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L to R: Student Council, Black Rose, Apocalypse Sagas + Signet Ring

Back in May I was really pleased to see Shoujo Kakumei Utena get listed by Nozomi for re-issue.  I only had the first 12 episodes from the original release, and missed the rest along the way.

As with my reactions to the 5.1 remix, maybe I shouldn’t have been so eager.  I now have three very impressive box sets, and a rose signet ring, sitting next me and very little idea as to what to say about them.  As such what follows is more of a ramble than a review, so enter at your own risk.

The look, and sound, of Utena remained stylish and impressive all the way to the end.  If nothing else Utena is always fun to watch, and fun to listen to.

The increasingly abusive relationships revealed as the series wore on were much less fun.  Enough so that it nearly moved the entire cast into the Eight Deadly Words [1], with at least a couple in the Eight Deadlier Words [2] space.

Granted, as one commenter pointed out in the previous post, showing a relationship is not the same as condoning it.  To that extent it is clear that Utena is fighting against the nature of those relationships even as her own somewhat questionable relationships deepen.

In a way Utena needed to experience the darkness herelf in order to understand the darkness well enough to fight it.

To that extent the ending works well in that it shows Utena’s sacrifice leaving a healthier environment behind her, not to mention liberating Anthy from the trap of being the Rose Bride.

The ending is also appropriately heroic for what was set up as a tragedy in many ways. 

From the shadow plays (effectively a Greek Chorus) to the doubts about Utena’s ambition to be a Prince in the openings, Utena was always being set up for a bad end. I suspect that the primary purpose of the Black Rose saga was to foreshadow that Utena would be forgotten in the aftermath.

However the ending is not without hope: Anthy clearly believes that Utena is out there somewhere and is last seen leaving Ohtori to search for her. 

Despite the negative aspects I still enjoyed the series overall, and the last couple of episodes are very well paced. Utena may rely too much on the soundtrack to carry it through the weaker moments, but that was the case from the first episode anyway.  As I’ve said elsewhere [3] I will forgive a lot of anime sins if they are at least committed with style, which Utena never lacked.

I’ll probably rewatch it sometime, but unless I’m prepared to pick it apart episode by episode I doubt I’ll manage a more coherent review.  That would take a full year, and it probably won’t be a priority any time soon.  To leave on a slightly more positive note I’ll end with the fabulous opening, which remains one of my favourites.


[1] The Eight Deadly Words: “I don’t care what happens to these people.”

[2] The Eight Deadlier Words: “I hope they all die horrible bloody deaths.” Alas, unlike Evangelion, none of them do.