Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 87
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie

By Chris Beveridge     October 23, 2001
Release Date: October 23, 2001


Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie
© Central Park Media


What They Say
From the director of Sailor Moon and the key animation supervisor of Neon Genesis Evangelion! Utena duels her classmates to protect her friend Anthy, who is the key to a magical power that could make her dream - to become a prince - come true. But Anthy hides a terrible secret, and Utena must face the truth about herself and those she loves... and learn what it to be a true hero.

The Review!
Adolescence of Utena is the theatrical movie of the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series done up from a different perspective as well as condensed. Like many anime movies made from TV series, there's plenty similar and plenty that's wildly changed. The Utena movie works best if you've seen the TV series to completion, but if not, it's still an extremely enjoyable piece of work that manages to hold its own very well.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This track is essentially a duplicate of the Japanese release, which means it's one of the better stereo soundtracks you're likely to hear for an anime movie. There's a wide expressive use of the forward soundstage, from the rush of the water to the tolling of the bells. The characters do a good job of moving in and out of their surroundings and the aural presentation of it is dead on. The music sounds wonderful here and the dialogue is crisp and clean. This will have you running out to snap up a soundtrack.

Video:
With this release, CPM has established their first true crown jewel in their DVD library. This is a truly stunning looking release that matches the truly stunning Japanese release and manages to make some good minor improvements over it. The colors are vibrant, the colors are solid. There's no cross coloration, there were only a few scan moments of shimmering during camera pans that were also on the Japanese release. And with it being anamorphically encoded, the extra 33% or so increase in detail and resolution makes this a stunner on our gear. This is a disc that will get taken out to show off to people before most other discs. Beautiful.

Packaging:
If anything, this is where dissent on this release will come from. Some people simply aren't going to like the logo, the pose, the heavy purple pinks or the small gold "Collectors Series" bar along the top. For those who saw the original cover, there was a lot more text on it, so I'll take the small victories where I can get them. The logo is all right if uninspiring and I'd hope that there was more of a selection of artwork, but this is what they decided to go with. The back cover is made up of the folds of pink roses with a few animation shots provided. There's a brief summary and an extensive list of extras. The reverse side cover Provides a number of staff positions as well as the cast for both languages and the chapter stops. There's also some really nice black and white artwork used here.

Menus:
The set of menus used here are also probably some of the best to date from CPM. There's good usage of the shows animation to build some stylish looking menus that are also quite functional. The selections are all themed around roses of course, but it looks excellent. Access times between menus is nice and fast and everything is laid out pretty decently. The extras page works well in not being overly crowded, since they went to two pages for it.

Extras:
There's a slew of extras here. The first one is the reason this gets an A+ rating. We've got a running commentary from series and movie director Kunihiko Ikuhara. Ikuhara's very laid back in his telling of the details behind the various scenes and what they were trying to accomplish, which works well as his voice doesn't overpower you while taking in the animation and reading the translated subtitles. There's an immense amount of information he gives out during this commentary and much of it will really enhance ones appreciation for the film. There's very few dead spots during it as well. Being a real fan of filmmaking, I'm always excited when a company goes to the extra effort of getting the Japanese director or other creators involved enough to do a commentary track.

What else is there? The behind the scenes footage done during the dubbing when Ikuhara arrived to oversee certain key scenes was interesting. One has to wonder what kind of additional pressure that puts on both the ADR director and the actors, regardless of how laid back Ikuhara is, to have the director of the movie there to provide additional insights and suggestions. It's an interesting piece to see how they all got along.

There's also some really interesting character design video galleries and general conceptual artwork galleries with directors notes preceding them. There's also the inclusion of Japanese TV and theatrical trailers as well as the US preview trailers. One thing I did like was the fan tribute, which was made up of 7 pieces of artwork (several of which I was really impressed with) and a few cosplay pictures. The first and last ones in particular were quite good!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Let me preface this review a bit. I've seen the entire TV series. Just a few weeks ago, we watched the Japanese DVD release of this movie without subtitles and fell in love with it. Didn't use a script, just sat and watched. And we've now watched it again, this time with subtitles and insights from Ikuhara.

And I still have no real firm way of describing this movie.

With the movie, large sections of the 39 episode TV series have been excised, but many of the core elements have been kept. The movie doesn't take place within a timeframe of the movie but more as a new telling of it from a different perspective. As such, the endings are quite different as are the fates of many characters. One of the more frequent characters from the series, Nanami, only makes a token appearance at the halfway mark in her cow form while battling against Chu Chu and Kerropon. School headmaster Akio also has a drastic change in his impact on the show, going from crucial to "hello balcony drop-off".

The show opens with the introduction of tomboyish Utena into one of the more unique looking schools ever created. While checking out a dueling match, she spies across the courtyard a childhood friend in the form of Touga. Dashing through the school, she eventually catches up with him and tries to find out why their paths have crossed again after so many years. He mentions the ring he has with the seal of the rose as being what he's followed, and gives her a ring as well.

After exploring a bit more, Utena comes across another classmate named Anthy at the top of this platform that's filled with roses. Anthy reveals that she's the Rose Bride and obeys those who command her. Which is the cue for Saionji to enter, with his full green hair flowing behind him and a more desperate look in his face than you'd expect. Saionji explains a bit more about the Rose Bride, as he currently has "ownership" of her, and then upon noticing the rose seal ring on Utena's finger, he takes the challenge of a duel for Anthy.

The duel is fast and furious, the music makes the sequence all the more tense and edgy, and the animation is stunning. The show, which while filled with a quiet sense of danger and presence, drops all pretense and just lunges into the battle and life springs forth from it. It's an engaging moment that's over all too fast. And a surprising one for Saionji as he finds himself the loser, and Anthy finds herself belong to Utena now.

The show doesn't drop into a mode of repeated duels to gain control (that's what the multi-layered TV series is for) but there are still a number of exciting duels to come. The time between them is used to present more of the characters and how they're adapting to life inside this closed world. Akio, the school headmaster, had a sizably larger role in the TV series, but finds himself used for only setup here of other elements. He does have two amusing moments when he swivels over the cars and makes a sound doing it. I don't know why, but I swear it cracks me up.

One other scene that continually has left me in awe of the talent behind this movie takes place when Utena goes to the rose platform and makes accusations at Anthy about how her life is. She complains that she can't even see the stars at night, at which point all her energy is gone and she simply drops. Anthy goes to the water pipe and smashes it while the sun goes down. When Utena wakens, the roses are floating all over the platform, and reflected in the water is the stars in the sky. The two are intimately close through this, and with beautiful music playing, the two dance across the starry rose-laden platform.

It sounds corny as hell, but it's one of the most powerful moments in this movie and it just stays with you.

The Utena movie is Ikuhara's grand slam out of the ball park. It's lavish on many levels and provides enough of a mental headbanging to keep a psychiatrist awake at night for weeks on end. I'd say this is him at the top of his game, but with him taking time to learn film from the US schools and learning some good decadent American ways, his next project is probably going to be even more over the top and more daring. The Utena movie is definitely one of the things that US fans will always remember him for though.

CPM's release of it does it far better justice than the Japanese release by allowing Ikuhara to take the time to tell us his thoughts on it. The commentary track is a huge selling point on me and it should be a huge selling point for fans of the Utena universe. I simply cannot recommend this disc highly enough.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen transfer,Ikuhara's running commentary track with English subtitles,Behind-the-scenes video (Featuring Ikuhara supervising the dubbing in NYC footage of voice actors Rachael Lillis Sharon Becker and Mandy Bonhomme),Japanese TV spots,Japanese trailers,US teaser & trailer,Kobayashi's art boards w/ Ikuhara's commentary,Character sketches w/ Ikuhara's commentary,Fan tribute (Fan art and cosplay contest winners!),Trivia quiz,Clean untouched video (no overlays or hard subs),Removable song & sign translations (for the dub),Sub track with Romaji song lyrics,DVD-ROM: Art Gallery,DVD-ROM: List of fan submissions,DVD-ROM: Director's commentary script,DVD-ROM: Complete English dub script (written by Ikuhara's hand-picked translator)

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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