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This series is about a girl called Utena who was helped in a difficult time by a handsome prince. She was so impressed with him that she vowed to become a prince herself. She is attending a boarding school where she stands out with her gender bending ways and boy's uniform and makes friends with other students in school, most notably a bizarrely submissive Indian girl called Anthy. When one of her friends is publically humiliated by her crush, Utena protests and is called out on a duel by the boy at a bizarre arena. With some difficulty, she wins and finds that Anthy is now "engaged" to her as the "Rose Bride" that is the key to a world revolution. Now, she finds herself forced to fight repeated challengers for Anthy, face similar rivalries in her personal life and tries to help Anthy gain some will of her own. All the while, the duels she must fight are leading her to a goal of world revolution that has implications she is not yet aware of. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I think people get too caught up in attempting to understand something foreign to realize that many elements in Revolutionary Girl Utena are not meant to be taken literally and at times, seriously. Yes, it is strange, but, the strangeness is purposefully achieved as a method of storytelling. If one can look past or even appreciate the strangeness, one can find a worthwhile story that's both entertaining and insightful.
The main character, Utena Tenjou, is a student at a boarding school. She meets Anthy Himemiya, a shy girl who is the Rose Bride, the key figure in a mysterious plot by the Student Counsel to "revolutionise the world". The main storyline revolves around Utena and her journey, through different trials and obstacles, to uncover this mystery. To support the main story, there are many subplots and filled with colourful supporting characters, who add drama, humour, and complexity.
The Student Counsel members often recite a poem with portions borrowed from Herman Hesse's Demian. Like the Demian, Utena is about the antagonist's personal journey uncovering truth within their world and within themselves, through the transitional periods of youth. Unlike in Demian, the hero's journey in Utena is highly metaphorical. Despite seeming childish and simple at first, this series is actually incredibly dark with themes that are both adult in nature and adult in meaning. It uses many traditional archetypes like the charming prince, the wicked witch, the naive hero but changes these elements' relationship with each other and within the story as the vehicle to drive these progressive elements. Some of the ideas touched upon are the meaning of gender, gender roles, the meaning of self, etc.
Revolutionary Girl Utena is one of my favourite television series. Both the plot and the characters are highly developed. I actually greatly enjoy the surrealism, with over the top drama that both pokes fun of itself and other series within the shoujo (manga and anime for women and girls) genre. The fantastic story components along with highly stylized visuals full of symbolism paint an almost dream-like setting. It's a post-modern fairytale that's indefinitely unforgettable. You'll either love it or hate it, there's no in between.
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