Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Has it really been a decade since I last saw Revolutionary Girl Utena? Time to fix that.
Quick primer: Utena Tenjou is basically a good-natured shounen adventure protagonist hanging out in a boarding school melodrama. While going about her business of cutting through all the histrionic bullshit making everyone's life miserable, she falls into yet another genre, a fighting tournament to rescue a princess of sorts. Hmm... when I lay it out like that, I recall that Bryan Lee O'Malley has admitted to liking Nana, but I wonder if Scott Pilgrim isn't a little influenced by Utena too.

Either way, this is very much a sister show to Evangelion, exploring and exploding the tropes of its chosen genre (I'm particularly fond of the unusually literal version of the all-powerful student council). Utena usually wins her fights by refusing to play along with everyone else's drama and applying out-of-context solutions to the problems presented, and now that I think about it she only seems to fail when her enemies trick her into questioning her own judgement and thinking inside their boxes. Let's see if my memories are correct; so far I've only rewatched the first seven episodes, and Utena hasn't really started relying on her customary tactic of winning by exploiting the opponent's psychological flaws, or just cheating with the power of Dios. So far they're pretty much just establishing all the characters they will later tip over like dominoes. Well, episode 7 is one of my all-time favorites, but then I always was very fond of Juri.

I think I probably will rebuy the Right Stuf version, if only to be rid of CPM's horrible old policy of "we will give you one chapter stop every fifteen minutes and you will like it" (and the hardsubs on all the dueling songs). Of course, you shouldn't be skipping past anything anyway; the show has a lot of ritualistic elements (the shadow puppet Greek chorus, the fight songs and catharsis during battle, and and of course the ascent to the dueling arena and drawing of the Sword of Dios) and as far as I'm concerned sitting through the opening and ending is just another one. Besides, those songs are awesome.

If I end up rewatching the whole thing, maybe I'll finally write something about the alchemical symbology that seems to underpin the whole series (the Rose Bride being a dark girl dressed in red that everyone abhors but wants to possess is extremely suggestive). I wonder sometimes if Kunihiko Ikuhara did this deliberately or just backed into all this Jungian stuff by being his weird self (I never actually watched his Sailor Moon work so I can't say if it was any more blatant there), but he'd certainly never say even if you asked, saucy bitch that he is. It's a shame he never really did much else after the Utena movie.


  1. I never did get around to reading either of his novels. I didn't even know he'd written a second one, but I am entirely unsurprised to see the genre is apparently "Lolita Hard-Boiled."

  2. I didn't even know he did a first! Or was that the Schell Bullet thing he was doing with the Five Star Stories guy?

  3. I did mean Schell Bullet, but after attempting to verify Wikipedia's claims against Amazon, I am less sure as to what the fuck either of these things was. His "second novel" may never have been collected outside the magazine, but the manga -- apparently a sequel to the novel -- does appear to have a volume out.

  4. I did read that World of S&M manga he did, but it's much less interesting than you'd think from either the title or the actual plot description. Plus I don't think he even finished it.

    Was the Utena manga any good? Only read the first couple chapters, didn't seem a patch on the anime.

  5. The Utena manga was limp badly drawn shit.