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Anime Rewind: 'Revolutionary Girl Utena'

Teggy
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Posted June 15, 2008 - By Courtney Kraft

In celebration of G4 Rewind, we’re bringing you some of the greatest classic anime you may have forgotten about...or missed entirely cause all you watch is Cartoon Network. Noobs...

 

Revolutionary Girl Utena is one our top anime picks; but we’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone. If you like an out-of-the-box drama that will rip your heart out, stomp on it, shove it back into your chest, and sew you back up until the next time it feels like ripping your heart out...then by golly, you’re gonna love this!

Utena is a twisted fairy tale of teenager Utena Tenjou who is saved by a “prince” as a child and aspires to become a prince herself in hopes of meeting him again. She attends the prestigious Ohtori Academy and ends up accidentally winning the right to engage Anthy Himemya, also known as the Rose Bride. The Rose Bride has a great many, albeit mysterious, powers that will bring about “the revolution of the world.” Whoever controls her at the end of the game will control how that revolution comes to be.

But Utena herself doesn’t want power. She just wants Anthy’s friendship and she’s more than willing to fight for her new friend’s well being. As the series goes on, she is forced to duel members of the student council who seek to own Anthy for themselves. It’s so simple, yet so complicated at the same time.

What makes Revolutionary Girl Utena remarkable is the gripping drama and the calculated cinematography. There are thought-provoking motifs and metaphors everywhere, some of which you only catch upon a second or third viewing, that will keep you debating their meanings for a long time. You get to know all the characters deeply and will find yourself loving and hating them at the same time. No one is to be fully trusted. Not even Miki.

Peanut gallery: *gasp* “Not Miki!”

The story is twisted and a bit dark towards the end, yet the animation is graceful and a reminiscent of art films. Kunihiko Ikuhara, who also directed Sailor Moon, had a lot of creative say over the TV series as well as the feature film. It just gets downright weird at times; but we assure you, it’s all worth it for the Apocalypse arc at the end. The last few episodes just grab you and keep you glued to your seat, even in the second or third pass.

The episodes can be a bit formulaic at times, but that’s what the fast forward button is for. The only real criticism we have is the English dub. Though many would disagree with this statement, we’d call it (in our best Comic Book Guy impression:) “Worst...dub...ever.” Saionji sounds like a nerd. Anthy and the Shadow Girls use way too much head-voice. Even Crispin Freeman couldn’t save this dub. It’s so bad that it makes us want to shove pencils in our ears, pointy side first, and start twisting.

The DVDs may be a little hard to find, but Chiho Saito’s original manga is readily available at bookstores. The initial story is a lot shorter, lighter-hearted, and has a very different spin. It's a good read, but the anime offers a more comprehensive and complex storyline.

Do not submit to the temptation of watching the movie first. Just don’t. It’s a visually stunning, condensed retelling of the story, but it doesn’t make any sense unless you’ve seen the TV series.

Then of course...there’s the Utena musical.

We’re...um...not going there.

If you’re into drama and can handle a little random silliness, then you’ll find Revolutionary Girl Utena downright addictive.

-- Courtney Kraft

 

Shojo Kakumei Utena © 1996 Chiho SAITO/Kunihiko IKUHARA & BE-PAPAS/Shogakukan Inc.

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