Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 1: Student Council Saga – DVD Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Romance
Rating: 16+
Release Date: Available Now

You’ll be glad that this revolution was televised.

“If we don’t crack the world’s shell, we will die without being born. Smash the world’s shell for the revolution of the world.”

This is a mantra that is repeated often in Utena, Revolutionary Girl’s DVD Set 1 and there’s a deep meaning to it, especially since the ones saying it are the young members of the Student Council looking to bring change to said world. There’s much to love about a series that makes this love story a rare one so we are certainly glad RightStuf/Nozomi brought us the remastered release in this first set that covers the Student Council Saga.

What begins like a fairy tale turns into something else completely as we meet a girl named Utena Tenjou. You see, when Utena was younger, her parents died and her life – naturally – was turned upside down by this tragedy. Then along comes a handsome Prince who told her to be strong and gives her a ring with a rose crest as if it were an engagement ring. However, instead of patiently waiting for her Prince, she is so impressed that she decides to become a Prince herself.

So Utena, now attending High school, wears a man’s uniform and excels in sports to the point that she’s considered a tomboy. Despite that, though, she’s quite popular with other girls including one that sees her as her “boyfriend.” Then, one day, she sees a beautiful dainty girl in a garden who is suddenly slapped by a handsome man with green-hair named Saionji when an equally handsome student named Touga with flowing red hair steps in to defend the girl.

The truth is that Saionji and Touga are part of the Student Council, a group of students who possess rings with rose emblems and follow the orders of something called End of the World. In order to bring the world its much-needed revolution, one of them must be engaged to the Rose Bride … who just so happens to be the beautiful girl from the garden who goes by the name Anthy Himemiya. At the moment, Saionji is to only one engaged to her despite the fact that not everyone on the Student Council likes how he treats her.

As fate would have it, though, Utena finds herself confronting Saionji over another matter and, suddenly, Utena ends up being challenged to a duel with the green-haired young man. The duels, of course, consist of swordplay but, instead of inflicting a mortal injury to win, the condition is to cut the rose off an opponent’s lapel. The fight is a good one but, surprisingly enough, Utena wins. As a result, Anthy becomes her bride and thus begins Utena’s battle against the members of the Student Council.

While Utena does not take the prophecy of the Rose Bride seriously or her “engagement” to the soft-spoken girl whose only friend is a cute mouse she calls Chu-Chu, she comes to enjoy Anthy’s company. This, though, doesn’t stop the others from coming after her, or Saionji who sees his loss as a mere fluke. Now all the members of the Student Council are bad such as Mickey, who has a genuine attraction for Anthy. Then there’s the Student Council President, Touga Kiryuu, who seems more interested in Utena than the Rose Bride.

Unfortunately, Anthy is seen by nearly everyone she meets as something of an annoyance and she’s often slapped around by other girls. One of these girls hates Anthy so much she comically makes attempts to make the girl look bad only to fail miserably. She is Nanami, who also happens to have a big brother complex and, seeing as she’s Touga younger sister, you can bet she’d do anything to impress him.

While she is still searching for her Prince, Utena takes up the role of Prince herself and meets anyone’s challenge such as the elegant fencer named Miss Jury to her rematch with Saionji that turns so deadly that the result of the fight ends in the challenger being expelled from school. Meanwhile, we learn more about the End of the World and Utena realizes that Anthy really is serious about being seen more of an object than a person. Still, this does not stop Utena from fighting for Anthy as she realizes that she needs that girl in her life.

Smartly written, the story just doesn’t shove cool duels in our faces but rather explains the motivations of each of the Student Council members. We learn that Miss Jury was betrayed by a friend and that Mickey much rather play the piano than fight in a duel. There are also plenty of comical moments that mainly revolve around Nanami. Nanami nearly being trampled by different animals is hysterical and watching her brother box a kangaroo to save her is just comedy gold.

The animation is certainly very old school but that doesn’t mean it’s not lovely or interesting to look at in any way. There are some great duels that are punctuated by the same song but it somehow makes you look forward to every duel that occurs. As far as the romance is concerned, Utena and Anthy might not be lovers but there’s a very deep and meaningful connection between these two girls.

Without a doubt, Utena, Revolutionary Girl’s first DVD Set 1 is nothing short of extraordinary and a true achievement for the genre. This is easily one of those series that will win you over very quickly and hold your attention from start to finish. It’s also a meaningful and wonderfully executed series that has all the makes of a true classic. If you’ve never seen Utena before, this set should definitely be on your Must Have list.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
In time when things were bad for her, a girl named Utena met a handsome Prince whose words gave her strength and inspired her to act like a Prince herself. In her prestigious school, however, the Student Council is on a mission to obtain the power to revolutionize the world thanks to a girl named Anthy who they call the Rose Bride. Soon, Utena becomes engaged to the Rose Bride and must duel to keep Anthy from falling into the wrong hands.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation might be on the dated side but that does not stop it from being an artistic visual masterpiece nonetheless. The use of silhouettes is brilliant and works well throughout the series. Then there are the duels that look stylishly cool. RightStuf/Nozomi certainly did a good job with the remastered video because the series looks stunning on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice cast does not disappoint in the very least and Tomoko Kawakami, who passed away this June, was truly talented and it shows as she voiced Utena. The English dub isn’t bad at all either and, for some reason, I think Nanami sounds even better in English. Even the score – especially the dueling songs – are awesome and, yes, the new Dolby 5.1 for the Japanese dialogue is even more amazing if you watch this on a good sound system.

EXTRAS: B+
Each disc contains Nozomi trailers but all three contain extras such as the original TV spot for the CD Box Set as well as the DVD Box Set as well as the clean opening and closing theme songs. The third disc contains the “RONDO-Revolution” music video (shot in New York City, no less) and RONDO-Revolution TV Spot.

Utena fans will love the 46-page booklet complete with Key Art Gallery, Director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s thoughts on the creation of the anime as well as comments for each episode. There are also commentaries from the staff on the HD video and audio remastering as well as an article about the manga. It’s great stuff, indeed.

OVERALL: A+
The DVD Set 1 of Utena gives us a series that is irresistibly illuminating and downright brilliant at times and, yes, if you like the genre you will love every second of this. You cannot go wrong with a series that contains exciting duels, a great sense of humor and an interesting romance story so missing out on this one would be a real shame. We definitely cannot wait for the second part to this series.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

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