Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 3: The Apocalypse Saga – DVD Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $79.99 US
Running Time: 460 minutes
Genre: Romance/Drama
Rating: 16+
Release Date: Available Now

Did you know? Did you know? They saved the best for last.

When it comes to anime epics, it is our Revolutionary Girl whose three-part saga has captivated from intriguing beginning to heartfelt end and still make room for a theatrical animated film that does the story justice. Ah, but every good story must come to an end as we reach the last chapter called The Apocalypse Saga that makes up Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 3, which is – by far – one of the best chapters of this series.

THE APOCALYPSE SAGA

Utena Tenjou has been through a lot since she has come across the lovely Rose Bride otherwise known as Anthy Himemiya and has dueled her way to the point that only she is considered the “one who will bring the world revolution.” In other words, Utena’s destiny is to change the world but is that even possible when she has yet to unravel the mystery behind End of the World or what exactly is beyond the Dueling Arena? Will she ever be reunited with the Prince who Utena was so captivated by that she herself decided to become a prince?

All of these questions will be answered in this final chapter but – thanks to a mysterious foe – the answers are being obstructed by the mysterious puppet master who has been pulling the Student Council’s strings all along. He is none other than the Acting Chairman himself who rides a shiny red sports car that corrupts anyone who rides inside it. It is the Chairman who gives the humiliated Saionji a ride as he reveals to the green-haired Adonis the truth behind End of the World. Let’s just say that the experience opened Saionji’s eyes wide enough to see that he still wants the Rose Bride so badly.

Of course, this means Saionji will duel against Utena once again but it is during the duel that Utena witnesses the Sword of Dios abandon her by simply vanishing. Still, with Anthy on her side, our girl manages to defeat Saionji who now no longer wants anything to do with End of the World who wants nothing more than to see Utena defeated by any means necessary and that means manipulating those close to her in order to carry out his plans.

Meanwhile, Utena finds herself becoming attracted to the Akio (the Acting Chairman) and is completely oblivious of his plans for her. It is Akio who corrupts Miki’s sister, Kozue, and gets her brother to challenge Utena despite the fact that the young Student Council member being a friend to her and Anthy. Then the Acting Chairman sets his sights on another member of the Student Council … Jury.

Speaking of Jury, who is still Captain of the Fencing Club, she discovers that her upperclassman mentor and ex-Captain named Tsuchiya Ruka returns. He is handsome and popular with the ladies but one in particular has Jury worried. It’s her friend Shiori who says she has always been in love with Ruka who missed school for a long time due to sickness. A conflict arises between Jury and Ruka that has the master fencer challenging Utena. Then, after the tragic duel between Ruka and Utena, it is Jury who crosses swords with Utena.

Things change after a hilarious episode where the always comical Nanami believes she laid an egg. Oftentimes she jumps to some really oddball conclusions that are not often true but when she suspects something about her big brother, Touga, the suspicion actually turns out to be truth. This leads Nanami to not only leave her beloved big brother but to live with Utena and Anthy in the Acting Chairman’s comfortable pad. It is there that Nanami also makes a shocking discovery about Akio and Anthy.

In fact, a number of revelations are made in this final chapter that saying more would spoil all the shocking surprises and twists that make up the final episodes. We also discover more about the Rose Bride myth as well as the floating castle in a play by the Shadow Girls. It all leads to a final duel as Utena fights to save Anthy from her true fate.

I can’t say I was too thrilled by the ending but The Apocalypse Saga is certainly one of the more intriguing, shocking and more entertaining part of this epic. By the end, you will not know everything about the castle in the sky or other details that we have been kept in the dark since the first saga but it offers more than its share of memorable scenes such as Touga making a confession to Utena or Anthy’s big reveal to Utena. It’s scenes like that that make Utena fans love the series even more.

ADOLESCENCE OF UTENA

Thankfully, RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment included the theatrical feature film in this set and I should say that it’s just as good as the TV Series if not more juicier. It’s not a condensed version of the anime series either, adding more layers to the relationships and changing things enough to make it unpredictable. In the movie, we are re-introduced to Utena Tenjou who is obsessed with her Prince in a different way than the series as she comes to the Academy as a new student.

It doesn’t take this Utena long to discover that members of the Student Council are involved in a society of duelists fighting for the chance to take the Rose Bride for themselves. When Utena finds her own Rose Crest Ring, she becomes involved in the world of dueling and – at first – she isn’t interested but two things change her mind. The first is seeing Touga Kiryuu who she has a connection to in this story and the second is Anthy Himemiya who is actually a lot more captivating and sultry her than in the series.

Torn by her past with Touga and her startling new feelings for the Rose Bride, Utena finds herself dueling the familiar faces that make up the Student Council. All of this leads up to unlocking the mystery of the Rose Bride herself and what it means to become engaged to her. The story of the Rose Bride is actually a lot clearer in the movie and believe me when I say that it makes the film even more interesting.

I should say that the movie is a lot steamier than the series with scenes between Anthy and Utena that don’t dance around their true feelings for each another like the series does. Here, we actually get to see them kiss and there’s even a Titanic-like nude portrait sketching scene between the two. However, the best stuff comes between Utena and Touga mainly because we’re not use to seeing the two in such an intimate manner. Touga nearly steals the show when we discover his past and his heartbreaking fate. It certainly made this reviewer shed a few tears.

Oh yeah, Utena also transforms in the finale … a feat that isn’t surprising seeing as there are plenty of odd scenes scattered throughout. My favorite is a cameo of the cow version of Nanami (complete with her designer cow bell) and the loveable little scamp that is Chu-Chu. It’s weird, sure, but downright hilarious. As far as the ending is concerned, it’s a lot more cheerful than the series’ ending and that’s not such a bad thing at all.

The Apocalypse Saga is everything you can ask for in a finale for such a mesmerizing and unforgettable series and that makes Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 3 one that is worth every dollar. There’s much to absorb in this final chapter and, on top of that, there’s the theatrical film that is just as stellar as the series. That makes this a package that no anime fan should be without and one I cannot recommend enough.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Utena and Anthy’s lives have changed since they both moved in together in the Acting Chairman’s incredible living quarters but behind Akio’s charming exterior is an even more devious motive that has him turning the members of the Student Council against Utena once more. As Utena duels for the Rose Bride, secrets aplenty begin to surface as the story speeds towards a surprising finale.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
This is still one of the more visually interesting anime series out there with original backdrops, stylishly unique character models and a good use of symbolism scattered throughout. The movie, Adolescence of Utena, is also visually fascinating and also stranger (Utena transforms!) and more romantic (Utena and Anthy kiss!) than the series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Once again, the original Japanese voices pull off some great performances with Tomoko Kawakami stealing the show as Utena. As far as the English dub cast is concerned, they all pull off great performances as Leah Applebaum (as Nanami) never failing to be hilarious. The music for both the TV series and the movie are just so breathtakingly lovely that it never gets old. Even the dueling song is awesome.

EXTRAS: A+
This DVD Set 3 not only contains The Apocalypse Saga on four DVDs but it also includes the Adolescence of Utena movie and a sixth disc with a generous number of extras for both the TV series as well as the movie. The best extra on the sixth DVD is the Interview with Cast & Crew that includes 10 short interviews with the likes of Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, Yuriko Fuchizaki (voice of Anthy), Mandy Bonhomie (voice of Jury) and Roxanne Beck (who voices Utena and sings a song for us) among others. For the movie, there’s even a Behind the Scenes feature where Director Ikuhara came to New York to oversee the English dub recording session.

Also included in the sixth disc are original trailers and TV spots for the series as well as the movie. The fourth disc of the series contains a rare audio commentary track for the final three episodes with Director Ikuhara and Utena manga artist Chiho Saito. Then there’s the 129-page soft cover book that contains artwork, interviews and thoughts on the series by the cast and crew,

OVERALL: A+
The Apocalypse Saga reaches a gratifying and emotional finale that makes this third and final chapter just as unforgettable as the other two sagas. Add the feature-length film that captured the feel of the series and the manga just right and you have a DVD Set 3 that is the perfect addition to your collection. Utena, Revolutionary Girl is the kind of series that just doesn’t get old and if you pick this one up you will see why.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

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