The dueling comes to an end, the meaning of the Rose Bride is discovered and the End of the World is revealed all in the final collection of Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Apocalypse Saga. It's a great collection that includes the animated theatrical movie that was based on the show, a couple of commentary tracks, and a massive book as well as an entire disc devoted to extras. Fans of the show are going to be pleased with this exemplary set.
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 ring 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 since.
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 a boy's uniform, and her best girl friend keeps proclaiming her love for the butch Utena.
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 duel.
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, inverted, 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 the World" they compete in a series of sword fights to try to win the Rose Bride, 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. The second collection sees certain members of the school brainwashed and having their insecurities used against them in order to make them physically more of a challenge in the arena for Utena.
Though Utena has bested all challenges and still has control of Anthy, the Rose Bride, that doesn't mean that the other members of the student council are going to stop trying, or that the person pulling the strings behind all of this will want them to just give up either.
The chairman of
After this series of duels, there's one final challenge: Utena must face The End of the World, the person who has been sending letters to the student council this whole time. Is she strong enough to defeat him, and if she does, what happens.
I'd be willing to wager that the question on the mind's of most people who have been following this series so far is this: does this show have a good ending or do we get another a bizarre, nonsensical conclusion that will leave me pissed off and scratching my head? (As I like to call it, the Neon Genesis Evengelion Syndrome.) I'm happy to report that the show does wrap up a lot of the major plot lines. Just how Anthy became the Rose Bride and what her significance is, the meaning of the End of the World, and who Utena's Prince is (along with why she decided to dress like a boy) are all revealed by the end of the show. That's not to say that everything is wrapped up nicely in a bow, after all, this is Revolutionary Girl Utena. Viewers, like myself, who enjoyed pondering the symbolism in the show and the meaning of some of the more surreal events will still have a lot to think about. There are mysterious things in the conclusion, but it's wrapped up much more completely, and much more satisfactorily, than I thought it would be.
This set contains a whopping five discs: the final 15 episodes on three, another disc for the movie, and one devoted to extras. Like the other releases, these come in thinpak cases which are housed in a nice thick cardboard slipcase along with a 132-page book. It's a very attractive package.
Viewers have the choice of watching the show with the original Japanese 2.0 soundtrack, a new 5.1 Japanese track, or a stereo English 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 during 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 get the 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 is excellent. Aliasing, something that traditionally mars animation, is absent and the same can be said for other compression artifacts. My only complaint is that this series isn't being releasing on Blu-ray.
Each disc comes with some trailers and a commentary track to one episode, but the main bonus items are on the last two discs. First off is the Adolescence of Utena, the theatrically released movie. I'm not really a fan of TV show-based movies, but this one is very good. It's a retelling of the story but from a different angle, with some significant changes (including the conclusion). It's very interesting and the differences are significant enough that you'll want to watch it, but not so great that you won't recognize the characters.
The final disc in the set has extras for both the TV show and the movie. For the former, there are animated storyboards, karaoke videos, interviews with the cast and crew, and several trailers. The movie includes a commentary track with director Kunihiko Ikuhara which I spot checked and seems pretty interesting. He talks about what he was going for and some of the symbolism in the movie. I'll have to watch the movie again with the commentary track soon. There's also a behind the scene peak at the recording of the English dub track, as well as several trailers.
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 bizarre and off the beaten path.