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[ café reviews ]

[Miki Kaoru challenges Utena to a duel]
[Shoujo Kakumei Utena logo]

Shoujo Kakumei Utena
(Revolutionary Girl Utena)

Episode 4: Hakari Sasuni Wa - Prelude
(The Sunlit Garden - Prelude)

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

Miki Kaoru is a prodigy when it comes to playing the piano. Yet he can often be found playing one particular song over and over again -- a song that seems to hold something very dear to him. This song hasn't escaped the notice of the scheming Kiryu Nanami, and when she asks Kaoru about this song, she discovers that he is trying to re-discover something that he had lost some time ago. A feeling which he once shared when he played with his sister, when they were both children. But there's something else afoot, as well. Nanami discovers a photograph of Himemiya Anthy within one of Miki's score books. Could it be that he has feelings for the Rose Bride?

Meanwhile, Wakaba is distress at her latest score on a math exam. But she's not alone. It seems that all the fuss about the Duel has taken its toll on Utena as well...

Anthy is once again cornered by a group of school bullies, who accuse her of causing Kaoru to drop out of the final school piano competition. Luckily, piano prodigy himself comes to her rescue -- and discovers that Anthy is also having difficulties with math. Unexpectedly, he offers to help the young woman in a subject at which he's very adept. This has an immediate side benefit for Utena, who is also given help by Kaoru.

But Kaoru is also a member of the student's council, which must mean that he would also be duelling for the hand of the Rose Bride. But Kaoru denies any interest in the Duel; in fact, Utena notices that his interest in Anthy seems to be on a deeper, much more personal level than the others. Yet things are bound to get rocky when Nanami invites herself along on one of the tutoring sessions. Especially since she has plans to put Anthy into more embarrassing situations.

[ capsule review ]

Character and situational establishment is always part of the beginning of a series, and this time around, we get to meet Kaoru Miki, the young math and piano prodigy, and secretary for the student's council. This particular episode combines two diametrically opposed social aspects: one of attraction for a member of the opposite sex, and one of jealousy of the same. The feelings of attraction, and longing exhibited by Kaoru is one that's very touching, and very familiar for many people who have gone through the pangs of first love.

But Nanami's attempts at discrediting Anthy is something else... while it's supposed to be a bit of comic relief from the much more serious aspects of this episode, I found that it came across as annoying, and distracted me from the more substantial subject at hand, especially since it's coupled with a very melodramatic violin solo. (Don't get me wrong -- I happen to like violin pieces. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with the piece itself. But the combination of the music and visuals made me cringe.) But, even in Nanami's actions are some well-conveyed social messages -- such as in the case of social interaction, it's the intent, and not necessarily the substance that's important.

The piano sonata played by Kaoru, and later by Anthy, is a hauntingly moving piece. It effectively conveys the feelings of passion and longing felt by the young man, and pulls you into the mood of the scene. This is probably one of my all-time favourite instrumental pieces of the anime universe.

Overall, this episode is truly as the title suggests -- a prelude for things to come. A nice storyline for the romantics in the audience.
AN, 99.03.21

[ 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 3 stars N/A
Music: N/A 5 stars N/A
Translation: N/A 4 stars N/R
Overall Rating: N/A 3 stars N/A

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Page last modified 1999.03.21