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EP. REVIEW: Revolutionary Girl Utena


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Zin5ki
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Joined: 06 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 12:57 pm Reply with quote
Cryssoberyl wrote:
I would say not. At all. However, feel free to fall willingly into a false sense of security; that is precisely what the show wants from you right now.

I can only take your word for this, but do you not think it promotes or at least licenses an unhealthy scepticism towards character assessments at the present stage? My fear is that we may have little grounds to engage in substantive commentary about, say, Miki's possessiveness towards Anthy, given that this relationship is revealed through plot developments which you insist are generally unreliable. (Please correct me if I misinterpret you here.) Normally it may be fair to pass over such topics in silence if we must doubt the warp and woof of what we are watching, though that is not the practice we are seeing in the reviews: there's a wealth to be said, and all justifiably so!
It might be replied—and this is admittedly pure guesswork on my part—that although the surface-level story cannot be trusted, it still reveals a certain degree of thematic content that proves to be more immutable, at least to the extent that we can enjoy the discussions about Miki or Saionji's moral statuses that the show invites while being ready to discard anything more concrete in nature. It would be rather reassuring if this were the case, but as I lack any foresight I must ask whether my supposed distinction—or at least a similar distinction that preserves the accuracy of our loftier observations—is currently an appropriate one.
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whiskeyii



Joined: 29 May 2013
Posts: 1335
PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 5:33 pm Reply with quote
I suspect, though I can't be sure, that Cryssoberyl is referring to the overarching theme of Utena rather than any particular instance of unreliable narration (of which there is surprisingly little here).

For my part, I think it's best for first-time viewers to just enjoy Utena on a surface-level. If they did not have access to something like Jacob's reviews, I would then point them to that after encouraging them to watch the episode first and draw their own conclusions, but since that's obviously not the case here, I'd say you're fine. The show is actually very obvious about what particular ideas it wants to play with, so you're in no danger of missing them.

That said, this is still a shoujo series, and Ikuhara obviously built it with the idea that his audience would come to the show with certain expectations in mind; the more you buy into those ideas, the better the pay off.

EDIT: That said, you'll have to excuse us veteran viewers. I, at least, have to fight the "Tee hee, if only you knew" compulsion fairly often to avoid ruining the surprise for new viewers. Watching it a second time just results in so many "Ohhhh, so that's why X" moments that I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about it--which is why spoiler tags exist, I suppose, but I'm also the type of person who would unwittingly ruin a series for myself out of curiosity, so I try to not use them if I can avoid it. ^^;
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everapril



Joined: 24 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 5:40 pm Reply with quote
Made my SO, who only recently began watching anime, watch the first two episodes of this last night. Some select comments: "This is so cute!" "Oh, that's creepy." "That's really creepy." "Is this supposed to be so creepy and sexual?"

I just love how this show treats what were necessary constraints of the medium and uses them to their full potential: Things like stills, limited and re-used animation. With its quick cuts, motion sickness inducing pans and innumerable visual oddities filling up space in the background, Utena feels a lot less dated than other TV anime from this period when compared to the frenetic anime of today. Also the classic shoujo character design of the first two arcs really gives it a timeless feel. I remember watching it a few years ago and the third arc shift in design, more polished and tending toward the generic late-90's look, was a disappointment.
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Cryssoberyl



Joined: 17 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 5:58 pm Reply with quote
whiskeyii wrote:
I suspect, though I can't be sure, that Cryssoberyl is referring to the overarching theme of Utena rather than any particular instance of unreliable narration (of which there is surprisingly little here).


I'm not sure about that. I think a case could be made that a certain entire story arc could be described as, or at least interpreted to be, an exercise in the unreliable internal narration of one of its central participants.

However, I didn't mean that here.

Quote:
do you not think it promotes or at least licenses an unhealthy scepticism towards character assessments at the present stage?


At this very early stage, no degree of skepticism, no matter how extreme, could be called "unhealthy", though certainly I understand why your mind may have overshot what I intended to convey. (People's minds overshooting is a common thing when Utena is discussed and interpreted!)

I never meant to suggest that NOTHING about what is happening at the moment can be trusted or built upon. Obviously that could not be true, but certainly be skeptical, especially about forming concrete character assessments. There is very, very much work to be done in that area ahead for every character you have seen, and numerous ones you yet have not.

Quote:
For my part, I think it's best for first-time viewers to just enjoy Utena on a surface-level.


Oh, absolutely. Indeed my first comment in this discussion was an exhortation that they do so without outside input: mine, yours, Jacob's, or anyone else's. However, here they still are, and if here they will be, they must be prepared for some level of nudging, if not more. The fact they've managed to avoid being spoiled on such a famous and (now) venerable show is remarkable enough as it is.

Quote:
The show is actually very obvious about what particular ideas it wants to play with, so you're in no danger of missing them.


At the very top level, perhaps, but the show does many subtle and intricate things in its multifaceted execution of those goals. I wanted to call attention to just one of those here.

Quote:
That said, this is still a shoujo series, and Ikuhara obviously built it with the idea that his audience would come to the show with certain expectations in mind; the more you buy into those ideas, the better the pay off.


Very much so, as I've already said myself.


Last edited by Cryssoberyl on Sat May 06, 2017 6:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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everapril



Joined: 24 Apr 2009
Posts: 58
PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 6:26 pm Reply with quote
Oh, also SO asked "Did this cause a lot of controversy when it first came out?" I felt minimally confident speaking from a US fan stand point (Granted I was like twelve, so my experience was pretty much like "hey, you like Sailor Moon? Check out this good shit here" and then I swapped some Kodocha tapes for them) but I couldn't speak toward the critical and commercial response in JP. Most retrospectives on Utena focus on the US based fandom so if anyone wants to elucidate more on the native response (did it sell a lot of units? Did it have merch and stuff? What time did it air?) I am curious about that.
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Shay Guy



Joined: 03 Jul 2009
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 10:00 pm Reply with quote
Grungehamster wrote:
It is really vague: the episodes explicitly say he's actually doing college coursework but he always addresses Utena as Tenjou-senpai.


I always figured he was in the grade below, but some of his curriculum was advanced material. Like a sixth-grader taking eighth-grade math classes, with the usual anime character exaggeration.

(Jacob's label of "perfectionist" isn't one that had occurred to me -- makes sense with the tuning remark, but he doesn't show the self-hatred I associate with the label. Maybe because he's not so far from the ideal others have held for him?)

Grungehamster wrote:
Also happened to stumble on your own reaction thread on this series; enjoying it so far.


Embarassed

JacobC wrote:
Alan45 wrote:
Shay Guy wrote:
Quote:
I've never had to take minutes, but I imagine a regular watch would be more convenient.


I'm reasonably sure that was intended as a pun. I have taken minutes of a meeting and it is just a record of the issues discussed and the decisions made. They have little to do with specific times.


Yeah, it was just a joke. Taking minutes with a stopwatch would indeed be horribly inconvenient. Laughing


I appreciate your willingness to clarify the joke after the fact (even at the risk of losing its effectiveness), rather than insisting that the review should speak for itself. Razz

Alexis.Anagram wrote:
@ JacobC: Thanks for making the attempt! FWIW your take on the issue is approximately as comforting and alarming as the other perspectives folks have been considerate enough to offer here: I'm still wary about concentrating on the creative team's intentions with the character because I think that places undue preference on what they want the audience to think of the story, and while I can see the value of that approach (your reviews are really excellent!) when it's applied in a rigidly singular fashion it sort of undermines the capacity of an audience to adopt a critical stance which considers a more inclusive context than that originally envisioned. Where these critical questions of racial and intersectional representation are concerned, I feel like it's important to challenge and avoid complacency. But what more can be said at this point: I'll watch the darn thing and see if Ikuhara's intentions bear out. spoiler[nopunintended]


Challenging a work's blind spots is at least as worthy an endeavor as interpreting its arguments.

everapril wrote:
Made my SO, who only recently began watching anime, watch the first two episodes of this last night. Some select comments: "This is so cute!" "Oh, that's creepy." "That's really creepy." "Is this supposed to be so creepy and sexual?"


It says something that we haven't even thought to comment on the fact that Touga, something like 17 years old, is apparently goinking a 13-year-old.

everapril wrote:
Also the classic shoujo character design of the first two arcs really gives it a timeless feel. I remember watching it a few years ago and the third arc shift in design, more polished and tending toward the generic late-90's look, was a disappointment.


I don't remember a difference in character designs; I might need a screenshot comparison.

whiskeyii wrote:
That said, you'll have to excuse us veteran viewers. I, at least, have to fight the "Tee hee, if only you knew" compulsion fairly often to avoid ruining the surprise for new viewers.


Completely understandable. It happens all the time in forum liveblogs; I've been guilty of it myself.

Cryssoberyl wrote:
(People's minds overshooting is a common thing when Utena is discussed and interpreted!)


One bit in episode 7 had me thinking "ok but is that just what Ikuhara WANTS us to think she feels based on his reputation or whatever". Will specify when we hit that point.

everapril wrote:
What time did it air?


Can't speak to any of the rest of your (very good) questions, but it was only half a year after Those Who Hunt Elves, so I doubt it was a late-night show. And it aired on Wednesdays, so we're not talking, like, Precure/One Piece timeslots either. If I had to guess, probably late afternoon/early evening; I've never been clear on where the boundary is.
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gabuhaha



Joined: 01 Mar 2016
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PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 1:09 pm Reply with quote
DanQ wrote:

From Ikuni's commentary for 3rd episode:
Quote:
"The basic plot of this episode was ready quite soon after planning started. I believe the thinking was, "We need to bring the mood of Ms. [Chiho] Saito’s manga into this." But the truth is, you don’t see clichéd plotlines like this in Ms. Saito’s manga. The way Touga [Kiryuu] approaches Utena is almost uncomfortably stereotypical shoujo, but thanks to that, we were able to strongly impress upon the audience that this was a "shoujo manga anime." Given the story’s later development, episodes like this were absolutely necessary."

(How much is this truth, judge yourself. It's Ikuni's words Anime smile)

I agree they that were necessary. They still ticked me off as a teenager but funnily enough, they were a lot easier to get through back then. I've had a really hard time pushing myself through episodes 3-5. This is probably why I never went back and rewatched the whole series. I kept getting stuck at this point. Knowing that Jacob's excellent reviews are waiting and that this is all build up is what has been getting me through this time.
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Top Gun



Joined: 28 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:29 pm Reply with quote
Just wanted to reiterate how much I'm loving Jacob's write-ups. I'm a good 20 or so episodes ahead of him now, and I'm flat-out itching to see his take on a certain brain-destroying revelation that I'm still frantically chewing on. Very Happy
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Zin5ki
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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 4:23 pm Reply with quote
The antics of episode six drew our attention away from something that may be quite important: for once, we actually see this show's grandiose environment embedded in a more normal, recognisable world. The first scene occurs on a typically humdrum street in which we see unassuming cars and houses, for instance, and what is unmistakably a Fila logo briefly appears on a schoolteacher's clothing.

Previously I had assumed that Utena is set in an enclosed realm that is markedly distinct from anything that does or could exist, yet these small hints would suggest otherwise. Should my assumption be accurate here, it might render the decorative excesses of the school all the more conspicuous.

Top Gun wrote:
I'm a good 20 or so episodes ahead of him now, and I'm flat-out itching to see his take on a certain brain-destroying revelation that I'm still frantically chewing on.

You've gone and spoiled yourself! Whatsoever are you going to do for the next fourteen weeks or thereabouts?
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Grungehamster



Joined: 27 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 8:01 pm Reply with quote
Top Gun wrote:
I'm a good 20 or so episodes ahead of him now, and I'm flat-out itching to see his take on a certain brain-destroying revelation that I'm still frantically chewing on. Very Happy


If Zin5ki is right and you do run short on content as Jacob mentioned the internet is stuffed with both reactions and analysis of the series. If you are interested, I'd like to make a few recommendations (none of this is my stuff so no self-promotion, but if this isn't in accordance with the spirit of the site feel free to delete this post):

- Mark Oshiro (easily the most blind reaction you can find: he had no real anime exposure besides Madoka, Bebop, FMA: Brotherhood, and Princess Tutu previous to this series and no foreknowledge of the content. The comment section has plenty of people watching along.)

- Shay Guy (our very own! Was aware of some of the big overarching spoilers/themes going in and mentions a lot of other anime casually [including Penguindrum] but still mostly fresh. Most likely will give a lot of highlights/reexaminations of what he put out there in this thread.)

- Dee/Josei Next Door (someone who had seen the series before but put together a spoiler free episode guide. Is definitely well-written and cautious to keep spoilers to a minimum.)

- Geeknights (video series that is supposed to be new viewer friendly. It's only up to episode 15 but is in that limbo of not having enough viewers to justify frequent updates. Will warn that I think they treat stuff as "you should know this" when they really mean "you should suspect this" which undercuts it being spoiler-free.)

- Vrai Kaiser (Dee's links above are a companion piece to this: spoilers out the wazoo, but great analysis of every episode. Watch the whole series first!)

All are very unique approaches to the series, just like Jacob's.


Last edited by Grungehamster on Fri May 12, 2017 12:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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whiskeyii



Joined: 29 May 2013
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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 9:15 pm Reply with quote
Grungehamster wrote:

- Mark Oshiro (easily the most blind reaction you can find: he had no real anime exposure besides Madoka, Bebop, FMA: Brotherhood, and Princess Tutu previous to this series and no foreknowledge of the content. The comment section has plenty of people watching along.)


Just want to point out that Mark employs some kind of cipher on spoilers in the comments, so while you might come across the odd vague implication here and there, generally everyone's very good about keeping things spoiler tagged. I find the reaction posts highly entertaining. Laughing
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Gina Szanboti



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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 9:45 pm Reply with quote
Cryssoberyl wrote:
Indeed my first comment in this discussion was an exhortation that they do so without outside input: mine, yours, Jacob's, or anyone else's. However, here they still are, and if here they will be, they must be prepared for some level of nudging, if not more.

Only if you insist on continuing to nudge. There's no reason they "must" be prepared. What you're expecting is they that must watch the entire series without outside input before coming here, and that's unfair. The "'Tee hee, if only you knew' compulsion" is really obnoxious when indulged and only serves to shut down contributions from first-timers when they can expect every observation or speculation to be met with, "See, you're falling into the trap!" or "Well, you're wrong, but you'll find out why later." That it's not an overt spoiler doesn't make it any more welcoming to input from newcomers, knowing that veterans are chuckling behind their hands (or openly) at their ignorance.

I've seen the series twice and still sort of feel like a newbie, but I enjoy reading what people seeing it for the first time think as each episode unfolds. Cutting that off at the knees with knowing "nudges" deprives us of their viewpoints.

Not doing that doesn't prevent you from making observations. I'm just asking that you delay gratification by waiting until the "wait and see" part actually occurs, and if they're still not picking up what you have, it's fine to say, "Well, go back and watch this scene in episode 5 and you may see this scene in episode 18 in a different light." Or "Remember when Character X said 'blahblah' back in that scene? Now it becomes clear what they really meant." I don't think that's too much to ask.

But if you think it can't be done, I'd say Jacob's reviews have been excellent examples of this kind of restraint, where he may say X is important but he'll talk about it later. He never says anything like, "If you're thinking X, you'll soon see how wrong you are."

Cryssoberyl wrote:
whiskeyii wrote:
the more you buy into those ideas, the better the pay off.

Very much so, as I've already said myself.

I also agree, so I don't understand why you keep trying to prevent newcomers from buying into those ideas by prematurely warning against buying into them. Confused
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Grungehamster



Joined: 27 Feb 2015
Posts: 41
PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 9:52 pm Reply with quote
I was half-hoping this would be an awkward "episode 6 & 8" combined review since as mentioned the episodes were swapped in production, fit into the same category of episode, and overall are breathers between duels. That said anyone watching along wouldn't know that was going to be the format and would be deprived of the pacing the episodes are supposed to give this first arc. Oh well.

I am shocked you suggested that episode 8 is considered by many to be the worst: is there anyone who actually likes episode 24 spoiler[(The Secret Nanami Diary, the one exception to the "Utena has awesome clip episodes" rule)] more? Oh well, I am sure it will come up when we get to those episodes.
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Shay Guy



Joined: 03 Jul 2009
Posts: 687
PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 10:06 pm Reply with quote
whiskeyii wrote:
Grungehamster wrote:

- Mark Oshiro (easily the most blind reaction you can find: he had no real anime exposure besides Madoka, Bebop, FMA: Brotherhood, and Princess Tutu previous to this series and no foreknowledge of the content. The comment section has plenty of people watching along.)


Just want to point out that Mark employs some kind of cipher on spoilers in the comments, so while you might come across the odd vague implication here and there, generally everyone's very good about keeping things spoiler tagged. I find the reaction posts highly entertaining. Laughing


It's ROT13. Dead simple, and there's loads of web pages and browser plugins for it. Pretty old-school method for hiding spoilers (supposedly Usenet-era standard); works well for blog comments and other online environments without spoiler tags. Mark's readership adopted it back in 2011, when he was doing Avatar.

(Addendum to your list: He had also watched FLCL, though not for the blog.)
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wonderwomanhero



Joined: 10 Aug 2012
Posts: 423
PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2017 11:43 pm Reply with quote
Shay Guy wrote:
It says something that we haven't even thought to comment on the fact that Touga, something like 17 years old, is apparently goinking a 13-year-old.


Correct me if I'm wrong but weren't Touga and Saionji also "goinking" Akio? or vice versa
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