Ikuko Itoh at Ushicon: Q & A, and other fun
Answers from Itoh-san from her Princess Tutu Panel at Ushicon Go (5).
Saturday, January 28, 2006 in Austin, TX.
Please note that this is not verbatim (as I couldn't write that fast! But
the following information is summarized from Itoh-san's answers at her
Princess Tutu panel. Also this is not the same order the questions were
asked in. I tried to put them into a more logical seeming order. Many of
the questions came from the Princess Tutu Livejournal Community, but other
questions were also asked by others in attendance at the Panel.
At what point did you start to conceive of Princess Tutu?
She was working for Toei on Sailor Moon, and also doing the character
designs for Magic Users Club (Mahou Tsukai Tai) on the side. When she found
herself starting to draw ballerinas. And from those sketches, eventually
she looked at them one day and said "Princess Tutu." (I get the sense from
how she said this, it was like how Tolkien had been doodling one day, and
suddenly from no where wrote that there was a "hobbit"). As she began
developing the story, she shared her thoughts and ideas with her fellow
workers at Toei, and while many expressed that it was an interesting
idea... the response was essentially "Good luck with that." (Conveyed in
that response was a sense that while they were sincere in there wishes of
good luck, they also understood it would be difficult to try to put
together. So I think a good equivalent to the meaning here would be how in
Star Wars Han Solo says "Good luck... you're going to need it.")
Why ballet? What was it that gravitated you toward that in this work?
When she was a little girl her father would play ballet music, and they
would listen to it together. When she asked her father to tell her the
story behind the music, he felt it was too bothersome and never did so. So,
she said she had to think up the stories herself.
Did you attend ballet performances?
She answered yes to this, and she had seen the Nutcracker multiple times.
She recounted that at one particular performance of the Nutcracker, that
she was attending solo, she was seated in the front row. But unfortunately
the orchestra was in front of her, and the conductor's head blocked a good
deal of her view. So she advised people not to get front row tickets for
Did you have any ballet training?
She laughed at this and responded that until they began work on Princess
Tutu, she had never had any lessons. But that as they began work on
Princess Tutu that the Director, the animators and herself all took ballet
lessons to have a better understanding of ballet so they could convey this
in the series. The seiyuu (voice actors) did not take any of these lessons.
She remarked though that the Director had a natural knack and affinity for
the movements of ballet.
The movement of the dancing in Tutu is really good. Did that come about
from filming dancers in motion as references and guides for the series?
She related that they referred to several filmed performances of ballets
(the implication in this response was that these were not performances
specifically arranged for this series. But essentially like checking out a
movie for research). However, the instructor who had taught all of them
ballet had also been photographed and action, and they used that as a key
reference point. She made the distinction that they did not take a
reference photo, or pause a video and essentially draw the character
overlaying a real performer. But combined their research (including the
lessons they all took), and that combination of elements is what ultimately
constructed the dancing sequences.
As you began work on Tutu, did you already have an idea of the music you
wished to use in mind?
She already had very specific pieces of music in mind to use in the series,
and shared this information with the staff who then drew the storyboards
around this music.
How much influence did you have in regards to the opening song?
Her only request on the opening song, was that she wanted the word dream to
be used in it.
Is there any character that you see yourself in? And if so, why?
Pikei (spelling?). Because she's always with her sidekick and supports her
friend, in this case Ahiru.
Were any of the characters in Princess Tutu inspired by someone you know?
The overall answer to this question was no. The one exception to this was
Neko-sensei. Itoh says that she worked with the Director in the development
of this character, and Neko-sensei represents many of his own ideas brought
to life. According to Itoh, the Director came up with Neko-Sensei's
catch-phrase and theme, because according to him, "aren't cat's always
wanting to get married?" This concept comes from an earlier manga work by
Akatsuko Fujio (I'm not 100% sure on that spelling) who had a feline
character who wanted to marry.
As an aside, she comments that in the series Magic User's Club (Mahou
Tsukai Tai) that the character of Sae was influenced by her own mother,
that they both share a clutziness about them.
Do you have a favorite character from Princess Tutu?
Was there a particular reason for choosing the names of Fakir and Myth?
The name Myth comes from the Greek God Mythos. (And as an interviewer
aside, that actually makes alot of sense! For that is the origin of the
word Myth, and what is Myth but a story... and isn't Princess Tutu about
the story of these characters and the way in which 'fate' deals with them?)
She chose the name Fakir, because she felt that the name expressed an
enigmatic quality which she saw in the character.
Since Fakir is an Arabic word, does that mean that Fakir is an Arab? And/Or
was he intentionally made to look so, and if so why?
Her response to this is that while in her mind he is not Arab, that she
wouldn't rule out the possibility that Fakir had Arab ancestry in his
family tree. (In my opinion, you could tell by the way she answered this
question that she has this special relationship with her characters. And
that they are in a sense very real to her. Because even if you know someone
your entire life you still never know everything about them. And her
characters still have some mysteries and unknowns she does not know. As to
the way he looks, the overall impression was that the visual design of the
character and coloring was made to visually express the enigmatic quality
of that character.)
The fans have noticed that many of the Princess Tutu DVD Covers seem to
represent various ballets. Could you confirm what each cover alludes to?
DVD 1: (Only the pose ties to a specific ballet: Swan Lake. The overall
image is original to Princess Tutu).
DVD 2: Sleeping Beauty
DVD 3: Swan Lake
DVD 4: Coppelia (spelling?)
DVD 5: Carmen
DVD 6: Romeo & Juliet
Do you have a particular memory that stands out in your mind of an
interchange between you and a fan (or fans)?
She related that about a year ago in Japan there was a special event held
just for Princess Tutu. She had brought (as a surprise guest) one of the
seiyuus (voice actors) from the cast, and there was a fan there that was
just so extremely excited and delighted that it really made her feel good.
She also related that at this event, she had written a special story (no
illustrations were made in connection with this), and presented it. The
story was composed into script format and was something of a short little
side story related to Princess Tutu. She pulled random people out of the
crowd who were attending the event, casted them on the spot as various
characters, and gave the script to them to perform in a presentation for
everyone there. (Sorry, we weren't able to get details about the plot of
Now we start going into questions that if you have not seen the end of the
series contains SPOILERS and/or discusses future plans. So you have been
Do you have a favorite dance from the series?
She felt this was a hard question, and she had to think about it for a
while, after some thought she answered that it would have to be one of the
last dances in the series when Fakir and Ahiru dance together.
Is it possible for Ahiru to turn back into a girl?
Itoh-san was somewhat vague on this answer. She spoke of how with the
current ending the fans themselves imagine possible varying outcomes beyond
the end of the series. (I got the sense that she liked this open-endedness
for that very reason.) However, she did say that the POSSIBILITY of such a
thing occurring was not ruled out.
Is this what you envisioned for the end? Is there anything you would want
to change, or add?
Yes, she's very happy with the theme of the show and it's execution in the
animated series. The series does represent the story she wanted to tell.
(While this was her answer for this question, if you look at the responses
below you do see that there were a few other things she would have wanted.)
In the series, Myth has been built as a major character from the beginning,
but at the end of the series he seems to depart rather abruptly. Why?
She does regret that as they approached broadcast date for the end of the
series that they were running out of time. She was moved because everyone
on the production staff was working long and hard, and it got to the point
you had to say "time's up!" and everyone on the staff wanted to do more, to
get just one more thing done would beg so earnestly for just a little bit
longer. But they just couldn't do that.
She really had wanted more time to better portray Myth's departure. She had
this speech she really wanted for him to say, that would have made his
reasonings far more clear, and thus the departure not as abrupt as it
seemed. (We couldn't get the specifics of the speech from Itoh-san as we
ran out of time, but perhaps her answer to the next question may in part
apply to this question?)
Claire was a very complicated character. Was she truly an innocent caught
up in something beyond her control? Or was she not so innocent to begin
with and thus tainted from the very beginning?
Itoh-san took some time thinking about this question and eventually
answered that Claire has a wounded heart (and thus the implication can be
inferred that she was an innocent victim in surreal circumstances) and that
someone needs to help her heal. (Could this be part of what Myth's speech
would have revealed? Alas, we may never know! But it does seem to be a
Will there ever be a sequel?
Itoh-san expressed that she would like for there to be more, but for it to
be a new-story, or a spin-off. When asked for what the premise of this
would be... she did not want to answer as she does not want to give that
away. A follow-up question was asked, "could you at least tell us what
character or characters the story would revolve around?", to which she
answered quite clearly: Fakir & Ahiru. (Which I think ties in nicely to her
answer that the POSSIBILITY has not been ruled out for Ahiru to become a
girl again at the end of the series.)
Itoh-san said that in Japan it might be difficult to see more of Tutu made.
But perhaps if a U.S. production company became interested in it, that we
might see more.
Are you working on any new projects currently?
She has a new project that should broadcast in the fall. That the
announcement won't even be made in Japan until this coming March, and that
Ushicon may be the first time news of the new series has been announced.
She has just begun character designs for a new series with a working title
of "The Day After Tomorrow." The new work involves as a theme, Japanese
Culture (in the way that Princess Tutu has a theme of ballet and their
stories). When asked if she could be more specific, she declined to answer,
saying everything beyond that will remain a secret for now with an
enigmatic smile on her face.
After the Princess Tutu panel, I happened to run into Itoh-san's translator
Jen. She related to me that Itoh-san had been somewhat nervous due to the
detail and thoughtfulness of the questions posed to her. And even though it
did make her nervous, she was also quite content and really touched to see
that behind those questions are fans who truly love and appreciate her work.
Other Princess Tutu Highlights from the Weekend
Friday night saw the continuation of the annual tradition of Shoujo PJ
Party, which is a chance for fans to show up in their Pajamas, fuzzy
slippers, with blankets, pillows, and/or stuffed animals to camp out in one
of the video rooms to watch an evening of Shoujo (girl's) anime. The
"Jammie Jam" was kicked off by the first episode of Princess Tutu.
Itoh-san was very generous to the fans, and tried very hard to appease
everyone of her fans. She took the time in most cases to do more than just
provide an autograph, but to also accompany the autograph with a sketch.
There were several cosplayers of Princess Tutu at Ushicon. One amazing
Tutu, several Fakia, and a Neko-sensei that stole the show! Neko-sensei
arrived at the autograph signing area when Itoh was there Saturday, with a
bouquet of roses, and proposed marriage to her! (Obviously this was not a
real proposal (as I'm sure her husband would have something to say about
that), but rather a fan paying homage to the character she helped create).
She, and the others all standing in line, got a huge kick out of that. I
also noticed a Claire sitting outside late Saturday night as well.
[Edited: Added the following]
fennelwink related to me that Itoh-san had informed her that
at one point her and all of the Tutu staff had gone to Germany to all eat
Also, fennelwink took Itoh-san on a shopping trip while in Austin,
which included an adventure in the aisles of store with bath goods, where she took a
picture of Itoh-san surrounded by rubber duckies. Hopefully she'll share that
picture with us soon. And apparently Itoh-san likes beer, and was taking
pictures of all the American food. :) Who knows maybe it's research for
a new story if we're lucky.
Coslay Pic of Neko-Sensei
Itoh-san holding a Shinshi (Japanese Autograph Board)
Sketches from Itoh-san during her Character Design panel