Feb 7, 2008
Twickers (All reviews)
It's been about five years now since I first saw this anime and still it's my definite favorite. I wasn't that interested at first, because it sounded rather pathetic with a bunch of people having secret meetings to duel each other over some girl. But I gave it a chance and watched the first four episodes, which ended with the first of a two part episode. Not really nice and the question "what happens next" haunted me quite some time and I was relieved when I got the DVD with episode five. I was satisfied afterwards and just didn't have enough time for the rest of it. But a few months later a friend of mine bought DVDs 1-7 (8 wasn't out yet) and so we sat there, three people, a weekend with nothing to do and we watched. 35 episodes in a row and there was no question, wether we should have done anything else. The last month waiting for the grande finally was emotionally painful.

The story may seem pretty strange (in fact it is), but everything falls in it's place and the driving force are the brilliant characters and their relationships. There is love, friendship, loyalty, adoration, obsession, disgust, hate and anything in between. If you like character driven drama, than this show is for you!

The series can be divided into four arcs and each lets us explore the whole cast in a different light. Everybody has issues and these issues are reflected on most everybody else. It's interesting to explore the goals of the duelists, who want the power of the Rose Bride, to revolutonize the world - even by the end you can't be sure what this phrase really stands for. A revolution means drastic changes in a short frame of time and in a way, these changes already start with Utena arriving. She sets things in motion in a world, where everybody seems to have a very definite place.

Symbolism is pretty high in here and even some of the corny comedy filler (usually revolving around a girl named Nanami) reveal pretty dark motives. Nobody is what he or she seems to be at first. Still the story by itself gets an 8, because the basis of all that's happening is pretty thin and you have to wait before the greater plan is revealed. But the characters get the full 10, since they are what it's all about. My favorite character still is Arisugawa Juri, to me, she's an alternate version of Utena herself. Both are strong and independent, but where Utena reaches for high goals, Juri has sunken into bitterness. But everybody gets defining moments thanks to the duels and with those duels comes another great strength - the soundtrack. The opening is pretty catchy, there are two ending songs I'd rather skip, the BGM sets the mood from easy going over dramatic to depths of terror, but the outstanding part are the 21 duel songs. J.A. Seazer composed a piece for every of these encounters and they not even set the tone of the action, if you have the time to look up the lyrics you found yourself drowning in yet more metaphors.

The animation is rather good, it can stand up to Magic Knight Rayearth and Slayers, which came out roughly around the same time. Even though there are lots of re-used scenes and images (Utena's walk to the dueling plattform is the counterpart to a Sailor Senshi transformation, yet more dramatic), the carefully placed colors and the great mimic expressions totally make up for it.

The entertainment factor is pretty high. I enjoy rewatching some of the comedy episodes occassionally or you can just watch the bunch of episodes that revolve around your favorite character. Of course rewatching the whole show is the best way to explore the world of the Ohtori Academy and after seeing the shocking finale it's refreshing to go back to the light hearted start again. I never expected the tragedy that unfolds from episode 34 ("The Rose Signet") onward. It takes a very dark turn.

If you plan to watch this, be prepared for all the characters you slowly start to hold dear been emotionally torn apart. Maybe all the roses and bishounen might scare you off at first, but you need the contrast of such a "noble" setting to embrace the twist and turns.