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DVD Review

DVD cover

Revolutionary Girl Utena
The Movie


Starring (voice): Tomoko Kawakami, Yuriko Fuchizaki, Aya Hisakawa and Kotono Mitsuishi
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 13 October 2008

Utena Tenjou becomes a new student at the Ohtori Academy, causing controversy as she insists on dressing like a boy. The Academy is famous for its fencing and at present duels are being fought for possession of the power of the Rose Bride Anthy Himemiya. Utena is reunited with an old love, Touga Kiryuu, who just happens to be dead. He instructs her into the reason for the duels and the duelist, when she discovers the dark secret she realises that she must confront it to pass to a new reality...

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie (Shôjo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku, 1999) is an OVA from the original thirty-nine episode anime show, directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara from a Yoji Enokido script, both of whom had previously worked on Sailor Moon and the weekly anime series.

If you are not familiar with the original manga or anime, this is defiantly not the place to start and as far as I can tell even if you are, it’s not going to help much. Rather than telling a stand alone story to complement the original series the makers have kept the cast, changed them and dropped them in another universe. As a stand alone film Utena presupposes a great deal of knowledge, without which the whole thing makes little sense.

That said there is no denying the visual splendour of the show and the makers have pushed the stylistic envelope much as they did with the narrative. The use of symbolism in the piece means that it will ultimately have many different layers of meanings, so the story will mean what you want it to mean. Possibly those who had watched the original show may be more enlightened, but I doubt it.

For an OVA the film is given a fairly generous number of extras, not least of which is the full length commentary by the director, though this has had to be subtitled, and by his hesitancy you get the feeling that this is not a medium that comes naturally to him. Behind the Scenes with Kunhiko Ikuhara sees the director popping over the pond to check out the English dub. You get some nice art sketches with a text commentary and some character designs, throw in some trailers and a couple of TV spots and the disc stands ahead of the average for an anime.

Audio is a disappointing 2.0 Japanese with subs or an English dub. The picture is a little soft, but the film is eight years old.

Not having seen the original show I’m not really sure what to make of the film; a massive overindulgent ego trip for the director or one of the most interesting and experimental anime films of recent years. I lean towards the latter idea. It very much reminded me of a David Lynch film with its multi-layered meanings and I ended up watching it more than once, which is unusual for a review copy.


Charles Packer

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