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REVIEW: Revolutionary Girl Utena [Complete Box Set] GN 1-5




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John Thacker



Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 10:52 am Reply with quote
I like the manga quite a lot, and find it an interesting companion with the anime, both worth reading. I think that some of the anime insistence on exploring lesbian relationships (always a topic of interest for Director Ikuhara) ends up reducing the ability to explore the themes of autonomy and the objectification of women, though with Ikuhara's typical deft they are interesting in their own right and certainly quite meaningful to a lot of people. Juri's original personality in the manga might be a bit stereotypical, but the tragically impossible schoolgirl lesbian crush version in the anime is a commonplace as well.

My wife takes it a little further. While she certainly is a great fan of the anime, she feels that the manga to anime changes (some of which are subtext and strong implication rather than explicitly canon, at least pre Adolesence) are on the whole the case of a male director catering to the male gaze as much as anything, changing the original view of the female author Chiho Saito. Different opinions for different folks, of course.
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whiskeyii



Joined: 29 May 2013
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 11:07 am Reply with quote
Fun fact, I read the manga before seeing the anime, but ended up being pretty lukewarm towards the manga and head-over-heels for the anime. I do feel that both the anime and the manga address the idea of the objectification of women--in some cases literal objectification--but I think they do so in very, very different ways; Ikuhara seems to evaluate it in very realistic terms, while Saito leans much more into the story's fantastical trappings.

I also really didn't care for the manga's climax with Utena spoiler[actually becoming a prince] and Anthy spoiler[basically following suit], because I felt like rather than rejecting gender roles completely, they just sort of swapped one in for another. But that might just come down to personal taste. Either way, I'd be very curious about what chapters and story beats were written when, considering this got its start much earlier than the anime, just to see how much of the anime plot influenced the manga, if at all.

EDIT: Just as an aside, I've never quite confirmed whether the Utena manga was intended as a basis for the anime, or if it's a case of "In Name Only", where the two just share characters and the title, but not a whole lot else.
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Alan45
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 11:13 am Reply with quote
My understanding is that the TV anime is not an adaption of the manga. Rather both anime and manga were part of a collaboration under the name BE-PAPAS and that both ran side by side. This is supported by Saito's notes at the end of the first Viz volume of the manga. The encyclopedia shows the manga starting just a bit before the TV series and completing after its run.
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whiskeyii



Joined: 29 May 2013
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 11:19 am Reply with quote
Alan45 wrote:
My understanding is that the TV anime is not an adaption of the manga. Rather both anime and manga were part of a collaboration under the name BE-PAPAS and that both ran side by side. This is supported by Saito's notes at the end of the first Viz volume of the manga. The encyclopedia shows the manga starting just a bit before the TV series and completing after its run.


Thanks for clearing that up! I always leaned towards them being co-productions, but since a lot of the story beats in the manga are also in the anime, I was never sure if those were just addressed in broad strokes during pre-production for everything including the manga and anime, or if the anime was sort of pulling from the manga.
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Shay Guy



Joined: 03 Jul 2009
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 1:11 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Although there is some girl/girl kissing, Utena is much more concerned with Anthy's lack of agency than either girl's romantic status


It took me a moment to realize this was the auto-italics acting up again.
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Alan45
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 1:20 pm Reply with quote
@whiskeyii

The note from Chiho Saito says in part: "Utena is an odd work. Part of its strangeness lies in the fact that the members of BE-PAPAS all got together to collaborate." It doesn't give any details as to how that worked.

The page goes on to say that BE-PAPAS was founded by Kunihiko Ikuhara and included Chiho Saito and animator Shinya Hasegawa among others. It also notes that their most recent work (as of Oct 2003) was The World of S&M. Shocked
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Agent355



Joined: 12 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 4:03 pm Reply with quote
Disclaimer: I haven't completed either version of Utena, BUT:
I first tried to watch Utena years ago over the Anime Network on Demand. I found the first few episodes completely inscrutable, filled with out-of-context symbolism. I always intended to revisit the story, though, so when I found the first couple of volumes of the manga at a library, I took them out, and found them so much easier to understand and a joy to read.

The prequel provides context, which I realized was important to my both my understanding of the story as well as my enjoyment of it. By the time she arrives at Ohtori Academy, I know Utena is an independent minded young woman who has been chafing under gendered expectations for a while. If I remember correctly, there's a scene in the prequel in which Utena's aunt is called to the principal's office because Utena refuses to wear skirts to school, and while her aunt tries to defend her, she later tells Utena that she doesn't think Utena's expression of identity is worth picking a fight with the school over, so I know that Utena has gotten some support, but not enough, and that she's desperate for the attention of her "Prince Licky-lick", who she idolizes and puts on a pedestal as someone who will give her the validation she so desperately desires. Her aunt doesn't even validate her belief that "Prince Licky-lick" is a real person who is alive somewhere, she writes him off as an imaginary friend from Utena's childhood. Utena's friend believes her, though, and helps her figure out the information that he knows will make her happy at the expense of their relationship and therefore, his own potential happiness as her (potential, future) boyfriend. Seeing people you love or idolize as independent individuals with their own needs and desires, strengths and flaws, rather than just wish fulfillment for your own social or sexual needs, seems to be a major theme in the story, and its set up well with Utena's childhood friend's initial "sacrifice." (Utena has to learn how to stop idolizing her Prince; Anthy needs to learn to stand up for herself, everyone who mistreats Anthy needs to learn to respect her, etc).
Since the manga was OOP and the new version has a pretty high initial pricetag, I haven't finished the manga. I also haven't revisited the anime yet; (hopefully, I'll get to it this season!), but if the difference between them is that the focus is on Anthy being more independent for her own sake in the manga, rather than being the focus of Utena's discovery of her sexuality, I think I'd prefer the manga's focus in that regard, too, although the two themes need not be mutually exclusive, Anthy breaking free of the co-dependent status others forced on her fits more into that theme of not putting others on a pedestal and looking out for others best interest as independent people, even if it conflicts with your own desires.

John Thacker wrote:
I like the manga quite a lot, and find it an interesting companion with the anime, both worth reading. I think that some of the anime insistence on exploring lesbian relationships (always a topic of interest for Director Ikuhara) ends up reducing the ability to explore the themes of autonomy and the objectification of women, though with Ikuhara's typical deft they are interesting in their own right and certainly quite meaningful to a lot of people. Juri's original personality in the manga might be a bit stereotypical, but the tragically impossible schoolgirl lesbian crush version in the anime is a commonplace as well.

My wife takes it a little further. While she certainly is a great fan of the anime, she feels that the manga to anime changes (some of which are subtext and strong implication rather than explicitly canon, at least pre Adolesence) are on the whole the case of a male director catering to the male gaze as much as anything, changing the original view of the female author Chiho Saito. Different opinions for different folks, of course.

Especially in anime and manga, there is a fine line between celebrating Queer relationships and fetishizing them. Critics often point out that yaoi manga is often written for the female (Fujoshi) gaze. Some manga-ka have recognized this themselves and vowed to be more sensitive; Fumi Youshinaga actually recalls herself apologizing to a gay man in person in her memoir Not Love But Delicious Food Makes Me So Happy. I think Ikuhara is often tight walking that line, and leaning more toward the "fetish" side. It seemed that way to me in his most recent work, Yuri Kuma Arashi. YMMV.
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Razor/Edge



Joined: 05 Jun 2015
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 8:47 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Animation : B


Should this not be "Art: B" instead? Unless this graphic novel set somehow has actual animation in it, which would be pretty impressive.
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DanQ



Joined: 07 Feb 2004
Posts: 90
PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2017 7:06 am Reply with quote
Alan45 wrote:
@whiskeyiiThe note from Chiho Saito says in part: "Utena is an odd work. Part of its strangeness lies in the fact that the members of BE-PAPAS all got together to collaborate." It doesn't give any details as to how that worked.


Producer Yuichiro Oguro said:
Quote:
"Now that the manga and anime have been both started up, Ms. Saito has been pulling Revolutionary Girl Utena in a more romantic direction, and Director Ikuhara has been pulling it in the direction of his own tastes. And even as he aids both of them in their tug-of-war, Yoji Enokido incorporates his tastes as well. It’s fair to say that the basic flavor of Revolutionary Girl Utena is formed from the individual personalities of those three people: Ikuhara, Saito, and Enokido."

More at: https://www.gwern.net/docs/1997-utena#deliberate-mismatches
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gedata



Joined: 04 May 2013
Posts: 413
PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2017 12:50 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Juri is madly in love with Touga and another male senpai in the manga


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand dropped.
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Hawkmonger



Joined: 30 May 2014
Posts: 423
PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2017 1:35 pm Reply with quote
gedata wrote:
Quote:
Juri is madly in love with Touga and another male senpai in the manga


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand dropped.

Yikes! Sad to say i'm damn close to agreeing with you! With that Juri loses the majority of what makes her a fascinating character!
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melmouth



Joined: 19 May 2012
Posts: 89
PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 8:28 am Reply with quote
To me, one of THE greatest virtues of Japanese anime and manga is willingness to play with sex roles, and pique the reader's interest with mildly rule-streatching and rule breaking relationships. They can do that, I've come to understand, because Japanese society is very obedient! There is therefore little real danger of readers being inspired to go out and rape, etc.

Nicely summed up in an article in the Japan Times a couple of years ago:

"Japan is the land of freedom. We can draw wild and sexy characters, dress up in fantastic cosplay (costume play) and act out our fantasies. All forms of expression are accepted because in real life we have the common sense not to do anything bad. We have a strong moral code, so we can lose it in fantasy and in art."

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/09/24/people/producer-gets-deep-inside-the-otaku-heart/

But the USA is the land of rigid morality, found MORE in all forms of expression than in real life—the very opposite of Japan.

So we see that here repeatedly, in the article and the comments. The awfulness of "heteronormative" love, the "creepiness" of the older guy being interested in the younger girl, the awfulness of the "male gaze" etc., are duly highlighted.

It's always amusing to me to see how on ANN the free-flowing fictional morality of Japanese media is eagerly smashed into the rigid suit of armor that is America's most recent version of Puritanism (even though, paradoxically, it is almost a complete reversal of THAT old-timey set of rules of sexual morality.)

This too shall pass.
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whiskeyii



Joined: 29 May 2013
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 2:48 pm Reply with quote
melmouth wrote:


So we see that here repeatedly, in the article and the comments. The awfulness of "heteronormative" love, the "creepiness" of the older guy being interested in the younger girl, the awfulness of the "male gaze" etc., are duly highlighted.

It's always amusing to me to see how on ANN the free-flowing fictional morality of Japanese media is eagerly smashed into the rigid suit of armor that is America's most recent version of Puritanism (even though, paradoxically, it is almost a complete reversal of THAT old-timey set of rules of sexual morality.)

This too shall pass.


I'm going to guess you haven't seen the anime, then; all of those issues that you say are "puritanically" Western are also brought up as Very Bad Things in the (Japanese!) anime.

Like, sure, ethnocentrism is bad and all, but maybe you should dig a little deeper into why a lot of folks think this particular manga comes up short in comparison with its anime counterpart.
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Agent355



Joined: 12 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 10:54 pm Reply with quote
melmouth wrote:
To me, one of THE greatest virtues of Japanese anime and manga is willingness to play with sex roles, and pique the reader's interest with mildly rule-streatching and rule breaking relationships. They can do that, I've come to understand, because Japanese society is very obedient! There is therefore little real danger of readers being inspired to go out and rape, etc.

Nicely summed up in an article in the Japan Times a couple of years ago:

"Japan is the land of freedom. We can draw wild and sexy characters, dress up in fantastic cosplay (costume play) and act out our fantasies. All forms of expression are accepted because in real life we have the common sense not to do anything bad. We have a strong moral code, so we can lose it in fantasy and in art."

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/09/24/people/producer-gets-deep-inside-the-otaku-heart/

But the USA is the land of rigid morality, found MORE in all forms of expression than in real life—the very opposite of Japan.

So we see that here repeatedly, in the article and the comments. The awfulness of "heteronormative" love, the "creepiness" of the older guy being interested in the younger girl, the awfulness of the "male gaze" etc., are duly highlighted.

It's always amusing to me to see how on ANN the free-flowing fictional morality of Japanese media is eagerly smashed into the rigid suit of armor that is America's most recent version of Puritanism (even though, paradoxically, it is almost a complete reversal of THAT old-timey set of rules of sexual morality.)

This too shall pass.

Japan isn't the moral wonderland you think it is...or the bastion of free expression. Just ask Rokudenashiko, the artist arrested and charged with "obscenity" just for depicting female genitalia as cutesy objects, or realistic models. Not for depicting sexual acts, just body parts. That's its own illogical "Puritanism," if you will. Or at least a sign that men's and women's treatment, and right to expression, are treated differently in Japan itself.
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