Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena is an anime series in the Revolutionary Girl Utena franchise
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A popular yuri-themed anime with magical girl touches alongside philosophical flourishes.

Pink-haired tomboy Utena Tenjo (a surname infuriatingly mispronounced throughout the U.S. dub) is an eighth grader at Otori Academy. She clings to the memory of her childhood encounter with a mysterious "prince" as she wept by the grave of her parents. Though she cannot remember his face (refer to Candy Candy), she treasures the rose signet ring he gave her and, for reasons not totally clear, resolves to dress and behave as a boy until she finds him again.

Otori is a teen fantasy, where teachers live in fear of the student council and sputter impotently at pupils' "witty" comebacks, the boys and girls are all beautiful, and dueling is the number-one occupation. Fencers regularly meet for ritual combat within a gargantuan hall (part of the school, yet also a separate dimension), where they fight for the right to the hand of Anthy, the "Rose Bride" whose body is a living sheath for a sword. Victorious in battle, Utena becomes Anthy's betrothed, though the student council do what they can to topple her because they are searching for the ultimate duelist who will summon forth the divine power known as "Dios."

Portentous and pretentious in equal amounts, Utena quite literally invests teenage crushes and schoolgirl intrigues with world-shattering significance. Created by director Ikuhara, with several other staffers from his earlier Sailor Moon S, and Chiho Saito, who drew the Utena manga for Ciao magazine, it artfully perverts mundane school life into a quest of fantastic proportions. It also features swordplay and cross-dressing in the swashbuckling tradition of Princess Knight and Rose of Versailles, to which it owes a heavy aesthetic debt. Director Ikuhara acknowledges a strong influence from Tragedy of Belladonna, the film that inspired him to work in anime. Like the tarot-themed episodes of Escaflowne, Utena presents its heroine with a series of subtext-laden duels to test her mettle, forging her into a suitable messiah. Highly sensual though rarely explicit, its premise is ironically close to that of an Urotsukidoji that replaces sex and violence with pure, infinite yearning. On Japanese TV, Utena thrived in the vacuum left by the conclusion of Evangelion, though it was not without controversy-in a ludicrous outbreak of racism, the TV Tokyo switchboard received complaints that love interest Anthy was "black."

Many better-known fairy tales are mixed and matched with situation comedy: one character proudly displays a "designer pendant" that is nothing more than a cowbell, then slowly transforms into a cow before the others' eyes. In another, tomboy Utena and twee Anthy swap personalities after a particularly hot curry. Amid all the school high jinks, the central story continues, as girls pine for their princes, boys for their princesses, and a plot with the vague aims of "bringing revolution and attaining eternity" advances ever onward. Ikuhara brings sensibilities and themes from his own Sailor Moon S episodes to this unlikely confection of swords and roses, mirroring the rollercoaster of teenage emotions in a whirl of seductive imagery. Unlike Slayers, which mixes "real" elements into its fantasy world for comic effect, Utena coats the real world in fantasy but lets the sharp edges show through. Beautiful clothes and skill with a sword can't ward off the pain of inadequacy and loss-though they certainly look good. The series too places increasing emphasis on style over substance as it progresses, becoming ever more surreal, with additional digital effects in the last season.

The movie Adolescence of Utena (1999) wraps up the story with a fantasy that summarizes its main themes in a succession of vignettes rather than providing a logical conclusion. It's therefore incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen the preceding series; a hallucinogenic whirl of tortured relationships, floating roses, flying cars, flashing blades, and gorgeous costumes.

Series Credits
Person Name Episode Count
Takahiro Tanaka

To edit the cast, go to an episode page.

Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name Revolutionary Girl Utena
Name: 少女革命ウテナ
Romaji: Shoujo Kakumei Utena
Publisher Shogakukan
Start Year 1997
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Aliases Revolutionary Girl Utena
La Fillette Revolutionnaire Utena
Ursula's Kiss
Shoujo Kakumei Utena
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