Anime DVD Review: Revolutionary Girl Utena Rose Collection

The Revolutionary Girl Utena Rose Collection is a box set that includes two DVDs of episodes, a DVD of the Adolescence of Utena film, and a bonus DVD of trailers. The two DVDs of episodes are all region NTSC DVDs, while the movie DVD is a Region 1 NTSC disc.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Rose Collection
English Publisher: Software Sculptors
Format: DVD
Release Date: December 7, 2004

Utena Tenjou is the title character of Revolutionary Girl Utena. When she was eight years old, Utena was orphaned and rescued from her sadness by a mysterious prince who gives her a Rose Signet ring. The prince tells Utena that the ring will lead her to him again someday if she never loses her nobility. Young Utena is so inspired by him that she decides to become a prince herself.

The main story begins six years later, when a 14-year-old Utena begins attending Ohtori Academy. Her best friend is Wakaba, and Wakaba has a crush on Kyouichi Saionji, a boy on the Student Council. Wakaba gives Kyouichi a love letter; he thinks it’s stupid and throws it away. Later, the love letter is posted on the school wall. Utena believes that Kyouichi is responsible and angrily confronts him about it. Utena challenges him to a Kendo duel, but when he sees the Rose Signet on her hand, he accepts a real duel.

Utena has her duel with Kyouichi and wins, and in the process becomes engaged to Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride. Utena and Anthy move into a dorm together, but Kyouichi comes to the dorms and physically abuses Anthy for “betraying” him. He demands a rematch with Utena. Utena thinks the duels are stupid and tells Anthy that she’ll lose on purpose; however, after being disgusted by the thought of Kyouichi abusing Anthy, Utena is motivated to protect Anthy and ends up winning the rematch.

Over the course of the 13 episodes in the set, Utena fights the other Student Council members one by one: Miki. Juri, Nanami, and Touga. With each duel Utena has, her relationship with Anthy strengthens.

When I watched this set, it was my first exposure to the Revolutionary Girl Utena series. In the early episodes, I found the concept to be a little on the strange side; however, I was still riveted by the story and wanted to keep watching in order to find out what would happen.

If I didn’t know going into the series that it was originally released in Japan in 1997, I would have sworn it was an anime from the 1980s by the look and feel of the animation. However, I think this look and feel really worked for a series like Revolutionary Girl Utena.

When it comes to the DVDs that include the first 13 episodes of the series, they both contain trailers, as well as a link labeled “WebConnex.” “WebConnex” is a DVD-ROM link that gives you access to websites and special features; however, this feature does not work with Macintosh computers.

Both of these discs also include a link called “The Songs.”  This takes you to links to the footage from the English dub version of the various songs that appear during the episodes featured in this set; the second DVD also includes the opening and ending credits and their respective songs.

On the first set, there is: “Absolute Destiny Apocalypse,” “When? Where? Who? Which?,” “Paleozoic Era in the Flesh,” “Spira Mirabillis Theatre,” and “Birth of the Universe.” Disc two features: “Revolution,” “Last Evolution,” “Confined Spell,” “No One Has a Thing to Say,” and “Truth.” While this was a nice idea in theory, it ultimately doesn’t work. The dialogue is left in for the duels, which already makes it hard enough to hear the songs. But the audio quality for most of the included clips was rather low and muffled.

Disc two includes a feature called, “The Cast.” Six characters are included (Utena, Anthy, Wakaba, Nanami, Touga, and Saionji), and when you select one of them, you just see a brief scene featuring that character. Personally, I thought this feature was rather pointless.

The third DVD includes the film, Adolescence of Utena. The film is a retelling of the story of the anime series and is ultimately set in a different continuity. Even though the film has its own continuity, it does refer to events from the series frequently enough. In the film, Touga is an old friend and love from Utena’s childhood. Also, Nanami, Touga’s younger sister, is not a character in the film. The ending of the film is also drastically different from the original television series.

Personally, I really didn’t care for this film. While some elements from the series did indeed appear here, there were also a number of changes made to characters, whether it was in their design or in their backstories. Watching the film, it’s apparent that the director expected moviegoers to already have some kind of familiarity with Revolutionary Girl Utena prior to watching this film. I ultimately ended up having to look at Adolescence of Utena as a kind of “warp speed, alternate timeline” version of the series.

The DVD with the film includes some similar features as the episode discs, such as the DVD-ROM link, and the ability to pick what scene you want to watch. There are also trailers included on this disc.

There are several special features available on this disc. The first one is audio commentary by director Kunihiko Ikuhara. There is also a behind the scenes documentary about dubbing the film into English; featured in this documentary are Kunihiko Ikuhara, an ADR director, and several of the English voice actors (for Juri, Anthy, and Utena). This documentary runs for nearly 13 minutes.

There are also two sets of sketches with director’s commentary text: Hichiro Kobayashi’s Art Sketches and Sketches with Director’s Notes. Between these two features, there are background sketches, character sketch drafts, rough sketches for promotional materials, and revised key animation line art. These are displayed in a slideshow that goes by rather quickly; while you can pause the slideshow to see something for longer, the slideshow goes by so fast that you have to be able to react quickly to pause on the picture you want.

There was also a Fan Tribute Contest, and a special feature is a gallery of 10 of the submitted pieces that were deemed to be “the best.” Following this is a list of everyone who submitted pieces for the contest. There are also Japanese TV spots and trailers for the movie, as well as a U.S. trailer and teaser. The last feature is a trivia game, where you watch six video segments and answer a multiple choice question for each one. Unfortunately, nothing special happens if you answer all the questions correctly; the game simply ends.

The bonus DVD includes trailers from U.S. Manga Corps, Software Sculptor, and Central Park Media. There is also a DVD-ROM link, phone numbers and website address information for the represented companies, and a sampling of special features that appear on DVDs released by the company.

Overall, Revolutionary Girl Utena Rose Collection is a decent collection if you enjoy the series. This particular box set is now “out of print,” but Right Stuf has acquired the rights for Revolutionary Girl Utena and has reissued the series in three DVD box sets.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Revolutionary Girl Utena Rose Collection that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Additional posts about Revolutionary Girl Utena:

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