Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anime Review No. 75-Utena Movie

"For the Revolution of the World"
Revolutionary Girl Utena The Movie

1999 Movie

Studio-JC Staff, Director-Kunihiko Ikuhara, Writer: Yoji Enokido

Ah yes, the conclusion of February reviews, which have been mainly covering series about love or relationships. To cap it off, I saw take a look at Revolutionary Girl Utena The Movie. One can view the movie as a remake of the original TV Series or a slightly abridged version of the events in the TV Series. I am on the fence about this, for one reason: Of course, keep in mind I have yet to see the original TV Series. It has been a show I have been meaning to watch at some point, but never really had the chance to.

So, a brief summary:
Utena is a new student at an elite academy which seems to be rather strange place. She is on a quest to find her prince, which is probably a red haired dude at the school. On the way, she meets with Anthy (a dark skinned damsel) who is the 'Rose Bride'. The rings make duelists for the fight for the Rose Bride, which are done by sword duels. Theres duels, dealings and backstabbings and lots of sapphic love. Of course, the first two-thirds of this 87 minute long film are coherent at best. Past that point, I gave up on trying to summarize this fecking movie.

This is in part is due to the writing. One trait of a Yoji Enokido script that I have noticed is the use of spectacle at the expense of common sense and/or logic. It is light on character and plot but big on spectacle. Of course it isn't just in here, but also in other shows Enokido has written, like Diebuster and FLCL, even his more current stuff like Ouran (to a point) and Star Driver. The last third of the movie kind of follows this; a flurry of scenes that do bring some sense to story elements but in the end are glossed over  in favor of 'Oh, let's do something totally outlandish and crazy'. Fortunately, Enkido's writing is complemented by Ikuhara's direction which seeks to emphasize this point fully alongside being well very cinematic. Oddly enough, this is the best animated portion of the film (of course the movie on whole is glorious to look at).

For the most part, the Utena movie is about its characters and their relationships, be it Utena and Anthy, Touga/Utena/Shiori, Miki and his sister, Anthy and her brother prince, Miki/Juri and Juri/Shiori...... god one needs a fecking chart on all the relationships here. Granted, most of them are rather problematic relationships to say the least. This leads the movie to be a bit unsettling at times to watch, but I think that's part of the point. There exist brief moments where it seems like they are referencing the TV show (the scene with cow and elephants for instance). Fair amount of WTF abounds as well, especially in the finale.

Of course, not all relationships are problematic. The one that works, and dare I say, survives into tomorrow is....lesbian love? Yes, Anthy and Utena do make a cute couple, even if it starts off as somewhat sudden and forced. I also think that Utena and Anthy serves as an early iteration of the typical yuri couple: one being prince, tomboyish and 'bi-fauxnen' while the other is soft, demure and feminine. But we as the audience spend enough time with them during the course of the movie that by the finale, we root, nay cheer for their victory!

Of course, the animation has less problems than the writing, that's for sure. It is rich and colorful setting, an exquisitely shot production by JC Staff. In short, the animation is quite astounding and artsy. Artistic symbolism abounds in the movie: roses, the prince's ring (Mark of the Rose), sword fights, even the whole ending sequence is one extended symbolic metaphor in of itself.

Lastly, the English Dub is serviceable though it hasn't aged well. This, along with the TV Series, were dubbed and released by US Manga Corps back in the day. US Manga Corps dubs that I have looked at in the past tend to be hit or miss with me. With me, the dub for this is spotty at best. Standout performances from Rachael Lillis and Crispin Freeman are there to be sure. However, the rest of the cast seems either dry/stiff or OTT. Though I wouldn't rag on the dub too much as Ikuhara-san did supervise the dub himself, as documented on the behind the scenes video included on the DVD.

Overall, the Utena Movie is rather interesting. Granted, this is an opinion based on me not having seen the series itself, so I might find some character and plot details a bit fuzzy, but the animation of the sheer spectatle makes up for it in the end. I will make a point of watching the Utena series and maybe perhaps my opinion of the movie will change somewhat.

Next review, well, its this:
Surprise Trailer

'Til next time, dear readers

1 comment:

Overlord-G said...

So much symbolism in this one but it was still really good.

I also need to finish the TV show.