Shoujo Kakumei Utena poster

Shoujo Kakumei Utena

"Never lose that strength or nobility, even when you grow up." When Utena was just a child and in the depths of sorrow, she found salvation in those words. They were the words of a prince, who wrapped her in his rosescented embrace and bestowed upon her both a ring and the promise that it would lead her to him again. She never forgot the encounter. In fact, she was so impressed that she aspired to be like the prince and also help those in need. Now a spirited teenager, Utena attends the prestigious Ohtori Academy. However, her strong sense of chivalry soon places her at odds with the school's student council and thrusts her into a series of mysterious and dangerous duels against its members. (Source: Nozomi Entertainment)

Ranking 765

User Count15314
Favorites Count682
Start Date2nd Apr 1997
Next ReleaseInvalid date
Popularity Rank765
Rating Rank508
Age RatingPG
Age Rating GuideTeens 13 or older
SubtypeTV
Statusfinished

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Okay, so the fights are corny, and it's kind of old now, but...Damn, I love this show. This was the first show I ever found with a truly strong female protagonist. Utena was my animated role model for the longest time, and I still look up to the brave chick who stands up for what she believes in, no matter what. I was hooked after the first arc, and ended up loving the series so much that after I read the scripts for the rest of it, I watched it in Japanese, overdubbed in Mandarin...with Cantonese subtitles, because that's the only way I could find it back then. **That's** how desperate I was to complete my Utena experience, and that should tell you how awesome it is. The music is lovely, and the character designs are great (pointy chins and all!). Each character that is shown has depth, and everyone is alternately strong in their own way and entirely falliable. It's not very realistic, with magic transformation staircases and pulling swords from people's chest under an upside-down kaleidoscope castle, but it's really pretty and the story is an imminently touching thing done up in shoujo roses and sparkles off the edges of keen blades. 

A highly odd series.However, being unusual is the major factor of it's charm.Story...The series starts with a teen girl, who has actually encountered her 'Prince Charming' earlier on in life, yet instead of simply growing up a lustful fangirls waiting upon her dream guy, she infact decided to follow his lead and become a 'Prince Charming' too.She's the knight in shinning armour who goes to great lengths to protect an odd, dispondent girl who's role is a mere trophy (of great meaning however) handed to those who defeat the previous person who won ownership of her in a bizzare, fantasy type areana were people swordfight.Art...90s anime, so it may look dated, but still, the characters are generally pretty, their outfits are detailed and the scenery is well though out. Characters...Very different, the type you don't see too often these days, from the very begining, we have:- a female playing the strong, balanced and sensible hero- a girl who openly, yet innocently fangirls over the female lead- a mystery female who is quite, yet isn't a moe or a snob- a possessive, openly abusive obsessed boyfriendEnjoyment...This is very different, which in itself deserves respect - the characters in geneal don't really fit the 'typical' types, the series tackles social subjects that aren't often highlighted in other anime's and has a balance of - mystery, peril and comedy.This type of anime isn't really my thing, but I enjoyed it and can see that a lot of hard work went into it.

First things first - "Revolutionary Girl Utena" (I'll just call it "Utena" for the sake of brevity from here on) is a weird anime. And I mean \*really\* weird. The surreal settings, the plethora of symbolisms that constantly assault the viewer, the sexual innuendos... the whole show is so bizarre that it's hard to know where to begin the review.I'd heard a lot about "Utena" beforehand. Some say it's the shoujo version of "Neon Genesis Evangelion"; others say that Oscar from "Rose of Versailles" is Utena's spiritual grandmother; and many people consider it to be one of the greatest masterpieces in anime. Having seen it, I can conclude that there is merit in all of those statements. Well, perhaps apart from that last one. For me, "Utena" is too flawed to be deserving of that honour. However, there's no denying that it's an influential series, and many of its influences can still be seen in more recent shows.Although "Rose of Versailles" does have a certian degree of influence on "Utena", most of these extend only as far as the surface. The most obvious of these influences is Utena herself. Born as a girl, but lived most of her life as a "prince" rather than a "princess", the parallels between Utena and Oscar, the heroine of "Rose of Versailles", are obvious. A lot of the visual effects (such as the various rose effects) that "Revolutionary Girl Utena" deploys also seem to be derived from "Rose of Versailles", although a lot of them do seem to be used in a rather more tongue in cheek way. But beyond this, the two series are vastly different in terms of content. "Rose of Versailles" tells a much more straight forward story, albeit with the gender bender twist provided by Oscar herself, while "Revolutionary Girl Utena" is anything but straight forward.Not being a fan of the overly abstract and surreal, I had a little trouble getting to grips with the show. For the settings in "Utena", you have this school with a bunch of these outlandish rules, where the school council members fights duels with each other in a secret tower in the forest for the possession of the Rose Bride (another student), in order to gain the power to revolutionarise the world... Whaddaf\*ck? Is this some kind of peculiar school play? Alas no, it appears to be reality, just not as we know it. Utena (who is, in case you haven't guessed, the protagonist) is thrown straight into this strange setting, and initially, she seemed as confused as I was about the strangeness of it all. She does make some effort towards finding out what the heck is going on, as you would naturally expect her to do, but her efforts are... kinda pathetic. One minute, she's like "WTF is all this?! Duels? Rose Bride?? Power to revolutionalise the world???" Then the next minute she's completely sold on all the weirdness and, without anyone prompting her, starts drawing swords out of Rose Bride's chest and shouting key phrases such as "grant me the power to revolutionalise the world!" like the rest of those freaks from the student council.And so, after this extremely half-hearted effort at forming a tenuous link to reality (I don't know why they even bothered to be honest), the scene is set for the rest of the show!Despite all the weirdness of the premises, I initially found "Utena" less difficult to to get through than I would have expected. However, a few episodes in, I found an even bigger problem that made the going a lot tougher - repetitiveness. There is simply a ludicrous amount of it. If they took out all the repeated scenes, the series would probably be able to fit into a standard 26 episode season quite easily. In each of the arcs of the series, the same scene is reused to set up almost every battle as well as to end almost every battle. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen Utena accepting the power of Dios into her... it's the same scene everytime, no matter what the situation leading up to it is. Sometimes she would be crouching before the scene, sometimes standing, sometimes even with the enemy rushing towards her, but always, she finds the time to casually stand around, being infused with the power and then lunge at her opponent and win the dual. After seeing it 20+ times (and I don't think I'm exaggerating in the slightest here), there's just one word to describe this... BOOOOORIIIING. Perhaps they're trying to parody the transformation sequence of the magical girl, but even as a (not particularly funny) running joke, it wears out its welcome pretty quickly. The action scenes aren't even good, and they certainly don't become good after about the 30th time of viewing.The repetitions aren't just limited to the battles either, they extend to the "Duelist of the Week" format. "Utena" really taken this format to extremes, with a lot of the scenes/dialogues being used to set up the duels being recycled to the point of annoyance. In the black rose saga, for example, every episode follows the same formula of some person with some personal problems getting told that their only option is to "revolutionalise the world", and it just seems laughable that it's the answer to all their problems"My cat has died." "I see. Your only option is to revolutionalise the world.""I've lost my favourite red pencil." "I see. Your only option is to revolutionalise the world.""I got a hole in my left sock.""I see. Your only option is to revolutinoalise the world."You wouldn't believe how sick of that phrase I became. The dialogues often borders on absurd and smacks of lazy scripting.But because of all the repetitions this show has, on the rare occasions when it does makes a deliberate change to the script, the contrast can really pack a hefty punch, and those episodes shines all the more brightly because of it. It's hard to say whether this is a positive thing because the resulting effect can be so refreshingly wonderful, or whether it's a negative thing because the show's repetitions drove me to the point where I end up over reacting to the smallest change. Probably a bit of both. Perhaps it's all deliberate, and you may say I'm missing the point as I'm unfairly criticising what it's aiming to do, but just because some chef \*deliberately\* poured a bottle of vinegar into a dish in order to give it an extra zany kick doesn't change the fact that he's completely ruined the dish as a result, and it doesn't make me feel much better knowing that it's all intentional when I'm gagging from the taste.As someone who's really into character driven shows, I did not find the characters of "Revolutionary Girl Utena" to be particularly interesting in general. There's too much posturing and general displays of shallowness. Every week Anthea the souless doll gets slapped for some petty reason as she's the scape goat for everything; most of the girls are annoyingly vain, but most of the guys are even more so, and need no encouragement to unbutton their shirt and start poncing around. There's an irritatingly large amount of time devoted to this, while more fascinating characters like Jury are criminally under used. Admittedly, by the end, most of the characters do reveal themselves to be more than just faceless people in a dull crowd, but still, with a couple of exceptions, I found it hard to care about most of them at any given point in the show. It says a lot that I'm more interested in what Anthea's pet monkey Chu-Chu is doing than what most of the characters - Anthea especially - is doing. At least Chuh-Chu's crazy antics, in particularly when he's battling his arch enemy the frog, never ceases to amuse me.Speaking of amusement, the nature of the humour in "Utena" is random, and whether it's effective or not also seem to be pretty random. There are times when it works but then at other times it's just... random... without being at all amusing.The similarities between "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and "Utena" comes mostly from comes from the apocalyptic themes and also the mountain of symbolisms the two of them contain. If anything "Utena"'s use of symbolims is even more aggressive than that of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" - they're constantly being shoved into your face and, to be honest, I found it all a bit too much. As the author Stephen King once put it, "Symbolisms exists to adorn and enrich, not to create a sense of artificial profundity," and there's a sense that "Utena" is more of the latter than the former. In my opinion, symbolisms should be done with a subtle touch, preferably integrated into the show such that they don't stick out like a sore thumb. This way, it can be nice when you get them and you don't feel like you're missing out if you don't. The fireflies motif from "Grave of the Fireflies" is a textbook example of how I think it should be done. The intrusiveness nature of the symbolisms in "Utena" on the other hand, feels like it goes against the whole spirit of the concept, and it results in some completely bizarre scenes (f\*cking cars popping up all over the place, anyone?) that can really be frustrating if you've no idea what these weirdass symbols are supposed to mean.In terms of production values, "Utena" also comes up short. Other than the ludicrous amount of reused footage that I've already mentioned (they should consider displaying "Warning: Contains at least 25% reused animation! on their DVD boxes), the sound production quality also comes off as something more dated than it actually is. I was unimpressed by the much lauded soundtrack that consists a lot of rather experimental sounding songs with gibberish lyrics relating to apocalyptic themes. What's worse is that those songs tends to stick out badly, so not only did I not like them, I also found it hard not to take notice. It does improve in the second half of the show (I particularly liked the second ending theme, and one of the eyecatch themes is nothing short of beautiful despite its short length), but overall the sound department mostly comes off as a poorly produced, failed experiment.But despite the amount of time I've just spent bitching about the show, I actually think it's good. It's just that I found it a lot easier to identify the source of my negative feelings towards it than the positive. I guess there's an odd kind of enjoyment to be had in "Utena" by turning off the part of your brain that's grounded in reality, and there's a certainly a kind of magnetism about the show that keeps it interesting. Amidst all the surreal madness, some of the direction is undeniably brilliant, especially in its execution of twists. Ultimately, "Utena" is a show that's far greater than the sum of its parts - in spite of the overly repetitive animation, the overly similar shallow, vain individuals in its cast, the overly aggressive use of symbolisms and the overly filler nature of the story etc, the whole thing works surprisingly well. I just wasn't blown away, that's all.

I had high hopes for this Anime at the beginning because of the high global score, but I was quickly disappointed.Story: There is very little story. There is an event which you are told about in the first episode and remains through the whole 39 episodes, but after the show ends it's still unclear. There are other mysteries which never develop at all and are never explained.Art: Art was very poor, specially the characters are poorly drawn with girls who sometimes look like guys.Sound: The music was actually pretty good. It has several songs which switch every few episodes.Character: Character development was really bad. They barely changed at all through the entire series, besides some sudden and totally unbelievable complete change for no clear reason, just to be the same again the next episode.Enjoyment: Some of the girls were nice so I enjoyed when an episode was about them. Also the fillers were somewhat ok.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is routinely described as Neon Genesis Evangelion for girls, and not without good reason. However, I believe this may well be a series even greater than the benchmark Evangelion sets.At the very start of the series, we are given a vague explanation of some of the events that lead to Utena becoming who she is today. When her parents died when she was only a child, she fell into a serious depression. In the midst of this, a strange, prince-like man approached her, presenting her with a rose-crested ring, and telling her the ring will lead her back to him one day. So far, so generic shoujo. But normally, the female protagonist would simply be wooed by the mysterious man, and desperately need him. Utena is a little... different. She didn't want the prince... she wanted to be the prince.We then cut to the present-day Utena, a tomboyish teenage girl who sticks out like a sore thumb, for her unique charms, loveable personality, and for wearing the boy's uniform instead of the girls (though interestingly, not one boy in the series wears the same uniform as her), who goes to the boarding school of Ohtori Academy. Amidst her everyday life at Ohtori, a series of events lead her to discover that other people at the academy also bear the ring with the rose crest, and that it unlocks a dueling arena where they must fight for possession of Anthy Himemiya, a withdrawn, timid girl who is known as the Rose Bride. The reason? They'd rather not explain that.The most obvious reason for its comparison to Evangelion is that despite having a clear plot going on, there is clearly so much going on in the background being held from us by major characters that the series' strongest point is drawing you back to find out just what the hell is going on at Ohtori. Utena, however, has something of a leg-up on Evangelion in this respect in that more questions are actually answered, albeit semi-cryptically.Another clear comparison, however, comes in the form of one of its biggest faults, and that is taking some seriously excessive animation-saving measures. Evangelion relied more on unusually long pauses and obscured mouths, whereas Utena relies more on stock footage. Way too much. While it does gradually improve on it, Utena's biggest fault by far is that it is extremely repetitive. Sequences are constantly repeated, and there's usually only around 15 minutes worth of original footage in each episode.However, here's where it gets interesting: Utena has 3 clearly defined story arcs. For the first, the Student Council arc, this is where the repetition hits hardest. However, in the following two arcs, the Black Rose arc and the Car arc, this weakness becomes a strength. With the change in plot direction, the story becomes far more interesting, and with it, the repetition stops being annoying and starts being a tool to use to its advantage, building a strong, Monster of the Week (or in this case, Duelist of the week) style pacing, and on many occasions using it to play with our expectations, use well-placed character connections to create interesting comparisons, and its best point, it uses it to build excellent character development.Another criticism of it, however, is that it often falls back on fillers. More unfortunately, these fillers are either recaps (but don't let that put you off, as they all have their reasons... especially the third, which is not to be skipped under ANY circumstances), or generally focus on the series' most annoying character, Nanami Kiryuu. Most of them simply end up abound with unfunny comedy, with one interesting example in which Nanami wakes up one day and finds that she has laid an egg (or at least, believes she has). This should probably be reminding you of something. The episode in general becomes an interesting metaphor for the insecurities of puberty, which, at its core, is something that Utena has a lot of parallels to.On which note, I should bring up another thing it has in common with Evangelion: symbolism. Symbolism absolutely everywhere. However, this definitely beats Evangelion in this respect, because the symbolism always has a clear meaning, whether it be blatant abstract physical parallels, or subtle details that you will pick up subconsciously. In the latter's case, this is more specific to Utena's last, and best arc: the Car arc. More specifically, the titular car itself. The car, and its driver, clearly represent the adult world, power, seduction, and corruption... in particular, this is clear out of how the driver picks up vulnerable people, and... well, given what is implied to happen at the end of each car ride... you can probably fill in the blanks.Overall, the series does start slow, but progressively becomes more and more impressive, with a clear, defined improvement with each passing arc. This builds up to a climax that brings together everything, an amazing crescendo of symbolism, perfect dialog that oozes brilliance with every line... to be perfectly honest, it may very well be my absolute favourite scene in any anime, ever.The characters of Utena are one of its main draws. Every character in Utena is slowly revealed to be a flawed, vulnerable individual, each with their own personal struggles. There are also a few outwardly antagonistic characters who, as the series progresses, are revealed to really not be as bad as you'd think. The most interesting characters, however, are definitely the Rose Bride herself, Anthy Himemiya, and her brother, Akio Ohtori. The two have a tragic, mysterious backstory, as well as the most powerful presences in the series. Love them or hate them (and there are strong camps for both), you can't ignore either one.From a technical standpoint, the art style is pretty bad at its worst and excellent at its best. Like most of the series, the art makes a clear progression with time, with the car scenes in particular looking absolutely gorgeous (and they damn well should). The music is also a mixed bag, being somewhat cheesy in its execution, but having some good quality music in there (expect the main transformation theme to get stuck in your head a lot), but with a lot of cheesy battle themes. Most of the background music for the series is superb, though, and several tracks are absolutely perfect for the series, most notably Poison, and the everpresent car's theme, the latter of which is a pimptastic blues/jazz song that fits with its scenes perfectly, being yet another reason why the car scenes are the coolest thing ever.Overall, Utena starts off slow, but it's definitely worth sticking with. The series truly progresses into something absolutely amazing with time, creating an excellent cast of characters, showing off some brilliant directing, and making a stone cold classic in the process. Oh, and did I mention that the car scenes are cool?Final words: Car scenes are cool.Story/Plot: 8/10Animation/Graphics: 6/10Music/Background: 8/10Characters: 8/10Overall: 8/10For Fans Of: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Princess Tutu

I know that Utena is widely praised, but for whatever reason, this show absolutely didn't do it for me. I think it's the show's relentless over-stylization, its aggressive and unrelenting weirdness—seemingly for the *sake* of weirdness—that ultimately prevented me from connecting with the characters or the (very loosely-sketched) story. So many elements are either dependent on an understanding of Japanese art and culture I don't have or are merely haphazardly combined that the whole thing doesn't hang together. I was so frustrated by the intentionally oblique storytelling and multitude of un-explained elements that I couldn't get emotionally involved. Many people talk about this show being "devastating" but I reached the end having no strong feelings for any of the characters or the events portrayed. I recognize intellectually what Ikuhara was going for, but I don't think it succeeds as a piece of storytelling.

No anime or fairy tale exists in this world which has changed me and the way I look at the world more than Revolutionary Girl Utena. RGU is a prime example of what type of cerebral, audiovisually awe-inspiring and overall euphoric stories and styles the medium of anime is truly capable of. Never has there been an anime whose themes, characters, music, storyline and all around presentation I loved more. There are very few that come close to being the miracle to the world and my own life that is Utena. Give yourself time to adjust to the retro animation, quirky and stylistic avant garde presentation of existentialist themes and social taboos in a narrative infused with both comedic slapstick and classical Greek tragedy/Shakespearean drama elements and literary references/allusions, and I promise that you will come out rewarded.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a signature work of director kunihiko Ikuhara and stands out among anime for multiple reasons: its deconstruction elements of the magical girl genre, its constant use of visual metaphor and cryptic story telling, its depiction of (unhealthy) relationships and finally, its incredibly repetitive visuals.  While Utena is not for everyone it's still a thought provoking anime. It's main gaping flaw is its visuals. Stock footage and stills are this show's main means of communicating. While what movement we do receive is great by comparison its still a shame this show's shoujo-tastic visuals couldn't be more lively. That being said, Utena's story doesn't suffer and many would argue the repetitive visuals add to it conceptually. The repetitive pattern of the show shouldn't be a problem if you either are used to the magical girl genre or just avoid marathoning it.  Utena is a thinking show that's fairly self-aware of how absurd the metaphors it's trying to use are. While some parts are easy and spelled out, others aren't which is one of the reasons it confronts norms of the magical girl genre. While some will love making sense of the series, others will find it combined with the length and pacing, frustrating. Utena isn't slowly paced because each episode follows its own story and does so very well, it just takes a long time for those stories to complete the overall plot.  I also want to talk about the dub. While Utena is dialogue heavy it's also an very visual show, in that the visuals are important despite their quality. The sub is superior audio wise but I would still recommend the dub. Despite it's age it's still more than listenable and like the visuals you get used to it as well. You have to pay attention to so much in this show that watching it in a different language distracts from everything else.  Overall Utena is an out of the box anime that skillfully handles its unique kind of storytelling and is known for gripping fans with its characters and drama.  It's a great introduction to Ikuhara's style and it will either move you or bore you.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a lonely little princess who was very sad, for both of her parents had just died. Along came a traveling prince on a white steed who scooped the princess into a rose-scented embrace, gently wiping the tears away. *"Little one,"* he said, *"don't lose your strength or nobility, even as you grow old. I give you this ring in hopes we meet again"*. Perhaps the ring he gave her was an engagement ring. However, how impressed was she with the kind prince she decided to become a brave prince herself. But was that really the best idea? A surrealist and truly **unique** experience, *Revolutionary Girl Utena* (or *SKU* for short) is filled with symbolism, metaphysical themes, and allegory. Something about this series is just innately attractive to me. But writing this review now, I realize how hard it is to talk about this series at all without turning it into some philosophical discussion on **\[insert <u>any</u> philosophy here\]**. **STORY:** What makes *SKU* stand out is the fantastical deconstruction of not only tropes, cliches, and other story conventions within the magical girl and fairy tale genres, but also of society. The premise is initially straightforward (albeit a little odd) about a girl who wishes to become a prince -- but what comes out of that and the desires and actions of the various characters deepens the complexity of the story, each arc becoming darker and more serious than the last. This epicene story is introduced like a fairy tale, but then abruptly jolts into a more plausible school setting, *and then* proceeds to utilize both **and** neither, playing with the characters' (and audience's) ability to distinguish between reality and illusion - even metaphor. Combined with the strong visual atmosphere the story feels very hypnagogic, in a strange limbo between dreams and the waking world. This is **<u>not</u>** an anime that's weird for weirdness' sake (though it *is* still pretty fucked up, don't get me wrong). There is a complex underlying current underneath all the chaos. This strange subtlety prevents the main story from being like a *mere* drug-induced **hallucination**. Symbolism and allegory are found in literally every scene, though the most overtly surreal moments are given in bursts, allowing the audience a breather and a greater degree of accessibility than the film. *SKU* as a whole follows a predicable formula despite its unpredictable content. That formula makes it easier for the audience to maintain a willing suspension of disbelief, allowing us to be more invested  in the semiotic imagery rather than being so bombarded we are scared off. The interpretation of all these elements is specifically designed to be different for each individual and for some even by each new viewing. There are also many strange elements that help make the story *without actually having anything to do with it at all*. It's really difficult to explain to those who haven't seen the series, but this is exemplified by the shadow puppet girls. They have literally **<u>nothing</u> **to do with anything outside themselves and their performances. Sure, sometimes you can dissect the meanings for their plays to fit the episode's theme if your inclined to that particular interpretation. Yet they may not even properly "exist" in Ohtori Academy and the universe for all we know, like a narrator gone wrong (the director himself claims they're aliens). Still, **the story simply wouldn't be the *same* without them**. They add to this warped fairy tale lens, but also break it down with their almost existentialist absurdity.  Initially the biggest complaint with the story and pacing are the filler episodes that appear to have no importance or connection to the larger plot. Many of these episodes are somehow *more insane* than the shadow-puppet alien girls and floating upside-down castles hidden in a school forest that makes up the <i>normal </i>episodes. It's easy to pass these episodes as old-school anime kookiness but these *clusterfucks* are not totally without value, now that I look back. Annoying, true, but even the recaps are capable of providing important insight and hidden puzzle pieces that help build connections. Ignoring them may even prove to be a huge disservice to many characters, especially during the first two arcs - **The Student Council Saga** and **Black Rose Arc**. The histories and personalities of the characters are developed in a very "quiet" (as quiet as elephants trying to kill you) ways that hint at the deeper cores of their characters. Without a willingness to dig through the muck that are these episodes you can easily lose scenes that display a character's more minute changes, especially characters like the infamously annoying Nanami, who would have otherwise been relegated to alpha bitch status the entire series and any changes occurring in major episodes would look like a complete 180. <u>Also I had to suffer through all that weird cowbell bullshit, so I'm taking you all down with me</u>. **CHARACTERS:** The biggest part of what allows the story to work as it does is the cast of characters. Strangely believable and realistic in this unrealistic world most major characters have a fairly well-developed psyche. The psychological elements concerning each character are handled in very interesting ways and even  some secondary characters exhibit that they too have very complicated and layered minds, beliefs, and motivations, even if the story dictates we do not need to be privy to them. Especially with how the series loves to deconstruct and reconstruct expectations, **every** character <u>can</u> be <i><b>understood</b>, </i>though final judgements on likability and whether their decisions were *justified* is ultimately up to the viewer. I will remind you that a character ***DOES NOT* have to be *likable* to be *interesting*** (looking at you, Nanami). Each character subverts classic archetypes found in fairy tales and the magical girl genre. Character types like the *dashing prince, damsel-in-distress princess,* and the *wicked witch* are all convoluted, broken down, and thrown in a blender before being regurgitated into something wholly unique. Some specific roles are even pushed *to extremes*, primarily ideas related to **masculinity** and **femininity**. The result also messes with **societal roles**, mainly the interplay between *gender, relationships,* and <i>personality - </i>themes that ooze from every pore in every episode. Abstract concepts like the definition of *love, freedom, desire, and innocence* are tackled by the characters in different manners with no simple answer to anything. The true key here are details. As mentioned earlier, even the littlest of moments have potential to shed light on the truth behind a character. The effect *builds over time*. A perceptive viewer will notice Utena's habit of stretching when nervous, or the hidden meanings behind Anthy's smile. Much of what makes a character compelling rests in what unspoken details we as individual audience members must decipher. I could write entire essays analyzing each and every character. Plus each character design is very distinguishable and iconic. True to 90's style, this anime takes advantage of different colour schemes, which adds even more to the symbolism, which includes physical appearances. The Student Council uniforms, as well as those worn by a few other characters, give a sense of not only **school**, but of both <u>nobility and military</u>. This is unsurprising seeing as Japanese school uniforms were initially inspired by Prussian military uniforms, which was the go-to formal fashion of nobles (or should I say *princes*). Also it's very rare to find a dark-skinned protagonist in anime even now, so to find major characters and love interests with clearly *brown* skin (not simply tan, mind you) - especially in an older anime - is a nice change of pace. I'll also admit that despite everything, Prince Dios is now the first image that pops into my head when thinking of the "noble prince" archetype. I *do* love brown skin and white hair combos... Which, by the way, most everyone has *amazing* flowing locks in this anime. **VISUALS:** Perhaps the strongest head-turner in the series is the strong visual presence and art direction. The actual animation, especially looking back from the 21st century to a TV series from the 1990s, doesn't look to outstanding. But it is **heavily** outweighed by the mesmerizing and addictive artistic elements. Many visual motifs and aesthetic are derived from <i>Takarazuka theatre, shadow puppetry, </i>**and**{::}* classic douseiai shoujo manga*. Some strong similarities in visual taste can be drawn with another shoujo classic: *Rose of Versailles*, though the author claims this was not purposeful. Much of the visual taste also emphasizes the surreal fairy tale, which becomes more and more deformed as the story delves deeper and deeper. Dealing with the hefty themes of *childhood idealism, illusion, cruelty and innocence, ambition, sexuality, abuse, adulthood, individual identity*, and *incest,* there's a plethora of motifs and symbols that reoccur throughout the series. What some of these symbols mean and even which elements you even *consider* symbols is mostly open-ended and up to personal interpretation. Still, <b>the biggest motif is the <i>rose</i>. </b>Roses appear and are mentioned everywhere, from the Rose Bride to the opening title card. Visual elements are constantly *spinning*, many scenes are done in **silhouette**, and colours are bright and vibrant. Things like <i>elevators, stairs, </i>and *cars* appear consistently at multiple intervals. Even certain moments, like the infamous car scenes, are even designed to be suggestive. Duels, especially in the later three arcs, are well designed and filled with various symbolic items and movements. I won't lie though. Sometimes the symbolism is ***really*, really, REALLY *<u>WEIRD</u>***. So depending on how seriously you can take random, "*symbolic"* shirtlessness while giving rousing speeches, lots of moment will be filled with **narm**. Also considering once again that it's a 90's TV series without a shining Ghibli budget, certain footage is recycled repeatedly, mainly the entrance to the dueling area. This can be annoying for some not used to either old anime or magical girl conventions, but overall I don't think it's a bad thing, as ti does reinforce motifs a viewer is *supposed* to focus on. **AUDIO:** Though I'm normally pretty flexible in the dub VS. sub debate, this is absolutely best in Japanese, because the English version is so atrocious that even those who are adamant about watching everything dubbed would rather watch *SKU* subbed. Even the Japanese voicework has some lowkey elements that emphasize specific character traits, such as Akio's badass baritone and Anthy sounding mysteriously older than her fellow middle/high school cast. Even resident asshole Saionji has a nice voice. Also, Miki is Sailor Mercury, ftw! I'd say the single most memorable aspect of the series is the musical score. The whole soundtrack is well done looking at each song individually, but the entire series shines with the music played during the duels. "*Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku*" (*Absolute Destiny: Apocalypse*) plays everytime Utena makes her way to the arena (though I understand how this can be grating for a some to hear the same song over and over, I thought this shit was totally badass everytime). Each duel, however, receives its own unique piece of music. The lyrics are complicated strings of words whose meaning is also up to interpretation, with many references to *metaphysics, humanity* and other themes peppered everywhere else in *SKU*. The *choral rock* compositions heightens the intensity of the duels and really are what make each and every fight scene inspirational and **badass** despite lack of fancy technical animation. The opening and ending themes are also very enjoyable. They were written well for the series (rather than taking random J-Pop or J-Rock hits like we do today), lyrics matching the themes covered in addition to simply being good earworms. Only one opening theme (*Rinbu Revolution*) is used, and alternate version appear in certain portions and other continuities in the franchise, and is definitely a classic anime opening as memorable as *Sailor Moon*'s "*Moonlight Densetsu*". Two ending themes are also used. Both are great songs as well, though I personally am really digging "*Truth*" a bit more (if you're into that 90's J-Pop), whereas "*Virtual Star Hasseigaku*" is more inline with the duel themes. **FINAL THOUGHTS:** This series is unique and though it bombards the viewer with strangeness, it is still *generally* accessible to a wider audience. As long as one is willing to handle the deeper subject matter, like sexuality, abuse, and incest, I would say this surreal work is a good match for those looking for a complicated piece - especially those who enjoy deconstructive works (related magical girl deconstructions include *Puella Magi Madoka Magica*, and *Princess Tutu*), or just anyone who likes a series they can analyze again and again. It's layered nature gives it a decent rewatch value (like a few other psychological series), and the art direction, although dated, can appeal to those seeking something calling to a higher aesthetic. Plus it's just plain cool. Cool enough to be constantly referenced in *Steven Universe*. One of my top favorite anime ever, I'll admit it's **not**{::}* *something for everyone, and after the first two or three duels it will be evident whether it's a hit or miss with you, with very little middle ground. But this anime is a work of art that at its core is highly reflective with a meaning that is somehow both ever-changing yet pervasive. It's unique vibe creates a powerful and memorable combination not duplicated in any other series. Even though it's been nearly a decade it continues to challenge perception and expectation through its creativity and manageable surrealness. Truly lives up to its status as a classic. All while still fitting into the genre of magical girls and dashing princes on white horses. **I let myself get caught in these duels, and left with a new perspective - a revolution in my world, at least.** At the very least, you can turn it into your next philosophy assignment. **SAILOR'S RATING: A**

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