An anime series done in conjunction with a manga of the same name, by Chiho Saito. Japanese title: "Shoujo Kakumei Utena".

Technically Shoujo manga, but it's so bizarre that nobody really notices. The story concerns a girl named Utena Tenjou, who attends Ohtori Academy. She's quite a tomboy, and wears a boys' uniform, excels in sports, and wants to be somebody's "prince charming".

She has some kind of mysterious past, and winds up being pulled into a strange dueling club in the school, where the duelists fight for possesion of the Rose Bride. Utena wins the Rose Bride in her first duel, and defeats all comers for quite a time.

The friendship between Utena and the Rose Bride, Anshi Himemiya, is rife with a strange sexual tension that tends to annoy a lot of fans and delight others at the same time.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is bizzare in the extreme, using the strangest over-the-top symbolism I've seen in a while. It's also great fun.

Bizarre would definitely be the word i would use to describe this series, and it only gets weirder after the first saga. (The story is broken into four sagas, or parts, The Student Council, Black Rose, Ohtori Akio, and Apocalypse Sagas). In fact, things just get stranger and stranger as the 39-episode series goes on. Of course that doesnt mean that it isnt great - it is. Original and fun, with a unique animation style, odd music and an unavoidably out-there premise, somehow this show manages to be practically addictive, despite its undeniable oddity. And in the end, as the final moments of the series play out, when you sit gripping your (friend's arm, couch pillow, knees) until your knuckles turn white, the show actually manages to present a coherent moral/theme/philosophy, something (imho) many anime series attempt, but few accomplish.

However, and this might be considered a spoiler, if you are unduly offended by incest or homosexuality, or innuendoes thereof, this might not be the series for you.

Note; Chu-Chu, the required cute animal bit part, is a monkey. yes, he is the size of a mouse, he looks like a mouse, but hes a monkey.

A movie was recently released as well, Shoujo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku (Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence Apocalypse), though it is a 'parallel world' extension of the series, rather than a direct retelling or continuation of the anime and manga.

And, just for your enjoyment, here is the (infamous) chick speech
Revolutionary Girl Utena is the best shoujo (in my opinion) anime that I've ever seen. Normally, most shoujo stuff is reserved for (as it's name implies) girls. However, this is one series that manages to cut across the gender lines and entertain almost everybody. Like Tilyrna said though, although it can entertain everybody, there are many incestual and homosexual themes that some people will simply not like. If you've never seen any anime, or you've seen a lot, this is definitely something not to be missed.

The characters and surrealism are what make Revolutionary Girl Utena incredible. The characters are both very original and deeply enmeshed in a web of relationships. After seeing this all the way through, along with the movie, I don't think I've ever seen another character quite like Anthy. The surrealism of the entire show adds a certain bizarre yet endearing quality to everything that goes on. The movie takes that a huge step further and goes over the top with it.

The music also makes this series. From the J-pop introduction and ending, to the dueling songs with random English words that make no sense, to even the quasi-death metal pre-duelling song, the music of Utena is something to speak of. Not only are the full songs both relevant and appropriate when they are used, but there is also intermittant (and appropriate) piano playing and ambient music that adds a lot to the series.

Episode Synopsis Listing:

The Student Council Saga (Episodes 1-13) The Black Rose Saga (Episodes 14-24) The Ohtori Akio Saga (Episodes 25-33) The Apocalypse Saga (Episodes 34-39) Characters: Miscellaneous:
To offer a contrasting opinion: I saw the first episode and some fragments of others, and was so put off that I felt no desire to see more. And no, I have no problems with incestual or homosexual themes. No, what made the show unwatchable for me is exactly the surrealism and bizarreness that others like - normally I love such things, Brazil is my favourite movie ever. But in the case of Utena it looks to me like style over substance, masking underlying shallowness and/or lack of a point - similar to Evangelion and Lain, only much worse and with no positive points to compensate. I mean, here we have all these kids sprouting incredibly pompous rhetorics about "revolutionizing the world", but all they ever actually do is the same kind of meaningless social games you'll find in any random US highschool. The scenario also completely lacks a believable or interesting background. The whole show is too bizarre to be immediately acceptable, and not bizarre enough to take it as comedy or believe in the existence of a good explanation

I'm sure that fans of the show can tell me that all of this has a good reason and everything gets much more interesting later on, but sorry, it was just too crappy for me to give it the benefit of the doubt or a second chance.

The series has also been developed into a movie version, which has also been released on a Region Code 1 DVD under the title: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie.

The movie is a complete overhaul of the series, as it featues new character designs, a different and condensed storyline and slight changes in the roles some characters play. The movie is not a simple cut-job of the series, but an entirely new animation. The scenery is even more spaced out and spectacular than in the series, the architecture of the school now actually moves during some scenes.

The basic plot remains similar to that of the series, but has been cleaned up and simplified for the movie version. Some characters have entirely new roles, some are left out, but are hinted at in some way during the movie (Example: Chu-chu and Nanami). This actually means that even for those who have seen the series, the movie holds quite a lot of surprises. The ending has been changed completely, but without spoiling it, I can't really say more than "Pink Sportscar" and "Chase scene".

Unlike -brazil- I thoroughly enjoyed the series and it's strangeness, but the movie surpasses that by far, and blew me away. I give the movie two thumbs up. It's shoujo, but not like you have seen it before...

To call Utena bizarre without meaning is to not fully understand the series. Everything you need to know what's going on is present if you're willing to work for it; and that is what most fans find so satisfying. Much of this writeup could contain spoilers.

The following are some examples of symbolism that run rampant in Revolutionary Girl Utena. It is a very complex series and I for one am under the impression that every second of it has a greater purpose, though I guess no one but the director knows for sure. And he's not the telling type; in a recent interview his reply to an enquiry on the outfits was simply, "I thought cosplay girls would look cute in them."

The French Influence: Utena is an homage to two other animes, both of them older classics. The first one is Osamu Tezuka's Ribon no Kishi (Princess Knight/Knight of Ribbon) which was the first shoujo ever. The basic storyline follows a young girl who is raised to act like the prince of her kingdom, though she secretly wishes to be a princess. The second series is Riyoko Ikeda's Rose of Versailles, and herein lies the French motif. It is present in the puffy sleeves of the girl uniforms and the overall appearance of the Student Council. Anthy's pets all seem to have French names (as indeed her name is; the Japanese don't have a 'thy' sound).

The Roses: Rose of Versailles is about a soldier named Oscar who was raised as a man and must guard Marie Antoinette. The rose of the title refers to Marie and it can be inferred that Anthy's position as the Rose Bride plays a delicious irony on this motif. In addition, roses flood every scene of Utena and her name itself translates to the calyx of a flower. In addition to being a good visual device, its usage probably began as a reference to the older anime.

Color: It's a very simple concept, but if you know your color wheel the main relations of the Utena characters become immediately more significant. Character pairs that use this method include Anthy/Nanami, Touga/Saiyonji, and Miki/Juri (although Juri/Ruka is also the same pairing, obviously). The colors of roses, clothing, balloons, and most anything in the series seem to be clues pointing to specific characters and should be noted.

Eggs and Revolution: Utena purposely does not explain what Revolution means at the beginning of the series, and the nearest hint it gives you is the chick speech, which is really no help at all. It becomes apparent that the idea of being born is important, however. The egg motif is most evident in Episode 27: Nanami's Egg and is dealt with little elsewhere. Revolution and birth seem to correlate as nearly the same idea in most of the series.

Death: Opposite of being born, of course, is dying. The Academy resembles a funeral mound, after all, and coffins become almost as obvious as roses as the story develops. I would spoil much of the series if I embellished on this too much, but suffice to say that each character's search for something eternal probably deals with their desire to make sense of death; they wish to be shown proof that living is not for nothing, each in their own way. Utena, interestingly enough, is not looking for something eternal because she found it already when she was little.

Sex: From the opening animation onward you should have thought there might be sex in Utena. And there is, but most of it is so subtlely mentioned it could easily be missed. The really sexual scenes are very late into the series, beginning around episode thirty. I believe that cars are used to indicate sexual feelings or deeds around this point; the Akio car becomes an important part of each duel and it appears in several questionable scenes. The movie Adolescence of Utena also features cars prominently, but the purpose of them seems more friendly, less sexual.

Letting Down the Hair: This device is also used excessively in Utena, as Juri, Anthy, and Nanami all loosen their hairstyles in relation to certain plot points. The basic meaning seems to be that a character with their hair down is being true to themselves, or showing who they really are. For the movie, several characters were given longer hair, indicating a difference in the movie character's persona, however slight.

There are a million and a half other clues that could be noted, such as the pointing hand in the Black Rose Saga, the divine justice elephants, and Anthy's glasses, but I'm not yet an expert on the series so this is all I have to offer. If you find Utena too bizarre for you right now, rest assured that with enough patience every question you may have will be answered. In episode three you find out Anthy is afraid of crowds; you won't know why until episode 34. However, the wait is well worth it, as it is for most of the mysteries of Utena.

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