Initial Results: Revolutionary Girl Utena

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I have spent a lot time thinking about this series, not because I have any real connection to it myself, but rather because of how widespread its influence seems to be. Not only have I heard this show cited in a number of video essays, even ones not about anime, but but also from western creators of other animated series, like Rebecca Sugar of Steven Universe/Adventure Time, and Michael Dante Dimartino, one of the creators behind Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Seeing as how my journey with Wolf’s Rain came to a close not too long ago, I figured it a good a time as any to get back into another relatively older series. After all, given its influence within the medium of animation, its worth at least having as a point of reference, right? So, after the first six episodes of the series, here are a few of my thoughts.

I will say this first because it has nothing to do with the quality of the series, but the modern anime season really made me forget that series did not have to be 12 or 24 episodes, and could literally just be however long is needed to have a satisfying conclusion. Seeing 39 episodes for this series really threw me for a loop is all.

Now, as for the series itself, there is certainly a lot to like. I have never been overly crazy about the aesthetic of a lot of 80s or 90s anime series, but Revolutionary Girl Utena is one I can get behind. A lot of the colors are fiery and bright, including those on the members of the student council. The overall vibe of the school is very regal and upper-class, showcasing very intricate designs on the outfits of its primary cast, which itself begs the question of why any of the main characters are there to begin with.

Speaking of, Utena and Anthy, the show’s lead characters, offer a nice contrast both in personality and design. Utena takes on a more masculine role, subverting the the damsel in distress trope by vowing in the series intro to become a prince herself, though she does say specifically that this desire still exists within her own identity as a girl. Anthy, meanwhile is apparently what is known as the “rose bride,” who will help “revolutionize the world.” At this point, all of that still feels a bit esoteric and clouded in mystery, which is appropriate because Anthy herself feels much the same way, opting to take a more passive role in the opening episodes.

The two have yet to build a ton of chemistry, other than the fact that they just look cute together. I suspect, though, that will come with time, as the series is divided into four main arcs, of which I am barely halfway into the first. It will be interesting to see both how the contrast in their personalities is shown, and how that contrast will then affect their relationship.

Series creator Kuniko Ikuhara has been praised not only for his work on this series, but also for his previous work on Sailor Moon, as well as a number of other projects later on the in the 2010s. It is clear even from the show’s opening episodes that there is a strong creative drive that went into Revolutionary Girl Utena as a series.

While I cannot say my my attention has been fully retained at every point so far, the show is fascinating, and I do want to see where it ends up. So yeah, I will probably keep watching.

Have you seen Revolutionary Girl Utena? Maybe not? Let me know down in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “Initial Results: Revolutionary Girl Utena”

  1. Yes, I’ve only watched the first arc, but I know what you mean. Though at first it seems like RGU will be very similar to so many other royalty themed school shojo, it’s just different and unusual enough to be surprisingly interesting! The humor is really wacky and the fantasy elements are really imaginative! I had no idea it was the same creator that worked on Sailor Moon and RGU, but now that you mentioned it, they do have some similarities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I like the fact that we just get thrust into this upper-class world, morally ambigous society with the job of figuring it out ourselves. I’m sure there is more to come, but the mystery of it all is definitely my favorite part.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely adore Utena! The show is a bit of a slow-burn, but if you’re a fan of abstract, analogue ridden stories it’s so worth the watch.

    Today, 20+ years later it’s still one of the richest feminist narratives I’ve come across, and just as relevant as when it first came out.

    I won’t spoil anything, I’ll just say to keep an eye on Anthy, there’s more to that girl than meets the eye.
    Also, if it’s something that may concern you please do look up trigger warnings as the show gets into some heavy stuff later on.

    Liked by 1 person

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