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Brand new site update live now! After the Revolution is now hosted on EM, as is a ton of brand spanking new stuff, artwork, essays, new site sections, doujin, and more. Come celebrate Akio's birthday. ;)

#1 | Back to Top04-20-2017 04:47:29 PM

Shay Guy
New Student
Registered: 07-19-2015
Posts: 3

Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Didn't see a thread for this yet, so...

ANN's done episodic reviews for a couple older shows before, I believe just Paranoia Agent and Bakemonogatari so far. This time Jacob Chapman's doing weekly reviews of Utena episodes; so far the ~4,000-word review for episodes 1 and 2 is up, focusing on masculine/feminine dualities and arguing that Utena succeeds in part because she's capable of balancing the two forces in ways that the student council can't.

He details his approach as follows:

While Utena clearly speaks to its fans on a powerful level, and its influence on the anime industry is undeniably massive, people who don't "get" Utena often fall back on a reasonable question: "If this story is so important, couldn't it have been told in a more approachable way?"

No. The short answer is "no." At the same time, this short answer helped lead me to my long answer of what I could contribute to Utena analysis after so many words have already been written over the last twenty years.

My goal is not just to help new viewers understand what happens in Utena, I want to help people appreciate how it happens. I want this retrospective to make Utena feel less intimidating without ridding it of the power that could only come from that intimidating way that the story is told. Besides, offering a bulleted, definitive breakdown of all the symbolism won't help anyone feel the emotions Utena explores any more than explaining a joke makes it funny. (It would also be antithetical to the spirit of avant-garde theater that inspires Ikuhara's work, which I'll talk about next week. Ikuhara is notorious for "trolling" people who ask for direct answers to what symbols mean in his work, and I can't say I blame him.)

I don't want to tell you what Utena is supposed to mean. I want to tell you why Utena makes me and other fans feel the way it does. I want to prove that this show is more than a postmodern fairytale for lovestruck teen girls, revolutionary or otherwise. If you've ever felt lonely, misunderstood, or like the only broken person in a society you couldn't relate to (especially if it's because of your gender or sexuality), Utena is a story for you, and I want to make the journey fun.

He's planning on covering the series in 24 reviews. I'm interested to see where he goes.

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#2 | Back to Top04-22-2017 06:34:55 PM

Crystalline_Dream
Sunlit Gardener (Finale)
From: Beneath a starry sky
Registered: 01-17-2011
Posts: 180

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Thanks for the tip, Shay Guy! I'll be following these. I love Jacob as a writer and analyst.

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#3 | Back to Top04-24-2017 10:23:27 AM

LadyButterflyNebula
Rose Smilee
From: Arkansas
Registered: 03-23-2017
Posts: 130
Website

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Noice.  At least this will bring new fans to the series (hopefully).

I really want some 20th anniversary stuff happening.  There's very little out there (that I have seen at leas)


Usubeni midarete manatsu no yo no yume yume
Tobitatsu kagerou koi kogarerou
Anata wo omoeba yume ni yume ni yume miru
Afureru yorokobi towa ni towa ni

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#4 | Back to Top04-27-2017 01:37:50 PM

Shay Guy
New Student
Registered: 07-19-2015
Posts: 3

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Episode 3 review is up with some discussion of Japanese post-war avant-garde theater and Ikuhara's incorporation of the imagery and archetypes of shoujo manga to its typical themes.

I also note this bit:

While I'm going to spend most reviews talking about the character development, imagery, and themes of the series, the reason all of this heavy stuff was palatable to such a broad audience in the first place was because Utena doesn't take itself too seriously.

As I recall, someone here called that notion bizarre when I said it, but I stand by it. Utena has things to say, but it's perfectly comfortable looking silly. Much like how BoJack Horseman has all that character drama bundled under a thick layer of animal puns and Todd shenanigans.

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#5 | Back to Top04-27-2017 07:28:17 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2782

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Shay Guy wrote:

As I recall, someone here called that notion bizarre when I said it, but I stand by it. Utena has things to say, but it's perfectly comfortable looking silly. Much like how BoJack Horseman has all that character drama bundled under a thick layer of animal puns and Todd shenanigans.

I'm not sure it did/has appealed to all that broad of an audience, but there is a lot that, if you're unfamiliar with the traditions, just looks purposelessly silly enough to be justified as just to be silly. That works in its favor.

I think, a lot of things that seem outre to a non-Japanese audience do feel a bit more familiar in its home country, though. The anglophone audience, at least, was in ways, ill-served by having Utena first and its progenitors and the slipstreams of tradition largely second. It's harder for an English-language audience (not presuming for other cultures/nationalities, just to be safe) to distinguish, always, between obscure-to-use and obscure-to-a-general-anime-audience-in-late-90s-Japan, especially amidst that late-70s/early-80s revival that was going on just then.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#6 | Back to Top05-10-2017 11:46:24 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2782

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

The anxieties evident in the comments over there are enlightening. The general, paranoid anti-intellectualism is one thing, but the panic that Utena can induce re "The boys are are horrible! It must be sexist against men! The makers hate men!" tends to catch me by surprise and make me laugh.

Anybody treating a couple popular high school boys being mean in a work of fiction as a kick in the balls, is just bringing that in themselves.

But, I do think that both the anti and "pro" intellectualism sides of fandom sometimes - and definitely there in that comments section - exhibit some real stress over the fact that smart or affecting things can exist in a show that generally still aims at a teen and tween audience.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#7 | Back to Top05-11-2017 12:38:43 AM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 377

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Unfortunately, the movie is a particular target. As you can also see in that discussion, even people who are prepared to admit some worth and meaning to the series are quick to cast the movie as some kind of dumbed down pandering crowd-pleaser, without even trying to understand it as a very different but equally complex and interesting take on the formula.

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#8 | Back to Top05-11-2017 08:48:24 AM

zeedikay
Sunlit Gardener (Prelude)
Registered: 02-22-2014
Posts: 170

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Aelanie wrote:

Unfortunately, the movie is a particular target. As you can also see in that discussion, even people who are prepared to admit some worth and meaning to the series are quick to cast the movie as some kind of dumbed down pandering crowd-pleaser, without even trying to understand it as a very different but equally complex and interesting take on the formula.

It makes clearer many things that in the series were more subtext than anything. This includes Dios's stance as a far-gone, idealized figure, Akio's life being pathetic, Shiori innocent cruelty (with an emphasis on the cruelty admittedly), and yes, Utena and Anthy having an obvious romantic relationship. A ton of other elements might have been glanced over, or just not used all together, but the movie still does maintain a strong central theme of finding the drive to escape and break free. It might be a bit more self-serious than the series, but does so in such a surreal, almost absurd manner that it has a sense of earnest. Also of note is that it might have aired on it's own at festivals without the context of the series and was received pretty well.

I'm actually excited for a review for the movie on ANN in the future. If there's going to be an in-depth view of the series, it logically follows, but I'm still intrigued to see Chapman's interpretation.

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#9 | Back to Top05-12-2017 01:39:37 AM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2782

Re: Classic Streaming Reviews for Utena on Anime News Network

Aelanie wrote:

Unfortunately, the movie is a particular target. As you can also see in that discussion, even people who are prepared to admit some worth and meaning to the series are quick to cast the movie as some kind of dumbed down pandering crowd-pleaser, without even trying to understand it as a very different but equally complex and interesting take on the formula.

I can understand not liking the movie, or anything else. But, something doesn't have to be "less real" or fraudulent because it's not to your taste, and that's what I think too many people forget. The other end, just as common if not more common, being when someone can't accept flaws or criticism of something they like because they've invested too heavily in it's being perfect or brilliant.

Utena is a dangerous franchise for both ends. You get both it's-a-fraud folks, the it's-perfect, but also people who are outright antagonistic to, say, the comic one-offs or Nanami episodes, because they don't seem to perfectly fit at first. There's weird friction between Utena and Eva fans, as if they weren't made by people who all know each other, at roughly the same time, as pretty much part of the same slipstream of neoclassical anime. Their horse has to be the bestest and the fastest and the other horse has to be lame and fraudulent.

It's something I appreciate here; we all shoot our mouths off once in awhile, but most of the posters are willing to pull back, too, to apologize and revise their thoughts, or to reconsider and stick to their guns because their reconsideration proved to them that they were right.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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