Archive for the Revolutionary Girl Utena Category

Yuri Manga: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Volume 2 (English)

June 4th, 2017

The second volume of the Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Complete Deluxe Box Set remains complex and uncomfortable right until an ending that was much better than I remembered it being.

The primary conflict in the final arc of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime, appears to be between Utena and Akio. In the manga version, the Student Council has been set to the side, neutralized by Anthy in order to set Utena up for Akio. 

But, like the anime, something happens just as Anthy is set to betray Utena. She begins to believe that Utena can set her free. And here in the manga, that changes everything. Freedom changes Anthy in a way that gives one hope. (And inspires one to write fanfic.)

The art here at the end of the manga arc is strong and hyper-romantic, very suitable for the magazine it ran in, Flowers, I believe it was. I wish there was a color version of Utena-Dios, because you just know she looked amazing in her white and lavender Council uniform. ^_^ 

The complete set includes Juri’s sidestory, which sadly focuses on Ruka, rather than Shiori. And the final section of the collection covers the manga version of the Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie: Adolescence of Utena. This manga volume was the precise moment when I started understanding the literary roots of Yuri Manga and for that, I have a lot of fondness for the thing. The story focuses on two not-really-real relationships, Utena’s adoration of Touga and Anthy’s adoration of (an even more horrible than in the TV manga) Akio. But it ends with the same relationship the TV manga does – Utena and Anthy, finding healing and friendship and love in one another. No wonder we all wrote so much damn fanfic. ^_^ 

 The art of the movie manga has already leveled up significantly from the earliest chapters of the television series manga, and still holds up well enough to satisfy an older audience. The deluxe set wraps up with two short notes by manga artist Chiho Saito and director Ikuhara Kinihiko.


Art- 8 Solid, stylish, with moments of brilliance 
Story – 8 A much better ending than I remembered 
Characters – 8 Touga and Juri end up better than expected, Miki and Saionji suffer and Akio gets extra helpings of awful. Anthy is even more complex and interesting.
Service – 5 Creepy non-con seductions and slapping so…mostly violence against women’s autonomy, with a side of bullshitty consent issues.
Yuri- 7 Anthy and Utena 4ever. <3

I love that between the two Utena manga, anime and movie there are four unique versions of this story and each one ends centered around a relationship built on friendship and hope and love.

One last note – I’m pretty sure I have all the Utena artbooks, but there is a color image in this set that I have never seen before. I refer to it as the “Takarazuka” image, as Utena is wearing a feather back piece and both her and Anthy’s outfits are unusually sparkly. I like it a lot. ^_^ It’s yet another good reason to get this complete manga deluxe set!

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Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga, Volume 1 (English)

May 10th, 2017

A few years ago, we had the 15th anniversary re-release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime from Nozomi/RightStuff, and this year we have the Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Complete Deluxe Box Set from Viz Media! And what a deluxe set it is.

This two-volume set of all 6 volumes of the manga (5 for the TV series, one for the movie) drawn by Saito Chiho, in collaboration with Be-Papas, comes in a black box that provides a similar kind of gravitas that the anime packaging provided, with beautiful rose-themed design work in both black glossy on black matte and in color. 

Volume 1 has the pink color theme of the first of the anime arcs, a nice nod to an established color scheme.

Each volume comes with color page inserts from the magazine run and covers of the manga. The collection also includes a poster of Anthy and Utena, suitable for any Yuri fan and guaranteed to have you singing Rinbu Revolution as soon as you see it.

Unlike most manga series that come out at the same time as an anime, the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga is not a literal rendering of the anime at all, but a separate tale, using the same characters and elements that existed in the anime. The rose sigil, the dueling ground, Akio’s car, the planetarium projector all exist here, as they did in the anime. But they do not necessarily mean (or not mean) the same things. Where the anime went for visual effect, the manga relies on shoujo manga tropes of emotional relationships, complications and manipulation.

Compared to the anime, the manga is short, tight, and deeply complicated. When we meet her, Tenjou Utena is very apparently a very young, immature girl with a dream of a Prince that has extremely tenuous roots in reality. It becomes quickly apparent that everything around Utena has extremely tenuous roots in reality. And, when Utena arrives at Ohtori Academy, this does not change.

Where, in the anime, we spend a lot of time with the Student Council, here in the manga they swiftly take a second seat to Ohtori Akio. In the anime, Akio is insidious and horrible, here he is overtly manipulative and power hungry. His honesty about his desires for power and his use of Utena to that end doesn’t make him any less loathsome. What is significantly different is the character of Touga who appeared to be manipulated almost until the very end of the anime here defects to Utena’s side and acts in part as a Greek Chorus, explaining the whims of the gods, and part as a Virgil to Utena’s Dante.

Speaking of shoujo tropes, the relationships portrayed in the manga are almost all toxic. Non-consensual kisses and slapping are common. There is a lot of slapping in these 3 volumes. A lot. Even when it doesn’t really serve any function, or move the story forward. By the time Saionji hauls off on Anthy the last time, in the bonus curry explosion chapter, you can be forgiven for thinking Anthy wouldn’t mind seeing them all dead.


Art- 8 Good, solid, sensual, beautiful but compared to her current outstanding work in Torikaebaya it’s almost simplistic.
Story – 7 Uncomfortable making, weird, and still, strangely hopeful.
Characters – 7 Not as fully developed as in the anime. Everyone seems slightly more delusional.
Service – 5 Creepy non-con seductions and slapping so…mostly violence against women’s autonomy
Yuri- 1 Only if you’re reading anything into Anthy and Utena’s relationship which, as of yet, has not developed beyond lies.

Overall – 8 for content , 9 for presentation

It’s equally as uncomfortable as the anime, although in different ways. I like that Akio is more overtly horrible, but am sad that it’s at the loss of fully developed Student Council.

When I read this series the first time back in 1998 or so, when I remember that it was very difficult for me to read the word “hyou” (leopard) for the longest time. Yes, I know there is a leopard on the page. I wanted to find a official translation…and couldn’t. It moved me to buy my first Japanese dictionary. ^_^

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Yuri Anime: Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie/Adolescence Of Utena (English)

May 28th, 2012

Included with the third Revoutionary Girl Utena box set from Nozomi/RightStuf is the Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie: Adolescence Of Utena.

I credit this movie, specifically, with being the beginning of my “career” as a spokesperson for Yuri. Because of my interest in the movie, my discovery of a Yoshiya Nobuko reference in the movie manga, and my interest in the literary and artistic references drawn upon for the series, I ended up being invited to present this movie at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, the British LGBTQ Film Festival and the Tampa LGBTQ Film Festival back in the early 2000s. I was able to meet and interview Ikuhara Kunihiko at Big Apple Anime Festival and because of this movie, CPM was an early sponsor for Yuricon events. I have a lot to thank this movie for. Not least of which is for being a fantastic movie.

It is a fantastic movie, with extraordinary visuals, and two of the most spectacular scenes I have ever seen on a screen – the dance on the dueling ground, and the castle car. As much as I consider the TV series a more subtle and sophisticated creation, its the movie I watch more often.

I find I have never once published the intro I gave this movie a decade ago when it first came out in English, so rather than explain to you what I said, here is the actual intro I gave the film, in front of hundreds of people who liked anime and the series…and thousands of people who had no idea what the hell they were getting in to.

In 1994, on Sundays at 7 PM, the Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo’s gay and lesbian district would come to a screeching halt. Why? Because for the first time ever, Japan was watching a lesbian couple on their TVs, as part of the popular animated series, Sailor Moon These characters, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, were very clearly portrayed as a couple – with personal issues to work out, as well as greater ethical dilemmas – all within a framework of defeating the Monster of the Day as sailor-suited magical heroines.

The director of that pivotal season of Sailor Moon had instructed the voice actresses to play the characters as if they were a married couple. In 1997, that same director Ikuhara Kunihiko, along with veteran comic artist Chiho Saito and the creative team at Be-papas, turned their sights once again to the “magical girl” genre of Japanese animation. The result of their collaboration was the wildly popular series Revolutionary Girl Utena.

This 39-episode television series utilized symbolism from earlier popular shoujoai or, “girls love” series – character designs and settings, were inspired by pioneer of shoujoai, Ryoko Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles and Brother, Dear Brother. Ikeda herself had incorporated imagery into her works that were established at the beginning of the twentieth century, by lesbian author Yoshiya Nobuko. Yoshiya’s Flower Tales set the standard for girls’ literature, and ultimately girls’ comics and animation, as well. Yoshiya was also responsible for the creation of the “shoujoai” genre with her story Two Girls in the Attic, another story whose themes and imagery echo strongly throughout the Utena series.

What you are about to see is the movie based upon the earlier television series. It was not meant to be a resolution of the series, it was meant to be a reflection of it – the same story as seen through a slightly distorted lens. The movie highlights the conventions of Japanese animation, even taking them to extremes. The subtle surrealism of the television series has been left behind and replaced with overtly surreal elements, a non-linear narrative and perhaps most confusing, scenes that are wholly dependent upon knowledge of the television series. What does this mean to you, the viewing audience? Well, it means that the best way to view this movie is to simply let it wash over you, like the roses over the dueling ground.

What significance does this movie, this cartoon, have for gays and lesbians? Many Japanese – as do many Americans – see comics and animation as being just for kids. But as we know, as we breathlessly waited for Willow and Tara to kiss on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; every image, in any media, is progress. And with gay and lesbian youth, images that appear on television or in the movies have an even greater impact. This movie, like the television show it is based upon, adds one more positive image to the library.

In the United States, Yaoicon was formed to increase awareness of the portrayal of gay men in Japanese comics and animation, while at Yuricon, we’re focusing on our own line of translated and original comics, and next year will be holding a ground-breaking event in Tokyo to celebrate lesbian stories in Japanese animation and comics with their creators. We at Yuricon firmly believe that our support, our creativity and our energy will bridge the enormous gap between fans here in the West and in Japan, and feed back into Japanese lesbians’ and gays’ efforts at being recognized openly.

And with that hopeful thought, I’d like to present to you, Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie.


We did hold that event, and we have continued to bridge that gap. I’ve traveled the world, spoken on several continents about Yuri, presented movies and manga and anime to people in hundreds of countries through this blog.

As I watched the movie this weekend – again – I’m reminded that in many ways, it did give us the power to Revolutionize the World. How cool is that? ^_^


Overall – 10

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Revolutionary Girl Utena Anime, Volume 3, Disk 4 (English)

May 27th, 2012

At last, the conclusion to the “Apocalypse Arc” of Revolutionary Girl Utena.

There will be spoilers in today’s post. Please do not read past this if you have not yet watched it, or do not wish to know any details.


These final three episodes live in my mind as masterworks anime. And now, more than ten years later, I watched them again, fearing that I had made more of them in my memory than they were in reality.

I hadn’t.

The climactic moment for me has always been and will always be the quiet conversation over tea and cookies, when Anthy says that she’s poisoned the cookies…and Utena keeps eating, then admits that she too has poisoned the tea…and Anthy takes another sip.

Out of context, this moment probably doesn’t seem like much, but for me it is *the* moment of the series. Everything is understood between these two, everything is forgiven, even the betrayals to come.

Akio is revealed for what he truly is…nothing at all.

The revolution of the world comes and goes and only one person notices it.

Once again, as Anthy quietly points out the obvious to Akio, “You have no idea what happened here, do you?” I applauded. Once again, as I watched Anthy step out of the gates of Ohtori, my heart is filled with joy for her.

Fans really didn’t like this ending the first time around. It’s too ambiguous, too open-ended. We don’t know what will happen.

For me, it stands as the best ending to an anime series ever. The possibilities were endless, even the fanfic was extraordinary. Because we didn’t know, we could create a thousand different reuinions, a million different futures. At the end of the story, I wanted only to revisit some of these endings (especially those I wrote for myself, obviously ^_^) because in my mind, I know *exactly* what happened.

As, I hope, do you.


Overall – 10

The final Utena box set contest ends today, at midnight my time. Winners will be announced in a few weeks, because I have some personal stuff to take care of this week. Please get those final entries in!

It is my hope that this re-release of Revolutionary Girl Utena was as much fun for you as it was for me. Thanks, Nozomi/RightStuf for making it possible. And thanks for your donation of a spiffy third box set and Duelist’s Ring as a contest prize.

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Revolutionary Girl Utena Anime, Volume 3, Disk 3 (English)

May 25th, 2012

The”Apocalypse Arc” of Revolutionary Girl Utena is going to spend the rest of the anime blowing us up like a balloon and piercing us with pins, just to watch us go “pop!”

I don’t know what to say about this arc other than I wholly wiped it from my memory the first time around and am not at all pleased at having to remember any of it this time. And not to spoil anything, but we learn three things during this arc and not one of them makes us any happier.

The shadow girls tell us what we’ve been guessing for a while, that the true story lay somewhere deep in our subsconscious where all fairytales live – and we’re reminded yet again that the story started with something like a fairy tale. The beginning, which seemed innocent in the beginning takes on a much, much darker meaning now and there is nowhere on the screen to look that does not bring us pain.

I’m reminded of the hatred shown to Akio when fans saw this series the first time. It’s a fair bet to say that he remains the most loathesome anime character I’ve ever encountered.

Of the two things that keep me going towards the end, one of them is revealed in this arc. Knowing Anthy’s true story makes me love her even more, but I do not pity her. Because…

One more disk to go, only a few days left in the contest to win this boxset. Only a few more episodes to the end that I long for, that I cling to like a mirage in the desert. I wonder what my reaction to it will be when I watch it again for the first time in a decade?

My original review for this disk was going to be something like – ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH.

I’ll withhold ratings until the end. I can’t speak of this disk without spitting.

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