Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
Revolutionary Girl Utena
DVD 3: The Black Rose Blooms
The Black Rose saga has finally begun! In CPM's latest volume of Kuniko Ikuhara and Chiho Saito's series Revolutionary Girl Utena, a strange organization has appeared on the campus of Ohtori Academy. Reaching deep inside some of the school's most prominent students, this organization pulls out their deepest insecurities and neuroses and uses them as dueling soldiers to retrieve the Rose Bride from one Utena Tenjou. If Utena has anything to say about it, they'll go right back where they came from.. wherever that might be. Oh, and Nanami Kiryuu, student council president Touga Kiryuu's sister, turns in to a cow. Don't ask.
Let it be said that it is this reviewer's opinion that Revolutionary Girl Utena is perhaps the finest piece of animated art to ever come out of Japan. The show is indescribably deep, meaningful, well-crafted and thoughtful; and these episodes are no exception. It's taken forever for CPM to release the rest of the TV series, and although the show is past its prime in popularity among fans, the release is no less anticipated.
The Black Rose saga begins on this disc, and it's a substantial portion of the Utena TV series, although in the end, the entire arc might seem fairly meaningless to the show as a whole. Taken as an individual, separate storyline, the Black Rose saga has just as much symbolism and meaning as the larger Utena storyline, so these episodes are just as valid, not to mention very entertaining.
While the real sting of the Black Rose arc will come in some of the later episodes, the ones included on this disc are just as good. The culprits behind the Black Rose organization are introduced and fleshed out a little; more importantly, it sets the tone for the rest of the arc and establishes the major themes. The best episode on the disc deals with Kozue, Miki's twin sister, whose feelings of personal inadequacy are validated by the Black Rose organization. She duels Utena while under the corrupting influence of the Black Rose, and in typical fashion, her neuroses are played out over the course of the duel. It's always been my contention that Anthy, the rose bride, represents true individuality. Utena is the only person worthy of holding such a highly-regarded trait, and the paranoid, self-loathing masses at Ohotori Academy want nothing more than to take that individuality from her and “revolutionize” their world, effectively forcing the world to revolve around them. Utena, selfless, and yet surviving, individual and strong, yet sympathetic and responsible, proves herself again and again as the only one deserving of the “Rose Bride”. Kozue is the first potent example of Ikuhara's theme; those who suffer from self-hatred need only take a cue from Utena (rather, what Utena represents) to survive, yet none of them are mentally capable of doing so.
The final episode, destined to be the favorite of any fangirl watching this disc, deals primarily with fencing team captain Jury (the favorite character of many, many Utena fans). Jury is a troubled woman and is extremely interesting to watch. The characters in Utena are archetypes, and to put it simply, Jury represents pride. Ikuhara's archetypes are never as simple as “pride” or “lust”, though, and Jury represents pride and everything that pride can do to a stable, intelligent mind. In this episode, Shiori, who was Jury's best friend, returns to Ohotori Academy. Jury keeps a picture of Shiori in the locket around her neck, a symbol of crippled pride; Jury shouldn't need anyone but herself and the one person who taught her that was also the one who caused her the most pain, Shiori. Back in the day, Jury and Shiroi were presumably conflicted over a man; Shiroi “stole” him from Jury. Naturally, that isn't the case; this series would never stoop to such conventional levels. I won't spoil it for you, but basically, the message within is that even the strongest and the proudest will be crippled by those below them; the king will be rendered useless by the peasant. As you can see, this show is endlessly complicated, powerfully deep, and deserves to be viewed by anyone interested in metaphor or allegory, or even just solid shoujo-style storytelling. Come up with your own interpretation; that's half the fun.
This disc also contains the infamous episode where Nanami comes to school with her “Sebastian Dior” cowbell and subsequently turns in to a cow. Yes, you can dissect this episode, but Ikuhara is not without his sense of humor and the whole thing is played for laughs. It's pretty funny, too, and provides a nice break from the normally very heavy and serious proceedings. The extras on the disc are interesting enough. There's yet another interview with Kuniko Ikuhara and one with US Voice Actor Roxanne Beck, an art gallery, the storyline from the first 13 episodes, and a few other things, like an art gallery. All in all, the reason to buy this series is the sheer quality of the show itself. This is one of those cases where the extras are completely negligible. That having been said, CPM needs to do something about its DVD mastering process; fast motion scenes in the series (and there are many) are punctuated by the clear presence of video artifacting. We know it isn't impossible to make animation look good, so whatever CPM is doing wrong, they need to fix it. Other than that, I can't recommend Revolutionary Girl Utena enough, unless you aren't already a fan of the series or don't like anything shoujo. If you are a fan of the series, or liked the movie, go buy this. Now.
Overall : A+
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A+
Story : A+
Animation : B
Art : A+
Music : A+
+ One of the deepest and finest anime series ever made.
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