Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga Boxed Set
by Ruben R. Rosario
Available now on DVD from Nozomi Entertainment.
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Click for the review for the first boxed set here.
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 Black Rose Saga Boxed Set by Nozomi Entertainment contains episodes 13 through 24 of the series. This set just continues the great visual and aural presentation of the show as the first boxed set has, as well as a melange of extras that this second boxed set worth owning as much as the first.
The first major distinction of the Black Rose storyline within Utena, is how much darker the series gets from here on out. While there are still plenty of funny episodes that break up some some of the tension, that tension is the brought on by the fractured psyches of the new duelists. Each of the new duelist are chosen by Souji Mikage, a counselor that runs the Mikage Seminar at the Nemuro Memorial Hall. The hall brings about much controversy amongst the students, due to there being a rumor that 100 students were burned alive there. During the Mikage Seminar, secondary characters that were in the first story arc, begin to take council there and Souji finds a way to for the characters to reveal much about themselves. Through their psychological turmoil, Souji manages to root their problems to either Utena or Anthy and makes them want to destroy the Rose Bride, in order to replace her with a young man named Mamiya. These sessions with the characters and Souji really enhance what the first set of episodes did with it’s original duelists. By the very end, once Utena must face Souji in a duel, he even invades her mind by making her question her meeting with the prince as a facade of some deeply rooted problems, making her question her own beliefs. With The Black Rose Saga fleshing out all of the characters that we’ve seen thus far, giving them real world issues and never spoon feeding the audience at any given moment show how great Revolutionary Girl Utena is and continues to be.
The video and audio for the rerelease is just like the previous set and shows how dedicated Nozomi Entertainment to the level of quality. It contains the original dub from the CPM Manga release, the Japanese 2.0 track and a new remastered Japanese 5.1 audio track. The extras that are included are animated artboards, various trailers from Nozomi and a 4 part interview with director Ikuhara, discussing the show. The booklet contained within the set also has great key art, liner notes and interviews that discuss the show as well as the origins for the Be-Papas production team themselves.
While this set ramps up unhealthy doses of implied incest and reused animation, that shouldn’t detract anyone from watching this show. It is a multi-layered work that dives into the psyche of high school students and does so with both style and sophistication. Whether it’s the fairy tale imagery or grace of the duels themselves, The Black Rose Saga is just another one reason why anime fans should be paying more attention to this release by Nozomi Entertainment. Anime shows this good with this amount of quality and content to boot, almost never come around this often. 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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