Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie
A new student arrives at Ohtori Academy, a mammoth complex that seems to be alive and has roses growing everywhere. The student is Utena, a girl who dresses and speaks like a boy. She meets two people who will ultimately change her life: Touga, her childhood friend and confidant, and Anthy, a cold, heartless girl who draws Utena into the game of the Duelists. Whoever wears the Rose Signet has the right to fight and win her, The Rose Bride, and Utena wants nothing to do with it. Yet she plays the game in hopes of breaking through to Anthy, to gain her friendship and trust, all while trying to figure out the terrible secret of the Academy.
Considering the quality (or lack thereof) of recent film adaptations of popular shows (Escaflowne the Movie!! *gaaaack*), I had my reservations about seeing this movie. Utena was already a weird TV show, I could only imagine what sort of bizarre visuals I'd be subjected to with the movie.
Well, they were bizarre, as expected, but it was also quite possibly the most visually beautiful movie I have ever seen. The animation and backgrounds are truly a sight to behold, and even the characters themselves are updated with a sophisticated look that suits them perfectly. Everything in this movie moves, including every single rose petal floating on the breeze, and there are a TON of rose petals!
The characters personalities have also changed to match the new look, but this is probably the best part of the movie. All of the characters finally seem to come into their own in this movie, and we finally get to see them as maybe they should have been in the TV series all along. The most noticeable changes are found in the three main characters Utena, Anthy, and Touga. Utena is flawed and confused, but she is even more determined and honest. Touga is not nearly as cruel as he was in the TV series, and comes across as very sympathetic, even as his motivations and loyalty remain a total mystery until the very end. Anthy is borderline psychotic, a distant, calculating figure who is as terrifying as she is beautiful. Anthy is the character I liked most. In the TV show she was more bland, with only hints of comedic relief. In the movie you have no idea wther she is the heroine or the villain, and it's hard to tell if Utena is genuinely her friend or if Anthy isn't just playing with her emotions to gain what she seeks. (As for what it is, well, just watch the movie to find out!)
The story can be a bit hard to follow at times, as the visuals do overpower the prose, but everything in the movie does have a purpose, and make no mistake, this is a suspense thriller, not a fluffy romance. It's not until the last 20 minutes of the movie that everything falls into place and is explained.
Sadly, had the movie ended fifteen minutes sooner, this would have been a five star anime. For just as the plot reaches its zenith and all becomes clear and we're ready to see Utena and Anthy beat the enemy both within and beyond ... director Ikuhara lights his bong and decides to 'play around' with the ending.
Cue the Intergalactic Car Wash from Hell and the Naked Lesbian Luge team >_<
The second we see Utena enveloped in giant car wash sponges and emerge as a shiny pink corvette after what is most possibly the DUMBEST magical girl transformation scene in the history of anime, we knew it was all downhill from here (both literally and figuratively). The movie devolves into a demented wet dream straight out of the pages of Low Rider magazine. I was cringing as all that was built before in the movie was just tossed aside like it didn't matter after all. Ikuhara tried to make it fit, he really did, but in the end, all it manages to do is end the movie on a sour note and leave the viewer wondering what the heck just happened.
Which is a tragedy, as Utena: the Movie is a very strong feature for the most part. Utena fans will adore it (especially the Dance in the Rose Garden, the best part of the movie *faints*) but I would not recommend seeing this movie without at least seeing the first half of the TV series, which is available here in the states by Software Sculptors. There are a lot of in-jokes and references back to the show, and if you don't know them you will be utterly lost.
As it is, Utena: the Movie is a feature that impressed me more than it disappointed. It hasn't fully renewed my faith in movie adaptations of TV shows, but at least it's genuinely entertaining, which is more than I can say of other anime movies as of late.
Could have been soooo much better had the ending not been so contrived! — Christina Carpenter
Recommended Audience: Teens and up, due to nudity, adult situations and lots of mature themes. Those under the age of fifteen probably couldn't follow the nuances of the story anyway.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie © 1999 Be-Papas / Chiho Saito / Shogakukan / Shoukaku Iinkai / TV Tokyo
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