The original post turned out to be excessively long so I broke it down into three parts.
I guess it is time for some another manga/anime related post. I have several things to say regarding the many manga I have read and anime that I have watched in the past 3 years (I have reason to believe I have entered the 4th year). I have decided to say something positive now, just so that I’m not entirely negative because there are some really good anime/manga out there. I have a problem with female representations in manga and anime however, one of the best shoujo (girls’) manga/anime titles out there with great messages and life lessons* is Revolutionary Girl Utena aka Shoujo Kakumei Utena 少女革命ウテナ.
Before I watched the anime series I was very cautious. Every single book I read that analysed anime mentioned it. The books would try to analyse the recurring themes in the anime (such as roses) and its feminist themes. Revolutionary Girl Utena is really unique and I didn’t watch it at first because I had I had reservations. As someone who reads spoilers before watching movies (because I would prefer knowing ahead what I am going to watch), I knew the plot of Revolutionary Girl Utena and was concerned because of its incest themes. Yes that is a biggie and I tend to avoid any work of fiction with themes along that line. I was also a bit reluctant with the lesbian themes as before Utena, I had never seen yuri (anime/manga with lesbian content). So I was sort of expecting the whole objectification of women under a male gaze as then I did not know that the person behind Utena, Chiho Saito is a woman.
Yet, I couldn’t completely rule it out because Revolutionary Girl Utena is one of the few manga/anime series out there with a dark-skinned character that plays a very important role (yes, that matters too!). In the end my curiosity got the best out of me and I watched the entire anime episodes and am currently reading the manga. I only own the first volume of the manga and I am aware that there are many differences between the manga and the anime. I’m yet to complete my Revolutionary Girl Utena manga collection (because I’m simultaneously reading at least 6 other titles) but I hope to in the future.
Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a little princess, and she was very sad, for her mother and father had died. Before the princess appeared a traveling prince, riding upon a white horse. He had a regal bearing and a kind smile. The prince wrapped the princess in a rose-scented embrace and gently wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Little one,” he said, “who bears up alone in such deep sorrow, never lose that strength or nobility, even when you grow up. I give you this [a ring] to remember this day. We will meet again. This ring will lead you to me one day.” Perhaps the ring the prince gave her was [really] an engagement ring.
This was all well and good, but so impressed was she by him that the princess vowed to become a prince herself one day. But was that really such a good idea? (Emphasis mine)
The quote above really sums up our main character and the story. Revolutionary Girl Utena is a story about a girl called Utena Tenjou who has this sort of obsession with a prince she met in her youth. It is a coming-of-age story and while I watched the series I relived the emotions I went through while ‘growing up’. I picture that part of my life as a crossroad where I had to choose a path; either left or right, I didn’t know what is beyond the path but I knew I had to make a decision and I knew the decision is scary.
In my opinion Revolutionary Girl Utena is based on this, all of the characters are at the points in their life where they can either choose to ‘grow up’ or remain youths seeking some obscure goal that possibly does not exist (known as ‘the end of the world’ in the anime) for life. This complex decision they must take is symbolized in their constant duelling for ‘the power to bring revolution to the world’ and to gain the Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya as a fiancee. Revolutionary Girl Utena also explores the loss of innocence, a sexual element is introduced complicating things further because now that characters have to deal with these new emotions. Revolutionary Girl Utena is one of the most complex animes out there and it really made me think, after I watched all 39 episodes I was completely speechless.
*Yes life lessons. I also used to think cartoons were just mindless fun however Revolutionary Girl Utena was like the first anime that I actually learned from. I liked its messages on ‘coming of age’ and to be honest, it has left an impact in my life especially in regards to folk/fairy tales and the ‘witch’ trope.