Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: C
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Starchild/King Records
- MSRP: ¥5800
- Running time: 121
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Shoujo Kakumei Utena Vol. 1
What They SayThe Review!
"If the egg's shell does not break, the chick will die unborn"
"We are the chick; the egg is the world"
"If the world's shell does not break, we will die unborn"
"Break the world's shell!"
"For the sake of revolutionizing the world!"
Having read and watched many shoujo manga and anime, Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) certainly falls in the most distinctive category of shoujo anime I have seen. It is an overstatement of character, style, and direction.
Somehow, perhaps with the help of director Kunihiko Ikuhara (Sailor Moon), it all comes together and works. Whether there is psychedelic spinning rose-a-vision, comical melodrama, obscure "shadow" plays, not so obscure lesbian themes, or surfing Elephants, every episode paves new ground for anime surrreality while maintaining just enough sanity to hold the viewer in.
The music is also quite distinctive. There are brief bits of classical and romantic western (particularly French) themes that are closely tied to the action. The opening "Rinbu Revolution" is very J-pop and snappy. The most distinctive sound comes from the Seazar Chorus which accompany all of the duels. With songs entitled "Spira Mirabilis Theatre" and "Paleozoic Within the Body" to name a few, it would be an understatement to say that they sound more unusual than their names would suggest.
Viewer beware, Shoujo Kakumei Utena is an acquired taste. In my informal polling, Utena yields scant middle ground; people either love it or hate it. Blame the quirky dialogue and the scenes repleat with distractions. The humor often stems from unusual predicaments and stereotypes as opposed to body humor or slapstick. Some episodes are thought provoking, some are hilarious, yet others are erotic.
As of 1/99, Software Sculptors (Central Park Media) has released ep. 1-7 domestically both subbed and dubbed on VHS. They plan to release up to episode 13 on VHS, and, at some point, also make a DVD with the first 13 episodes. There is no word if CPM will continue with the rest of the series up to episode 39. A Shoujo Kakumei Utena movie is scheduled for release in Japan in the summer of '99. English synopsis of all 39 episodes are available at www.duellists.tj.
The video quality looks good. It is cleaner looking than the LD release in the noise and color department. I docked the video rating because it originated from a composite source (probably D2) instead of a component one (the same is true for Be-Bop Cowboy, EVA, and Nadesico). The composite source limits the luma resolution, color quality, and produces artifacts. Another curiosity to note is that the color phase is shifted to the purple in comparison to the LD. It was easy to correct by adjusting the hue a touch, but still, it is rare see an oversight like this in a Japanese anime release.
The stereo audio tracks are very good quality for a TV show. The music and dialogue is very clean, with the foley's varying from state of the art studio quality to some canned monaural sounds. Some attempt was made to match voices/efx ambience to the scenes where it was called for. The voice acting is superb.
The menu is very simple. It has 2 layers with paths to major scenes with no pictures. There is a bonus video with the Karaoke and non- Karaoke versions of "Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku" or "The Absolute Destiny Apocalypse."
The disc is 121 minutes long and is dual layered. As you might guess, the data rate is pegged at 8-10 mb/s most of the way through. There are no visible compression artifacts even upon close inspection.
It is packaged in a slightly rounded CD jewel case that seems a little more durable and scratch resistant than a regular CD case. The quality, layout, and artwork of the package is excellent. (It confuses me why CPM completely discarded the original layout theme and created an inferior for their VHS tapes; the original was perfect!).
I look forward to more Utena DVD's both from Japan and the US!