Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000
The disk that shoujo anime fans in the United States and Canada have been eagerly awaiting. The second DVD of Revolutionary Girl Utena, entitled "The Rose Collection 2", comprises episodes 8 through 13, which are volumes 3 and 4 of the original VHS release.
(From my review of the first disk.) The visual quality on this disc is beautiful, second in quality only to the "Tenchi Muyo Ultimate Collection" OVA DVD set. In retrospect, that was a little excessive praise. At the time, the only other TV anime that I had seen on my own personal player was, of course, Tenchi in Tokyo. I hadn't been exposed to the bright, vivid colors as seen in Serial Experiments Lain, which is a very good disk to show to your DVD-skeptic friends. Compared to Lain, Utena looks about average for TV anime on DVD; much better than videotape, but not exactly superb like Lain or Cowboy Be-Bop. Some time after finishing my initial review, I re-watched the disk and I noticed a problem which I somehow missed the first time around. A lot of the time, when the "camera" changes from one shot to another, the image shakes slightly for about a frame or so. You get some of this on this disk as well; go to the shot at 0:08:18, where you see a photo of Anthy (who, as you'd know from watching the preview at the end of episode 7, has switched personalities with Utena) on the gymnastic bar. Press STEP (or whatever the "frame advance" button is called on your DVD player's remote) until the shot changes to Nanami holding the photo with Miki crying behind her right shoulder. Notice that the picture shifts up a few millimeters for about two frames. This most likely isn't the fault of CPM (it's present on the Utena VHS tapes as well); I'd imagine that this was also present on the master tapes. It's like the "white fuzz" in Tenchi in Tokyo (which turned out to be the glue used to splice together the pieces of film). When an animation company has to do, in this case, 39 episodes of a TV series on a limited budget, they have to cut corners somewhere, and, for whatever reason, this seems to show particularly in the film splices. (This is also why they use the stair-climbing sequence in nearly every episode.)
Speaking of "white fuzz", it actually shows up at least once on this disk as well. Go to 0:29:29. During the flashback sequence we see two individuals on a bike. A close-up shows that one of them is holding the other at the waist. Press STEP again, and, after a few frames, you see fuzz at the bottom (and a little at the top) of the screen, and then, during the next frame (where they show a silhouette of the two characters on a bike in the distance) there's some white fuzz at the top of the screen. Again, this is quite obviously not the fault of CPM., it's merely a by-product of the aforementioned limited TV budget. And shoujo TV series tend to have drastically lower budgets than slicker sci-fi series like Cowboy Be-Bop. One problem which I can attribute to CPM is that sometimes, when a picture slowly fades in from black, the DVD image does this pixel by pixel, rather than having the entire field of color change gradually from black to, say, pink, as it would on an analogue video format like Laserdisc. However, I've seen this problem with other DVD's, both animated and live-action. While the DVD picture is, for the most part, an improvement over that of the Laserdisc, two common problems that I've noticed are the pixellation problem when changing from one color to another gradually, and, for whatever reason, noticeable artifacting with star-fields, like the stars behind the Fushigi Yûgi logo right at the beginning of the opening sequence, and the various seas of stars that occur often in the various incarnations of Tenchi Muyo.
For those of you who hated the "translucent" subtitles the first time round, I'm afraid that you'll hate the subtitles here too, since they're pretty much identical to the first DVD volume. But, in my opinion, the problem isn't so much with the translucence; the problem is with the fact that the border around the subtitles is only about a pixel wide. This is far too thin to show much in the way of contrast when there are many different colors in the background. In writing this review, I had another look at the font that Pioneer used in Tenchi Forever, the Fushigi Yûgi box set, and the Sailor Moon R movie; a font which I consider to be the best font for animation. The border isn't quite as thick as I remember, but it's enough to contrast well with any sort of image. I would hope that CPM. would consider emulating that font in future releases.
The sound is... uh... there. There's nothing wrong with it, I should say. The dubbing has pretty much the same "issues" as last time. They messed up one scene with the dubbing: right at the beginning of episode 9 (the second episode on this disk), some girls run to the kendo dojo to watch Touga and Saionji duel in the arena. In the Japanese version, we hear the girls cheer them on. In the English version, we hear... nothing. A little bit later, Saionji confronts Utena about Anthy. In the background, Chu Chu is confronting a foe of his own. In the Japanese version, Chu Chu's making cute fighting noises, but they didn't dub them into the English version until the point where Saionji gets annoyed by Chu Chu. Uh, Mr. Taylor, Tenjou is pronounced "TE-N-JOE", not "TEN-JEW" (the way that Jack Taylor, as Saionji, pronounces it at 0:20:17)! Strictly speaking, this may not be Mr. Taylor's fault; on the Synchrovox (the machine used to synchronize the English dialogue precisely with the lips) they probably wrote the names as they are spelt using the Hepburn system of romanization of Japanese names, instead of how they are pronounced.
On the lighter side, I'm pleased to report that some of the misspelled subtitles are fixed on this disk. Unfortunately, though, I think that I've found some other mistakes on this disk. For the title screen of episode 9, we have the title of the episode, "The Castle Where Eternity Dwells", written in the DVD subtitles, but, below the Japanese kanji, we see "Next Episode" written out in hard subtitles. "Next Episode"... at the beginning of the episode? I sure hope someone got fired for that one! Another minor problem: only the first four, out of six, episodes are named on the back of this disk.
I grew tired of including "spoiler warnings", so I'm trying not to include quite so many "spoilers" in my review. But those of you who don't want to read any "spoilers" whatsoever should probably stop reading here.
My favorite episode on this disk is "Curried High Trip", wherein Anthy makes a special curry that is so powerful that Utena and Anthy switch personalities. "Utena" starts acting like "Anthy", and vice-versa. Could the incident have had something to do with Nanami's tampering? Nanami, and her well-paid clique, have to travel to India to try to retrieve what may be the only thing that can return the girls to their normal bodies. But, remember Nanami's difficulties with certain things in episode 6? She has similar, but jumbo-sized, problems in India in successively more ridiculous situations!
Now, I know that some people hate so-called "filler" episodes such as these. I love them. I feel that a series, such as this one, with high artistic pretensions, would be utterly pretentious if it took itself too seriously. In fact, I love it when they have a little fun with the characters; it makes them all a little more human. The only problem I really have with episode 8, "Curried High Trip" is that it comes just two episodes after Episode 6, "Take Care, Miss Nanami", the other humorous episode in the first 13 episode story arc.
Episodes 9 through 12 continue with the main story arc, which I believe is known by fans as "The Student Council Saga", so I don't think that I need to go into much detail with these episodes; otherwise, I'd spoil the story. We learn a little more about the duelists. During an extended flashback sequence, we learn more about the events surrounding the deaths of Utena's parents, and who was around to comfort her when she doubted that anything was "eternal". Saionji gets a little more aggressive with Anthy, and he has a terrifying vision. Nanami is revealed to be another duelist (not really that much of a spoiler because we see her in her duelist uniform during the first opening credits sequence). The original source of her animal anxieties is also shown in another "flashback" sequence. Then, we find out that Anthy only acts more independent around Utena because she reflects the will of her "husband". Utena soon becomes very depressed, for reasons that I will not give, and starts acting like a "normal" schoolgirl. Wakaba gets frustrated with Utena and annoys Utena to such an extent that Utena slaps Wakaba, to which the normally doting Wakaba slaps back.
Two of the duelists who don't appear too much in these episodes, except in the "End of the World" meeting scenes, are Jury and Miki. Miki's still timing... something... with his stopwatch. There is also a nit regarding his stopwatch in episode 11: whatever he's timing takes 6 seconds 54 (milliseconds), according to the stopwatch, and according to the English dub, but according to the subtitles, it was 6 seconds 20 (milliseconds)! So I listened to the Japanese version very closely, and sure enough Aya Hisakawa, the voice actress for Miki says "nijû-byô", which means "twenty". So this wasn't the fault of CPM., it was the fault of Aya Hisakawa. (And what's with all those balloons?)
I believe that CPM. has finally confirmed that the next set of Utena episodes will soon be coming out in North America. Hopefully, CPM. will take note of some of the suggestions included in my, Chris', and the other Alternate Angle reviewers' reviews (i.e. no more translucent subs, less masculine voices for the bishônen characters like Miki, eliminating hard subs for the songs, etc...). I also hope that they release the DVD versions much sooner after the VHS versions. And when can we expect to see the movie on DVD? And will CPM. comics ever release the Utena manga? All in all, however, the second Utena Rose Collection is a must have disk for all shoujo fans, as well as any anime fan who likes venturing beyond the familiar and predictable.
Toshiba SD-2107 DVD player, 27-inch Sony Trinitron KV-27S40 television using the set's internal speakers, standard red/white/yellow A/V cables ("Heavy Duty" "Gold", from Radio Shack).
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 144
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Revolutionary Girl Utena