DVD Review: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie (1999) (Utena Week 2014 Day 5)

Posted by Retrokaiser On Friday, February 14, 2014 0 comments

Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie is an animated fantasy action film.  This film is about a teen aged girl named Utena who prances around in uniforms meant for boys as she has a goal of being a prince after being inspired by a life changing event as a little girl.  Utena has also started her first year at high school and she make friends very quickly.  During in between classes she is met up with an old childhood friend named Touga.  The two of them have a chat about their past in which Utena becomes very uncomfortable and leaves.  While out in a courtyard she notices a very beautiful rose garden on top of a staircase and decides to take a look.  While up there she runs into a girl named Anthy and the two have a friendly chat about flowers.  Not too long after they are interfered by a guy named Saionji who starts treating Anthy very badly.  Saionji explains to Utena that Anthy is his possession as she is also known as "The Rose Bride" and whoever has her has the key to unlocking some really great power.  Utena doesn't like how Anthy is treated and gets into a duel with Saionji with the winner becoming the Rose Bride's fiancée.  Utena and Saionji have a very intense battle with Utena coming out on top as the victor and wins custody over Anthy.  Shortly after the battle Utena learns that there is more to Anthy than meets the eye which may just cause Utena a lot of stress.  (Click "Read More" to read the full review).

Even if you have seen the television series or not you shouldn't worry as this film was done where you don't need to have experience with the television show to enjoy this film.  The main reason why you don't need to watch the television series is that this film takes the route of being in it's own universe rather than being a companion to the television series.  On top of all that you will find the story in this film to be pretty good and memorable and a bit more fantasy based than its television sibling.

The second half of this film becomes much weirder and turns into more of a science fiction film.  I did like it though as it added to the film rather than take away from it.  This film is also very short (around 1hr 10min excluding credits) but it handles the story really well for it's short run time and you will be satisfied with it.  One thing I didn't like was the intermission that was comprised of references from the television series and includes characters that don't appear at all in the movie other than this intermission segment.  It really felt out of place and weird to the point where it should have really been cut from the film.  I'm not saying it was bad or anything but I really liked how this film was in it's own stand alone universe and bringing in the television series universe into this just didn't blend it well.

Action in this show is very good with some nice exciting fights that will leave you hanging at the edge of your seats.  Characters in this film are very good and all have very strong personalities.  The development of the characters is also good and you will become emotionally involved with them.  Some of the stuff they go through is very unsettling which will add in some very chilling suspense. 

Character designs are very good in this film and I like the switch a roo look with the two main characters.  In the television series Utena had a more feminine look and in this version she has more of a butch look with shorter hair and a cap.  I really liked this because it went with her "wanting to live like a prince" character very well and added freshness to the character.  Anthy also has a different design for this film as she looks way more feminine in this version and it also adds some freshness to the character also.  The rest of the characters keep their original designs and they look very good.  There is one problem I did have with the art and that is (funnily enough) the nudity.  Yes there is nudity but is looks very weird to where they look like naked Barbie dolls.  It would've been best if they made it so that there was no full frontal nudity as it does look bizarre.

Background designs in this film are very trippy to where it looks like the backgrounds look like stage props that are being changed around in real time by a hidden stage crew like you would see in a play.  The artwork also has a bizarre sci-fi mixed in with epic fantasy look to it which I found to be very spectacular to look at.  A downside to the artwork is that it does look a bit faded but that won't effect your enjoyment unless you can't stand aged artwork.  Animation in this film is very good and works together with the trippy look of the film very well.  There were some animations that looked a bit weird where it looked like that they can turn their heads around like an owl.  English dub is pretty good although not the best but still does the job very well.  I have the exact same to say about the soundtrack also.

There is quite a beefy selection of special features packed onto this disc that includes: Director's commentary with Kunihiko Ikuhara that is full of interesting information, a behind the scenes documentary that was okay but nothing really all that special,  some art galleries full of wonderful paintings, early art designs and sketches.  There is also a whole bunch of trailers and television spots that aired on Japanese and United States televisions.  Finally on this disc you get a trivia game that shows scenes from the film and you will have to answer a question about that said scene.  The trivia game was fun for the first time but there's no reason to play it more than once.

Overall this was a very decent film and while it wasn't as good as the series it was indeed worth the watch.  You don't need to watch the television series to enjoy this one as well.  Short but fun film.  Well that wraps it up for "Revolutionary Girl Utena Week 2014" and much like the other themed weeks (like "Bleach Week" and "Super Samurai Week") I have had fun writing these reviews.  Expect to see more special one-off themed weeks for this year and also expect to see the return of "Bleach Week" and "Super Samurai Week".  But until then I give you all my sincere thanks for supporting my work and have a safe weekend.

Title: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie
Animation Studio: J.C. Staff
Genre: Animation/Anime, Action, Drama, Fantasy, Lo-Science Fiction
Running Time: 87 minutes
Distributor: Madman Entertainment (http://www.madman.com.au/)
Rating: M15+ (Adult themes, low level violence)
Price: Varies
Recommended: Yes


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