Nozomi and Right Stuf Inc. have released the second of three
Revolutionary Girl Utena
collections, this one covering the Black
Saga. Originally released years
these newly restored collections look sharper than the original
are significantly cheaper too. A great
series, it's filled with symbolism and unusual subject matter for an
production and really pushes the envelope as far as how creative and
an animated story can be.
When Utena Tenjou was a child both of her parents died.
She was distraught and miserable until a
prince stumbled upon her. He said "Never
loose that strength or nobility, even when you grow up" and gave her a
with a rose seal on it. He said that the
ring would one day lead Utena back to him, and she hasn't taken it off
She was so inspired by the prince's words that Utena decided
that she wanted to be a prince herself.
Now, years later, she's attending Ohtori Academy but dresses in
uniform, and her best girl friend keeps proclaiming her love for the
One day Utena sees a member of the student council, Saionji,
slapping and berating his girlfriend, Anthy Himemiya.
Utena runs to the protection of the young and
charming Anthy but Saionji just laughs when she tries to interfere. It turns out that Anthy is his betrothed, and
the only way Utena can stop him from mistreating her is to 'win' the
girl in a
That evening Utena travels to a walled off section of the
campus and using her rose ring she's able to open the large imposing
gate. Climbing to the top of a long spiral
staircase she reaches a dueling platform with a large city floating,
above it. Here she learns of the duels. Certain members of the student council are
duelist, following written instructions they receive from "The End of
World" they compete in a series of sword fights to try to win the Rose
Anthy. Whomever has the bride at the end
will win the power to "revolutionize the world." Whatever
that may mean.
In the first saga, Utena duels all of the members of the
student council and retains Anthy as her bride.
But they are not the only foe she needs to face.
Having defeated all of the student council, another group of
duelists appear. This time however they
are regular students, often friends of Utena or Anthy, wearing a ring
black rose crest.
These new duelists were recruited by a mysterious person, Souji
Mikage, who preyes upon their deep-seated anger at various injustices
faced. The leader of the Black Roses uses
a student counseling center to select his targets and once they're
revealed their darkest hatreds he uses that knowledge to put the poor
under his control. Armed with a black
rose, these students face Utena in a duel not to win the Rose Bride,
kill her. You see Souji wants to install
a new Rose Bride, this time a male.
Like the first volume, this set of shows is visually
intricate with style taking the driver's seat. The Black Rose Saga is a bit
typical fears and angers that most teenagers experience driving them to
kill Anthy. The slightly darker tone
suits the show well, and makes it even more interesting, which is
saying a lot.
What, at first glance, appears to be a standard anime show
is actually much more than that. Unconventional,
cryptic, and symbolic, Revolutionary Girl
Utena looks a lot like a typical magic girl show at first (the
first gained fame with Sailor Moon)
is actually much deeper and deals with topics not covered in many
animated or not. Gender roles are a big
part of the show, as Utena dresses as a boy and wants to be a prince,
doesn't want to be a man... she still retains her femininity and is very
caring. Homosexuality, incest, and
androgyny are also
themes for the show, though the show isn't just
about sexual roles.
There is a lot of symbolism too, and to make sure that
people catch it, many scenes are repeated.
This is one of the shows biggest flaws.
Sure it does save money, but where as many magical girl shows
repeat a quick transformation scene, Utena
has several different scenes that are repeated time and time again. Anthy's releasing of the sword and the
duelists getting ready to battle, the student council member in the
most of all, Utena climbing up to the dueling platform.
These are long sequences too, and while I
really liked them (and the music) the first few times they were played,
watching the shows one after the other makes these grow old fast.
This isn't a show for everyone. There are
a lot of utterly bizarre sections
that will leave a lot of viewers scratching their heads.
Each episode is interrupted in the middle,
for example, by a pair of characters who talk in riddles and are only
there shadows. They tell a little story
that is semi-related to the theme of that episode.
Whereas I loved their surreal and sometimes
comic intermissions, I can definitely see many people thinking "what
The first 12 episodes, which contain the first story arc,
arrive on three DVDs, each in its own slimcase.
These three cases, along with a booklet about the series, are
a black slipcase with a nice red illustrated front.
It's quite attractive and fits the series.
Viewers have the choice of watching the show with the
original Japanese 2.0 soundtrack, a new 5.1 Japanese track, or a stereo
track. I viewed this with the 5.1 audio
and found it excellent. The sound was
nice and crisp with good use made of the whole soundstage, especially
the dueling scenes. I spot checked the
other tracks and while they seemed fine, the 5.1 audio is definitely
the way to
go. (And as one who had to choose
between an English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 soundtracks that have been
traditionally offered, I was happy to see the original language track
extra attention.) There are optional
English subtitles as well as a 'signs only' option.
The newly restored 4:3 image looks very good as well.
Originally created on 16 mm film and restored
in HD, the lines are tight, the colors are bright and the overall image
excellent. Aliasing, something that
mars animation, is absent and the same can be said for other
artifacts. My only complaint is that
this series isn't being releasing on Blu-ray.
Note: There is a goof
on the menus. On all three discs this
set is identified as the Student Council Saga, which was the first set. Opps.
The main extra this time around is a very short (about ten
minutes total) interview with the director that is split into four
parts. There's also a long reel of
from the series along with a very nice 96-page booklet.
Definitely not your ordinary anime show, Revolutionary
Girl Utena is a strange
yet compelling program and one that's definitely worth checking out. The newly restored video makes this an easy
one to give a highly recommended
rating to, but only for those who are looking for something a bit
off the beaten path.