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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There The first time I found a lot of story to be puzzling. Things and
scenes didn't seem to make sense. The second time I found arising
unbidden in my mind a theory of what is happening that completely
explains everything in the movie. When I told the theory to a Friend of
Mine, who I know can nimmediately find the weak points in my theories,
she said it made sense, and, she says, the more she thinks about it,
the more sense it makes to her. In fact, she says, it explains some
things that she cannot find any other explanation for. With this
theory, far from being a weird fantasy story that makes little sense,
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie is in fact a very wholesome story
of healing and integration.
SPOILER ALERT: From this point forward, there will be facts revealed about the movie that might spoil it for you if you have not yet seen it, so read on with caution.
The basic story of Utena in the movie is that Utena is a new girl at an Academy where sword duels are fought for the hand of the Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya. Utena finds herself drawn into these fights when Saionji, the current "fiancé" of the Rose Bride, comes upon Utena and Anthy talking together and gets angry. Sainoji is abusive toward Anthy, which angers Utena enough to inspire her to win the duel.
In the movie, there is also a girl named Shiori who is shown several times talking to a red-haired man named Touga. Shiori hates a woman named Jury and tries to urge Touga to do something about her, though he says he does not think he could ever be cruel to her.
During the course of the movie, it is revealed that Anthy had been being raped regularly by her big brother, whom she had idolized as her "prince." A story is also told about how "the" prince had really been the Lord of the Flies, but that the princess (shown as Anthy in the story) had turned him into a prince, then locked him in the castle, where he died. We see the ghost image of this young prince regularly.
Anthy's brother, we find out, had died when he discovered that his sister, whom he thought he had been drugging into unconsciousness, had been or had become aware of what was going on. On that revelation, he staggers around, suddenly distraught, looking for the key, saying that a car will rust without the key. He finds what he thinks is the key, stabs Anthy, then staggers around some more and falls off the balcony to his death.
Touga had also been raped by a man when a child. Touga and Utena had been close friends for a while, but he had gone away after rescuing a girl from drowning, and Utena has some issues about that.
In the course of the movie, Shiori urges Jury to fight Utena, which she does, but Utena wins by (inadvertently?) taking on the semblance of the prince. When this happens, Anthy is startled. Shortly after, Anthy vanishes and Utena goes in search of her, but not before entering an elevator in which Touga stands. As they travel in the elevator, Utena speaks to him, saying that she finally remembers it all: That Touga had died saving a young girl from drowning (he had drowned instead). Utena says farewell to him and thanks him, saying that he had always been her prince. All this time, the elevator on his side has been filling with water, and finally she kisses him farewell and he lifts and floats away like an angel.
After that, Utena finds Anthy and tells her to come back to the real world with her. Things get very weird here; Utena turns into a car in a huge car wash, and Anthy finds she has the key to the car. She uses the key and hops in to return to the real world. During their race, there are attempts made to stop them by first Shiori, multiplied many times and saying that she wants to be the only one, then by the machinery of the castle, and finally by Anthy's brother, who says she must stay in this world as a living corpse.
Anthy asks to be granted the power, and Utena is turned into a human being again as they both cry, "The power to revolutionize the world!" After which the brother breaks into pieces and they break through him and the last of the castle machinery into a desolate countryside seen mostly in silhouette, looking like some post-apocalyptic junkyard. Anthy and Utena talk of how they can make new roads for themselves and how they may not make it, but they hope to. However, in the distance at the very end we see a real castle rising into visibility.
This is the essential story line. It counds weird on the face of it, and I haven't even touched on all the weirdnesses. The Theory: Split Personalities
My theory, simply put, is that Anthy, Utena, and Shiori are all the same person; in other words, they are all parts of a single personality that has split under stress. Each split happened when something happened to the base personality that it was enraged about but that it couldn't face.
The core personality is Anthy, who at the time of the story's opening is unable to say no to anyone whom she feels has the right to be her fiancé. She has lost her ability to be outraged and to speak up for herself, or to even be selfish enough to wish that one person would have died rather than another. Split #1: Utena
Utena split off from Anthy during the time when Anthy's brother was raping her. It is after the split that Anthy was first able to be conscious through the rape; the part that was outraged at being treated that way had split off and was no longer present to see anything wrong with what was happening. This split unfortunately left Anthy with no defenses, no ability to say no, and no feeling that she deserves better treatment. In short, she is left helpless; she is at the whim of any person who has power over her.
Thus, without the ability to be outraged at her treatment, Anthy could be conscious during the rape. Also, without the ability to be outraged, her only other recourse was to idolize her brother. This is why she tells her big brother that what he is doing is "all right" and that he can do anything he wants because he is her "prince."
This is also why Utena is so enraged when she sees how Saionji treats Anthy; if you watch that scene with this theory in mind, you can see how she is in truth saying all the things that should have been said to her brother when she split off from Anthy.
Let's explore this a little further, since this is one of the central issues of the movie. Recall that at one point in the movie there is a story told of a girl who changed the Lord of the Flies into the prince, then later locked him in the castle. In that story, Anthy is shown as the girl who changed him and locked him up, and the prince is shown as a younger version of Anthy's brother.
The Lord of the Flies is the title of a rather horrible story of adolescent boys who crash land on a deserted island. Very quickly, they revert to a kind of savagery that it was once popular to think was the default human condition without the constraints of society to prevent it.
By saying that the prince was really the Lord of the Flies who had been turned into a prince (assuming that is an accurate translation) by Anthy, the underlying message is that Anthy's brother was so brutally bestial that he didn't even deserve the title of human, let alone prince. It was only in her mind, in a desperate attempt to deny the horrible things he was doing, that he became a prince; therefore it was within her power to see him for what he really was. However, she had locked him inside the castle--that is, she had trapped both herself and her fantasy of him inside her fantasy world (the castle) that has replaced reality. In order to be whole, she will need to both see him for what he was, and escape from the fantasy castle into reality.
Unfortunately, there is a mob outside the castle threatening to lynch her; this almost assuredly represents her fears of what people will think of her were they to know the truth of what her brother had done, and perhaps (though this is unclear), it may also represent her guilty feelings over the death of her brother. She may feel that she is responsible, or she may fear that others will feel she is responsible. The "chorus" represented by the two shadow girls further emphasizes this fear of accusation, as they say that she murdered her brother.
Note that there are two princes in the movie: Anthy's brother, who is a false prince, and Touga, who is the real prince. It is vital for Anthy/Utena to distinguish between the two and to choose which to emulate. Utena has already chosen to emulate Touga; Anthy, on the other hand, has been, not emulating her brother, but acting as though she is still his sex slave by allowing herself to be a (sex and other) slave to anyone who wins the Rose Bride duel.
Anthy is drawn to Utena in part because she senses that Utena has what Anthy has lost; she also is drawn to her because, during the duel with Saionji, Utena said things in defense of Anthy that Anthy had never heard said before, and those words struck a very deep chord in her. In fact, in the movie, Anthy's eyes go wide as soon as Utena puts on the rose ring, which means that Utena will duel for Anthy. This is the first hope Anthy has ever had that she might win free of the untenable situation she is in. Split #2: Shiori
The second personality split came with when Touga died. Utena loved Touga deeply; she saw him as an oasis of sanity and strength. It is interesting that Touga had also been raped, because it shows a deep (if possibly unconscious) understanding in the creators' minds that often people are attracted to those who share similar personal challenges. Touga is perhaps more sympatico with Utena because of their shared background of having been violated, even if Utena is consciously unaware of it.
When Touga dies saving Jury, Utena couldn't face the loss of the person she saw as perhaps the only person who could save her. So Shiori, who could face the truth and who was also able wish that Jury had died so Touga could live (a thing that neither Utena nor Anthy could do), split off to handle those facts. This is why Shiori hates Jury so much: She blames Jury for Touga's death. This is also why she says she will force Jury to be a prince (i.e., Touga's replacement) forever. And finally, this is why she can never return Jury's love (Jury is in love with Shiori): because Jury was, in Shiori's mind, the cause of Touga's death. Reintegration Begins
At one point in the movie, after a few interactions with the ghost Touga, Utena desperately accuses Anthy of being responsible for Touga's vanishing, saying that he started to act strangely after she, Anthy, had appeared. This wouldn't make amy sense if it were true that the two had only just met at the Academy, many long years after Touga and Utena had last spoken with each other.
But if we assume instead that this is a crack in the separation, and that Utena is finally beginning to admit that Anthy is a part of her, a part that has been left alone with no strength to defend herself ever since, then it makes perfect sense. At the time Utena knew Touga, it is possible that the Anthy personality made an attempt to reintegrate with Utena, perhaps feeling safer because of Touga's presence. If Touga saw glimpses of Anthy, then he might indeed have started to "act strange" around Utena: he would know that there was something seriously wrong, and indeed his own rape might have triggered further uneasiness if he sensed what the trouble was with Utena/Anthy. It is interesting to note that in the scene of Touga's rape, we see an eerie conversion of millions of cabbage moths turning into miniature Shioris with wings. This is another validation of the fact that it was at the time of Touga that the Shiori personality started to form.
The fact that Utena only now seems to be remembering that Anthy was somehow around when Touga started to act strangely shows that the cracks are starting to form in Utena's separating wall of denial. She is starting to become aware to some extent that she and Anthy are one and the same.
Anthy's response to Utena's tears and accusations is to try to replace one thing that Utena had lost. Her response shows that they can be complete if they join together; they don't need anyone else to "make" them happy. This isn't to say that they can't have others to love in their lives; it is instead to say that they don't need a prince to rescue them.
When Utena finally allows herself to remember Touga's death, she is reclaiming the most important parts of herself that had been broken off with Shiori. She is also now ready to re-integrate with Anthy, whom she finds immediately after and urges to go back to the real world.
The Shiori personality is the angriest and most twisted of the three. I think she knows about the splits and is aware that she, Utena, and Anthy are all the same. She is also deeply fragmented and the least whole of the three; she may even represent the imbalance between Anthy and Utena. In her deeply fragmented state, she pursues Utena and Anthy in the end to try to stop them so she can be the only one who is aware of reality, but what she is afraid of is being destroyed, for she cannot survive on her own. Utena has the core personality's high ideals and ability to speak out for and fight for what is right; Anthy, the core personality, has a gentleness and intelligence that is able to understand much. But Shiori is mostly a bundle of anger aimed inappropriately at Jury.
Toward the end, Utena turns into a car in a car wash because (a) the wash represents coming clean as well as being cleansed of old stains and hurts and (b) the car represents the power to get around in the world. Anthy's brother was shown earlier in the movie with an expensive sports car, but he says he cannot drive it because he lost the key and must use a taxi instead. This seems a pretty straightforward way of saying that
(a) he was impotent in a number of ways (including that he cannot get around in the world in his own vehicle or by his own motivational power) and
(b) he must use someone else's power to get around; in this case, he rapes Anthy because that is the only way he can get it up, but he cannot face the fact that she knows he is raping her.
During the flight scene, when the castle machinery is revealed, characters cry out, "It's a trap!" And it is. The fantasy castle is a trap and an escape from reality that arises out of denial and self-deception; until it is repudiated and gotten beyond, true healing cannot take place. Anthy/Utena must also do something about Shiori so she has no power over them. Utena has already reclaimed the memories that Shiori had been holding about Touga's death, and had also come to terms with his death in a wholesome way that the Shiori fragment had been unable to. Shiori was unable to let go of Touga; Utena was. For that matter, Shiori cannot release or forgive Jury, either.
The real world is, of course, the world in which Anthy and Utena are reintegrated as one whole person. The fantasy world they have been living in is, I think, populated with some real people (Jury, Saionji, and a character named Miki whom I haven't mentioned), possibly altered in Anthy/Utena's mind, but Anthy/Utena is unable to see them completely for who they are because of her insanity. Instead, she integrates them into her fantasy world. Later, these three help her escape at a crucial moment (coming out of a tunnel representing, I believe, a rebirthing), promising to join her in the real world someday.
The landscape outside of the fantasy castle looks so horrible because Anthy/Utena are going to have to go through a kind of personal hell as they come to terms with all the traumas they have been through. The real castle rising in the distance is an indication that they will succeed.
That is essentially it. I could go through the movie scene by scene and explain everything in light of this theory, but I won't. A few of the more minor aspects of the movie:
* Throughout the movie, two shadow girls make comments on what is happening; these shadow girls are alternate versions of Utena and Anthy. They may be all that is left of Anthy and Utena's true selves that know what has happened, and all that is left of the ability for the true selves to communicate with each other.
* At one point, Utena and Anthy climb to an observation deck that, according to Anthy, "no one ever comes" to. Utena is awed by the amazing view. The deck represents a vantage point in their own healing process from which they can start to see things they had been denying before.
* During their time on the observation deck, Utena sees a group of paintings which had started out being draped with cloth. The paintings are initially of the prince and Anthy. Utena says with surprise and some dismay that "these paintings are all of you." As soon as she says that, the content of each painting changes so that they create one painting, separated by the difference frames and canvases, of a naked Anthy lying passed out on a floor. The first paintings represent Anthy's fractured memories and fantasies of her prince. When Utena comments on them, they change into the real picture, which is that of Anthy after being raped by her brother.
This is Anthy's first inkling of the truth. Before Utena arrived (i.e., before Anthy and Utena started to reintegrate), Anthy could only see the fantasy images of her and the prince. After reintegration begins, Anthy is starting to be able to see the real picture--in other words, she is able to face her memories of being raped by her brother. She could only have had the strength to allow herself to recover those memories in the presence of her long-separated self, Utena. Anthy's dawning awareness is also why Anthy makes a very eerie statement right then about showing Utena why everyone wants the Rose Bride (i.e., her). Anthy is still in pieces in the pictures, though, both because that represents her shattered self and because she hasn't reintegrated with her split-off selves of Utena and Shiori.
* In the final escape sequence, while Utena is a car, a room full of pink-haired women talks about the escape. These all represent Utena.
* Toward the end of the movie after the escape, two straw dolls are shown with name tags saying they are Anthy Himemya and Utena Tenjou. These dolls show that there never were separate bodies; that the only differences were in the mind. They may represent the shadow girls, or they may represent the fantasy Utena and Anthy personalities, or both.
In an alternate universe retelling of the Shoujo Kakumei Utena story, this movie blows the already great TV series out of the water. Tenjou Utena is new to Ohtori Academy, having recently broken up with Kiryuu Touga. Upon arriving, she sees him again, and meets Himemiya Anthy, also known as the Rose Bride. Utena is forced into a duel with Saionji Kyouichi for the possession of the Rose Bride. She is bewildered by the events taking place in the academy, but starts to figure out what life is all about and where it doesn't happen. The plot is fresh while still holding on to certain elements of the original storyline from the TV series. The characters, while many have done 180s with their personalities, are still as captivating as ever. The music, supplied once again by the wonderful J.A Seaser, is just as good as anything in the TV series, if not better. Finally, the animation is more beautiful than words can describe. If nothing else, watch this movie for the animation. Many people, Utena fans and not, don't give this movie a fair shake, claiming a number of things they don't like about it which were exactly what they liked about the TV series. Though it is much easier to understand the movie if you've seen the series in full, the movie is still a masterpiece to behold in any right.
Consider yourself warned that this movie operates on the assumption that
viewers are familiar with the TV series. If you aren't already aware of the
relationships between the characters (as I'm not) you're outta luck, because
very little of it is explained here. And from what I've heard, things are a
bit murky even then.
What makes this movie great is that it really doesn't matter. Utena is a visual smorgasborg--the backgrounds alone warrant it a high rating, impossibly lush and frequently reminiscent of art nouveau. The characters are equally wonderfully drawn. Visually, it's brilliant; the floating castle that seems to constantly rearrange itself is an astonishing feat of fantastical architecture. All in all I'd have to say this is the most gorgeous animation I've ever seen.
As for the plot...I've seen this three times now and still don't entirely get it. I have some vague theories about what's going on and why, but without the series' background I can't verify anything. The movie operates on a very surreal, symbolic level--and it's full of the eccentricities of anime, as well (not that that's a bad thing, just different--a giant car wash machine that rises out of a field of roses figures prominently in a later scene). If you go into this expecting cut-and-dry western cinema (doubtful, as by and large I expect only anime junkies would even hear of it), you're up the creek without a paddle. Even granted the contextual uncertainty, though, there is clearly a resolution. What it means is certainly debatable, but the point is that there IS a narrative here discernible in the end, if that actually matters. In this case, I don't think it does. The movie exists in its own world and can't be expected to always adhere to our rules.
Utena is awe-inspiring in its visual beauty and imagination. As a would-be fantasy writer myself I found my mind spinning off on dozens of tangents after watching it. And for one work of art to inspire another to create is perhaps the highest recommendation there is.
Adolescence Mokushiroku is the New Testament to the TV series's Old, a
welcome addition to the concept's canon, and a work that is sure to be
debated by Utena fandom for some time to come. It is director Ikuhara's
third theatrical film, and his first completely original work. It is a
devastatingly beautiful, state of the art, intensely kinetic
Adolescence has a powerful pedigree of luminous craftsmen behind it: Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, who brings it all together, was awarded the Kobe Award of Japan for up-and-coming best new anime talent of 1997, the same year the Utena television series took the Kobe for best series. Chiho Saito, upon whose manga the film was based, has a distinguished career as a girl's comic author. Souchiro Kobayashi was not only the art director for the original series but also of the cult-classic OAV "To-Y" as well as the legendary Mamoru Oshii art film "Angel's Egg". Character designer Shinya Hasegawa is widely renowned for his work on Shin Seiki Evangelion as well as the original Utena; screenwriter Yoji Enokido was also a formative figure in the development of Evangelion and the original Utena television series. These are literally some of -the- most current and talented creators in the Japanese animation world brought together; their names alone should ensure this film a place in anime's hall of fame.
It's clear that the film had a large budget and that every bit of it ended up on screen- its flowing imagery is both oddly erotic and beautiful, creating a luscious feeling of being enclosed in sensuality. Sound too is exquisite in the film, grounding the surreality of its visuals in crunchy actuality; swords sound like real swords, and each strike of weapon against weapon resonates like thunder. Every ping, every detail is precise. Music too is exquisite- at least the background musics. This reviewer finds the duel themes disappointingly hollow and flat. Still, there's plenty of instrumentals and some choice vocals by Masami Okui that more than compensate.
As any good story should, Adolescence hits the ground running, with a dazzling display of the 'new' Ootori Gakuen, and it doesn't stop to take a breath (or let the audience breathe) from there. The movie creates its world from the first frame, and never falters in its vision. However, like a perfect jewel with a single splitting flaw, Adolescence Mokushiroku relies too heavily on exploiting its audience's presumed knowledge of the storyline of the television series. This brings the film closer to the realm of a brilliant fanfiction rather than an original, all new work; I'm not sure the creators intended, or ever wanted it to be such. But I think any writer could attest to the fact that it's nearly impossible to step outside one's work and view it with 'new' eyes; this may be an unavoidable flaw. It is also the only -major- flaw in the film's design.
The film is tongue-in-cheek in places, bordering on self-parody, but also sincerely earnest and heartfelt. Ikuhara and company went in saying that their intent was to strip some of the mystery from the original storyline, and to make their point clearer, to lay the underlying truths bare with this film. Indeed, some mysteries from the series are explained away clearly within the story. Other, newer mysteries cause the long-term viewer to squirm, forced to consider the entirety of the canon in a new light.
None of these changes are bad; Utena's 'flaws' in this film may actually make her more sympathetic to those viewers who originally found her 'too perfect' and 'inaccessible' in the TV version. Other characters have also been tweaked, notably the erstwhile Rose Bride, Himemiya Anshi, the Student Council President, Kiryuu Touga, and the Fencing Club captain, Arisugawa Juri. Other characters have only minor onscreen time or are completely omitted.
The final sequences of the third act have the potential to be the most misunderstood part of the film. Yet these sequences are also the most innovative and emotionally engaging part of the movie. Just when you thought they couldn't find another way to make an essentially psychological conflict interesting beyond the Duels, they do it- and do it well. However, the sheer spectacle of it was enough to make audiences laugh with disbelief at the several fan-screenings that followed the film's release on video.
Is Adolescence Mokushiroku ultimately a good movie? Yes. Is it a brilliant film? In the swiss watch precision of its design, and its tightly compressed execution, yes.
Can it succeed in the international market, leaving its comfortable world of Japanese fans and US niche market supporters to revolutionize the global animation community? That remains to be seen.
For all its numerous strengths, Adolescence Mokushiroku can not escape its own demanding nature; it may simply ask too much from those that are not already familiar with Ikuhara's style. The movie probably will acquire a cult status- much like the original series itself. For any Utena fan familiar with the whole series, however, this film is a long-awaited resolution, reward, and release. It makes clear many aspects of the original story, while opening up a new horizon of mysteries to ponder in the future.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I bought the Shôjo kakumei Utena movie recently and this is a very surreal tale that takes place in a fantasy world (unlike the series, which takes place in Japan). The director gives us beautiful scenic artwork along with a new, more beautiful look (than the school-girl-with-librarian-hair) for Anthy. The movie does take on more lesbian overtones than the series, which was based on friendship. Most people don't understand what happened with Touga/Shiori. Utena and Shiori both were haunted by the dead (which is why Shiori and Utena could see Touga, yet Miki and Juri couldn't). The whole transformation with Shiori was to symbolize Shiori's malicious feelings growing as Touga explained his childhood when he was raped and beaten. The ending is what kills most people, but let me explain: The director said that Utena and Anthy would sacrifice everything (including their clothes, which is explained at the end when they enter the barren, apocalyptic modern world) Basically, this is story about teenage hood. They wanted to leave their crazy-and-surreal dream world and come to reality. The world is really a harsh place and that you must make sacrifices to truly grow up. Good symbolic drama, nice score. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having read the Chiho Saito manga and watched a fair amount of the
series, I thought I knew the utena plot very well. However, when
watching this, it only seemed to take a few basic pointers from both of
these sources. The utena movie (or whichever name you may use for it)
has a mood and themes almost entirely different from the other versions
of it. Of course there's the ever-present "revolutionising the world"
theme, and the rose bride, etc, but this seems to be a more...updated
version of these. It's not so much about achieving a goal, such as the
'revolution of the world', but is instead a film about the rite of
passage from adolescence to adulthood (hence two of the movie's titles,
'the adolescence of Utena' and 'adolescence mokushiroku (adolescence
The visuals in this movie are stunning. The animation, which looked, in the series, rather pretty and smooth, but not very original or special, has become absolutely jaw dropping in the movie. The backgrounds are stunning, and the characters move smoothly and look gorgeous the whole way through.
Many of the characters have been revamped; in both their designs and in the roles they play in the storyline. I personally don't see this as anything too bad, as long as you view the movie and the series/manga as separate entities.
The plot of the movie is...well, as the title of this review says, confusing. At one point (SPOILER ALERT) utena turns into a car (!) and other odd things happen throughout the plot. (End spoiler) Also, something lightly touched upon in the series, the sexuality of the two heroines, is brought to light here. Therefore, if anyone is uncomfortable with non-heterosexual relationships, they shouldn't see this film.
The soundtrack to the film is great, featuring "rinbu revolution" in a new remix for the film, and a couple of duel choruses, as well as the "sunlight garden" theme from the series. It's a nice blend of instrumentals, vocals (such as toki ni ai wa, one of the movie's most famous songs - and scenes) and, er, odd choruses (but don't we love them!), such as 'zettai unmei mokushiroku', another series song that makes its way into the movie.
Overall, this film, as long as you put the series out of your head, is fantastic. Beautiful, dark, eccentric, and utterly addictive. You'll find yourself watching it time after time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Adolescence Mokushiroku (Adolescence Apocalypse) is an amazing movie that
require the viewer to have at least a passing knowledge of the Utena
and who the characters are or what it means to be who. But only vaguely.
The characters in the movie are variably different from their series
counterparts (especially Akio) and it takes a clear mindframe to
The surrealistic setting with a constantly-moving school and blackboards allows the characters to seem even more imaginary and set apart from reality. Although the big finale of the film is probably the most critiqued part of it, it is a true reason that Ikuhara doesn't give credit to.
The amazing chase scene with the Utena-car and the Shiori-car and all those other strange vehicles is one of the most stunning and incomprehensible movie scenes ever. But the essence of the metaphor of driving and the ability to move forward is constant with the film's central message of growth.
And as far as the yuri/shoujo-ai kiss between Utena and Anthy at the end goes, it's nothing that wasn't deeply hinted at during the series (it shows what would happen if Utena and Anthy stuck their heads forward a little bit farther during the opening sequence... of course, it's also a bit different anywa)... But it's still a beautiful story that should be appreciated outside the series.
Having never seen any anime before Utena, except for the nauseating dubbed versions of Sailor Moon and Pokemon, I became immediately hooked. The series is a must-see, and the film is excellent, but it will confuse the heck out of anyone who hasn't seen the series. This series and movie are definitely for adults, simply because of the complex themes and symbolism. Even if you don't understand what's going on however, you can appreciate the eye candy in the film. The artistry is spectacular, and the film is a deep examination of the themes in the series. Definitely one of my favourites! Highly recommended viewing, but don't skip the series!
Utena Tenjou is a girl dressed like a boy. While studying in the Ohtori
academy she was challenged to a duel by the arrogant Saionji. She won
not only the duel, but also the "Rose bride", Anthy...
I think that "Utena-the movie" is a little bit weaker than the series, but it's still a pretty fine anime. Till date I'm still not sure what to think about the weird and puzzling series, not to mention this movie which tells an almost different story. My main grip is that the whole plot is symbolic and works only on that level. Based on that, I think there are 4 theories on what "Utena" is trying to say: 1. Prostitution and it's problems ( at least I got the impression that Anthy, as the "rose bride", has to do everything to please her master and that Utena is trying to save her ). 2. Utena's difficult realization that she is a lesbian ( in the movie she really kisses Anthy ) 3. Incest and it's consequences ( it's clear that Anthy has been molested by her brother Akio and that she is weird because of that ) 4. Growing up and abandoning your ideals from the world of childhood.
Now, you can say I'm insane. But, then again, I could just be right on this because it's so darn suggestive. I admit that some of the scenes were funny ( Nanami in a guest appearance as a cow while "fighting" with Chu-Chu )but after listening to Kunihiko Ikuhara's audio commentary on DVD I have to question some of his choices. For example, he didn't say a word about incest in the scene where Akio drugs Anthy and sleeps with her( instead he was just quiet ), he didn't want to explain anything so that "the story's interpretation wouldn't narrow" and claimed that many people didn't want to draw the end in which Utena turns into a car which is driven by Anthy. Despite being a little more cohesive in his commentary than in the series ( there he didn't remember what all the symbols mean! ) Ikuhara didn't pleasantly surprise me. And then again, maybe that isn't that important since the movie is good.
Both "Utena's" are a weird ride that were different than his previous work, "Sailor Moon", and there for not for everyone's taste. But I still can't wait to see what Ikuhara is going to do next. These days, after 6 years, he finally published a new fantasy Manga called "The world of S & M". Needless to say many will be very interested to see the anime realization.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Revolutionary Girl Utena" is one of the most original and interesting
film adaptations from a television series: While the tone and the
characters are somewhat different of their television counterparts,
this movie still has the essence of what made the original series good
in first place: A interesting, surreal story, with stylish designs and
pretty good animation, many strange, dream-like situations, filled with
complex symbols and metaphorical scenes.
Also, it's not necessary to see the series to understand this movie (I have seen the series first, and I still found this movie to be quite hard to understand) because this movie has a completely new and different storyline, that stands for itself.
"Utena" is one of the weirdest animated flicks that I've ever seen, but also one of the most beautiful and interesting as well.
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