Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #05: Darkness Beckoning -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #05: Darkness Beckoning

By Chris Beveridge     March 14, 2003
Release Date: March 11, 2003

Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #05: Darkness Beckoning
© Central Park Media

What They Say
While exploring the campus, Utena discovers an eerie building where a hundred students died many years ago. There she encounters a mysterious and nefarious professor. Will Utena become the next pawn in his experiment? Contains episodes 21-23.

The Review!
Utena continues to be a series where I wish all 39 episodes had been released at once, because even a minute wait between volumes is sheer torture.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The shows stereo mix continues to be strongest with the music, with that aspect sounding the richest and fullest across the forward soundstage. Dialogue throughout is nice and clear, though there isn’t quite that much in terms of directionality.

In some ways, Utena will simply never look gorgeous; especially for those hoping these episodes will look like the movie they’ve seen. The transfer for Utena here looks quite similar to the Japanese release, with its pale large swathes of color that look solid, but just have that feel like they’re going to break up. Characters are fairly minimally drawn at mid to long range, and they often look little more than little blocks of color. Cross coloration is fairly well non-existent and there’s only some slight aliasing during a few panning sequences.

The golden background is the color of choice for this volume, though it’s lightened nicely by the beautiful image of Juri set against the stark white background. The back cover does the background in reverse, with the white section providing the discs special features and episode summaries while mixing in some animation shots. The reverse side of the cover has some nice black and white artwork of the front cover image while providing scene selections for all four episodes, a full bilingual cast listing and the basic production credits for the show.

Using the stylized spinning roses in the frame as the basis of the menu, they added in a transition piece of character artwork in the lower right corner that runs through as animation plays underneath and the opening song hurls along. Selections are quick and easy to make (though I continue to dislike the episodes being called “movie”. The menus have definitely come along nicely from their earlier ones, though I dislike the way it plays automatically after a few run-throughs.

The extras continue to appeal to both sides of fandom nicely with this volume. The interview with Ikuhara focuses more on his thoughts of living in America (including his difficulties with pillows) while the English dub fans get a new interview, this time with voice actress Carol Jacobanis, who plays the shadow girls in the series. There’s a good looking art gallery and a storyline summary that brings people up to date as well. There’s also a nearly four minute long “music video” of the dueling song from episode 23 with hard subtitled Japanese lyrics done up in karaoke style.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this volume, things get closer to the Black Rose Saga coming to an end, and we get some really great episodes. With the past volumes, we’ve been getting to know the secondary cast of the series and their deep dark inner feelings and secrets. This volume continues that, albeit briefly.

The show opens in letting us see how the Trio who realistically serve under Nanami got introduced to her and became her minions. The three came across her on her first day and started to invite her to join the group, relatively as an equal but likely as a new minion for them to use. All of that went out the window though when Nanami suddenly hugs a newly arrived Touga, and the Trio learns that she’s Touga’s younger sister. At that point, the three work out their own pact to become those who will support Nanami in all her ventures and to help her be all she can be. A lot of this is their own individual desires to be closer to Touga.

The story then diverges back to the present where one of the trio, Keiko, becomes disconnected from the group after Nanami finds her walking in the rain with Touga. With Nanami, nobody but her is allowed to have her brother and those who get in the way will be utterly destroyed. Nanami wastes no time in this effort and before we know it, Keiko is cast out and alone in the school world. Until she ends up inside Mikage’s building, and then things take a familiar route as we get down to the gritty of her mind.

The next two episodes is huge part of the culmination of the Black Rose Saga, as Utena begins her exploration of Mikage’s world, and we spend practically an entire episode with Mikage as we go into his dark long past and learn what really happened in that building all those years ago. The revelations of the manipulation, the search for eternity and the involvement of those who you wouldn’t otherwise believe would be alive that far back come to the surface in a very teasing manner. Much of the revelations are clear, but they’re surrounded by equally clouded revelations that’s setting the stage for the final arc of the series.

The two parter plays out beautifully with lots of subtle pieces along the way starting to click, particularly with Anthy. Utena’s starting to reach her breaking pointing dealing with all of this, especially after she discovers pictures in Nemuro Hall of all the students she’s had to fight lately. Her own past is now being called into question as well as the validity of her memories of her youth and a critical turning point in her life. There’s so much more ahead that we’re still only scraping the tip of the iceberg here.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Interview with the Director,Interview with U.S. Voice Actor,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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