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[ café reviews ]

[Shoujo Kakumei Utena logo]

Shoujo Kakumei Utena
(Revolutionary Girl Utena)

Episode 2: Tagatameni Bara wa Hohoemu
(For Whom the Rose Smiles)

Copyright: © 1997 B-Babas / Chiho Saito TV / Tokyo Shonen Iinkai, © 1998 Central Park Media and Software Sculptors
Length: 25 minutes
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Advised
Format: Japanese Language/English Subtitled (VHS)

Director: Ikuhara Kunihiko Original Story and Character Design: Saito Chiho Character Design: Hasegawa Shinya

[ plot summary ]

VHS jacket

The student council executive of Ohtori Academy conduct their regularly scheduled meeting, but this time, a new element has been added to their agenda: the emergence of a a certain middle school sophmore as a potential candidate of the one chosen to bring about the Revolution. Tenjo Utena, the young woman who wears the rose seal, despite not being a member of the council elite.

Later, the students of Ohtori Academy receive their dorm assignments... and Utena is somewhat dismayed to discover that on the direction of the student's council, she's been assigned a room the the East dormitory. A building, according to Wakaba, that hasn't been used in over ten years. Fearing the worst, she seeks out her new residence, only to find that she's picked up a room-mate: Himemiya Anthy, who has already cleaned and prepared the room to accept its new guests. Somewhat surprising, they're the only two residents of the building, with the exception of little Chu-Chu, Anthy's earring and tie-outfitted monkey friend.

Anthy explains that as the victor in the duel against Saionji, she is now engaged to Utena -- as per the rules of conduct of the Duel. With her is also the Sword of Dion, the formal dueling blade which Anthy can produce during the match. These facts are not lost on Saionji, who does not take losing lightly, especially when so much is at stake. As expected, he challenges Utena to a return match.

Utena has no intentions of involving herself in a meaningless fight, but under the threat of expulsion, she reluctantly agrees. Realising that the challenges would continue as long as she was the victor, Utena decides that her best course of action might be to let Saionji win... but sometimes, the best laid plans of mice and men are just not meant to be.

[ capsule review ]

After such a involved opener, the story starts to fill a few of the many questions that have popped up. Why and what is the duel? How does Anthy fit into this picture? What is the floating castle above the dueling arena? And why does Utena wear a boy's school uniform?

The script does start to explain these, and expectedly, in a fairly straight-forward manner: through conversational exposition. Luckily, it's short and touches upon the subject only long enough to get the point across. With only a short amount of time per episode, air-time is a premium, and Utena's director knows not to waste it.

There are a couple of items in this episode that really didn't sit well with me. Firstly was the final scene of the battle, where the director chose to put the trademark rotating rose on top of the scene, in a failed attempt to keep the outcome a secret a few extra moments. He need not have bothered; we already knew how this would end, and the rotating rose mask served only as a huge visual annoyance. The second is one of my personal pet peeves: do we really need to have a cute, fuzzy mascot in every animated series? I realise that Shoujo Kakumei Utena isn't strife with marketable spin-offs, but even I get tired of this stuff after a while.

One area of potential concern are the duels -- they do have the potential to become repetitive, especially over a long series. One thing that the producers have done is to change the music for each of the duels, which should help. Having the writers add a different underlying element, or "hook" also helps prevent the "who is Ranma fighting this time???" syndrome.

Despite its flaws, the overall scripting and storytelling is superior to almost every other TV series to come out of Japan to date. Character development, ceremony and relationships are obviously key elements here, a most welcome change!
- AN, 99.03.16

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: N/A 4 stars N/A
Direction: N/A 3 stars N/A
Acting: N/A 4 stars N/A
Animation: N/A 4 stars N/A
Music: N/A 5 stars N/A
Translation: N/A 4 stars N/R
Overall Rating: N/A 4 stars N/A

[ café trivia ]

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