I’m rather new to the blog scene, they’ve been around for years but I’ve never found myself able to keep up with one. I spend most of my time drawing, playing video games, or watching anime, so I thought maybe I could share my thoughts here as an outlet.
Most recently I finished watching the series Revolutionary Girl Utena, a contemporary fairy tale with a twist, which I feel strays away from traditional shoujo archetypes. I’ve heard people refer to it as the Neon Genesis Evangelion for girls, and I can see where they got the idea. They both deal with psychological elements, NGE may be darker than Utena ever was, but the elements present in the later arcs definitely put you through a loop when contrasted with the start of the series. The biggest thing I loved about this series, is that while things start getting dark and serious, they always have a touch of lightheartedness so that you don’t spiral down into some deep depression mid series. That itself makes it stand out from NGE which, while I liked it, it weighed heavily on me when the series ended and frustrated me to no end when I didn’t ‘get it.’ When Utena ended, I felt good about what I saw. I was happy for it.
There are many themes, many of them dark such as manipulation, death, betrayal, and even forbidden love, but also many light themes, such as friendship, chivalry, and a sense of nobility. There’s a good balance of both and I think that they did a great job expressing the darker themes, in a way that’s almost tasteful. I never felt awkward or dirty watching the characters, nor did I feel it was ever trite and unbelievable. Utena is very much a coming of age anime, as its main heroine Utena grows and changes she comes to learn more about herself as she gets wrapped deeper and deeper into the story. Sitting at just 39 episodes, it didn’t take me too long to breeze through it, though after initially watching only seven episodes, I stopped for a short time to watch other things. For some, it may start off a bit slow, but by episode 15/16 things start getting more tense and emotional and honestly had me hooked. At first I may have had my doubts, but after finishing the series, I feel it was definitely worth the time I spent watching it.
The story itself revolves around the “Rose Bride” and the Ohtori Academy Student Council, as the Council members fight to obtain the her, as she is thought to be the key to a coming revolution. The current champion is constantly challenged for the right to possess her. The Main Character, Utena, a chivalrous, kind, and trusting individual, met a prince in her childhood. She was so impressed with him that she decided to become a prince herself, reflected in her choice of clothing and personality. She attends Ohtori Academy where she meets Anthy Himemiya, who she soon finds wanting to protect when she sees she’s in an abusive relationship with a fellow student. Utena fights to protect Anthy and is pulled into a series of duels with the Student Council. Unaware what she’s gotten into, she defeats her opponent and obtains the “Rose Bride”, Anthy Himemiya.
Overall, for the series, I’d say a 8.5/10. The music was great, I felt a real concern for Anthy’s wellbeing, and I will admit I got a bit teary eyed at the ending. ( Ok, maybe I cried. A little. ) The story may have felt a little slow at times, there are a few Nanami-heavy episodes that I would consider filler that I didn’t like too much but all around, it was a good watch and I would definitely watch it again in a few years. The music in the series is mostly done in what I’d call a… Choral Rock style and then there’s even some jazzy elements, but overall it’s very catchy. For such a short series, the OST is actually pretty big, the collection I have is like 10 cds. The opening, sung by Okui Masami is very nice, but picking just one version, that’s the hard part. It’s definitely up there with some of my favorite series, such as Sailor Moon.
Two years after the series finished, they released a movie titled Adolescence of Utena in 1999, which was a retelling of the original story. It definitely took a different route with the series, as some of the characters either had their personalities tweaked or they were removed all together. If you liked the series, I still say the movie is a good watch and even has some more great music, so to me, that alone is worth it. If you feel like you want more, Adolescence of Utena was good, even if a little short, as long as you view it as a retelling.
If you like a Shoujo series with drama, this series is definitely for you.