Monday, May 3, 2010
Favorite Anime of All Time.
I have been an anime fan since the third grade, and if that makes me sound like an elitist asshole, it is because I am an elitist asshole. It all started with the stuff shown on American television (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, Voltron, Samurai Pizza Cats), supplemented with what my sister brought home from college (Slayers, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Jubei-chan). But, one anime stood out to me, one that would affect my life in significant ways. It is the show that led me to my major of English, the show that made me choose French as my foreign language, and the show that made me the androgyne I am today. It also gave me an obsession with roses, and a penchant for track jackets, since they resembled the uniforms on the show. That show would be Shoujo Kakumei Utena, which roughly translates to: Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Watashi wa sekai wo kaeru. (I swear to you I will change the world.)
The show follows a 14 year old girl named Tenjou Utena (Family names before given names. This is Japan). The series is loosely based on Hermann Hesse's Demain and Gnostic mysticism.
The prologue explains the premise: Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a young girl who was very sad, for her mother and father had died. One day, a prince appeared to the girl, traveling upon on a white horse. He had a regal bearing and a kind smile. The prince wrapped the princess in a rose-scented embrace and gently wiped the tears from her eyes. 'Little one,' he said, 'bearing up alone in such deep sorrow, never lose that strength or nobility, even when you are grown. I give you this to remember this day. We will meet again.' (The prince gives the girl a rose-crested ring.) 'This ring will lead you to me one day.' Perhaps the ring the prince gave her was an engagement ring. This was all well and good, but so impressed was she by him, that she vowed to become a prince herself someday. But, was that really such a good idea?
Tenjou Utena attends Ohtori Academy, an elite school located somewhere in Japan. It is commanded by the Student Council, consisting of President Kiryuu Touga, Vice-President Saionji Kyouichi, Treasurer Kaoru Miki, and Secretary Arisugawa Juri. These four students participate in duels for The Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya, who possesses the power to revolutionize the world. Utena, hesitant to duel at first, continues to defend Anthy from those who might harm her as their friendship grows deeper. Things become more complicated as Anthy's brother, Akio Ohtori, enters the picture, manipulating all of the characters as a part of his master plan.
The series appears to be a normal magical girl anime, but this idea is dropped once we hit the middle of the first arc. The series is anything but normal. It takes a sharp, dark turn, and gets continuously darker and fucked up. There is so much symbolism, allegory, and metaphor that it could have an entire collegiate course dedicated to it (One I plan to teach, actually).
It deals with the idea of what it means to grow up and the idea of innocence and also deals with the concept of gender identity and stereotypes. Utena is frequently faced with people not understanding her desire to be a prince, and even at the end, she is told by Anthy "You can never be my prince, because you're a girl." It also inverts and subverts many fairytales, eradicating the concepts of the prince-on-a-white-horse, the princess, and the wicked witch.
The series consists of 39 episodes and a movie. The series is separated into 4 story arcs: The Student Council Saga (Eps. 1-13), The Black Rose Saga (14-24), The Akio Ohtori Arc (25-33), and The Apocalypse Arc (34-39). The movie, Adolescence Apocalypse, is commonly referred to as the End of Utena, echoing the End of Evangelion movie, due to the level of mindfuckery.
The series is famous for its stunning visuals, depth, and music. The music is what stays with people, composed by J.A. Seazer. The music encompasses all genres, but is mostly dark orchestral rock, upbeat pop and jazz. Additionally, the series is famous for its squick factor and controversial material, including incest, psychological abuse, violence, homosexuality, love dodecahedrons and rape.
For more information on Shoujo Kakumei Utena: Empty Movement.