Author: Chiho Saito and Be-PaPas Publisher: Viz Media Language: English Format: Hardback with slipcase.
Page count: 960 for both books.
Genre: Romance, Drama, Fantasy Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Revolutionary Girl UTENA is a Shojo manga that started in the June 1996 issue of Ciao. It was soon followed in 1997 by an anime with a similar story. This series ranks very high among female manga fans. If you ask women what their first manga series was, it’s usually this or Sailor Moon. And that makes sense. There are many similarities between the two series – we have a blonde heroine who is a bit tomboyish and klutzy. Similarly, Utena and Usagi fail in school and keep a very close circle of friends or associates. Both of them are willing to sacrifice themselves for the safety of those they love. Of course, that is where the similarities end. Utena’s life revolves around a strange high school that engages in duels that result in the passing along of a young woman who will devote herself to you as long as you’re winning. There’s no fairy tale endings here because Utena has the power to revolutionize the world!
Revolutionary Girl Utena follows a cute tomboy who decides that she doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to be a prince instead so she can protect everyone! This is reflected in her clothing choices, hobbies, and friendships. It causes her problems at school, which we see early on when Utena’s aunt gets called in to take her niece home because of an inappropriate school uniform. We learn that Utena is close friends with a young man named Kaido, who is friend-zoned for life, probably due to his own meddling. Kaido helps Utena solve the mystery of rose scented letters that she finds in her mailbox each year. She is convinced they are from a prince who saved her from drowning a short while after her parents died. It is because of him that she hopes to become a prince. She has been seeking him out ever since; his words left a profound impact on her life, “if you do not lose your noble heart, there will come a time wen we meet again.” After Kaido figures out that the letters are linked to Ohtori Academy, an elite live-in prep school, Utena immediately transfers and leaves her friend heartbroken. This is the last that we see of him in the series.
Upon transferring, Utena becomes popular because of her tomboyish ways, athleticism, and beauty. All of the girls want to be her friend, and the boys are intrigued by her. Utena quickly finds out this is not a normal school when she discovers there a student serving as a “Rose Bride” who can pull a magic sword from her torso. There is vicious student council who manipulate each other for the purpose of securing the Rose Bride and the Sword of Dios. Those who can compete for the Rose Bride all wear rose rings like the one Utena was given after being pulled from death. The school also has a floating castle in the sky! There’s some more sinister stuff going on but we get to that in book 2.
Things pick up when Utena accidentally wins(yes, I said wins) her new best friend, Anthy the Rose Bride in a duel. This is a strange relationship that requires closer inspection. Throughout the series it is difficult to distinguish Anthy’s real thoughts from the thoughts she is supposed to have as the rose bride. When Utena first meets Anthy, Anthy is in an abusive relationship with her current master, Saionji. He seems like he actually loves Anthy because he continues to chase her after she moves on to the next winner; however, he’s a huge asshole and doesn’t know how to treat a lady with respect. Upon seeing Anthy get slapped around by Saionji, Utena flexes her tomboyish attitude and ends up winning Anthy in a duel. This is a fairly interesting relationship because Utena is noble and honest while Anthy is vapid, unnecessarily polite, and completely submissive. Anthy tries to sleep with Utena to ‘consummate’ their relationship but Utena will have none of that. In fact, she’s disgusted by how easily Anthy will hand her body over to the winner. She sees Anthy as her friend and encourages her to be more open about her own desires rather than play her part as the Rose Bride. Despite being passed around like a entree, she is manipulative and obsessed with pleasing her brother, who has dark intentions for Utena.
Siaonji attempts to win Anthy back in a duel during a school dance, but loses to Utena again and slips away into the background. The next few student council members Utena is destined to duel become the focus of book 1. Love interests also step in, Touga and Miki who are both members of the student council. Unfortunately their charms are no match for Utena’s stubbornness and her obsession with saving herself for the mysterious prince who saved her life. Touga eventually manipulates Utena and wins Anthy, outraging the more honest boyfriend option, Miki. Losing Anhty causes Utena to have a temporary transformation that shocks the entire school. She bounces back quickly and her determination to meet her prince is stronger than ever.
You can’t talk about this manga without admiring the beautiful packaging Viz put together for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Split into two hardcover volumes and dressed up in a solid black and pastel pink slipcase, this set will please any fan of Utena or Shojo manga. Each book has a detailed cover design with the back covers showing rose petals and gold trim while the front cover has a bright and colorful picture of Utena. Inside of each volume are several full color, glossy pages of artwork. This box set is heavy and worth every penny.
This was my first experience with Revolutionary Girl Utena and I was really excited to have the opportunity to read it. My gateway manga and anime drug was Sailor Moon and while I have found many series over the years I enjoy, nothing quite came close to how I felt when reading Sailor Moon. I can understand why Revolutionary Girl Utena is such a big deal – reading this made me feel the same way I did when I first saw Usagi transform into Sailor Moon. As I mentioned earlier, there are many similarities between Utena and Usagi. They’re champions of justice, looking to right the wrongs of the world and protect their friends. They’re both seeking out a mysterious prince and they want to change the world for the better. Of course Utena is far more athletic than Usagi and a lot more capable of defending herself. This is reflected in their respective friendship pools. Usagi has a huge support network of senshi who get her out of a pickle. Utena has few friends and some are manipulative while others are selfish and annoying. Utena has to pull herself together when times are tough because she doesn’t have the same support network. In a way, I can appreciate that because it sends a positive message to young girls who want to be a prince instead of a princess.
This 20th Anniversary Edition is also a great opportunity to introduce new readers to the world of Utena.
You can also check out other The Outerhaven reviews on your favorite social media networks: