Revolutionary Girl Utena (Volume 4: Impatience and Longing) 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 'The Black Rose Saga Collection', whose overall review can be found here.
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
18: 'Mitsuru's Impatience'
Well, we all knew this business between Nanami and Mitsuru would come to a head eventually. The more she uses him as essentially a personal slave, the more those around him begin to resent her mistreatment of him. In particular, a fellow middle-school girl named Mari grows progressively more upset by seeing him used this way, and tells him he's being taken advantage of because he's just a kid... a diagnosis which his own observations tend to bear out.
Although he has a heart-to-heart talk with Utena about it (asking what he needs to do to become an adult) and even goes as far as trying to watch lots of films with 'grown-up' scenes (hey, don't worry; we're only talking kissing here!), it becomes clear he's hopeless in this regard and he finally puts in an application for the Mikage Seminar. Unsurprisingly, he's accepted as a Black Rose Duellist, grabs not one, but two swords from Nanami, and heads merrily off to battle with Utena.
19: 'A Song for a Kingdom Now Lost'
Just ignore the pretentious title for a moment, because this is actually a very good episode. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, as it's another Wakaba special. (Despite initially feeling Wakaba was an obnoxious character at the very start of the TV series, she's really grown on me... possibly because she's so much more believable than anyone else we meet in Utena. And hers was one of the better episodes from the previous story arc, too.)
The idea here is that, Tatsuya, a childhood friend of Wakaba's, turns up at Ohtori Academy, and restores contact by marching right up to Utena and handing her a love letter in Wakaba's presence. The latter immediately recognises him and dubs him 'the Onion Prince' from some half-remembered childhood episode where she was being teased by other children for her hairdo and he (sort of) came to her rescue. Afterwards, Wakaba seems to be mooning about, pondering some decision regarding her personal life...
Well, it doesn't take Utena long to decide that her best friend is in love with her childhood 'prince' and simply doesn't know how to go about telling him. Confronting Tatsuya, Utena also learns that he is most definitely still in love with Wakaba and merely used the love letter as a pretence to re-introduce himself. Uncertain that Wakaba will reciprocate his feelings, he doesn't know how to proceed... so of course Utena reassures both of them in turn, recommending a course of resolve and honesty.
Unsurprisingly, this all backfires horribly. Although Tatsuya dutifully takes Wakaba aside and gently encourages her to admit she has a 'prince' whom she loves, and who certainly will return her affection if she admits it to him, it turns out that Wakaba only sees Tatsuya as a friend, and has in fact had a different 'prince' in mind all along! When she (taking Tatsuya's advice) dashes off to be with her prince, he slips into a funk that eventually brings him to Nemuro Memorial Hall...
...where something rather extraordinary happens. After Tatsuya submits his application and pours his heart out, explaining his love for Wakaba, his simple wish that he could be good enough for her, and his resolve to simply wait for her to return to him... Mikage steps into the lift and states, 'You are truly a good person. This is no place for someone like you. Please leave.'
20: 'Wakaba Flourishing'
As will come as little surprise to anyone who's been following the story, Wakaba's 'prince' is in fact Saionji, who (despite being officially expelled from Ohtori Academy for having injured Touga in his last duel with Utena) has snuck back to campus and has been hiding out in Wakaba's dorm room. (Ooo-err.) While Wakaba - radiantly happy to be at last with the man she adores - starts to blow off Utena and her other friends, Mikage sees an opportunity to create a particularly powerful Black Rose Duellist...
Learning through his secret channels that Saoinji is not only being harboured by Wakaba but that he has decided to make her a beautiful hair ornament by way of thanks for everything she's been doing for him, Mikage turns up just before it's finished and strikes a deal with Saionji: the former will use his clout with the Ohtori Academy administration to get Saionji's explusion rescinded... if the latter gives the hair ornament he made for Wakaba to Anthy instead.
Things play out just as you'd expect. Wakaba, seeing Anthy wearing the gift Saionji had promised to give her, comes to the conclusion that her happiness with Saionji is but a mirage, and that he will never appreciate her the way he does 'special' people like Anthy or Utena. She's easy prey for Mikage, and in her spiffy new Black Rose Duellist duds turns up to fight her best friend (after yanking a sword out of Saionji's chest, of course).
While the first two volumes of Utena ('The Rose Collection 1 and 2') were a trifle lacklustre in the special features department (notwithstanding a fair amount of DVD-ROM content which isn't going to be accessible to everyone), these later releases from 'The Black Rose Saga Collection' fare somewhat better in this department.
On volume 4, we have a decent selection of extras. First, there's an art gallery (essentially an automatic slideshow of 13 images, framed - that is, not full-screen - accompanied by sound clips from the show). This is followed by a interview with Kunihiko Ikuhara (the director) regarding Revolutionary Girl Utena (in actuality one-quarter of a single interview session was edited down and distributed across volumes 3-6). Although Ikuhara himself only speaks Japanese, the interview session is fully subtitled in English, so no worries there.
The segment included here is called 'The Man and the Music' and touches upon Ikuhara's own musical ambitions (which he refers to as 'only a hobby')... including the recent release of a short album of songs under the name 'Schell Bullet'. Alas, at just under 3 minutes in length, there's not a lot of time for Ikuhara to really go into great detail... and if truth be told, I'm not sure he had all that much to say to begin with. (His responses to the interview are all very 'shoot from the hip' and peppered with 'umm's, 'erm's, and 'dunno's. You get the distinct feeling that he had other places he wanted to be when it was taking place.)
Next on the menu is an actor interview with Mandy Bonhomme, who plays both Juri and Keiko (one of Nanami's three groupies, and one who even gets her own episode on volume 5) on the English dub. Her previous voice acting experience includes Tequila in Knights of Ramune, Adrienne from the Gall Force series, Mimi and Nene in Slayers Next, and various roles in Boogiepop Phantom. At just under 4 minutes long, there's not a lot of material, but at least she does get the chance to show off some of her own work as an amateur cartoonist... having brought her sketchbook with her, of course. (I'm afraid there are no English for the Hard of Hearing (HOH) subtitles provided for this particular interview.)
Following this we have a quick text-only recap of the storyline covered during episodes 14-17 of Revolutionary Girl Utena and a mini-bio (again, a text-only automatic 'slideshow' presentation of 3 small pages of info) regarding the 'Be-Papas', the production company formed specifically to create the animé version of Revolutionary Girl Utena, and composed of Kunihiko Ikuhara, Chiho Saito (the original author and artist of the Utena manga [Japanese comics]), J.A. Seazer (a well-known composer who did all of the bizarre music for the show).
In the way of 'sort of' extras we have a brief advert for the 2003 Big Apple Animé Fest and a handful of trailers for other Central Park Media DVD releases (Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie, Patlabor: The TV Series, Grave of the Fireflies, Legend of Himiko, and Now and Then, Here and There).
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 (both English and Japanese) along with an abridged version of the production credits.
As for the cover art, volume 4 features a slightly-dodgy image of Kozue and Miki (sister and brother) standing snuggled up against one another in an unusual embrace, staring directly into the camera. This is printed on a plain white background with a purple rose border this time around. The back cover looks a bit busy by comparison, as every scrap of white space is filled with text... but it's better to have more information than less, so this isn't really a criticism.