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Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top10-30-2006 03:43:08 PM

Frau Eva
Voodoo Queen
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 803

Role of Words in Utena Fandom

So I have the most amazing teacher in the world at the most amazing college ever. And I'm doing a paper("Discourse Community Project") on the role of discourse in Utena fandom, in comparison with anime fandom specifically and whatever else I can think of in general. I'll be gathering various writing samples from the forums, the essay section, fanfiction section, fanfiction.net, livejournal, and whatever else I can find. This isn't me asking you all to do my homework for me, this is me running back from class in a geek frenzy. etc-love And I just feel that if I'm going to do this project, I should let everyone know and start up a general discussion.

Judging from what you've seen in the fandom yourself, how are we different and oh so special? What does what we discuss say about what we value, what our sense of purpose here is? Not just in our fanfiction, but in our essays and general discussions! Let's get meta, people! school-eng101


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#2 | Back to Top10-30-2006 07:18:02 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

At first I thought this title said "Role of Swords in Utena Fandom."  I laughed, but then I thought, hey, "soulswords" = "souls' words."  I think that may not be far off.  Maybe you're right and our discussions about Utena reveal something about us.

So what do we talk about?

* Symbolism.
* Characters: their personality and growth, and their role in the narrative.
* Relationships: between characters, events, and symbols, and between Utena and other works of literature.
* Ikuni.
* Anime more broadly.
* Fanart and fanfiction.
* Akio's sex life.  Sex in general, in and out of the context of the show.
* How talking about Utena reveals our personalities and ways of thinking.  (Let's get meta-meta.)

Just as importantly, what do we not usually talk about?  (Not that talking about these things should be discouraged or taboo; it's just that I haven't seen threads on them.)

* Politics.
* Sports.
* What this girl in our class was wearing today.
* How much you suck and your mom's a whore.
* Other than that, pretty much anything goes.

There's a lot more to say about any one of these bullet points, but I submit this as a starting place emot-smile

Last edited by satyreyes (10-30-2006 07:20:51 PM)

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#3 | Back to Top10-30-2006 10:36:29 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

satyreyes wrote:

* Politics.

Give it a week.

satyreyes wrote:

* How much you suck and your mom's a whore.

But my mother hasn't met Akio yet. emot-confused

I think what makes the fandom stand out is a lot of what makes the series itself stand out. Mature, even when the fans/characters are young, introspective and curious. There are more hardcore SKU fans for the population than you see in a lot of fan communities; not a lot of casual fans, because SKU isn't a casual series, and it doesn't much suffer the passive viewer.

I don't think you can ever separate the series from the viewer, and in fact I wholeheartedly think it was designed that way. You can't analyze the show without analyzing yourself, and after a while, you even find your own introspection getting filtered through the series. I can't begin to count the times I've noticed something about myself (or others) and immediately went 'lol how Saionji' or 'well isn't that an Anthy way to look at it...'. In watching the series, you let the series watch you, and it becomes a symbiotic relationship of understanding. I think that ultimately is what creates the Utena fandom. We see ourselves in SKU, on a deeper level than 'oh she's got my sense of humor emot-keke. We analyze as much as we do because deep down, I think we're all talking a little bit about ourselves, and no one ever tires of that. So I guess what makes us special is that we seem to do an awful lot of looking at ourselves, and looking at the characters and the symbolism in the show. There's a need to understand and contemplate and learn.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at. The original thought was that unlike most fandoms, we're not passive viewers. We make the show our own.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
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#4 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:19:38 AM

Etrangere
Rose Smilee
From: Paris
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 134
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Giovanna wrote:

I'm not sure what I'm getting at. The original thought was that unlike most fandoms, we're not passive viewers. We make the show our own.

'Fandom' is by definition more than being a passive viewer. Wether the process of reappropriation is done through fanfics, literary commentary, or which character is evil/which character is good discussions (or which character would beat the other  in a fight for that matter), the point is being an active viewer emot-smile

What is unique that I like about Utena is finding something similar to what I used to find in the Buffy fandom : intellectual analysis is welcome, essays are seen as cool, and by essay I mean meta discussions (essays are welcome in, say, the HP fandom, but most of thetime their depth is very flimsy or more basd on guessing games)


Yes. You shouldn't be suspicious of Anthy. Her big brother is your watching. There is no war in Ba Sing Se. ~ Dalbun

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#5 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:38:39 AM

UtenaFanGirl
Ballgoer
From: California
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 145
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

its funny when it comes to teacher and student talking about common things...well in my background class i drew utena movie style buildings and my teacher knew it was utena style and i was like o.O he knows

-well as an artist i view utena in an artistic view..i mean the art is great aint it not..

plot/characters is another thing i would talk about

but mainly the art


Chu chuu CHU!!!!

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#6 | Back to Top10-31-2006 01:26:45 AM

Maarika
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From: Estonia
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 2510
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Giovanna wrote:

I don't think you can ever separate the series from the viewer, and in fact I wholeheartedly think it was designed that way. You can't analyze the show without analyzing yourself, and after a while, you even find your own introspection getting filtered through the series.

That's so true! I think it's because they explain very little in the series, so if you don't think along you'll miss the point. And when you start thinking about it, you have to look in yourself because when you put yourself in their perspective it'll be easier to understand everything.

Anyway, I'm in love with the psychological and philosophical aspect of the series. etc-love I love seeing how characters react to each other and how their relationships develop.


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Believing in True Friendship Since 2008.

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#7 | Back to Top10-31-2006 07:00:11 AM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Etrangere wrote:

'Fandom' is by definition more than being a passive viewer. Wether the process of reappropriation is done through fanfics, literary commentary, or which character is evil/which character is good discussions (or which character would beat the other  in a fight for that matter), the point is being an active viewer emot-smile

I'm afraid the reasonable answer to all 'who would win in a fight' questions is Juri. I'm afraid of this because it's going to leave a whole pile of sore, very emasculated men. But I meant something a bit different from that kind of reappropriation (I'm so blurry in the morning), I meant more person to person while you watch the series. You don't really sit back and view the series of events, you get wrapped up in them to the point where you accept the world being shown to you. I didn't even bat an eyelash when huge planets were viewable from the window of Utena and Anthy's dorm. Jumping over cars? Well hell, that's perfectly natural. I suppose I'm trying to articulate something kinda vague here. It's like Star Trek fans that can tell you about the warp drive, except in SKU you walk away with a similar appetite for understanding the human condition.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
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#8 | Back to Top10-31-2006 08:04:30 AM

Etrangere
Rose Smilee
From: Paris
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 134
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Giovanna wrote:

Etrangere wrote:

'Fandom' is by definition more than being a passive viewer. Wether the process of reappropriation is done through fanfics, literary commentary, or which character is evil/which character is good discussions (or which character would beat the other  in a fight for that matter), the point is being an active viewer emot-smile

I'm afraid the reasonable answer to all 'who would win in a fight' questions is Juri. I'm afraid of this because it's going to leave a whole pile of sore, very emasculated men.

I'm okay with that. emot-smile I'd be tempted to say Anthy myself, but she wouldn't so much as win as not fight but nonetheless get you smashed by a herd of elephent, which is cheating. emot-tongue
(though now, I want to see the fight between Jury and Kozue for the pure purpose of seeing sexy women battling... emot-rolleyes)

But I meant something a bit different from that kind of reappropriation (I'm so blurry in the morning), I meant more person to person while you watch the series. You don't really sit back and view the series of events, you get wrapped up in them to the point where you accept the world being shown to you. I didn't even bat an eyelash when huge planets were viewable from the window of Utena and Anthy's dorm. Jumping over cars? Well hell, that's perfectly natural. I suppose I'm trying to articulate something kinda vague here. It's like Star Trek fans that can tell you about the warp drive, except in SKU you walk away with a similar appetite for understanding the human condition.

It's funny, because, at the same time I don't have at all that kind of involvement in Utena... not in the sense of believing fully into that world. And, at the same time, I see exactly what you mean in the feeling like the world is alive, in your own mind, talking about it seriously as if it was real, a very strong degree of involvement with the world and the characters... and I stick to my point. That's fandom. That's not limited to Utena as a fandom. I've found the same things in discussions about SF/F books, TV shows analysis, manga fanworks communities, or Roleplaying Games forum.


Yes. You shouldn't be suspicious of Anthy. Her big brother is your watching. There is no war in Ba Sing Se. ~ Dalbun

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#9 | Back to Top10-31-2006 08:28:29 AM

Yasha
Bitch Queen
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

I think part of what Gio's trying to say is that the aspect of SKU fandom that's different is that it's so very, very personal for a lot of people. You can be a Buffy fan, you can be a Sonic the Hedgehog fan, and you can be strongly involved with those worlds, but they don't have that same measure of absolutely personal resonance for such a large amount of people. And when I say personal, I mean right down to the bone personal, where you can look at the show and see events that unfold almost exactly as events in your life did, or a person who acts almost exactly like you, feeling things exactly the way you would feel them. There's not as much separation between self and character, and some of us end up using the characters as lenses for introspection and self-examination. I can see isolated incients of people doing the same in other fandoms, but not on the scale of SKU fandom.

I think, anyway. Hooo, morning sucks. emot-gonk


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#10 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:11:09 PM

Etrangere
Rose Smilee
From: Paris
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 134
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

I'm sorry Yasha, but I still disagree. Nothing in any of that is exclusive to Utena.


Yes. You shouldn't be suspicious of Anthy. Her big brother is your watching. There is no war in Ba Sing Se. ~ Dalbun

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#11 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:20:57 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Oh, I didn't mean that it was exclusive, sorry. I should have been clearer. I think it's more common here than it is elsewhere. Unless of course you're been hanging out in fandoms that take a deeply personal view of Spike and Buffy sleeping together, which no doubt there are. emot-biggrin I just haven't seen a fandom with so many people, proportionately speaking, that take it that personally and introspectively.


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#12 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:34:07 PM

Etrangere
Rose Smilee
From: Paris
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 134
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Yasha wrote:

Oh, I didn't mean that it was exclusive, sorry. I should have been clearer. I think it's more common here than it is elsewhere. Unless of course you're been hanging out in fandoms that take a deeply personal view of Spike and Buffy sleeping together, which no doubt there are. emot-biggrin I just haven't seen a fandom with so many people, proportionately speaking, that take it that personally and introspectively.

Not exclusively Buffy/Spike, but I did see a lot of people connecting very deeply with the material from BtVS indeed at All Things Philosophical On Buffy the Vampire Slayer emot-keke
Skim the archives of the forum if you don't believe me. But I remember people posting about coming to though-inducing realisations about themselves on that website. (and thought inducing posts, period)

One of the reason I'm looking at the Utena fandom so fondly is because I'm hoping to reiterate that kind of experience of fandom I had with BtVS (okay, and the material is awesome, fascinatingto analyze and I want to rewatch it all the time, which helps emot-smile)

I've seen people who seem to identify, and deal with their issues, through characters as well in Clamp-fandom and other anime fandom though it seemed to be more sporadic, so I'd agree with you on most fandoms... but, hey! it's fandom. Kind of huge. One can hardly expect to be seeng all that there is to see about it, expecially in the biggest ones (are you familiar with the expression 'feral fandom'?)


Yes. You shouldn't be suspicious of Anthy. Her big brother is your watching. There is no war in Ba Sing Se. ~ Dalbun

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#13 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:35:21 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Actually, I was using Buffy as an example because my philo prof wanted to teach his class on it! That's one of the few I think deserving of that...


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#14 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:39:20 PM

Etrangere
Rose Smilee
From: Paris
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 134
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Yasha wrote:

Actually, I was using Buffy as an example because my philo prof wanted to teach his class on it! That's one of the few I think deserving of that...

Cool. Did he-or-she ever did it?


Yes. You shouldn't be suspicious of Anthy. Her big brother is your watching. There is no war in Ba Sing Se. ~ Dalbun

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#15 | Back to Top10-31-2006 12:41:23 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

No... he said he couldn't quite get enough philosophical material for a whole semester (sry covert posting from work, will address your other points later...).


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#16 | Back to Top10-31-2006 10:52:11 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Etrangere, I think we basically agree, but that we're coming to it from opposite directions. The SKU fandom here and now has lost most of the more fickle fans, and I think that most of the people left have a lasting attachment to the series. This, combined with the personality types the show seems to appeal to, creates a situation where you have a proportionately larger amount of people that take it to heart. It's not that other fandoms don't contain people like that-- it's that there are so few of the casually interested in this one. It's been almost ten years since this obscure little piece of animation started; that there are fans at all sometimes surprises me,  but that they invest so much time and effort into it doesn't surprise me.

My personal take on what is unique about this fandom as compared to other fandoms... I think what's unique, and what will continue to be so unique, is the staying power of the fandom compared to the obscurity of the show. This was never something that reached a wide audience, and while attrition has weakened the fandom in terms of numbers, I think it's going to last for a good long while. Certainly, EM is going to be around for a long time yet, even if we don't have time to update as frequently as we'd like. And people will continue to be drawn to the show. It's just that good.

Another thing I think is unique is that we still haven't managed to figure out the object of our affections completely. There are so many references and aspects and perspectives that we haven't touched on all of them yet, and I think it's very likely that there are some that remain completely unexplored, even after all this time.

Then again, maybe I'm being sentimental. emot-biggrin


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#17 | Back to Top11-01-2006 02:07:07 AM

Etrangere
Rose Smilee
From: Paris
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 134
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

All right, what you say make sense.

Was Utena all that obscure? I thought it was pretty well known as an anime. I was aware of its existence long before I watched (I had a hell of a prejudice against it emot-keke) then again it is old... people forget.

Thought I'll still have to claim they are fandoms in similar situations. Say, the Good Omens fandom, just a book fandom (they seldom get very very popular unless they're HP or LotR), pretty old, and not a little bit active. But... yeah... okay... shutting up now.


Yes. You shouldn't be suspicious of Anthy. Her big brother is your watching. There is no war in Ba Sing Se. ~ Dalbun

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#18 | Back to Top11-01-2006 07:07:40 AM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Etrangere wrote:

Was Utena all that obscure? I thought it was pretty well known as an anime. I was aware of its existence long before I watched (I had a hell of a prejudice against it emot-keke) then again it is old... people forget.

I would say it's a sleeper hit kind of thing, the biggest display of its popularity is the relatively frequent (even now) cosplay. However that can in huge part be attributed to people loving the outfits, overall, SKU is not a popular anime, at least in the US. Most any fan of shoujo anime knows it or has seen some of it, but it's not as loved as many others, even though it's often ranked among the best anime out there.

It's kinda like Woody Allen. Everyone knows about it and pays it lip service but otherwise they'd prefer to deal with anime that doesn't stick a blender in their skull. school-freud


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
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#19 | Back to Top11-01-2006 08:52:29 PM

Alithea
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From: Westminster, CO
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 1152
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

You know, I think this thread alone speaks to the difference between SKU fans and anime fans in general.

As a general observation I find that SKU fans are intelligent, educated, and well rounded with a knack for philosiphy like no other group. SKU fans can at length give you about a hundred in depth meanings to the most seemly benign piece of animation and dialouge (because to many of us there is no such thing). I have yet to find that kind of deep thinking and constant debate with other fandoms.


"The only reason to write is to write for love. Write for passion. If you have the privilege of being able to write, then don't do it for any other reason." - Stephen Sondheim

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#20 | Back to Top11-01-2006 09:06:33 PM

Imaginary Bad Bug
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From: Connecticut, USA
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 2168
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

I think Utena fans are a lot like the series itself... introspective, educated, willing to analyze, and not afraid to go against convention.

I was drawn to the series because it was a meshing of three things... imagery, symbolism, and music.  Each part relies on the other two to bond the series together.  For some reason I still find it hard to put into words why I was drawn to the series other than my fascination with metaphor.  SKU just pushed all the right buttons.

Maybe the best way to express it is to borrow a line from Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (my all-time favorite movie, incidentally) as he gazed at the plate of mashed potatoes... : "This means something!"  That's Utena to me.  SKU is my Devil's Tower.


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#21 | Back to Top01-29-2007 10:49:29 AM

Frau Eva
Voodoo Queen
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 803

Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

So I said I was doing a project on the community, which I finished at the end of last semester. I kept forgetting to post it, but its kinda long and boring so meh. emot-rolleyes The first few pages is "duh" sort of introductions, since I'm assuming the reader will have to be introduced to the concept of anime and fandom first. This community was hard to do the project on since we're supposed to draw conclusions no one else in the community has already stated, and this comm is overall pretty self-aware. Which is why I was interested, since most anime comms...emot-gonk It's kinda long though, because of all the duh explanations; I recommend skipping ahead. Also, beware English major specific terminology. school-eng101


                                  Analyzation and Animation: In-depth Discourse Beyond Academia


    An ocean away from Japan, a gigantic American subculture had emerged devoted solely to the animation produced by the Asian country. The term “anime” is the Japanese word for animation, and the word that has emerged in English speaking countries to mean all animation from Japan. Although anime does include a good amount of shows with children as primary audience, the common budget constraints of Japanese television shows means that adult-oriented live-action that would require special effects—such as fantasy or science-fiction—are often made as anime instead.  According to the online anime convention schedule “A Fan’s View,” there are more than seventy anime conventions in the United States alone—not including conventions in numerous other countries as well as Japan itself (“A Fan’s View” 1). The subcultural phenomenon has even begun to seep into the mainstream, with anime being shown on late-night Cartoon Network and even on its own Anime Network channel. The shows can range from the intergalactic bounty-hunters of “Cowboy Bebop,” the angels of death from “Bleach,” children raised as ninjas from “Naruto,” the traveling Meiji-era misfits of “Samurai Champloo,” the alchemists struggling with morality from “Fullmetal Alchemist,” the Japanese demons of “InuYasha,” and many others too strange or complex to describe here. Fans of anime have not only congregated in conventions but in the wide expanse of the internet, where countless fans have made websites, forums, Livejournal communities, and countless other ways to discuss their show of choice. They discuss the show itself, as well as write and share their own continuations of the show in “fanfiction,” and rarely even create essays on a topic about the show.

    Such a subculture would be the last place many would expect to find an intense dialog centering on the meaning and symbolism inherent in a work. Such discourse—both laymen and professors alike would think—only occurs in the ivory towers of academia. This belief is mirrored in the common student complaint when faced with the task of analyzing a piece of English canon: “How will I use this once I get out of school? What does this have to do with real life?” Few teachers have answered the question by acknowledging the everyday role of analysis, whether in messages for political campaigns, commercials, or the latest popular television show. When someone in the media discusses why a certain toy is sexist or whether a political ad is fear-mongering, they are analyzing content. Although academia has often clung to analyzation as their own special separation from an unthinking world, they should instead finally support the Humanities as teaching something critical and often-used in everyday society.

    Of all places one may least expect this sort of discourse, it would certainly be online communities dedicated to the pejorative “cartoons.” However, the online community surrounding the Japanese animated television show Shoujo Kakumei Utena(alternatively translated as either “Girl Revolution Utena” or “Revolutionary Girl Utena”) has a mass of followers seeking to informally discuss its symbols, motifs, and common references. The show is highly metaphysical and metaphorical, and many of its fans congregate online to help each other sort out its complexities. This thirty-nine episode series and accompanying five-volume comic chronicled the struggles of Utena Tenjou to become a “prince” despite her gender. Through her and the other characters, the show explores the relevance and mutability of memory and childhood dreams—as well as the difficult transitions from childhood to adulthood and how many are lost on the way there. The series that first began running in 1997 in Japan still sparks animate discussion in America six years after any new media has been produced. The amount and quality of discussion proves that not only does higher analysis occur outside Humanities journals, but even by everyday people recreationally for media that has often been scoffed at.

    The Utena community has been active in creating a collective body of work, ranging from the usual fanfiction, informal discussions on online forums and communities, and—oddly enough—an abnormally large portion of analysis essays. The sites are numerous, some with names much more offbeat than typical anime shrines: “Carousel: A Shrine to Dios,” “Mother, Dearest,” Elegant Destruction: Sanjouin Chigusa,” “Inferieure: A Sonoda Keiko Shrine,” “Ohtori Online,” “URL: Utena Revolutionary Links,” “Arisugawa’s Locket,” and “The Utena Network.” The focus of this community analysis, as is the focus of any Utena fan well-connected to the internet, will focus on the website “Empty Movement” at http://www.ohtori.nu. While many other websites exist for the series, the sheer breath of media covered by the website makes it the focal point of the fan community. It includes series scripts, clips of audio files, extensive galleries, vector traces, character tributes, multimedia, fiction written by fans for the series, and many analysis essays. “Empty Movement” was first solely run by Giovanna Spadaro, then also co-run with a girl known as Yasha when the sections devoted to fan-created artwork and fiction became too huge to manage with one person. It has only blossomed further, as it now houses the previously shut-down literary fandom focus “The Utena Fanfiction Repository” as well as a forum with over two-hundred members.

    Within the website, the forum, section for fiction written about the series by fans, and analysis section will be the main point of focus when analyzing the discourse continuing in the community. Although I am a member of the community involved, both featured in the fiction section and the occasional commenter on the forums, any of my writing or writing pertaining to me will be omitted from my analysis to facilitate lack of bias.

    A large section of the website is devoted to Analysis, starting with a cursory glance through the major characters and working towards the in-depth essays for the series. By reading the content policy, we can see clearly what sort of analysis is given prominence. The creator is discredited as the ultimate source of answers to the series with, “Any of you that have attended interviews and panels with the creators of SKU [Kunihiko Ikuhara and Chiho Saito] know one thing: they don't tell you a damn thing about anything. Ikuhara's annoyingly deliberate in this…Whatever his reasons are, on this site I basically totally ignore anything he's said about SKU… I believe the intent was for SKU to be interpreted, so that's what I'm doing.” The author’s intent and own interpretation of the text is ignored in favor of the viewer interacting and forming their own opinion about the work: “There's rarely a right or wrong way to look at it — and that's the point. Surrealism is meant to be interpreted, and in interpreting it, a part of you goes into what you see in the show and the characters.” The bias is clearly towards each viewer and their changing opinion and interaction with the work, and acknowledging the mutability of the work. There is no positing what is true for everyone and for all time in Utena. Utena is discussed as a work which changes for each person who sees it, and takes symbolic form within the viewer’s mind. In a discussion on the forums about whether Freudian or Jungian symbolism exists within it, Giovanna Spadaro wrote, “I maintain that the series is set up in a way that allows any such interpretation to be accurate. SKU is a symbolic rorschach test.” Such acknowledgement of the viewer’s role in interpretation almost seems as if the site maintainers and community may be familiar with critical theories of interpretation as seen in English academia, as they have clearly taken on a viewer-centric approach not often seen in anime online communities once the creator’s words are mentioned.

    The essays themselves analyze the series from many topics spanning several disciplines: Hindi and Buddhist ideals, Marxist-Feminism, James Campbell’s Monomyth, body language analysis, and several others. The descriptions surrounding different essays suggest that they were written directly by students of different disciplines: “I nagged him for this one, go go philosophy students!” Yasha at one point shares in the forums an essay she turned in for her Psychology class comparing certain characters to Freud’s idea of ego, superego, id, and the life and death drives. While many members of the Utena community have learned from the Humanities how to analyze a text in their respective fields, they are subsequently turning around and showing the teacher the extent to which their respective brand of analyzation can do for commercial media. This proves the extent to which such analyzation techniques have on the student’s brain, and that they will be applied outside of the discipline despite the common idea that such views stay stagnant inside the particular field of study.

    The forums also show a strong belief in intertextuality, especially in the momentum to form translation projects for Utena-related Japanese media like video games or books. A community chapter-by-chapter reading of Hermann Hesse’s Demian had been organized to discuss possible references and similarities in the two works, and the possibility for more has often been mentioned. This focus on intertextuality may be partially due to the strange nature of Utena creation. While the series was created by Kunihiko Ikuhara, he collaborated simultaneously with Chiho Saito to make a corresponding comic to run at the same time. Ikuhara had Saito’s help in forming the general idea for the story, but then left her with little details. The two have formed as simultaneous yet very different interpretations of the same story. Although more fans seem to side with the series as the better version, the comic is still consulted for plot points and character development that the show may not have covered. Intertextuality was built into the nature of story from the very beginning, which later fostered a fan community dedicated to finding possible references the series itself may have made to other works. Intertextuality, combined with an often reader-centric method of interpretation, shows different levels of analyzation often rare in anime communities but quite common in literary circles.

For those who may not be completely satisfied with what is offered in the series or comic, they may create their own work based on Utena to share with the online community. A particular thread on the forums discusses “pet peeves” in Utena fanfiction, which makes evident what the community values and what it may discredit others for doing. The group seemed to come to general consensus of disliking fiction which ignores prominent themes in the series itself, has general out-of-character actions and thoughts, and romance with little conflict or development. The worst offense centers around “missing the point of the show” as many put it, which most often occurs when an author ignores a character’s struggles throughout the series to form easy solutions and conflicts or disregards the prominent feminist themes in favor of cliché romance. Ivy-chan, the commentator who started the topic, comments on a popular couple among fans with, “What should have been glorious and rage-fueled, dynamic, clashing opposites duking it out in power struggles became...dreck. Soppy, sentimental dreck. I weep.” The pairing is question is one popular only on the website “Fanfiction.net,” a website which many members find fault with—but is nonetheless very popular in many other anime communities. The user ShatteredMirror even directly declares, “And FF.net after the purge scares me.”

    The reason for such contempt is mainly due to the unregulated nature of “Fanfiction.net,” and thus that the website has a much larger amount of work that has not even been proof-read. The website has a huge popularity in fan circles of all kinds as a convenient and all-purpose place to show off any fanfiction they might have for any show. Because of its importance in other fandoms, as well as the animosity present against it in the Empty Movement forum, it must be given an overall look. A cursory glance at the Utena fiction at “Fanfiction.net” will show not only mass amounts of spelling and grammar errors, but many of the characteristics forum members criticize. While Fanfiction.net’s Utena section seems to still carry the overall theme of wish fulfillment common in most fanfiction of any series, the Utena community at “Empty Movement” rejects this use of fanfiction. The purpose for fanfiction, as they see it, is centered on character and plot development. To unrealistically break character is to destroy the meaning of the work itself. These values in quality mirrored in the fiction on display at the “Empty Movement” site itself, as well as the submission and judging guidelines for a work. Among rules for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation, this rule was given equal prominence: “Characterization is NOT optional. Decent characterization is a must (ie: no cussing from Miki, no flowers and rainbows Saionji… and definitely not least, no gentle, forgiving Akio or Gio[vanna, the web-maintainer] will have to hurt you badly). Leeway will be given in cases of plot reasons.” They strongly encourage having the work pre-read, as well as making another rule against insertion of a flawless and useless character into the story for the reader to project their fantasies upon—a common practice in fanfiction nick-named as a “Mary Sue.” They reject fanfiction as a vehicle for fantasy wish fulfillment even to the point of the exclusion of others, and character and plot development are given central focus.

    The extent to which the fan community will go for their ideal of quality shows their dedication to character-driven story, a preference which is also often seen in the Humanities. Their preferences in fiction run much closer to traditional values for fiction in the English community than the rest of most anime fan communities to which they are socially related—which values the wish fulfillment that is often typical in the regular populace’s high buying habits of such books as romance novels. The way in which we see so many members striving for deep, quality writing even in something that is often considered just “fun” and frivolous shows the sheer amount of importance placed on these same principles that the literary world extols. Not only do they seek depth of analysis in the show, but similarly expect the same from their informal writing of the series.

    The highly symbolic nature of the show has fostered a growing audience of learned individuals seeking to utilize the skills of interpretation that they’ve learned in the Humanities. It is a disservice to these disciplines to ignore how these skills play out in viewers of common media. Students must be encouraged to interpret the world they live in—as it has been proved they can and will—instead of solely texts which often do little to fit their modern lives. Without acknowledging this fact, they may never have an answer to the student question, “What does this have to do with anything?”


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#22 | Back to Top01-29-2007 11:57:45 AM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

That is a whole bunch of awesome. Amazing!


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#23 | Back to Top01-29-2007 01:42:02 PM

brian
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Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

A great essay indeed.

I am haunted by the feeling that we are missing out on certain things that are crystal clear in Japan.   Sometimes multi-culturalism can be as misleading and shallow as any form of parochialism because it masks over the fact that other cultures really are very different in very deep ways and that true understanding is much much harder than we imagine. I also read the manga Ah My Goddess which takes place in a universe far less fantastic than Ohtori and yet I get a feeling from it  that  Japanese values and world-view are very different from ours. Anime and manga can give a feeling of this alienness and separation which is perhaps the first step to genuine understanding.

Then again it is likely that some motifs (those dratted cars) probably could not be explained clearly by Ikuhara even to himself.

It also seems that one has to have had a particular kind of childhood to appreciate Utena but I'm not even a bit close to be able to develop that idea.

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#24 | Back to Top01-30-2007 07:01:37 AM

Giovanna
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From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

brian wrote:

Sometimes multi-culturalism can be as misleading and shallow as any form of parochialism because it masks over the fact that other cultures really are very different in very deep ways and that true understanding is much much harder than we imagine.

Is true. emot-frown Unfortunately short of spending ten or fifteen years of my life in Japan, I'll never really see SKU or any other Japanese cultural element from inside itself.

brian wrote:

It also seems that one has to have had a particular kind of childhood to appreciate Utena but I'm not even a bit close to be able to develop that idea.

By particular I suspect you mean 'traumatic'. Strange people, that can watch a series like SKU and relate to the characters, whoever it might be.

Anyway awesome essay. emot-smile I feel so flattered! I do agree there's an academic quality to how a lot of us come at the series, although that I would describe it that way is telling. It's true that analysis of this nature is kept to the academics and ivory towers. I like that some of the people that are working their way to said ivory towers (and McDonalds loller liberal arts loller) recognize and discuss SKU; it's validating. I've always thought it was kind of disappointing that a lot of people will only look at certain mediums and expect any potential depth. Even if you don't run by that depth often in an anime, or a comic, or a movie or whatever else, it can and does happen, and that the medium isn't as often used that way is no reason to lend it less analytical weight.


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#25 | Back to Top01-30-2007 03:07:01 PM

Tamago
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From: Minami Goushuu
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 14280
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Re: Role of Words in Utena Fandom

Frau Eva wrote:

Analyzation and Animation: In-depth Discourse Beyond Academia

Great Uni Level Essay.  Not only does it explain the usefullness of analysis in the 'real world' in such a way that even someone like me who has not done beyond Yr 10 can understand it, this essay is almost like a running endorsement for 'Empty Movement'.


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