Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6

Meanwhile, in an unrelated subplot …

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 6: “Take Care, Miss Nanami!” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.

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A reader helpfully points out that Nozomi Entertainment has uploaded Revolutionary Girl Utena to YouTube. When I first started this series of essays, I named some places you can acquire the show, but I didn’t think to check YouTube. I tend to forget that not all videos there are pirated.

#NotAllYouTubeVideos.

Anyway, I am continuing to watch the series from my enormously expensive collector’s edition DVD set, which is as luxurious and decadent as the anime it contains. But if you’d like to watch along with me without investing so much cash, you can now see the dub, free and legal, online. I’ll be posting the link to the YouTube video under the episode credits from now on.

Now with more images from Utena: Texts from Last Night.

This same reader makes an interesting comment:

On principle I object to stories that use symbolism as an excuse for ridiculous, poor, or perverse writing. If a story cannot stand up as an independent narrative it has no business obfuscating its shortcomings with allegories and parables. Art naturally embodies some aspect of reality. Every piece symbolizes something. Better that your symbols should be simple rather than convoluted.

Intricate meta-narratives can become great rewards for those who are apt to analyzing them, but the primary plot ought not to suffer for their sake. I shouldn’t need an essay to understand your unpainted canvas, and I should not need a documentary-length series of videos to understand what happened during End of Evangelion.

I’ve only seen up to episode eleven of Revolutionary Girl Utena, but those episodes do hold up as a narrative, despite some remarkable plot contrivances. I’m afraid to finish the series, unfortunately, since I suspect the train will drift off the rails as the series nears its end.

His opinion is similar to mine. I’m typically unimpressed with stories that use opacity to create the illusion of depth.

Some years ago, I loaned my set of Neon Genesis Evangelion to a friend who happened to be studying feng shui. She later contacted me excitedly to tell me that one of the characters in the show had objects on her desk arranged in such a way as to represent, symbolically, the characters’ interpersonal relationships. This is something I, and probably a lot of viewers, never would have picked up on, and that’s fine. I certainly don’t mind storytellers throwing in some esoterica like that. It can lend a story a certain richness even if it goes over most people’s heads.

But that is no excuse for failing to present a coherent narrative. Evangelion is rich with imaginative imagery, but it never gets down to the business of explaining basic elements of its plot, such as what Lilith is, or what the Lance of Longinus is, or what the hell is going on. Partly, it suffered because the creators didn’t husband their meager resources, choosing to blow their wad on boob jiggle in the early episodes so they had to subject us to torturous still frames in the later ones, like that infamous minutes-long elevator ride, or that nightstand. (Sweet Madoka, the nightstand! If I never again hear a dialogue about creative places to insert pills, I can die a happy man.) But even more than that, Evangelion suffered because director Hideaki Anno gave up on storytelling and turned the show into his personal psychotherapy session.

I stated in the beginning that Revolutionary Girl Utena out-Evangelions Evangelion, partly because it handles Evangelion‘s themes and postmodern techniques much more competently, but also because it accomplishes something Evangelion flubbed: It has a coherent plot with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say that some parts aren’t opaque or that there aren’t unresolved plot threads, or that the show isn’t decidedly undisciplined. It’s definitely not perfect. But it has an intelligible storyline, and it manages to conserve its puny budget enough that it resorts to relatively few painful animation shortcuts.

Evangelion attempted something it couldn’t quite pull off. Building on that, Utena successfully pulls it off, albeit in haphazard fashion. I might also add that Princess Tutu, usually considered Utena’s spiritual successor, uses the same techniques, but employs them in a much more disciplined manner and entirely avoids the pitfalls of its predecessors. Continue reading “Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6”

Musical Madness II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 5

Things continue getting freaky!

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 5: “The Sunlit Garden – Finale.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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Although the main plot of this show still eludes us (and will continue to do so until the third and final arc), this fifth episode represents a sea change in Revolutionary Girl Utena because it is the first episode to reveal what we’re really in for.

In the episode previous, we met Miki, another member of the student council. A mere middle school freshman, Miki is a child prodigy, a highly skilled fencer, pianist, and math student. He also has the hots for Anthy, whom he calls his “shining thing.”

Miki fencing with Juri.

Continue reading “Musical Madness II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 5”

Musical Madness: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 4

Things start to get freaky!

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 4: “The Sunlit Garden – Prelude.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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Yeesh, haven’t done one of these in a while. My schedule these days is packed, but it occurs to me that I might be able to do so much as watch a single episode of a beloved anime on a semi-daily basis and discuss the same, so I’ve decided to continue our series on Revolutionary Girl Utena, the ultimate in LSD-fueled self-important mahou shoujo anime. Once again, I find myself sitting up late at night with one hand around a Captain Morgan Cannonblast and another hand hovering over the Print Screen button.

I have got to change my life.

Anyway, yes, it is indeed time once again to explore Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Yeah, I bet you’d like to explore Utena.

Continue reading “Musical Madness: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 4”

Let the Hate Roll On

Anybody else ever notice how Cardcaptor Sakura is always flipping us off? It’s almost as if Clamp is trying to tell us something …

Oh well. I guess it’s no worse than that guy in Sailor Moon who’s always flipping us off.

Anyway, today was to be our last entry in the Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura. However, real life caught up with me today and I didn’t get the post completed, so the hate will have to continue into overtime.

That means you get more hate for the same price.

The final post, the final hate, is still to come. Expect it when you least expect it.

Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, eight!)

The Ten Days of Hate: Day Seven!

Let us continue with Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura. Today’s post again necessarily contains spoilers.

Number 3: The Creeptastic Mid-story Plot Twist.

“Subaru Nakajima can kiss my butt!” (Yeah, I know. I’m running out of good comparisons here.)

Midway through the story, right at the end of the sixth volume of the Cardcaptor Sakura manga, is a little revelation exposited across two pages. These two pages had a strong effect on me when I read the comic, so I was surprised to see that these details were deleted from the anime—which then had to wedge in references to them later, awkwardly, to explain certain things. Continue reading “Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, eight!)”

Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, seven!)

The Ten Days of Hate: Day Six!

We continue yet again with Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura. Today’s post, like yesterday’s, contains some spoilers.

Here we go:

Number 5: Toya Kinomoto.

Toya is Sakura’s big brother. He’s in high school. He works lots of part-time jobs. Sakura squabbles with him like a little sister. Like all magical girls, she has trouble getting up on time in the morning, so she has to dress quickly and wolfs down her breakfast; he makes fun of her for stomping around in the morning, and he calls her a “kaiju.” She dreams of a day when she’ll be as “tall as a telephone pole” and able to “squish him flat.”

Sakura argues with her brother.

Although he teases her, he’s quite protective. He insists that nobody gets to make fun of Sakura except him.

I appreciate these little details. This is the one relationship in the story that actually feels … human. Continue reading “Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, seven!)”

Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, six!)

The Ten Days of Hate: Day Five!

We continue now with Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura.

Today’s entry in our ongoing series is a relatively short one, but it necessarily contains spoilers. Spoilers begin after the break.

Continue reading “Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, six!)”

Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, five!)

The Ten Days of Hate: Day Four!

We now continue with the Days of Hate begun on Monday. I sent my old and decrepit computer in for maintenance, and it’s no longer overheating on me, so I think they managed to get my issues fixed … but now all my image files have been renamed for some reason, so I can’t find my screenshots …

Well, anyway, we’re back with more of Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura.

Number 7: Freakin’ Tomoyo.

Seriously. Freakin’ Tomoyo.

I had an argument with myself over where to place Tomoyo on this list. Tomoyo is a psychotic little freak who belongs in a nut house, but after some consideration, I concluded that some of the things I want to talk about might not make sense if I don’t discuss her ahead of time. Besides that, I realized I don’t really hate Tomoyo herself; I just hate what Clamp did to her.

Freak.

Continue reading “Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, five!)”

Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, four!)

The Ten Days of Hate: Day Three!

Two days ago, we kicked off the Ten Days of Hate with a discussion of Cardcaptor Sakura, the hugely popular magical girl franchise. Then we followed that up with further hate.

Now we continue with more of Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura:

Number 8: Lame Magic.

Supposedly, Clow Reed, the creator of the Clow Cards, was the bestest wizard ever, and he supposedly encapsulated more-or-less all of his magic in the cards that Sakura steadily collects across the series. But there’s a problem—

The cards are hella lame.

Looks like Sakura isn’t the only one collecting a lot of crap.

Continue reading “Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, four!)”

Art: Featuring Gosick

Ah, Gosick. This was one of my favorite anime at one point, and I was really sad when Crunchyroll lost the rights and took it down. I’m glad I got to watch the whole series before that happened. I reviewed the show once at my old site.

The premise of Gosick is simple: what if you took Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and replaced them with Taiga and Ryuji from Toradora?

The result is pretty poor as a Gothic mystery series, but not bad as far as anime teen rom-com goes. It’s basically a poor man’s Toradora with the mood of Rozen Maiden. But it came from Studio BONES, so the production values are quite high, and the atmospherics and personable characters make up for the lousy murder mysteries. It flunks in the research department, featuring automatic elevators and phones with “disconnect” signals … in the 1920s (not to mention southern Europeans who think black hair is weird). It also wreaks inexcusable havoc on the history of World War II.

But, hey, I love the protagonists. This and Toradora were the two major inspirations for the relationship between Jake and Dana in Jake and the Dynamo.