Revolutionary Girl Utena (Volume 9: Revelation) 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.
This disc goes beyond being merely a 'return to form' (for, despite this series having its endless legions of adoring fans, I myself am not quite as taken with it and believe that Utena's unique elements do not entirely excuse it from being such average fare in many other respects), as we finally take the first tentative steps towards the story's denouement. In short, this volume is actually worthy of praise, as it presents the viewer with several intriguing revelations regarding both the cosmology of the Utena universe and the deeper motivations of some of its principals. It's just a shame that one has to wade through 33 prior episodes before coming to this point.
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
34: 'The Rose Crest'
The Ohtori Academy Drama Club is trying to convince Utena to join them. She, Akio, and Anthy attend one of their performances, a play called 'The Tale of the Rose', which although amateurish in production values, clearly relates directly to the history of the strange universe in which Utena is set. Apparently, the Rose Prince (the embodiment of that light which is eternal) protected all of the girls of the world, who therefore (by obvious extension) were princesses. However, the one girl whom he could not be a prince for was his own little sister. By the twisted logic of Utena, this doomed her to become a witch instead. So she then, out of bitterness and regret, tricked him and sealed him away in her castle in the sky. The witch having thus imprisoned the Rose Prince, the world fell into darkness... and she wanders the world to this day, seeking to intercept any future noble souls before they can bring light back to the world.
We are also treated to a flashback of Utena meeting Dios on that long-ago day of her parents' funeral. In the alternate version of his personal history that he recounted to her, we learn that Dios' younger sister in fact sacrificed herself in order to protect her older brother (the Rose Prince), by sealing him away where the endless demands of the people of that world could not assail him. However in so doing, she was branded a witch and doomed to suffer an eternity of torment as there was no one left who could act as her prince. And it was at that point that the young Utena resolved to become a prince herself in order to save the 'witch'. (Of course, it's made fairly clear that Anthy is the reincarnation of the witch and that Akio is what Dios has become in this new, self-contained, reality.)
35: 'The Love Which Grew in Wintertime'
On another of their endless drives, Akio tells Touga that the one who revolutionizes the world will be decided by the next duel... and it's either to be Utena or Touga. Not only that, but it seems that Akio is determined to use Touga as his tool for securing the affections of Utena, but phrases it in terms of a making a game of getting her. This episode sets in motion the final course of events in this series, and it all begins with a pair of earrings that Akio has Touga give to Utena on his behalf. While it becomes evident that Touga has in fact fallen in love with Utena, he doesn't realise that this is behind his growing jealousy of Akio's control over her. While Saionji and Touga mull over the fact that Utena is the same girl they found hiding in that coffin all those years ago, Utena herself has a brief glimpse of Anthy's true self (pierced by the million swords of hate).
36: 'And Thus Opens the Doorway of Night'
Out riding again, Akio manages to get in some more 'quality time' with Utena. Touga comes round later to bring Utena to the Duelling Arena at night, confesses his love for her, and asks that she just allow him to be her prince, if only for that moment. She agrees. Afterwards, he and Saionji have a conversation wherein Touga decides that the only way to stop End of the World from winning is for him to duel Utena one more time, with the proviso that if he wins, Utena will become his woman... whereas if she wins, the Student Council will never try to take the Rose Bride away from Utena ever again. The battle comes and Touga inevitably loses. However, that very night Utena wakes to find Anthy missing... and wanders out to discover the latter naked with Akio.
On volume 9, we have a modest set of extras. There's the usual curious inclusion of a trailer for this very DVD... followed by an art gallery (essentially an automatic slideshow of 6 images, framed – that is, not full-screen – with 'Absolute Destiny Apocalypse' playing underneath). There's a voice actor interview (as usual, set in Central Park in NYC) with Josh Mosby (who plays Akio), who previously worked on Slayers Next. Although as usual there aren't many insights to be had (Josh's favourite adjective to describe playing Akio is 'bizarre'), he seems a nice bloke and it's always good to hear a personal viewpoint on a production like this. Finally, we are given a quick text-only recap of the storyline covered during episodes 31-33 of Revolutionary Girl Utena (volume 8).
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 (Time Stranger, DNA2: Epiphany, Gall Force: Earth Chapter, Legend of the Dragon Kings: Red Dragon, Tomoko Taniguchi Preview).
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.
One more thing... whilst not quite an 'extra', the fact that Software Sculptors decided to do a bit of a revamp of the main menu scheme on this disc is something of a bonus, as it looks much better than the ones on volumes 3-8.
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 9 features the Anthy snuggling up with Utena in the now-standard embrace pose. This is printed on a plain white background with a purple rose border.