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About Me

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  1. Next Post→ Next Topic ("Someday, My Revolution Will Come" Let's Play)→→ Duel 01 -- The Rose Bride or: I'm Not Going To Be Able To Explain Everything But I'm Sure Going To Try And Explain Something Once upon a time, years and years ago, there was a little princess, and she was very sad, for her mother and father had died. Before the princess appeared a traveling prince, riding upon a white horse. He had a regal bearing and a kind smile. The prince wrapped the princess in a rose-scented embrace and gently wiped the tears from her eyes. “Little one,” he said, “who bears up alone in such deep sorrow, never lose that strength or nobility, even when you grow up. I give you this to remember this day. We will meet again. This ring will lead you to me, one day.” Perhaps the ring the prince gave her was an engagement ring. This was all well and good, but so impressed was she by him that the princess vowed to become a prince herself one day. …but was that really such a good idea? So begins Revolutionary Girl Utena, a school-set coming-of-age anime. But here’s the thing, the fantastic elements of the prolog never really go away, so on top of the relationship drama that will inevitably stem from, like, seven different dysfunctional relationships, there’s also, to borrow from The Princess Bride, fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, true love, and miracles. To put it another way, imagine if Scott Pilgrim was written by this guy: “This guy” is Kunihiko Ikuhara, someone who people more into anime than I might recognize as the director of the first four seasons of the original Sailor Moon. And one can definitely see some of the inspirations Sailor Moon brought to Utena, especially with regards to some of the “magical girl” tropes common in that particular genre such as transformation sequences and an overarching theme of love conquering all obstacles. But Revolutionary Girl Utena is also really weird. Perhaps the most famous example of this is from the movie adaptation where the climax involves Utena turning into a car. Much of the series is like that too, largely involving non-sequitur cuts (a stopwatch is particularly prominent), or a plot involving an escaped kangaroo. This has caused Utena to be deemed “pretentious” by some, but I’m not entirely sure that’s a fair label. When you strip away everything else, Revolutionary Girl Utena’s plot, while not always straightforward, still exists and can be followed episode to episode. So that’s what I’m going to do here. There are forty Saturdays (including today (at orignal time of posting)) left in the year, thirty-nine anime episodes, and a handful of other versions (such as the aforementioned movie) to talk about, so hopefully, we can ring in the new year with the end of Utena. A couple final notes before we get into the meat of things. I’m going to try and avoid explicit spoilers, but talking about themes will inevitably lead to giving things away on some level, accidentally or not. Speaking of themes, a pretty major theme of the show involves not just the dysfunctional relationships I mentioned earlier, but actual depictions of abuse. More specific content warnings will likely preface later posts (I imagine a couple flashing light warnings will be needed at the very least), but I did want to get that out of the way now. (Edit: A more complete list of content warnings can be found here, I'll still reference the major ones in posts involving them but this is a good place to start for anyone worried about getting into this show. It's okay if you would rather not!) Also, the Youtube playlist provided by the distributor only seems to work in America. If you want to follow along outside of the US, you’re going to have to look elsewhere for these episodes, or at least find a VPN that works for you. The first scenes set in the present day lay the groundwork for Revolutionary Girl Utena’s thesis regarding gender roles. Utena Tenjou is a tomboy by every definition, not only in the activities she prefers, but in the way she dresses as well. The societal disconnect between the image of a girl with pink hair and blue eyes and said girl’s desire to become a prince is very apparent. But we’ll have to go into what exactly Utena the show and Utena the character mean when they say “prince” later. In the meantime, the first episode is largely devoted to establishing the majority of the other main characters and the plot of the first arc: Members who bear the Rose Crest may challenge each other for possession and therefore engagement to Anthy Himemiya, The Rose Bride, under duels outlined by an enigmatic being known only as End of the World. Utena herself is drawn to this tournament after the current champion, Kendo captain Saionji offends Wakaba, Utena’s best friend who crushes on Saionji despite (or perhaps because of) his acerbic nature. Other elements introduced are the rest of the Student Council, though only President Touga Kiryuu is referred to by name, the element of music present in Utena’s duels, and the first appearance of the shadow play girls who represent the show’s Greek Chorus, commenting on the events of each episode, though in the future these will largely be through symbols and metaphor. We’ll get into these elements in more detail later. The only really big image to talk about is the castle in the sky, almost akin to the Sword of Damocles in how it looms over the dueling arena. Saionji dismisses it as a trick of the light, but its presence is going to be felt in a majority of these episodes. To ascend to the castle, the duelists believe, is to gain the power to revolutionize the world, and every episode a duel takes place is an opportunity for the challenger to present their case as to why they deserve that power. It’s important, then, that the classic naivete that anime protagonists tend to have works in Utena’s favor here. Utena had no knowledge of any of this when she challenged Saionji, she only knew that she had to fight for her best friend. And when Saionji attacks Himemiya, Utena resolves to fight for her as well. To reiterate, Utena doesn’t display that same desire for power, and, in fact, the anime might argue that that is why she wins. All in all, this is one of the more straightforward episodes of the show. What you see is what you get, really, and the threads left open are things that can largely be answered with “It’s Episode One. It’s supposed to start intrigue, not answer it.” But I’ll leave the comments section open if there are any questions about things I might have missed, and I’ll see you all in a week. -r Next time: Rematch! Roommates! A monkey! Link to Episode -- Next Post→
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