“Crossing Swords” – Revolutionary Girl Utena (manga) – 8/10 Streamers

 

To love is to place our happiness in the happiness of another. ~ G. Wilhelm Leibniz

Mangaka: Chiho Saito (manga) Be-Papas (story- this is a group of mangaka founded by Kunihiko Ikuhara, and produced the Revolutionary Girl Utena anime, manga, and movie)

Genre: School/Romance/Action/Fantasy/Shoujo/Shoujo-Ai

Review Status: Complete (5 Volumes/5 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US. First it was by Animanga, now by Viz.

Art/Animation: This looks like very traditional shoujo, but it looks very good. There are very large eyes and flowing hair, and flowers everywhere, but the panels are clean and flow well, and the shading is quite well-done.

Summary: One day a little girl learns that her parents have died. The grade-school-age girl wanders the rain-soaked streets of her hometown with no distinct purpose. Drenched in rainwater and tears, she finds herself by a river and thows herself in. Suddenly a man appears- her prince- and he rescues her, banishes her tears, and tells her to grow up strong and noble. From then on she strives to grow up to be a prince just like him! (back cover of the 1st volume of the Animerica edition)

Review: The Revolutionary Girl Utena anime is infamous for being laden with symbolism, screwing with your expectations and often your mind, and being good. The manga that it’s based on also is quite fascinating, presenting a different side to things that the anime either changes or emphasizes. Utena and Anthy are recognizeable characters- Anthy, a gentle and sweet outsider, and Utena takes on a role that’s usually delegated to the men in being cool and daring, someone who would melt girl’s hearts without even realizing it.

Utena’s background is briefly fleshed out, coming to the Academy because her aunt is moving away and the postcards she often recieves pointing the way to where her Prince awaits. The themes of lost love and sacrifice show up early on and begin weaving themselves into the story as Utena discovers the Student Council, and as the days go by, she’s challenged to defeat them one by one.

Each duel highlights the personalities of the members of the Student Council, why they want the power to revolutionize the world. Since their personalities are shallow to begin with though the flaws run deep, the brief time they are given works well- you get a good sense of who they are even through the various other short times they appear. What doesn’t work well is how quickly and deeply Utena’s relationship with Anthy grows. Utena becomes more protective of Anthy as each duel occurs, yet their day to day interactions are skimmed on. The brief glimpses we get of why Anthy starts softening up are good, but not enough to really empathize.

With the growth of their relationship comes the intrusion of another one- the power that’s been controlling the game from the beginning. Utena’s beliefs and love is rocked by someone who could very well be the Prince… but is he? The ending is quite clear on what’s happening, what the origins of the duels are, and why Utena was brought to the school, but there are still various questions that are left lingering afterward. Even so, there are a lot of things made clear that manage to put the events in perspective and give a lot of meaning to the story. There are a number of things that are different from the anime, but it manages to be a solid story in it’s own right.

Overall, while I don’t think this is the best incarnation of the Revolutionary Girl Utena story, this still manages to be engaging and throws a light on the symbolism of the anime.

Recommended: 15+. There is the implication of incest and sex and some sexual symbolism- nothing inappropriate is shown, but it’s clear enough to pick up on. There is also a non-gory death, and some blood is spilled.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Revolutionary Girl Utena (anime and movie)

Maruwaru Penguindrum (anime)

Shigofumi (anime)

Princess Tutu (anime)

After School Nightmare (manga)

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