Using clues she’s collected over the years, Utena Tenjou transfers to Ohtori academy, determined to reunite with the handsome man that saved her from drowning as a young girl—her prince, Mr. Licky Lick.
But in a noble attempt to defend her friend’s honor, she challenges a member of the student council to a duel and pulling her into a supernatural battle. To everyone’s surprise, she wins, and thus is entrusted with the Sword of Dios and the Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya.
Utena doesn’t totally understand why or how, all she knows is that the Rose Bride is the key to finding her elusive prince. Not only that, but through Anthy, Utena has the power to revolutionize the world.
The classic series that revolutionized the shoujo genre is back from VIZ Media in a two-volume manga collector’s set. Created by Chiho Saito and the members of the art collective known as Be-Papas, the series should be seen as a companion to the anime rather than the source material or faithful adaptation.
With this in mind, it will be reviewed on its own without (much) comparison to the anime series or film.
Even so, with that said I will say that for those with fond feelings for the anime, it’s important to know that the manga is significantly less gay and is more straightforward (heh), lacking a lot of the artistically trippy elements that made the show unique.
But it’s still an enjoyable read, able to stand on its own without the fame of its animated adaptation and is just as endearing for the fact that even with explanations, the series as a whole still doesn’t make much sense. In fact, the manga may be an easier introduction to series than the anime, especially for those who don’t know much about the series to begin with.
It’s impossible to start talking about the Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Set without talking about the packaging. Complete in two heavy volumes, the collector’s set comes in a beautiful chipboard box, designed to match the exterior of the books, and comes with a bonus poster of Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya that’s definitely pretty, but not exactly G-rated.
The set includes hardcover editions in archival-quality omnibus volumes. The pages are printed on white, high-quality paper, making the books alone worth the $49.99 price tag. A set of glossy full-color pages in the beginning of each book set the ethereal and otherworldly mood, showcasing the series’ artwork and classic shojo illustrations.
For a supernatural showdown, the series is quite funny, both intentionally and unintentionally. The humor comes in through the sometimes ridiculous dialogue and through the absurdity of the entire situation. The fact Utena calls her prince “Mr. Licky Lick” (named because he licked a tear off of her face after rescuing her as a child) is the epitome of the series’ tone and humor, making the reader ask “wtf” while chuckling at the same time.
Volume One begins with a lengthy prologue, which is essentially Utena’s backstory. A headstrong girl determined to follow a noble and princely path, Utena is likeable and crush-worthy. She picks fights with the school board in order to wear boy’s uniforms.
After transferring schools, She’s the only one who seems to give a shit anytime Anthy gets bitched-slapped (which is admittedly, often). She’s optimistic and reacts reasonably to the supernatural shenanigans going on, and her willingness to play along in order to protect those she’s come to care about (even when nothing makes sense) is endearing. She’s a heroine worth cheering for, although her character growth is somewhat lost within the confusing nature of the plot.
Volume Two consists of the rest of the main story, Revolutionary Girl Utena, a handful of bonus side stories that took place during the main story, and Adolescence of Utena, which a retelling of the original story with different plot twists and different character personalities.
Another review could be written about the Adolescence of Utena alone, so I’m gonna keep it simple and say that this version of the story is definitely problematic, but is less heterosexual than the former story.
Bonus pages and illustrations from the Be-Papas give some interesting insight into the series’ creation process, as well as the creation of the anime. The back matter in Volume Two also includes the creators’ thank you notes, as well as their own feelings about the series and its success.
Revolutionary Girl Utena was a series that pushed conventional boundaries. Whether you’re a long-term fan or a new reader to the series, the collector’s edition box set is beautiful edition to add to any collection, good for fans of Sailor Moon.
Story: 3 out of 5 stars
Art: 5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
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