Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Apocalypse Saga Boxed Set
by Ruben R. Rosario
Available now on DVD from Nozomi Entertainment.
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Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Revolutionary Girl Utena is an absolute masterpiece of an anime and is a prime example of the power of the eastern animation tradition. Broadcasted in 1997 in Japan, the story contains a fairy tale introduction by a princess that has been abandoned by her parents, due to their untimely death. A handsome prince comes along, comforts her and tells her that one day that shall meet once again. After placing a rose crest ring on her finger, the prince rides off, leaving the princess so enamored by the princes charm, that the princess herself decides to become a prince, in order to bestow comfort and kindness to those in need. Flash forward to the present day, we follow Utena Tenjou, a high school student enrolled in the Ohtori Academy, where she wears a tradition male uniform and must deal with members of the student council, who bear the same exact rose crest ring. Each of them challenge Utena to sword duels, in order for the hand of the Rose Bride, that shall help bring about the power of revolutionizing the world. The Apocalypse Saga Boxed set by Nozomi Entertainment contains episodes 25 through 39 of the series, as well the film, The Adolescence of Utena. This is the largest set of all three and with the inclusion of the theatrical film, it sends off the Utena series with a bang.
The Apocalypse Saga brings about the direct confrontation between Utena and the person whose been masterminding everything, Akio, Anthy’s older brother. Akio uses his powers of persuasion to influence a new duelist, Ruka and most of the original duelists, Saionji, Miki and Touga. While all of this is happening, Utena and Anthy have no clue that Akio has his hands deep into the inner workings of Ohtori Academy. As time goes on, Utena begins to fall in love with Akio and feels as though she finally has found her true prince. Her world is torn apart once she sees the true relationship he has with Anthy and Utena must stand and battle the harsh realities that have shaken up her world for good. What was laid out in the first to sets, in terms of tone and plot comes to a complete head and make for some incredible drama to wrap up the series. There’s betrayals, deaths and all sorts of other events that up the ante in the series to give it some real weight and gravity that most anime series nowadays severely lack. The second set dealt with many of the minor characters dealing with the troubles of adolescence. These last episodes brings these elements to all of the main characters, primarily Utena by having her confront the very essence of her being.
The theatrical film, The Adolescence of Utena does a really great job at presenting a different approach to the Utena series. Ikuhara and BePapas had come up with the idea of the film shortly after the series had ended. The director’s idea was to do everything in the film that he never had a chance to do within the series itself. One of the biggest contributions of this is the direct relationship between Utena and Anthy. While the show teetered around the fact that the two of them could be best friends or be lovers, the film outright makes them out to be the latter. The third act presents an amazing car sequence that meshes the ideas of Akio’s symbolic car in the finale of the show with the reversal of Anthy’s portrayal of heroine.
The extras on this boxed set are overflowing with great content regarding the last episodes and the film. There’s a a bunch of behind the scene’s footage of for the series, animated art boards and karaoke for the dueling themes. For the film’s extra’s, there’s a director’s commentary, interviews and a look into the American dub for the film, supervised by Ikuhara himself. The 130 page booklet shows some great art boards, insightful interviews and design work that all went into the making of everything included in this final boxed set.
Nozomi Entertainment has done justice to this release of this classic and seminal work of Japanese animation. I’m not generally a fan of Shojo style shows in anime or manga, but the execution and reversal of stereotypical elements in Utena have always made this series stand out. The title of this series has always been adequate and fitting because it is quite truly, revolutionary. Highly Recommended!
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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