Genre: Fantasy/Magical Girl/Surreal/Yuri
Creator/Studio: Chiho Saito/JC Staff
Distributor: Manga Video/Nozomi Entertainment; Streams on Hulu
No. of Episodes: 39
Suggested Age: 14+
My Rating: 10/10
Summary: Utena Tenjou is a girl attending the prestigious Ohtori Academy. When she was a child, she was so impressed by a prince that she vowed to become one herself, to the point where she would even wear a boy’s uniform. She meets a girl named Anthy, who is in an abusive relationship with Touga, the head of the Student Council. Out of her anger, she learns that Anthy is the “Rose Bride” and if she wants to protect her, she must fight for her in a series of duels against the members of the council. (The episodes are even called “Duels” rather than episodes) The Council’s members believe they are “the ones who will bring revolution” and that Anthy is the catalyst of that revolution. Utena is brought into a conflict and conspiracy she wants no part of.
Review: This is a well-crafter and beautifully animated story. I think Utena is a great heroine because she is fighting for a friend rather than herself. She has a deep love for Anthy and they are very devoted to each other. There are great uses of symbolism and the story is engaging. It has a surreal nature that often confused me, but didn’t stop me from finishing. If you are curious, you should check it out.
Music/Score: The score is both orchestral and epic. Each duel has excellent music accompanying it, even if the lyrics don’t make much sense. I especially like the opening song and “Zettai Unmei Mokishiroku”, which plays as Utena and Anthy enter the arena and change clothes for the duel.
Sub/Dub: Very good. Any cast that includes Crispin Freeman is always worth listening to.
Violence: (7/10) I’ve already stated the duels themselves, which always stop once Utena is able to remove a rose crest from her opponent’s uniform with her sword and Anthy’s relationship with Touga. There is also a car crash that factors into the plot, and symbolic imagery of Anthy riddled with swords.
Nudity: (5/10) There is mild silhouetted nudity during the costume changes. During the final story arc, a different animation sequence is used. This sequence has a brief moment where Anthy is naked from the back. There are also other brief nude scenes with her as well.
Sexuality: (8/10) There are very subtle hints that Utena and Anthy have a lesbian relationship. I personally feel that Utena is bisexual because there are scenes that show that she at least finds men attractive. However, we see nothing beyond these hints.
Religion: (o/10) Except for cryptic dialogue about the end of the world and some of the song lyrics, religion is never discussed. And the songs don’t make sense anyway, so they don’t count.
Related Media: This is based on the manga created by Chiho Saito, who is a member of the Be-Papas manga group. There is a movie sequel called Adolescence of Utena. The manga was also adapted into a video game for the Sega Saturn (Japanese only) and a stage play. (This is fitting because Saito was influenced by Japanese theatre.)