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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 Top07-23-2017 12:49:24 PM

Jingle Cats
New Student
Registered: 07-09-2017
Posts: 3

If you could remake Utena...

What would you change? What would you add, omit, emphasise, etc? I love Utena for what it is, but I'm a merciless revisionist when it comes to things I love, so there's a fair bit I'd mess around with.

For me Utena will always be a gay coming of age story (among other things) so one thing I'd love to see is more of Utena and Anthy's relationship. It's already the focus of the show, yes, but I feel like showing some of the more intimate moments between them particularly early on in the series would really flesh things out. Not necessarily explicitly romantic things, just the moments of real connection as their relationship develops. As it is, I have no problem believing they share a deep bond, but I want to really get an idea of the time they spent together - moments in which we can really see why Utena genuinely enjoys spending time with Anthy and moments where we can perhaps get a peak at Anthy's sincere feelings. When we see Utena fall into depression at the end of the Student Council Arc, we know it's motivated by her feelings for Anthy, but it sometimes feels to me that the fact she likes Anthy so much in the first place is more informed than shown. Again, it's not as if this element is totally missing, but I think the series suffers for not focusing more on it - particularly when you read it as a romance.

To branch off that, I would actually love an Utena that hints more strongly at the romantic aspects of the Utena/Anthy relationship. In my own personal experience, an ignorance of the nature of your feelings due to internalised homophobia (which is what I think is going on with Utena in particular) doesn't mean there aren't hints towards it. Like before it's definitely already there, but I would ramp it up. I think it would be adorable to see more embraces or cuddling in the same bed at one point. And hand holding is already the most powerful symbol in their relationship, why not add some more emot-tongue On a more meta level, I think it's really important to have more LGBT stories in the media, and while I already consider Utena one, the more explicit the better.

The other thing I'd want to change is the animation style. If I could only change one thing, this might be it. I think that the age of the characters is a really important part of the story, and for me the art style really takes away from that. For example, I feel the horror of Akio's grooming of Utena is really dulled by the fact they look much closer in age than they are, never mind what Akio's "real" chronological age is. There is some merit to the unrealistic style in context with the show being a deconstruction of the shoujo genre/focused on narrative framing, but I don't know if that's important enough to eschew portraying the characters the age they are. I'm also in two minds about the style on a purely aesthetic level. At times it's incredibly beautiful and elegant, but there are frames that are just awkward and totally ruin my immersion.

The last thing that comes to mind (for now) is how the show handles Miki and Kozue (this one might be a bit more controversial than the others). I'd remove the incestual undertones to their relationship. Simply put, I don't think it's necessary in context with the rest of the story, and drives the portrayal of incest as a theme into uncomfortably fetishistic territory. I see the value storywise with Nanami and Touga as they are mirrors/foils to Akio and Anthy, and the sexual aspect is a direct part of their character arcs. For me, the sexual undertones don't add anything to Miki and Kozue's characters or anything to the show's overall message in regards to abuse that hasn't already been said, and I feel like almost the exact same story could be told without them. The show's focus on brother-sister incest in regards to Akio/Anthy and Touga/Nanami is acceptable and part of its narrative of abuse, but with the addition of Miki and Kozue it becomes a disturbing fascination that isn't as challenged as I'd like.

It's somehow become 5AM as I finish off this post, so that's it for now! Please excuse any lack of coherency emot-tongue Excited to see what you guys have to say.


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#2 | Back to Top07-23-2017 01:41:44 PM

At Times, Love Is
Touga Topper
Registered: 04-29-2016
Posts: 59

Re: If you could remake Utena...

My immediate response is "Utena is absolutely perfect as it is and I would change nothing" but your suggestions are very good.
Actually, personally, I think I would make Utena buffer & maybe some more body type diversity in general... & that's it; I wouldn't want to mess anything up. But again, your ideas are good.

Ooh, ooh, okay, one thing: no, two things. I absolutely would remove Onion Prince from the movie. I don't like him and I really don't like his relationship w/ Wakaba to be shown in a remotely positive light. & I'd make it more unambiguously clear in the anime that Ruka's actions weren't okay. When I first watched the anime as a fifteen-year-old, I thought that the narrative was excusing what he did; I don't think that now, but I don't like that it can easily come across that way... that could still inadvertently reenforce those ideas.

Okay, I do disagree about Akio, actually, for basically the reasons you described someone might: I think it was employing a common shoujo trope in order to deconstruct it; it's disturbingly common for shoujo protagonists Utena's age to have "love interests" who are adults (even the first anime adaptation of Sailor Moon, which Ikuhara worked on, made Mamoru a university student), but look young, and it's something that goes unquestioned, that viewers are supposed to just accept. I think Utena uses tropes like that at first letting the viewers take them at face value, but eventually hitting them hard with the implications, and that's something I really think is great. Occasionally, as I alluded to before, I don't feel it hits hard enough, but in this case, I definitely feel like it did, so the more gradual buildup of the deconstruction really worked for me.

Part of why I'm saying this is because, while in this case I could tell something was very wrong from the start, there were some things in Utena, at fifteen, I didn't question much or at all and so when Utena illustrated how harmful they were, I was floored and that really hammered the message home for me. I think that's ingenious and important although I realize some viewers are put-off by how unclear it is in the beginning whether certain disturbing elements would actually be addressed.

(I'm really not sure how I feel about Kozue and Miki which is why I'm not saying much about that. I'm not sure if I agree with you or not as to the relevance to the narrative or lack thereof, but you could be right).

OH, and also... something I'd love to be added if there was room... interactions between Nanami and Wakaba, especially towards the end when they've gone through a lot of character development.

Last edited by At Times, Love Is (07-23-2017 01:51:22 PM)

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#3 | Back to Top07-23-2017 01:49:31 PM

At Times, Love Is
Touga Topper
Registered: 04-29-2016
Posts: 59

Re: If you could remake Utena...

I would never want to actually remake Utena, though, because I know I could never do nearly as good a job as the creators.

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#4 | Back to Top07-23-2017 04:12:14 PM

Arale
Ballgoer
From: collective human consciousness
Registered: 12-07-2014
Posts: 145
Website

Re: If you could remake Utena...

I don't believe in "remakes". Only in "new versions". The original never stops existing, so because of that, I see very little reason to keep a new version even remotely the same. It's a wasted opportunity. So if I was doing a new "Utena" I would create it with the original's existence in mind, kind of like how the movie half-expects you to have seen the show even though it's not literally connected. I'd explore characters' sexualities in new ways based on possible readings of the original (i.e. reading Nanami as asexual, expanding on the hints to Miki being bi, etc.). I know those would all be very controversial changes but I just don't see any point in playing it safe if I was making a new version of the characters. Oh, and I'd give everyone on the council unique uniforms.

I'd also make it even more surreal and disjointed, to make people angry.


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#5 | Back to Top07-24-2017 01:32:52 PM

itavin
Sunlit Gardener (Prelude)
From: is-real
Registered: 10-21-2016
Posts: 174

Re: If you could remake Utena...

Interesting to see no one mentioned the pedo past of touga that was supposed to be in the show but was never there. Thats the only real thing I am mad on the show about and think that the show would be better with.

Also, the character designs have 0 amount of proportions. Nanami, utena and shiori feel like they are in the same grade, some students look like they are the same age as 11th grader's, and it makes me feel weird that Nanami could pass for 20 when she is like 13. The only character that really looks there grade is Tsuwabuki, and even then he looks more like a 7th grader then Nanami. Dont get me wrong, I sure love the thought that went behind designing each character, but I dont buy there age, like, at all.

Now if I was to make a new utena like Arale was suggesting, I would add more GAYYYYYYYYYYYY to everything in the show. I would also like to have more of the shadow theater girls, because pfttt why not? Also maybe more romantic interactions between Utena and anthy and maybe even between touga and saionji.


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#6 | Back to Top07-24-2017 06:04:32 PM

Crabe
Wakaba Wrangler
Registered: 07-22-2017
Posts: 11

Re: If you could remake Utena...

I would possibly completely remove Curried High Trip. It's not totally without merit, but the animation flubs and slow pace can make it a chore.

Obviously the animation could be more fluid at many points, and if I had my way the clip episodes would be half-length at most but those were necessary concessions given the budget of the show.

If we're including the movie I have to say I don't enjoy the dance scene or the final car chase very much. They feel excessive. I have no idea what I would replace them with, but my enjoyment of the movie goes down significantly at those points.

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#7 | Back to Top07-24-2017 08:16:31 PM

Ashnod
La poétesse revolutionnaire
From: Missouri, United States
Registered: 03-01-2007
Posts: 1243
Website

Re: If you could remake Utena...

A few things. I understand before suggesting them that these modifications will largely only satisfy me, but that's fine. They are still things that would make a difference to me.

1) Completely re-write the structure of the Black Rose Saga. Don't get me wrong, the stories of the minor characters and their angst is something that appeals to me. What I didn't care for was monster of the week aspect of it. Substitute one's "heart sword" for "heart crystal" or "heart's mirror" or whatever, and you've got Seasons 3-5 of Sailor Moon all over again. Minor characters with moderate time in the spotlight becoming hypnotized minions that are no threat at all to the protagonist. At least the Student Council Arc, for the flaws it had, made each duel feel like it had gravitas. Did anyone seriously expect Tsuwabuki to win? I fully admit - the first time I watched the series, every duel in the first season felt crucial. All of the Black Rose duels feel like filler. And I understand that on a meta level that's partially the point of them, but after a while I was bored waiting for each Black Rose duelist's inevitable defeat.

2) On that note - I wanted Utena to lose more than once. How each duelist would have handled the burden of being the One Engaged is something I desperately wanted to see after the first season. THAT is what I was wanting out of Seasons 2 and 3. I wanted Juri's turn as the Victor. I wanted Miki's turn as the Victor. I wanted the dynamics of the Student Council to shift as power plays were being made internally. Once Akio and Mikage were involved, it was less interesting to me.

3) I wanted more about whatever the hell the metaphysics of this world were. I understand that less is usually more in this type of storytelling, but that intrigued me more than say, Kozue's story or Tsuwabuki's story. Or any of the Nanami filler.

There are a few other things here and there, some inconsistencies that I'd want smoothed over, and such. But those three are my big ones.


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#8 | Back to Top07-24-2017 11:59:40 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
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Re: If you could remake Utena...

I would be absolutely shit grinning face happily content for them to keep the voice acting and everything they have, and just reanimate almost the entire series frame by frame with the original storyboards. The animation for 90% of the show is just fucking awful, and while I can generally sort of ignore it, the range around Touga's last duel for example, the quality drops so much it's hard for me to stay as invested as I otherwise would be in the mounting tension. I consider myself lucky in that as a rule, the storylines I have the most investment in, seem to be favored by someone in power that produced the show, because it's where they spent a lot of their animation budgets.

There are absolutely episodes that take huge budget hits in exchange for high quality elsewhere. Episodes 9-11 have some of the most fluid and consistent animation in the series. Wakaba's duel episode is vividly animated as well. Juri's fights are so well done they rip the storyboards from them for like almost every duel after. It might be no mistake that the best overall animation, the Akio Arc, is also my favorite run of episodes, actually. The first arc is better animated, true, but I don't enjoy it as much because 1. no Akio, and 2. the animation style hasn't transitioned yet to what it is later and everyone looks young and helpless. Given the events that transpire later, it would have been a daring choice to keep drawing Touga, for example, so demonstrably young. But I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much because I think that had more to do with the animation style than an attempt made to age the characters. FFS they can't even get Akio's profile right in episode 13 because they were still using the first arc's style and it just doesn't work for an adult character.

So in that sense Jingle Cats, I think they do ?try? to fix this. The male characters all look significantly older by the time Akio shows up. A bigger age difference would have been interesting, but I suspect they felt it more important to keep his design attractive, and use the script to bang on his inappropriate age, instead of portraying a supposedly immortal character with a probable ability to change his appearance as older by putting wrinkles on him. It's definitely no mistake that they don't ever refer to Akio as a college student in the series--you're supposed to think he's older than that, and despite the way he's animated, I think most viewers generally do.

As for further changes, I say this not because the show lacks flaws, but because most of them feel like too much part of the charm, or like something would be broken if they were tampered with. The show's ambiguity is what I love about it. It was a pretty well accepted reading that Touga was abused before it was made obvious by the movie or by Enokido saying as much, for example. That tells me the show did a good enough job suggesting it, and I don't know that anything would be improved making it more obvious. But it would take away from your sense of Touga's agency. Anytime an antagonist is given a sad background, you're going to be led to empathize. Would that have made Touga more or less effective? How do we feel about his actions now that we know where they come from? It's the difference between Touga being read as willing to put himself in a similar position to get what he wants, and Touga being unable to keep away from a perpetuation of the cycle of abuse he's experienced. Both are true, but the reading changes based on what we're shown.

I'm going to be uh, in the minority to say the least here, but I wouldn't be happy to see the homosexual relationship between Utena and Anthy pressed further, like at all. The way it is now, reading it either way is valid without really being able to shoot down the other option. I like the ambiguity of that. People that read it as a same sex coming of age story get that without further suggestion, and people that don't can see it as a study in the depth of any kind of relationship, sexual or not. I love that SKU has such a deep meaning for people that see it that way, but I have to admit if the show had pounded harder on the idea, I would have registered it far more as a genre series, and been less drawn to it myself. Call me close minded but there it is. I don't think the show would have the cultural penetration (hehehe) in the anime community that it does if the sexuality of the main characters was stressed more. It's one of the arguments we all keep having, and those arguments keep the show alive.

THAT said, I do agree with you Ash. The BRS does feel very formulaic and I wish it didn't. The emotional high point is by no coincidence the only duel I thought Utena might in some way actually lose. (Not by losing the bride, necessarily, but by losing her relationship with Wakaba. The show pusses out on this, but seriously...) Given a few more episodes of time to build these relationships and the tension in play, I think they could have kept the sense of gravitas while also making it so you saw the duelists as the puppets they are, by putting more into how the council reacts. IE. shitting themselves over possibly losing favor with EotW, or freaking out because they were, one after the other, basically raped. This stuff is hinted at but never cashed in on, and it's probably where the real drama would have been.

Related, but Utena definitely should have lost more than once. I get why she doesn't, thematically speaking, but it does sap the drama from it that Utena gets kicked in the fucking gut and still always wins. The one time she loses it's got nothing to do with relative talent, and everything to do with her state of mind. The show had several chances to do this, reinforcing the theme that the duels are about something more than swordplay, but it doesn't. Why? Like everything else, I'm going to assume it was perceived time constraints, any time Utena loses a duel, she's going to have to spend an episode or two winning back Anthy, and you would have to keep justifying her behavior against her distaste for the duels as a concept. They managed this once, I don't know how smoothly it could have gone if done again. IMO, Saionji should have won his last duel, because her reason to fight again is baked right into that. He's an abusive assmunch and the lame dueling over Anthy thing would take a seat to saving her from getting backhanded up and down the hallways forever.

Actually, I think Juri would have suffered terribly anyway by being the victor. It's insanely effective that when she fights, she never fucking loses and still loses. I honestly don't relate to her elsewhere, but I do get a vivid impression of the infuriating frustration she must feel at that. The pointlessness of it. She successfully counters Dios twice, her talent and ability is clear, it's so obvious she can win. Miki? Too innocent. Saionji? Not enough discipline. Touga? Too blinded by ambition. But Juri? She's given no quarter. No excuse to hide behind. It's brutal, but very effective, and it makes her actual fights much more interesting for it. Her duel in the Akio Arc is probably the most interesting duel in the show. The directing is fantastic, reminds me of Satoshi Kon actually. And you don't know how it's going to end. Because you know the Dios attack isn't going to cut it, but you also know she's not going to win.

As for the metaphysics, I'm glad they left them alone because the story works better with that mystery in play. But for totally selfish reasons, I wouldn't cry if they did get into it more, because any expanding on it basically implies expanding on Akio and Anthy and we all know how I'd feel about that. emot-rolleyes At the same time, that relationship is fragile to depiction. Almost definitely something would be lost if we had any much more of it fleshed out. If I was told explicitly who instigated the sex, for example, the other is immediately a victim. And that would ruin everything. There's a lot more to say about them, and about the viewer, when the viewer has to decide what the actual power dynamic there is. We're given just enough to justify basically any answer to this question equally.

This got long.

As for the movie, the only thing I'd keep is Saionji chewing hair. It's the only time in the movie where someone is truly in character relative to their series counterpart. It's also kind of hot. etc-saiowank

But seriously though, the movie at times feels like a suggestion of what the show would be like set in, say, a college, with the duelist and bride dynamic made explicitly sexual. This would have ruined the series, but as a concept would be fascinating to see explored. Because it would almost definitely be just severely fucked up. The conditions in the movie utilize it, but the movie doesn't have the time to cash in on making that compelling. If they were to reinterpret the story under these conditions, you'd have a lot of interesting stuff to say and do. But it wouldn't be at all like the original, where sex is suggested by the viewer more than the material.


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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#9 | Back to Top07-25-2017 12:38:01 AM

Arale
Ballgoer
From: collective human consciousness
Registered: 12-07-2014
Posts: 145
Website

Re: If you could remake Utena...

I think what makes Utena and Anthy's ambiguity work is that it isn't ambiguous for cop-out reasons. If you look at modern anime there are lots of shows about female relationships, in which the characters flirt with eachother but then there is a male love interest that exists only to reaffirm the previous flirting as Just A Joke, which is a terrible thing for a show to do.

I hope I won't be seen as out of line for saying this but I think that the ambiguity in Utena is less "do these characters have gay themes" like those modern shows, and more "what do these gay themes mean". And like most aspects of the show, the fans' perception is mirrored by that of the characters. In other words, the specifics of the relationship aren't just ambiguous to the viewer, but also ambiguous to Utena herself. When Anthy makes a suggestive or humorous comment like in the Tsuwabaki black rose episode, Utena isn't really sure what she's talking about. The design of the bed Utena and Anthy sleep in in the later arcs also gives mixed messages, and I think the ambiguity is what makes the interactions between Utena, Anthy and Akio together as awkward as they are.

It all works really well, but I don't know how it would look in the modern anime climate where there are so many of those modern shows; people might miss the satire (and they did with Yuri Kuma Arashi). After seeing so many shows with hints of lesbianism that never resolve, new lesbian/bi/etc. viewers might be disappointed if Utena didn't. So when we talk about "remaking Utena", as in more than "what would you change", instead "what would you change for a new Utena released today", sometimes it might be better to update some things to make Utena stand out as it did at the time.

Oh yeah... there's this one big missed opportunity in the show. It's a Black Rose plot point that a duelist's ring turns black when they die. This is never brought up again, ever. But, if Utena left her ring behind when she vanished at the end of the show, the viewer could see that it wasn't black as proof that Utena is still out there somewhere. It wouldn't even need to be explicitly brought up; leave it as a blink and you'll miss it detail, and some people will put two and two together.


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#10 | Back to Top07-25-2017 01:32:20 AM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8728
Website

Re: If you could remake Utena...

Totally see what you mean. The bed pretty well sums it up, they're sleeping together...but not? It's a more interesting message than 'they're gay and Akio is there to confuse you.' I never took their relationship to be sexual in nature at all, more because Utena's not there yet, than that it doesn't at all exist. Maybe if they meet after the series it would develop that way. In that sense I would read Utena as bisexual, which is obviously very convenient for me, since I am. But if she's strictly gay you have to decide what to make of her relationships with Akio and Touga. I mean, they're both fucking garbage but it seems way too easy and really a very lame message to be like 'she's gay because men are terrible.' I hate that crap and I find the idea insanely insulting that my gender preferences could be dictated this way. I don't know how lesbians feel about it though.

As for the ring, fuckin' A you're right! Like if Anthy set Utena's rose crest down with her glasses. I even went back to check the sequence, and it would only work if she has the ring. If it's just sitting there it's Akio's new set of them, alongside the letters.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
Chiefest of Calamities

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