Yuri Anime/Manga: Revolutionary Girl Utena

January 30th, 2004

Things I’m Not Going to Write About
Part 4

Shoujo Kaukumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena

Created by Ikuhara Kunihiko and Be-Papas, this surreal series is really four slightly different stories, each of which explores a different facet of the characters.

The manga is the most straightforwardly “magical girl” entity. The only yuri in it is Anthy and Utena’s ambiguous, but intense relationship.

For the TV series, this was upped a notch, with the addition of sexuality as a whole as a separate subplot. The TV series explores yuri, yaoi, intergenerational, incestuous and yes, even straight, sexuality, casting few judgements about any of it. In addition, Juri is added to the yuri mix, giving yuri fans yet another uber-cool competent character to admire.

The movie manga is a step sideways, drawing back to the initial Anthy/Utena relatonship, but nodding to proto-yuri novelist Yoshiya Nobuko, and evoking a more intimate feel, since the story is really about the two girls – and their personal quest.

The Utena movie is a step in the opposite direction, opening the world up to a kind of meta-surreality. Again, it’s all about Anthy and Utena, but for once, the subtext is made overt in the infamous, but really very cool, lesbian street luge scene.

Artistically, Utena takes a little getting used to, with its constant nods backwards to early Yuri pioneers Yoshiya Nobuko and Ikeda Riyoko.

(The Marimite anime is doing the same thing to Utena, with eyecatch visuals and music that are strongly reminiscent of the Utena eyecatches, not to mention the striking detail of the birdcage-shaped greenhouse.)

The television series also spins all the conventions of “magical girl” anime out of proportion, forcing the viewer to create their own meanings for the symbols that inhabit Ohtori.. But for all that, it definitely holds the current #2 place as poster-child Yurii.

The movie is a whole ‘nother thing altogether. Hyper-real, with both art and story completely out of proportion to any other genre or style, it reads as, either a bizarre acid trip, or to us literature majors, a simple allegory. (Here’s the literal sentence people seem to completely fail to understand: “Utena is the vehicle by which Anthy escapes Ohtori.” Got it *now*?)

Amazingly, there are people who have seen the movie and *still* don’t think that Anthy and Utena are a couple! LOL Don’t you wonder what they saw?


Yuri – 9
Art – 8
Story – 8
Music – 9
Characters – 10
Overall – 9

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