Rightstuf is on a streak of licensing critically-acclaimed, but undervalued, shows. They released Utena in 2011 and announced the future release of Rose of Versailles. My favorite recent Rightstuf release remains Nadesico. Unlike Utena, Nadesico has always been available used at an affordable price even after the ADV release went out of print, so I was surprised that Rightstuf chose to re-release it. I think it speaks to how relevant it remains, particularly with the resurgence of another giant robot show, Evangelion. Still, even standing alone, Nadesico remains an entertaining show because of its blend of comedy, science fiction and drama.
bateszi has already ruminated on the connection between Star Driver and Utena and while I’m a bit late to the party, I wanted to add my own reflections. Right now I’m watching Utena for the first time while finishing Star Driver on Crunchyroll. Fortuitously, I just finished Episode 4 of Utena a few hours after watching Episode 21 of Star Driver. The scenes below are from these episodes.
First in Utena:
September in the US means the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the school year. Kids spend more of their lives at school than anywhere else and I’d wager that more shows are set in schools than in any other setting. Even though school based shows have the same setting, some of them couldn’t be more different. I looked back at three such shows, Azumanga Daioh, His and Her Circumstances (Kare Kano) and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Each show could be described as a slice of life story about high school students, but each show is unique.
Much has already been written about the first episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, the latest from Kunihiko Ikuhara (he of Revolutionary Girl Utena.) Like most, I really liked this first episode, but I’ve never been one to bother discussing plot details, rather, I just want to talk about art and post some pretty pictures, and like Madoka, Panty & Stocking and The Tatami Galaxy before it, Mawaru Penguindrum is an intricately-drawn feast for the eyes. I just couldn’t help myself.
Shoujo fantasy can be the genre of the story-lover, so filled it is with sweeping, emotive images. I can’t help but think that Revolutionary Girl Utena and Princess Tutu could be stripped of their dialogue and remain just as coherent, such is the overflow of feeling trapped within their every frame; every side-long glance, tentative posture and concealed desire.
Revolutionary Girl Utena is one of the most inscrutable anime I’ve seen. It’s like half of me is struggling to keep up with what I’m seeing, while the other, at some base level, just instinctively feels it and understands. I suppose you could call this confusion. Or schizophrenia. Whatever. Episode 29 is my favourite of the series so far, and definitely the one that best represents what I love about it.
Jury is on the brink of defeating Utena in their duel, all she need do is finish her opponent and be done with it, but she gives up instead; the sky grays, the rain falls and the match is over, but why? Why, having fought so hard, did she just give up?
Utena is all about this kind of theatrical epiphany, a duel of adolescence where every emotional facade is shattered, emotive in the way that the landscape shifts with mood, attaching life-changing significance to every word spoken and movement made. It’s apocalyptic romance.
For a while I tried to write an interpretation of Jury’s duel, but I’m not sure that’s what I want to do anymore. It’s like trying to put into words a beautiful painting, words just don’t capture it. Utena remains as inscrutable as ever, but it feels special. You just have to see it. That’s the best I can do.