Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #06: The Beginning of the End - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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: 29.99
  • 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. #06: The Beginning of the End

By Chris Beveridge     May 14, 2003
Release Date: May 13, 2003


Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. #06: The Beginning of the End
© Central Park Media


What They Say
Utena must face her most cunning opponent yet – the abusive ex-fiancé of her best friend Anthy. Determined to avenge her friend, Utena fights more desperately than ever before! Contains episodes 24-26

The Review!
The Beginning of the End kicks off just that as it moves into the final story arc and the truly weird stuff starts flowing freely.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
With a large amount of white, the border strip of blue looks excellent here with the characters of Touga and Nanami being the main focus here in some very good looking artwork. 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.

Menu:
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 (and I continue to dislike the episodes being called “movie”. The menus have definitely come along nicely from their earlier ones, but I still dislike the way it plays automatically after a few run-throughs.

Extras:
The extras continue to be good, albeit fairly short but still interesting. The Ikuhara interviews continue with another five minute segment that asks more questions about the TV series and movie as well as answering the question of just what Chu Chu is. The voice actress interviewed this time around is Leah Applebaum and we also get a karaoke style version of the opening song with romaji lyrics.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I do wish the entire series was out already, I have to admit that going through these short three episode bursts every couple of months is making me even more keen on the series than when I marathoned the whole thing in a day a few years back. The anticipation of level of what’s coming, since most of it is still fuzzy to me, is working well and the low episode count makes me salivate for more episodes quickly.

With this volume, the show kicks itself into the final story arc and brings the events of the End of the World to the forefront again. Before any of that really gets started though, we get something of a recap episode. And leave it to Ikuhara to provide a recap episode that makes you want to watch it. The way it’s done is by using Tsuwabaki. Now that we’ve gotten to know him via the Black Rose arc, we watch him and Nanami go about their morning when some horses suddenly go wild, and he ends up throwing himself on her to push her away. This leaves him in the infirmary and out of it for the time being.

Enter Utena and Anthy who have come to check on him only to find Nanami watching over him. Anthy’s curiosity gets the better of her and she starts leafing through the notebook Tsuwabaki keeps and it takes us back to a variety of earlier episodes where Nanami worked her evil to try and take down either Utena or Anthy. What makes this fun is that while we get the same scenes for the most part, we now have it via Tsuwabaki’s skewed perceptions and we get him actually added into a number of scenes, providing some retroactive continuity. It’s nicely done and any chance to see more of Nanami with the cowbell is worth it.

Once that’s out of the way though, the real story arc starts off. After having made it through the setup arc and then the Black Rose arc, Utena has managed to master things well in becoming a Duelist and being tied to the Rose Bride. She’s faced off quite a number of opponents, often without knowing what’ s going on and held her own against the more manipulative forces that have been set against her. With her now living with Anthy in the tower and under the close gaze of Akio, it becomes more and more obvious just how he’s testing her to see if she’s the one the he’s really looking for.

But Akio’s main method of tweaking and controlling comes by manipulation of others for his goals. With Saionji back in the picture, Akio begins to use him after he brings Touga over to his side by showing him something key. These conversion scenes are masterfully done, and much like the Black Rose saga, features a repetitive segment that’s really only different in dialogue and characters in place. Watching Akio drive along in his car and having the discussions change as new characters are brought into it is fascinating to watch, even if the manipulations are simple. The way Saionji gets converted is quite different than how Miki was, though I admit to liking that one better since Kozue was much more…. relaxed. Tying all of that together is the beautifully arrogant and confident Akio, riding astride the hood of his car with his shirt blowing in the wind.

I would so love to hear a top psychologist watch this series and give his thoughts on it.

As with the Black Rose saga, once they’re brought over to Akio’s will, they then make their move against Utena and the duels begin. There’s some intriguing changes to the format of the duels here, not only the change of using an elevator as opposed to the stairs now, but also in the weaponry used and the theme. The desks of the Rose saga are long gone and Akio’s car continues to become a more and more important key focus for the symbolism here.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for the final arc, so it’s mostly prep work and setup for things to come. The animation continues to look just as it has, though the transfer looks a bit sharper and more vibrant this time around. Things aren’t slacking off after the second arc of the series at all, they’re only getting faster and more intense. This series continues to be a real favorite and I can’t wait for more.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles, Interview with Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, Interview with U.S. Voice Actor Leah Applebaum, Opening Theme Song with Romaji Lyrics

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

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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