The recently released remastered edition of Revolutionary Girl Utena has been subbed and is being torrented by hundreds as we speak. What better reason does the blogosphere need to engage in a massive series-viewing? Utena is one of the favorite anime of virtually everyone who’s seen it, and is only waiting to entertain everyone who has yet to do so. Love Utena? It’s time for a rewatch! Haven’t seen it? Now’s your chance! Utena has been the starting point for no shortage of brilliant posts on all kinds of blogs, but the talk of it is sporadic and uncommon. This is as good a chance as we’ll get for those of you who’ve wanted to discuss the show for a long time to do so with relevance, and for new fans to mingle in and get acquainted!
So here’s what you do – for however long you need, you watch the show through and do your posts on it. If you want to blog it episodically, or do a post after each arc, or even if you just flat-out marathon it – do what you gotta do and then make a post about it! Let Utena be a blogosphere revolution! As for me, I’ve decided to blog it episodically, so I’ll be doing so below!
Episode 1: The Rose Bride
Our story begins with a tale from the long past of a girl who is all alone. A prince on a white horse comes to her and gives her a ring with a rose crest on it, telling her never to loose her courage and nobility even when she grows up. So impressed is the girl by the prince that she decides to become a prince herself! “But was that such a good idea?!”
For those who’ve never seen Utena, there are some things you need to know right off the bat. First of all, this show is not meant to be taken seriously, and yet it is meant to be taken hyper-seriously. The show puts great purpose into being as ridiculous as it can, and it lampshades this fact around every turn, but it also plays the drama straight off of this, leading to overblown but very real and purposeful drama. The next thing to know is that the show is rife with symbolism. If something seems odd, it’s probably because it is either symbolic or parodical. Finally, you should know that this is not a kid’s show. If something seems like it might be taken sexually, chances are the show wants you to take it sexually. You will see some of that in this episode.
Right of the bat, Utena gives us a great way to learn what the difference is between ‘art’ and ‘animation’ in an anime. All throughout the episode, the background art is stunning. Art director Shichiro Kobayashi is a legend, and he is fully displaying all of his talent
and love for cels here. However, the actual moving bits are not so great. There are a good number of off-model shots and a distinct lack of detail at parts, but this is somewhat made up for by the better looking dramatic moments.
During the first few minutes, we are introduced to Utena, the prince of all tomboys. Much to the lament of the school’s disciplinary attendant, Utena parades around unashamedly in a boy’s uniform. What I find interesting is that even though everyone including Utena refers to it as the school’s uniform for boys, it is in fact completely different from that of anyone in the school. This a way to really emphasize how much Utena stands out.
Utena’s best friend is Wakaba, who is just a normal girl, but an excellent friend. She refers to Utena as her ‘boyfriend’ and talks about how much cooler she is than any guy, but you can pull off the yuri goggles – it’s important to remember that Utena is shoujo, and the actions of girls is expected to be more realistic, as is the case here. Wakaba has a crush on ‘Saionji-sama’, the vice-president of the student council, who she and Utena observe from the school’s second-story balcony as he discusses something with Anthy Himemiya.
Anthy is described by Wakaba as a ‘strange girl’ who evidently keeps to herself all the time. There is something immediately noticeable about Anthy, being that she is dark-skinned, unlike anyone else we’ve seen in the school. Anthy wears a regular uniform like a facade of normalcy, while her dark skin seems to represent the fact that she is definitely abnormal, and even if she wears a normal uniform, everyone can tell how abnormal she is.
As Utena observes Anthy and Saionji, she sees Saionji slap the fuck out of Anthy and prepare to do it again before his wrist is caught by Touga Kiryuu. This image of Touga stopping Saionji, and Utena’s relief at him doing so, sets a good precedent for how Utena will come to view Touga as the show continues – that is to say, she sees him as very ‘princely’, having rescued the damsel in distress.
Later on, in the student council room, we meet the other members of the board, Juri and Miki. Touga accosts Saionji for his treatment of ‘the rose bride,’ saying how he can’t just do as he pleases with her. There is a hilarious moment here where Miki whispers ‘do as he pleases?!’ with shock at the implications of possible sexual deviancy, and Juri smirks and repeats the phrase, almost as if to scare Miki. This is another good precedent, as it sets up Miki’s very naive personality.
Back in the regular part of the school, someone has posted an embarrassing love letter on the bulletin board and all the guys are laughing about it. Utena busts up this ruckus, declaring that ‘a real man wouldn’t read it!’ (You go girl!) We can see here that Utena has a strong honor code and adherence to her princely nature. We learn that this is Wakaba’s letter to Saionji, and she runs off crying. Utena is gunna get that bastard for this! After confirming with Saionji that he was the one to post up the letter, Utena challenges him to a duel, and while she is unaware of it, Saionji mistakes her as a competitor in some kind of contest we’ve yet to learn about. He invites her to come into the school’s off-limits forest for a duel.
We then get to see two of this show’s staples – the shadow play (“Kashira kashira, gozonji kashira?!”) and the entrance to the dueling arena (ZETTAI! UNMEI! MOKUSHIROKU!) You’ll get very acquainted with these seemingly-absurd things as the show goes on.
Up in the arena, we learn the nature of the duels from Saionji and Anthy. You wear a rose in your pocket, and if the other person’s sword destroys your rose, then you loose. This is the most obvious symbolism in the show, as well as the most important. To spell it out, the sword is a dick, and the rose is your chastity. The duels are a direct parallel to deflowering.
We then learn the true nature of the ‘rose bride’ as Saionji summons the ‘Sword of Dios’ from her body. One thing I love about this scene is how there is what sounds like porn music playing as Anthy’s body is thrown back and Saionji pulls his big sword out of her. The Rose Bride is the ‘possession’ of the current champion of duels, and contained within her is the biggest sword. I leave that one to you. Saionji takes up the sword and asks for the power to revolutionize the world from it. I could make a case for ‘revolution’ being ‘birth’ which is something you give with your ‘dick’, but I’ll save it for later episodes.
So anyway, Utena rapes Saionji (symbolically.) And she get’s the Rose Bride. And Touga, watching, says “ii, BABY”, causing massive lulz on my part. So that about covers this great first episode of this revolutionary series. I look forward to seeing if anyone responds to my call and does a post of their own!
Below are some extra screen-shots since I took too many~.