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Orphic Okapi
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POSTS WITH A HEADER LIKE THIS CONTAIN SPOILERS, SO READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

YOU MIGHT EVEN WANT TO SKIP THIS POST IF YOU'RE SPOILER SENSITIVE. I PROBABLY SAID TOO MUCH.




Well, I watched Utena for a second time. (Yes, I need a life.) I am now extra confident in my original assessment: for all its imperfections, SKU is a work of staggering genius and unparalleled beauty. I am not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby throughout the final episode. When this song started playing, I got so many chills. My heart stopped beating. I don't think I breathed once during the last ten minutes; I just gently whispered "Itsuka, issho ni..." over and over again as the tears ran in torrents down my face.

Are Arren and I the only two members of this forum who have seen it? GUYS WATCH THIS SHOW IT WILL CHANGE YOU AS A HUMAN BEING.

Anyway, one of the great things about Utena is that while it's very emotionally satisfying, it also has endless layers of intellectual depth. You could write countless essays on the symbolism and allegorical elements in the show (many have already been written), and I'm sure there are several different interpretations of its meaning that are equally valid. So, if anyone's seen it, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Without giving too much away, I personally see it as a parable about the loss of childhood idealism. Becoming an adult often entails the realization that many things you believed in as a child simply do not exist: they are illusions, usually foisted on you by adults who want to control the way you think and the way you behave. This realization can bring about serious despair, the feeling that there is nothing left to believe in, maybe even nothing to live for. Utena examines this painful loss of idealism, but also offers the possibility of a new kind of hope, found not in unattainable ideals, but in real and imperfect human beings. Princes may not exist in the real world, but friends do.

Just spelling it out like that kind of diminishes the power of the message, unfortunately. Utena is all about how these themes get explored: with lots of subtlety, ambiguity, and mind****ery. And incest. But having actually experienced an arduous loss of ideals myself, over a period of several years, I can tell you how rare and wonderful it is to encounter a work of art that captures those feelings and addresses those experiences, however abstractly.

Of course, I am barely scratching the surface. There's a lot going on in the show. Lotta feminism, lotta psychology, lotta incest. Let's discuss! And if you haven't seen the show, what are you waiting for? It managed to win over my cold, hardened heart, so you know it's good!




Oh, the soundtrack is pretty rad, too.


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 11.03.2013, 12:59 PM.

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On the basis of your enthusiasm for the show I shall certainly watch it. I usually avoid old-school anime as I find the art styles and animation styles don't appeal to me but I'll try to put that aside.


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Orphic Okapi
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You're a big fan of Evangelion, right? I've heard there are similarities between the two shows, with Utena being kind of the shoujo equivalent of Evangelion, in that it took the conventions of the genre and turned them upside down. Then turned them inside out, then turned them outside in again, then did weird kinky stuff to them that nobody really understood, but that still kind of turned everyone on anyway.

If you know what I mean.

Ahem. But I happened to be looking for Utena discussion threads the other day, and found one in an Evangelion forum, and a lot of people were making very positive comparisons between the two. Which means I should probably watch Evangelion next.

Oh yeah, and while I didn't really find the character designs of Utena very appealing at first, and while the animation is certainly dated, and there are noticeable shortcuts taken, the incredible art direction eventually won me over. What the animation lacks in budget, it makes up for with visual creativity.


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 10.26.2013, 04:17 AM.

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Mush
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I started watching Utena because you had recommended it earlier, so I bought the first DVD set (called the 'student council story arc', episodes 1-12). I found it interesting, but it seemed to work out to a Sailor Moon style battle-of-the-day formula with some minor added intrigue.

Although I really liked Utena as a character, I couldn't understand Anthy in the slightest is she a robot so in the end I wasn't sure what to make of it, and I didn't buy the second set. Does it improve? If it becomes deeper and less formulaic than it is at the beginning, I might give that a try again.


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Post last edited by Mush on 10.26.2013, 05:44 AM.

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arren18
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I've sometimes thought about making this thread myself, but I figured there wouldn't be enough people to post in it.

Anyway, Orphic is quite right! It's a very complex and interesting series (often pretty funny to boot) and well worth your time. I wasn't a big fan of the character designs initially, as it is very noticeably shoujo, which I'm not normally into, but it really grew on me, and I actually love the designs and the visual style now.

The Evangelion comparison is often made, because they do both turn existing cliches on their head and add layers of symbolism and psychological intrigue. Both become spectacularly out-there as they near the finale too. Personally I think Evangelion is really overrated, but then that's just me. I do think that if you enjoy one, the other is worth trying out at least.

Mush - I think you should definitely persevere! The arc that follows has its own formula of sorts, but is quite different and has a lot of dramatic twists and turns. After that arc, the formula is all but dropped and it makes its way towards the ending. Anthy is definitely a difficult character to get, and we learn more about her as time goes on. She's quite controversial even within the fanbase, and the story somewhat leaves it up to the viewer what to make of her. Anyway, it does change from what you've seen, and I would say it's for the better!

Also, I'm surprised you've watched it again already Orphic! I've been tempted myself even though it wasn't all that long ago I first saw it, but it is quite a big time investment, so I think I'd rather wait longer. Having said that, it'll be great to see it again to notice details with the knowledge of how it all pans out.


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Post last edited by arren18 on 10.26.2013, 07:58 AM.

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Orphic Okapi
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The first arc is pretty much just a general introduction to the main characters and concepts. On a second watch, I found it by far the least interesting, although I think it does help lull you in a false sense of shoujo-security; you think you know where the story is going, but you really don't. It's unfortunate that the series gets off a fairly convention start, and that as a whole it is several episodes longer than it really needs to be. It's also true that the formula is very repetitive.

I'll be honest: the formulaic nature of the show doesn't exactly change, but the nature of the formula does, if that makes any sense. Each arc has its own "ritualistic" sequences that get repeated just about every episode, and almost every episode involves a duel. Now generally speaking, I am not fond of formulaic plots like this at all, and if the duelists in Utena were just throwaways who popped up for one episode, got smacked down by Utena, and then vanished, I don't think I would have been able to tolerate the show for very long. But Utena largely sticks with the same cast throughout all 39 episodes, and the duels become a way of exploring the characters in greater depth, I think. That's the best way I can explain it without getting too specific. The duels aren't really the draw; it's the psychology behind them that matters.

Anthy is . . . reeeeeaaaaallly hard to discuss without spoiling anything. But I think, if you finish the series, you will find she is a very complex character. In many ways she is more complex than Utena. I think it is also perfectly naturally to be baffled by her. After all, Utena is. That's probably the reaction she is intended to provoke.

I would recommend you try the first few episodes of the Black Rose Arc online. See what you think. I wouldn't go ahead and buy any more DVDs unless those episodes really intrigue you. I watched the entire series online and bought the DVDs after the fact. I think if I hadn't seen the show in its entirety first, I probably wouldn't have bought any of them. It's not that the show only gets good right at the ending, it's more that the ending puts the rest of the show in perspective, and it really only starts to feel like a masterpiece when you look at it as a whole.

EDIT: Arren posted over me! This is all in response to Mush.


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 10.26.2013, 08:16 AM.

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Orphic Okapi
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It is now time for me to post some of my favorite Utena AMVs . . . for Arren's appreciation, I guess.

The best Utena movie AMV. This is the only one I wouldn't advise against watching if you haven't seen the series. The movie is so different from the show, you absolutely aren't spoiling anything for yourself, except a few bits of the movie that aren't too surprising and won't make any sense out of context anyway.

This one has slightly choppy editing, but the song is so charming and fits the series surprisingly well. Almost convinces you the show is a cute conventional-ish romance between Utena and Anthy.

Okay this is maybe my favorite AMV ever? Powerful song, and the editing is brilliant. Certainly casts Anthy in a rather...different light than the early episodes of the show. Filled with footage from the final episodes that you probably don't want to see.


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 10.28.2013, 06:38 AM.

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arren18
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Oooh, nice! I really enjoyed the different perspective in that last one, and it helps that I already love the song! That one was definitely the most interesting of the three.

Unfortunately I can't think of any that I've seen other than one, which is a comedy example that I found because I deliberately went looking for it. Unless you're familiar with the characters and the later arcs it probably doesn't mean much, but I remember finding it funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddt8g9kxgp0


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Orphic Okapi
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Oh yeah, that one is super amusing.

I finally looked at the lyrics for that Florence and the Machine song, and it is absolutely eerie how perfectly they fit Anthy. It's like they were written for her. You can easily imagine the song as a kind of internal monologue, or even as if she's speaking directly to a certain character WHO I WON'T NAME. Either way the lyrics describe her situation in the show amazingly well.


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 10.28.2013, 11:22 PM.

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Knowing the lyrics already, it didn't occur to me how they'd fit the show until I saw which characters they were applying it to. Of course, at that point it seemed really obvious.


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Orphic Okapi
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Utena fanart is a lot harder to find than I thought it would be.

EDIT: Well, the images I wanted to show I can't find anywhere now (what the heck, Zerochan), but here are some other pretty cool ones.







I think the above three may in fact be official art by Chiho Saito (author of the manga) herself. I haven't read the manga yet and I'm not really familiar with her art style so I can't say for sure.








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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 10.30.2013, 12:37 AM.

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Orphic Okapi
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EDIT: Wow, I'm terrible at this. So I found the pictures I want to post again, but they're all huge, and I don't know how to reduce the image size. I don't want the page to get all stretched out, so for the time being I've just removed them.


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 10.30.2013, 02:10 AM.

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I've finished watching the shows that have occupied me this last couple of weeks so I plan on starting RGU today.


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Good luck Saddles! The first arc is a little formulaic but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.

There are some pieces in that fanart post I recognise, and I think you might be right about those first ones being official art. Actually, I find that Utena fanart isn't so difficult to come across though. If you look it up on Tumblr there's a lot.


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Orphic Okapi
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*makes Tumblr account solely for the purpose of seeking out Utena fanart*


Yeah, Saddles, while you may end up feeling the same way as Mush about the first arc (I can't really remember how I felt about the show at first, although obviously something kept me watching), I think you'll find if you can persevere that it's all worth it in the end. Hope you enjoy the show!


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Oh! Even since posting that I found a nice example:




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I just found out that the anime club on campus has a DVD library, which includes Revolutionary Girl Utena. So I intend to give the rest of the series a try!

... Right after I finish Yakitate!! Ja-pan, that is. (I have a contractual obligation to finish watching this).


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Orphic Okapi
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Yay Mush! You'll thank me later. Or you'll hate the show and be really mad at me. But hopefully the former?

Had to post this:


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 11.01.2013, 03:49 AM.

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SPOILERS EPs 1-14





I'm 14 episodes in and the show has really only become worth watching I think with ep.14. I'll be honest and confess that without Orphic and Arren being such big fans of the show I probably would have stopped watching it around ep.5 or 6. There's lots I can say about why I dislike it but I won't bore or annoy you with the details; I suspect my reasons are the same as many other people's.

At least the behaviour of some of the characters invoked a strong response from me; it made me especially cross at everyone who kept slapping Anthy around. So infuriating! What is wrong with people? Saionji confessed he wanted to own her but all he did was abuse her. Grr.

So I suppose something in the story or characters is connecting with me.

But ep.14 had the first glimmer of something interesting in it, I thought, so I am going to continue watching.


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Post last edited by Saddletank on 11.03.2013, 08:17 AM.

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Orphic Okapi
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TONS OF SPOILERS EPS 1-12



Aww, now I feel like everyone (myself included) is being too harsh on the Student Council Saga. It's not the show's high point by any means, but I do think there's some good stuff in there. The weird sexual tension between Miki and Kozue, the weird sexual tension between Touga and Nanami, the twist at the end of Jury's episode, that one episode where Touga boxes a kangaroo, the eerie flashback to the funeral, Nanami drowning a cat (!), and especially the climax where Utena gets her groove back and starts being a BAMF again! I think that final episode was the turning point for me personally. At that point I decided I liked Utena so much, I would follow her to the end of the show no matter what the rest was like.

Keeping in mind that the show creators were trying to fill the same niche as Sailor Moon, I think they managed to pull off some surprisingly sophisticated storytelling. Nothing compared to what they would do later, but I think it's a respectable beginning with enough dashes of weirdness to keep you intrigued. And there's only one episode that's complete rubbish (not sure what they were thinking with the curry episode, that one was ridiculous).


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Post last edited by Orphic Okapi on 11.03.2013, 12:39 PM.

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