, neither with so pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too-much-loved earth more lovely: her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.
(Sidney, Defence of Poesie, with modernised spelling)
All animation is inherently like this, I suppose, but Princess Tutu takes that fact and runs with it in a way that most anime don’t. Maybe there’re two gilding processes, the second one being more overt? So the fact of Tutu‘s being animated is one golden delivery, and the changes in lighting, &c, that occur at the beginning of the story’s dance-offs are the second, more obvious improvement on Nature? This is not my area of expertise.
Tutu does fall when, in a very moving scene, she dances a pas de duex on her own. A pas de duex is apparently a ballet duet, and so it has elements which don’t work unless you have someone to, for example, catch you. Tutu crumples in midair and falls quickly, making almost no noise. But it’s not really an accident like Rin’s fall, since the solo pas de duex is Tutu’s choice. Her determination is one of the scene’s most moving elements – having fallen, she picks herself up and carries on.
(Notes don’t need a conclusion, but I enjoy Princess Tutu so much that I feel compelled to break one of my self-imposed blogging rules, and actually flat out recommend it to you. I haven’t finished it yet, however, so if you comment please don’t spoil it.)