Revolutionary Girl Utena
|Revolutionary Girl Utena|
|Original Manga||Chiho Saito|
|Format||Anime (TV), Anime (Movie), Manga|
|Made By||J.C. Staff|
|Episode Length||24 minutes|
|# of Eps/Volumes|| 39 + Movie (Anime)|
Sum it up in a Sentence
A complex, character- and symbolism-driven take on the magical girl genre set in a high school, where students duel to control the mysterious Rose Bride.
In her youth, a handsome prince saved Utena Tenjou's life. Ever since, she dreamed of becoming a prince herself. Now attending the prestigious Ohtori Academy, she challenges an upperclassmen to a duel to protect her friend. To her surprise, winning earns her the hand of Anthy Himemiya, a quiet, enigmatic girl known as the 'Rose Bride.' Now she faces enemies from all directions, for it is said that whoever possesses the Rose Bride will gain the power to revolutionize the world.
"I want to see a beautiful girl turn into a car." --Director Kunihiko Ikuhara
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More anime written by Yoji Enokido:
Surreal Symbolic Storytelling:
Some people will tell you to watch Utena because of the symbolism and deep story. These people have no idea what they are talking about. The symbolism is so overdone that the story often becomes more about trying to have some dumb symbolic message about growing up than the characters. The story meanders around too much in the middle and doesn't get really good until like the last four episodes or so. Utena also suffers horribly from having way too big a cast, to the point where it's hard to really care about anyone other than the main characters.
You should watch Utena because it is a solidly done, very entertaining show. The best episodes are the filler episodes that have nothing to do with weird metaphorical swordfights (surfing elephants, etc). The characters are entertaining even if it's hard to take any of them even remotely seriously, but aside from a few plot-heavy episodes Utena never really takes itself all that seriously in the first place. The art style is fairly solid, but the animation often relies too heavily on stock animation footage or still-frames for my tastes. The over-reliance on stock animation is somewhat mitigated by the song that plays during Utena's ascension to the duels in every episode because it is rad as hell.
Overall, Utena is an above-average show that's worth the time it takes to watch it. I'd recommend Star Driver if you enjoyed this, as it's a much better example of Enokido's work and has much better animation. By which I mean Star Driver takes itself even less seriously and absolutely revels in absurdity, which is what Enokido is best at doing.
Some people will tell you to watch Utena because of the symbolism and deep story. Those people would be me, and I know what I'm talking about. Utena is, as Ikuhara enjoys, an exploration on the duplicity of reality from the real and imagined, the exploration of the illusory self and the "true self". In order to be born as a true person, one has to crack the illusory element of the world. Much of the setting and ideas of Utena are actually taken heavily from several German classics, and it presents a very strange animated work that leaves you wondering if what happened actually happened or is more a mental representation, a symbolic exploration of the psyche and adolescence. Which is good. Because pretty much all of it is.
Worrying about the story too much is stupid, because the entire point is that exploration, that journey; it's not a straight story of "does she win or lose?" Because ultimately, it's more an exploration of the characters, their places in the world, why they want to find their true ideals and selves, and why they fail in a non-idealistic world where purity does not exist.
Some people "get it", others don't. Give a few episodes a shot, see if it tickles your brain and makes you think.
Revolutionary Girl Utena is art. I say that because like an abstract painting, Utena is obtuse, nice to look at, and means different things to everyone. Utena is both a beautiful story of love and friendship, as well as a meaningful exploration of adolescence. Through symbolism, metaphor and it's characters, Utena explores and ultimately subverts many common Shoujo conventions from romance and sexuality to the "Prince and Princess" of classic Fairy Tales. Utena's one major flaw is it's length. The plot is slow, the arcs are repetitive, the stock animation is used ad nauseum, and there's several filler episodes. Overall Utena is easily one of the best anime to come out of the 90s, and is still a masterpiece even today. There has certainly not been anything else quite like it.