Revolutionary Girl Utena (Volume 10: Finale) Review
This write-up is a bit unusual in that it has been deliberately restricted to three sections: 'Episode Guide', 'Extras', and 'Packaging'. This is because this is only one of four individual DVD volumes of Revolutionary Girl Utena contained in Central Park Media's 'Apocalypse Saga Collection', whose overall review can be found here. However, as these discs are available separately (without buying the box set, in other words), it seemed only fair to give each its own entry.
Thankfully, the series ends well, with this final disc being even more satisfying (albeit also at times bewildering!) than the last. I will confess that I was surprised at how the writers eventually chose to resolve Utena's fate, and that's a relief after watching all of the preceding instalments and wondering if the denouement would be sufficiently interesting. (I assure you that it is.) In fact, if you already know the general story of Utena, you could do worse than to just pick up these last two DVD volumes and see how it all plays out.
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
37: 'The One Who Brings the World Revolution'
This episode hinges upon a single key decision that Utena must make: will she abandon her lifelong pursuit of becoming a prince in order to pursue personal happiness as Akio's 'princess' or will she hold firm to her resolve in order to protect her best friend? Utena sets up a date with Akio, having stopped wearing her rose crest ring altogether... and even wears a dress for the occasion. While everyone on the Student Council receives farewell letters from End of the World stating that Utena's the one destined to bring the world revolution, she herself is on the horns of the dilemma, not knowing what to do about Anthy. Indeed, it is only after subsequent weirdness involving some 'poisoned' tea and cookies (no, I'm not joking) and a failed suicide attempt by Anthy that Utena decides to wear her rose crest ring again and become Anthy's prince.
38: 'End of the World'
Well, you may think that Utena's made her decision, but when she and Anthy go to the Duelling Arena to confront End of the World (Akio, naturally), he's more than happy to contradict her beliefs, and transforms her into his Rose Bride while casually drawing the Sword of Dios from her and pointing out that it doesn't suit a noble princess like her to be wielding it. From here we flashback to Anthy's attempted suicide and the conversation between the two girls is played out in more detail. When Utena comes to her senses again, she snatches the sword back from Akio, and despite his revelations that everything that Utena has come to believe in is an orchestrated fiction is prepared to duel to free Anthy from her eternal fate. It would be churlish of me to reveal the biggest twist in this particular battle sequence, so you'll just have to watch and see for yourself.
39: 'And Someday... Together We Will Shine'
I don't believe there's anything I can say about this episode that won't ruin the conclusion of the series for everyone. (Either that, or the fact that it's such a mind trip and so overflowing with imagery and symbolism as to be open to many different interpretations means it would be pointless to dissect any one meaning here in this write-up.)
On volume 10, we have a much more respectable selection of special features. Even though things kick off with the standard useless trailer for this very DVD followed by yet another ultra-brief (only 7 images) art gallery presented in slideshow format, things begin to look up when you scan further down the menu and spot unique selections like the montage of Chu Chu's best – or, for some, 'most disturbing' – moments (a sequence of animated clips which runs for just under 2 minutes), the video retrospective (or 'Ohtori Academy Scrapbook') of the show's principals, and the fan art tribute (a set of 14 scans of actual enthusiast artwork... and one cosplay [costume play] photo of someone dressed up as Anthy!). This in itself reflects a good effort on CPM's part to give the fans what they want, but the extras don't stop there.
Not only is there another voice actor interview included (again filmed in Central Park in NYC) focusing on Sharon Becker (who plays Anthy in the series), but the jewel in the crown of this particular disc in unquestionably the full-length audio commentary of these final three episodes by director Kunihiko Ikuhara and Utena's original manga artist, Chiho Saito. You get the feeling from listening to the two of them that it must have been quite an experience to be on the production team that made Revolutionary Girl Utena, if their banter on this DVD is anything to go by! More amusing is how very different their personal takes on the series are... there are at least a dozen places over the course of the disc where Ikuhara will burble some half-remembered detail and Saito will contradict him on the spot (in a friendly manner, of course!) and tell her version of the same events. All in all, it's brilliant stuff and I always get a kick out of hearing Japanese production staff speak so candidly about these sorts of projects. (For instance, the animator who commented about how unreasonable her boss was right on the Akira special features disc... or the graphic designer for Final Fantasy X who confessed that her favourite character in the game was the fat kid on Wakka's blitzball team.)
In the way of 'sort of' extras we have another brief advert for the 2003 Big Apple Animé Fest and a handful of trailers for other Central Park Media releases (Cat Soup, Animation Runner Kuromi, Gall Force: Earth Chapter, Tomoko Taniguchi Preview, and Time Stranger).
That's it for what's easily accessible right from your standalone DVD player. However, if you have a DVD-ROM drive on your computer, CPM have also included a PC-compatible application which will give you access to additional content in the form of the complete cast listing, production credits, and English dub scripts. These are nice to have, but the fact that they are put in a place not everyone will have access to means I can't give them full credit in the Extras score for these DVDs.
Each of the four DVDs included in the box set comes in a transparent Amaray case with double-sided sleeve inserts (a nice touch which is fairly standard on CPM releases), the reverse of which provide complete lists of both chapter breaks and voice casts (English and Japanese) along with an abridged version of the production credits. As for the cover art, volume 10 features a three-shot of Touga, Saionji, and Utena in the middle. (This picture itself is arranged into an almost subliminally heart-shaped motif, which if intentional is a subtle touch indeed.) This is printed on a plain white background with a green rose border.