The second volume starts with Utena doing what she does best – sleeping in late, dreaming of Dios. Since she is late, Anthy summons her brother to drive Utena to class, but he never gets her there. Instead, he brings her on a joyride and works some of his charm to get her to fall for him. Utena later shares her experience with Anthy who responds only with basic questions. You have to wonder what is going on in her head since she never expresses her own opinions or acts out on her own desires. She is obviously setting up Utena to fall into a plan laid by Akio, who has bad intentions. As everything begins to fall into place, Anthy hangs out on the sidelines as a spectator and still continues to be Utena’s “loyal” servant. In reality, she is her brother’s slave and her loyalty lies only with him. It runs so deep you wonder if the love she feels for him is blind admiration or the lust of incest. It’s difficult to determine from her interactions as she’s just a vessel of a person willing to give her mind and body to ‘right person’ at the right time and place. Readers may wonder; however, if she’s actually in love with Utena because her eyes tear up when she watches her brother seduce from afar. There are so many homoerotic undertones in the first half of Revolutionary Girl Utena that it would not be surprising if Anthy has fallen in love with Utena, assuming she doesn’t want to bone her own brother instead.
Utena falls in love with Akio and slips into his hands as the Rose Bride – yep, somehow the brave spirited Utena takes Anthy’s place. However, she’s a terrible Rose Bride because she’s not submissive. I enjoyed this quick switch for Utena because it gives readers a moment to realize the passive life led by Anthy wasn’t a side-effect of being the Rose Bride. Utena remains rebellious despite being turned into a scabbard for the Sword of Dios. If being detached from human emotion and decision making is part of being the Rose Bride, Utena absolutely sucks in her new position. It’s not long before she breaks free from her captivity and Anthy returns to being the Rose Bride. Unfortunately, that seems to be the highest point of fulfillment in the series.
Unlike similar magical girl series like Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena doesn’t have a magical, happy ending. Readers are left to speculate what happens to Utena and the world goes on. The series doesn’t have a satisfying close typical of stories about strong young women who want to change the world. Utena does succeed in her goal of protecting everyone but at the cost of her own existence. We’re only left to wonder if she will return some day, since we’re led to hope that Utena lives.
It’s very understandable that Revolutionary Girl Utena could serve as a gateway drug to anime and manga. Utena is a strong character who carries the plot well. She’s actually better at leading a story than Usagi Tsukino because she doesn’t rely upon four supporting characters who need to follow her everywhere to ensure her safety. Utena is perfectly capable of getting herself out of jams and making her own decisions. Now, I’m not knocking Sailor Moon or Usagi and her gang. I absolutely love Sailor Moon, but reading Revolutionary Girl Utena allowed me to see another entrance into the anime/manga world for girls. The friends who gather around Utena are reliant on Utena to be their prince. Yes, they are capable in school, in sports, or life but they are completely ineffectual in combating the evil of World’s End. Utena waltzes into the school as a new student and immediately wins her first duel, along with the Sword of Dios by accident. One can argue this is all on purpose and dictated by World’s End, but Utena proves that a noble heart and a strong will can counter anything Word’s End throws out there.
This reissue of Revolutionary Girl Utena is a must-have for those interested in coveted magical girl manga. For those who didn’t read the series during its initial printing, this is a great opportunity to meet a new heroine and think about the dialog created by the magical girl genre. For those who grew up on Revolutionary Girl Utena, this is an opportunity to relive your childhood and read the series with a mature perspective. There are so many issues of morality and other complex themes peppered throughout the story, reading it again is important to fully understanding what the series does for the genre. In 2017 it’s common to see pins, posters, mugs, and even political agendas that push forth the empowerment and strength of women. When this series first published in 1996, little girls weren’t surrounded by a pro-woman agenda. It was far less mainstream for a girl to declare that she wanted to be a prince instead of a princess. Utena is magical because we have a tomboy, clad in a boy’s school uniform, with a strong desire to take on the masculine role of protecting those around her. In 2017, gender roles are a lot more fluid and whole subcultures are rebelling against gender norms. Utena was doing just that 20 years ahead of schedule.
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