Princess Tutu is my favorite anime, hands-down, in large part because of the fantastic cast of characters. Poor Rue here seems to get the most hate, and I’ll admit that I once shared a few of these opinions (mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!). As such, I feel like I owe it to try and defend her.
Rue does spend most of the show as an antagonist, but this is in large part because she, like most of the characters, was being controlled by Drosselmeyer’s story. She was kidnapped as a baby and fed the blood of a demon; the same blood that, when given to Mytho, turned him from a messianic Prince Charming into an abusive, evil bastard in a very short period of time.
In fact, before the show started, Rue was somehow able to lock away her dark powers so that she could live a normal life (the first few times she transforms into Princess Kraehe, she has no memory of it). She had a few harsh moments in early episodes, such as putting down Anteaterina’s dancing ability, but a lot of that can be chalked up to having next to no human interaction growing up, which is also shown to have made her very isolated. However, she’s also very nice to Ahiru, even though she’s the most popular girl in school and Ahiru’s a clumsy weirdo.
She only started acting meaner (more on the use of “bitchy” to come) was when her relationship with Mytho was threatened, which literally forced her back into the role of a villain. All of this clearly upsets her, especially that she’s forced to make Ahiru, one of her first and only friends, an enemy as Princess Tutu.
- "Didn’t deserve a happy ending”
Once Rue sees the consequences of her actions - that she’s turned the one she loves into a monster, and caused everybody pain - she sincerely regrets what she’s done. Even though she’s spent the whole series terrified that Mytho would only be hurt by regaining his emotions, she steps down to let Princess Tutu give him the final pieces of his heart. And finally, when everything looks hopeless, she sacrifices herself, giving up her life to return him to his true self. The other characters fight to rescue her because she’s their friend, and they love her.
The main problem with this argument is something that a lot of fans seem to forget: if we’re going to play “first girl wins”, then Mytho still goes to Rue. They grew up together (well, Rue grew up because Mytho came out of a storybook, which admittedly came off weird to me, but Ahiru was a duck when she started crushing on him, so…).
As I said before, I wasn’t a fan of Rue myself at first, and this was one reason why. In my defense, this was before I had watched the entire show; when I came across spoilers for the finale, I was still at the point in the show where Fakir was a jerk. Once I finished the series properly, I was still sad over the bittersweet ending, but my views of the characters had changed.
Why do I bring this up? Because I’m baffled by the people who continue to bash Rue for ‘separating’ Mytho and Ahiru, even though Ahiru was in love with Fakir by the end of the show. And this isn’t a case of forcing the romantic rejects together, either; as the series progresses and Ahiru grows as a person, she begins to voice confusion over what, exactly, she feels for Mytho. While they have a few sweet moments together, she forms a more fleshed-out relationship with Fakir.
When Ahiru struggles with removing her pendant in the penultimate episode, it’s not because Mytho is in love with Rue instead of her, but because it means the end of her existence as a human, and Fakir is the one who saves her by promising to stay by her side. Compare this to episode seven, where she threw her pendant away because she felt that she’d failed in her role as Princess Tutu, which was all that she had at that point.
- Selfish, possessive, manipulative
Here’s another misconception I had at first, and one that also seems to be shared by a lot of the fans. A common question asked is: why did Rue love Mytho before he had any emotions or a personality? This is usually used as ‘proof’ that she didn’t care about him as a person. Well, Ahiru didn’t know anything about Mytho at first, either - just that he was a beautiful dancer, and seemed lonely. At the end of the first season, when she monologues about her feelings for him, it’s because of the person he was as the fairytale prince - kind, courageous, and someone who loved everyone.
This is exactly why Rue loved him, too. When she was being raised by the Raven, she was repeatedly told that she was ugly, and that the Prince was the only one who could love her. However, when she finally met him, she was still scared that he’d reject her - after all, her ‘father’ was his mortal enemy. She believed that if Mytho regained his emotions, he’d see her as ugly and worthless. She had both more to gain and more to lose than Ahiru did.
In episode four, when Mytho is in danger of being taken to the land of the dead by ghosts, Rue dances until she literally collapses from exhaustion in an attempt to rescue him. Of course, Princess Tutu saves the day, which couldn’t have been good for her self-confidence issues. In episode eight, upon realizing she has a piece of Mytho’s heart, she’s actually going to return it to him when she sees him with Ahiru. And she feels trapped and hopeless by her role as a villain, which Drosselmeyer (the one who’s really responsible for everything, including her kidnapping as a baby) says makes her cruel, evil, and undeserving of any happiness or love. In short, she was really, really desperate, and deep-down she just wanted to go back to the way things used to be.
All of her antagonistic actions were done to keep Mytho by her side, but again, she was willing to give up her life for him in the end. And I’m not bashing Ahiru when I say this - after all, she admits it herself - but she hesitated to do the same. It’s not for no reason that one moral of the show is said to be “true love is never selfish”, which is not the same thing as ‘whatever you do is okay as long as it’s out of love’; what matters is that, in the end, Rue placed Mytho’s well-being above her own. So the selfish thing falls flat here.
As for the possessive/manipulative claim, and tying back into my issues with the use of “bitchy”, let me direct your attention to Fakir. Early on, he acted much worse than Rue did: slapping Mytho, controlling his life down to the books he was allowed to read, assaulting Ahiru and Rue, and attacking Princess Tutu several times with intent to kill. Most fans despise him for this at first (I sure did), but in the time-honored tradition of double standards, only Rue is called a bitch. They even had similar reasons for their behavior: Fakir, having been given the role of the fallen knight in Drosselmeyer’s story, thought that he’d lose Mytho if his heart was returned. He also has a tragic backstory, but while the guilt of having accidentally murdered his parents was undoubtedly a doozy, at least he was raised by kindly old Charon.
Mytho gets a share of it, too. He wants to save and forgive Rue because he knew what she’d gone through, living with the Raven’s blood. In fact, he was even worse than Kraehe while under its influence, but Raven!Mytho doesn’t seem to get the same amount of hate. I’ve even seen Kraehe called a “slut” for attempting to seduce two boys (neither of which she cared about romantically, and one who she couldn’t go through with because of guilt), while Raven!Mytho went after several girls, including one who was engaged!
In conclusion, and oh man do I apologize for writing an essay here: Rue is flawed, but no more than characters who are much more popular than her. She certainly doesn’t deserve the treatment she gets.