Revolutionary Girl Utena (The Movie) (1999)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Director
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Gallery-Artwork (2)
Theatrical Trailer-Japanese and TV Spots
Theatrical Trailer-US And Teaser
Game-Trivia
Trailer-Final Fantasy Unlimited, Last Exile, Grave Of The Fireflies
Trailer-Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Big O
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 85:45 (Case: 87)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (36:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kunihiko Ikuhara
Studio
Distributor
Production IG
Madman Entertainment
Starring Tomoko Kawakami
Rachael Lillis
Yuriko Fuchizaki
Sharon Becker
Takehito Koyasu
Crispin Freeman
Kotono Mitsuishi
Mandy Bonhomme
Aya Hisakawa
Jimmy Zoppi
Kumiko Nishihara
Lisa Ortiz
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Shinkichi Mitsumune
J A Seazer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Japanese Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Titling
English
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, once
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

This is going to be difficult to describe, so please bear with me.

This is the movie version of the story of Utena. This story started life as a manga (of five volumes) by Chiho Saito. Her work was much admired, and it was made into an anime series called Revolutionary Girl Utena, directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. The TV series ran to 39 episodes (it has been released on 10 DVDs in Region 1). And then they decided to make a movie of it. As you might guess, a story that took 39 episodes to tell, or 5 volumes of manga, is not going to be easy to condense into a movie. They have taken more than a few liberties with the story, including dropping an awful lot of the background (the back-stories of many of the characters were covered in detail). And they've changed the end quite a lot, or so I gather (I haven't watched the entire TV series, yet I've only seen the first two DVDs). But certain things remain the same.

Utena is newly arrived at the mysterious Ohtori Academy, a boarding school. She is quite distinctive, with her pink hair, and the fact that she wears a boy's uniform, rather than a girl's. Ohtori Academy is an odd place. She gets a strange ring, and wanders onto a high platform that is carpeted in roses (almost all red roses). There she meets Anthy, a unusual girl (with blue-purple hair), who shows an interest in the ring. Saionji, another student (green hair), appears and claims ownership of Anthy, saying that she is the Rose Bride, and his possession. Utena doesn't like the way he treats Anthy, so she faces him in a duel, and defeats him. To her surprise, she discovers that this means she is now engaged to Anthy, and the target of other duellists.

There are all manner of storylines running around loose in this film, including Touga (a "prince" Utena knew before, who seems to be spending time with Shiori), Jury (another girl known as The Prince), Miki (who has a very possessive sister), and Akio (a headmaster, or prince, who is Anthy's brother). I'm not going to try to explain these, because some of them are distracting loose ends. And I really have no idea what the cow is doing there (other than providing an excuse for a single appearance of Chu Chu, who has a much bigger part in the series).

There are all manner of tensions, sexual and emotional, running through this film. The relationship between Anthy and Utena is the most complicated (and somewhat different from the series). From Anthy's part, it could be as simple as her submission to the reigning duellist because she is the Rose Bride, but it seems to be a lot more than that (especially considering her actions during the first duel). For Utena, though, there is the question of whether this should be viewed from the point of view of Utena the girl, where it may be friendship, or a crush, or something stronger, or from Utena the prince, where it might be a conventional romance, plus Utena feeling protective towards a girl she sees as being abused. That's not the only case of abuse, though Touga reveals abuse in his past, and some of the other relationships we see aren't exactly healthy.

A lot is hinted at, rather than shown. Apparently the story makes a lot more sense if you have seen the entire TV series I think I'll have to watch this again when I've had the chance to do so. It can be watched standalone, but you may need to watch it several times. The duel with Jury, where the prince appears for Utena, will probably not make sense until you've seen at least the first two DVDs of the TV series.

If you've read about this film elsewhere, you'll know that the climax of the film comes when (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Utena transforms into a racecar, and Anthy drives her out of the school. That part is apparently completely new, but it's rather cool, even if the symbolism isn't clear (the director's commentary explains some of his intentions here).

The animation is gorgeous, but faces and bodies are rather stylised, with odd triangular noses, and huge eyes (some of the time). Mouths are drawn quite oddly, with dimples showing more clearly than lips. There is some nudity, but although these women have breasts, they appear not to have nipples. Hair is often long and flowing, on men as well as women (indeed, it isn't always easy to tell male from female). Very much a shoujo style.

The animation style in the movie is somewhat different from the series, and many of the characters look rather different. Some of the details are different, too, such as how the duellists get access to the garden where they duel (an irritation in the English dub is the way that the American voice actors pronounce "duel" to rhyme with "tool" rather than "jewel"). But there's plenty of similarity, as you'd expect, with the film and series having the same director.

Some of the trailers show a French title for this film as "La Fillette Revolutionaire", which translates roughly as "The Little Revolutionary Girl". The first title shown on the movie is The Adolescence of Utena (in English), followed by a Japanese title that is subtitled as Revolutionary Girl Utena.

This film is fascinating, and exquisitely drawn, but I think it suffers from trying to tell too much story in too little time. My recommendation is to watch it, but be prepared to get the series (I won't be surprised to see it released in Region 4 soon) and watch all of it as well, before you'll fully understand what's going on.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

This disc is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. I can't find an authoritative source for the original aspect ratio, but I'm certain it was either 1.78:1 or 1.85:1 either way, this presentation is good enough.

The image is sharp and clear. There is no film grain or low-level noise of any significance (except on those shots that are pretending to be video-tape, where it is deliberate).

Colour is critical: this film is filled with vast swathes of red, pink, and purple by the time this is over you will know how well your home theatre produces red. There are no colour-related artefacts no colour bleed on the swathes of red is excellent.

There are no film artefacts.

There is quite a bit of aliasing (especially on an interlaced system), but it is mild enough not to be bothersome. There are no other film-to-video artefacts, and no MPEG artefacts.

Subtitles are provided in English, and there's a second subtitle track for signs and lyrics; there's also a third subtitle track for the commentary. Interestingly, when you watch the full subtitles, then the songs behind the duels are subtitled in Romaji (a representation of the Japanese lyrics, but in Roman characters); when you watch the sign / lyric subtitles, the songs are subtitled in English. That's an interesting choice. The subtitles are easy to read, and appear to be well-timed to the dialogue. You may think, at times, that the animators forgot to animate the mouths, but I think we're hearing the characters' thoughts at those times...

The disc is single-sided (with gorgeous label), dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change falls at 36:37, and is very nicely placed: it comes in a black frame at a silent moment between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There are three audio tracks on this disc, one English, two Japanese I listened to all three in full. The first two are the soundtrack in English and Japanese, both Dolby Digital 2.0 (not surround encoded), at the high rate of 320 kbps (these would normally be 192 or 224 kbps). The third track is the director's commentary, Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at a more conventional 192 kbps.

The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and there are no audio sync issues. The Japanese dialogue sounds equally clear, with nothing obvious in the way of audio sync problems.

The score comes from Shinkichi Mitsumune and J A Seazer it's excellent.

The soundtracks are pure stereo they make no use of the surrounds or subwoofer, but use the whole of the frontal soundstage.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are plenty of extras here, and it's difficult to think of anything more we would reasonably request.

Menu

The menu is preceded by a transition, and is animated with music. The menu is easy to use.

Commentary: director Kunihiko Ikuhara

The commentary is provided in audio, in Japanese, and as subtitles, in English. If you select it from the Extras menu, you'll get both. If you don't understand Japanese, you might want to switch to the English language soundtrack so you can hear the soundtrack while reading the commentary. The director has a lot to say, but there are gaps in his commentary. He explains some of the rationale behind some of the less obvious moments, but not everything. This is a good commentary, and recommended.

Featurette: Behind the Scenes with Kunihiko Ikuhara (12:54)

This featurette follows the director as he visits the dubbing studio where they are dubbing the movie in English. He comments on differences in technique between dubbing in Japan and the US. There are some serious spoilers, so wait until after you have watched the movie.

Montage: Hichiro Kobayashi's Art Sketches (3:09)

This montage spends over a third of its time on notes from the director before showing us the sketches, but it is interesting nonetheless, showing various backgrounds.

Montage: Sketches with Director's Notes (4:29)

A second montage, this time of character designs, both those used in the movie, and others that they decided against.

Japanese TV Spots and Trailers (3:07)

Three TV spots and three trailers, shown one after the other

US Trailer & Teaser (3:12)

The trailer and the teaser trailer for this movie as shown in the US.

Trivia Game

A sequence of six questions, where they show you a snippet from the film, then ask a question about it (some of the questions are mean!). Contains lots of spoilers. All you get at the end is a score out of 6.

DVD Credits

A single page (nicely themed to the movie) showing the Madman personnel guilty of this disc.

Madman Propaganda

Five trailers, individually selectable:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 version of this disc was released a while back, at the end of 2001. I ordered it pre-release.

The Region 1 disc has almost exactly the same extras (the trailers are different, with the R1 having trailers for the TV series, Angel Sanctuary, Harlock Saga, Night Walker, Shamanic Princess, and Night on the Galactic Railroad none of which are available in Region 4...).

The big addition to the R1 disc is the results of a fan contest: they have 10 winners, of which 7 are drawings, and 3 are photos of people in cosplay outfits. To be honest, I don't miss this on the Region 4 disc, especially given that the winners are all from the US...

The Region 1 transfer is very good. At first I thought it might be sharper than the R4, but after some serious A-B comparison I concluded that the two are equally sharp, but the R1 has a slight edge on colour: it is very slightly more saturated (hard to pick without side-by-side comparison). Both transfers show a fair bit of aliasing on pans (especially vertical pans), but neither has a marked advantage.

The Region 1 does have one feature I'd have liked on the Region 4, though. On the inside of the cover slick (the R1 is in a transparent case, too) they have printed detailed credits in English, including a list of all the voice actors for both Japanese and English.

Both covers are very pink, but I prefer the Region 4 cover, with a picture of both Utena and Anthy, over the Region 1 cover, with a strange pose of Utena with the sword.

I think that you could easily be happy with either version.

Summary

A complex and involving (and confusing) anime movie, given a very good transfer to DVD.

The video quality is very good.

The audio quality is very good.

The extras are excellent, including almost everything we could ask for.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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