Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Jun 11th 2002
Utena, Revolutionary Girl: The Movie
DVD: The Movie Collector's Series
When Utena arrives at Ohtori Academy, she is chosen as a Duelist, one who must duel with others to win the hand of the Rose Bride. Through her growing relationship with Anthy, she begins to learn the secret of the Rose Bride and the responsibilities that come with being the champion. Eventually, she discovers the truth about the world in which she lives and the people in it, and also what she must go through to confront it.
Originally released under the name of The Adolescence of Utena in Japan, the movie is now available to Utena fans in North America from Central Park Media. Released as Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie, it features the characters from the Utena TV series and serves as a stand-alone theatrical release. Sporting radically new character designs and set designs, the movie is a wonderful exercise in the height of artistic excellence that can be achieved by an animated film. Not only are the art and animation superb, the story itself is one of the best that has come out of Japan in the past few years. On the surface, the story is confusing and random, but when closely examined, it reveals multiple layers within its deep core. Every time the movie is viewed, something else can be discerned from the subtle symbols used throughout the scenes. In fact, every object and sound effect is used to its maximum potential and carries on a deeper meaning outside of just the context; not only are multiple viewings a good idea, they are a necessity in order for the viewer to understand every prismatic angle of the story.
In addition to the movie, the Collector's Series edition DVD is loaded with plenty of amazing extras. On the disc itself, there's an audio track featuring director's commentary, including a subtitle track that translates his comments. The commentary track is extremely useful in helping to understand the movie, and offers a great service to viewers, allowing them to gain greater insights into the various levels of the story. There is also a behind-the-scenes video on how the English dub was made, under the supervision of Ikuhara. As an added bonus, the disc also includes Japanese and United States trailers and TV spots for the movie, which are fun to look at if only to relive a few select scenes. Even better, though, are the features that allow viewers to see art sketches and character sketches from the movie. The art sketches feature the preliminary sketches done for the background in a few of the key scenes. It's amazing to see the detail and hard work put into just the sketches, and many viewers will appreciate the opportunity to be able to see the gorgeously detailed backgrounds up close and by themselves. The feature for the character sketches offer notes from the director, which are interesting and fun to read. The sketches themselves are rough ideas for the character designs, and it is intriguing to see how the original sketches vary in design from the actual drawings that were eventually decided upon. The DVD also includes a trivia game that shows viewers brief clips from the movie, and then asks questions about the scenes. Albeit the game is rather pointless, but it is still fun to play with nevertheless. For viewers that have computers with DVD-ROM capabilities, there are even cooler extras to play with on the disc. Amongst other things there's an art gallery, but one of the greatest extras is the inclusion of the script in its entirety (subtitled version) in case one wants to act out any scenes, or check for a line.
The most astounding aspect of the movie, however, is the art and animation that graces its entirety. Beautifully drawn and detailed, the art is both simplistic and yet ornate at the same time. Somehow, the atmosphere it conveys is itself a representation of beauty in all its forms, ranging from the positive beauty of roses cascading from the sky, to the frightening and eerie beauty of women transforming into butterflies and swarming around cabbage patches. Even the buildings possess a haunting quality, as their coloration makes them look a though they had gone through a violent revolution and were bathed in blood. The animation is also impressive, combining both cel and computer animation, two mediums which are combined flawlessly in the movie, so that viewers won't be able to tell the difference. Regardless of the medium of animation, the frame transfer rate is completely fluid, and there were seldom any places at all where even the tiniest hint of jerkiness was detected. There is an especially gorgeous scene that involves Anthy and Utena waltzing on the dueling platform while roses pour from the sky and rain down onto the campus. Beauty radiates from every aspect of the artfully drawn movie, and no words other than "pure beauty" can possibly describe the overall impact that the art and animation have on the story.
In conjunction with the art, the path that the story itself takes is surreal, treading lines of direction that are previously unseen in any anime. The climax of the story, in fact, involves Utena transforming into a pink car. Other parts in the movie show women growing wings on their backs, or linen sheets swallowing up rooms. The settings, themselves, add to the mood of super-reality, sporting multi-dimensionally moving chalkboards, and moving buildings. Incidentally, much of the oddity in the series is strongly symbolic and crucial to the continuity of the movie. Even the most minor scenes, such as a girl talking to a boy, or the reflection of the sky in a mirror are parts of a subtle whole that take the viewer's breath away and send them into a spiral of awe. The last several minutes, though seemingly random on a surface level, tie the entire movie together, and through just the dreary blandness of the background, reveal a post modernistic view of the world in which real people live, as opposed to the idyllic dream world that most adolescents find themselves in. In fact, the entire movie could be seen as a work of postmodern thought, toying with the idea that there is no truth in the world and that all there is is a string of information that needs to be tied together.
Enhanced by the flowing script, the story is brought out to its full potential through the acting talents of the voice cast. The Japanese actors did a remarkable job in portraying the paradoxically simple, yet complex story line. The lines themselves, as well as the emotions that were supposed to be portrayed, were simple enough. However seen as a whole, every line of the script is intricately related and bears strong emotions through that are brought out not through the lines themselves, but the overall effect that the lines have on the characters. On examination, it seems as though the actors never really have the chance to show extreme emotion, but the complete effect of the script gives the viewer the impression of powerfully raw emotion once the movie has reached completion. The English voice actors reflect this sentiment just as well, delivering their lines as marvelously as the Japanese voice actors. There were some parts that could have been cast better, as certain voices were out of character and extremely annoying, but for the most part, the actors performed well. Another perk was the accuracy of the English script in comparison to the original Japanese script. The two scripts seemed to match each other almost exactly, and it is nice to see the hard work that the writers put in to translate the script as faithfully as they could while still retaining the proper syllabic rhythm.
Without a doubt, Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie is one of the best modern anime movies to come out of Japan in the last few years. Featuring not only impressive artistic characteristics and an engrossing story, the various aspects of the movie that make it appealing are no match for the deep, almost literary, elements of the movie. With meaningful symbolism permeating through every little aspect of the movie, it forces viewers to watch the film over and over, each time picking up new tidbits of information to help solve the puzzle of Utena. No fans of the Utena TV series should pass this up, as it is a magnificent chance to see the characters again. As for viewers who have yet to see Utena, then the movie is certain to make anyone lifelong fans. With brilliant artwork and an entrapping story, The Adolescence of Utena is a masterpiece that must not be missed by anyone.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A+
Animation : A+
Art : A+
Music : A-
+ Riveting story and beautiful animation
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