Revolutionary Girl Utena (Volume 7: Temptation) 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.
Taken as a whole, this disc is a mixed bag. I've never quite seen the point of all of the slapstick Nanami filler episodes (which seem hand-crafted to undermine any sense of serious drama in the Utena storyline), so you can just imagine how thrilled I was to start this box set with the fifth such offering in the TV series. Moving on, the first half of the Juri/Ruka two-parter disappoints... but luckily is more or less redeemed by the conclusion of 'Azure Paler Than the Sky'. And in the last episode of this disc, we see Akio turning up the heat a bit in his seduction of Utena. (Although – as I've now seen the entirety of the Apocalypse Saga – I suppose it's good to see him finally getting on with it, it still feels unconvincing.)
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
27: 'Nanami's Egg'
This is that old standby of the Utena series: yes, I'm talking about yet another 'Nanami comic relief episode'. After waking from a dream in which she finds a buried egg, Nanami's shocked to discover the very item sitting on her bed. She somehow gets the idea that she laid it during the night, and thus launches into another of her own mental trips into personal weirdness. Other than abortive attempts at bringing the matter up with Miki and Juri, Nanami spends all her time trying to help her egg 'grow up' into a big one. Wrapped up in her own demented fantasies of how others would react to her revealing that she's laid an egg, she eventually abandons it in the woods behind the school. However, unbeknownst to her, Saionji is camped out nearby and cooking eggs for dinner...
28: 'Whispers in the Dark'
Remember the love triangle between Juri, Shiori, and a guy named Ruka? Well, he finally returns to Ohtori Academy after a long (and conveniently unspecified) illness. Not only that, but he's got a signet ring and a letter from End of the World, so he's clearly a Duellist on the Student Council now as well. While every girl in school is oohing and aahing over him, he re-establishes contact with Shiori... and despite Juri's attempts to convince both Ruka and Shiori not to pursue a romantic relationship together, they ignore her. It therefore comes as no surprise when Akio turns up to take both of them for a ride in his car. Naturally this leads directly to our usual 'Absolute Destiny Apocalypse' chanting, although with the modified 'lift' animation sequence that was introduced during the Black Rose Saga. And then it's time for another dodgy battle song, this time featuring choice lines such as 'I will make the world androgynous!' Of course Ruka (with Shiori dressed up as his 'Rose Bride') loses to Utena.
29: 'Azure Paler Than the Sky'
This is a continuation of the previous episode, and one which resolves Juri's backstory in a fairly satisfying manner. After the treacherous Ruka dumps Shiori publicly, Utena entreats Juri to help her former love. While Juri maintains to Utena that it's a matter solely between Shiori and Ruka, in the end she goes and begs him to take Shiori back. It becomes clear during this dialogue that Ruka has never been interested in Shiori and in fact wants Juri to be his girlfriend instead. As is always the way in the Utena universe, the two decide upon a duel to settle the matter. After Juri rides in Akio and Touga's 'big flash car', she turns up for the next duel sequence, but this time with a slight twist in that she appears to be playing multiple roles in the combat... which oft enough appears to be a personal battle between herself and Ruka (rather than Utena). In the end, Utena calls forth the power of Dios and snips that infamous locket from Juri's neck. However, the most interesting development in this episode comes at the very end, during an atypical 'shadow girl' segment. In the wake of Juri's fight with Utena, Ruka stops coming to school and the shadow girls hint that he died... apparently he hadn't recovered from his illness at all and should never have left the hospital, but felt he had to in order to help someone he loved.
30: 'The Barefoot Girl'
Good grief... Akio bakes a cake, and everyone is just so impressed. Wakaba and Utena continue to be smitten with him, but as he already has a fiancée, Utena feels her cause is hopeless. However, when Utena sprains her ankle while playing basketball, Akio turns up to drive her (all alone) to the hospital... after which he also insists upon carrying her, and takes the opportunity to steal a kiss (and not a peck on the cheek, either). That night, Anthy and Utena chat about love (and whether there is such a thing as wrong love, even if there might be people whom one shouldn't fall in love with). Later on, Kanae and her mother turn up at the mansion and mum gets Akio aside to have a private chat. She wants to know if Akio's been deliberately avoiding Kanae and reminds him that his position as acting chairman of Ohtori Academy is contingent upon the marriage. Then, just in case the audience wasn't sufficiently convinced of Akio's status as a ladies' man, he goes on to seduce his fiancée's mother on the spot. (Although it's pretty clear that this relationship has been going on for some time now...)
On volume 7, we have a modest selection of extras. First, there's a brief-yet-still-overblown English-language trailer for, erm, this very DVD. This is followed by an art gallery (essentially an automatic slideshow of 11 images, framed – that is, not full-screen – with 'Absolute Destiny Apocalypse' playing underneath). Also present is an interview with Jimmy Zoppi (who plays Miki). Those hoping for enlightenment regarding that particular character or the overall process of voice acting will unfortunately be disappointed; much of the interview (which is just over 5 minutes in length) is spent mentioning his own ambitions as a musician and exhorting young viewers who might be interested in doing their own voice work 'not to wimp out'. Not quite the heavy insights fans might have hoped for, but there you are. (At least he seems to have a lot of enthusiasm for his job.) Finally, we are given a quick text-only recap of the storyline covered during episodes 24-26 of Revolutionary Girl Utena (volume 6).
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 (Alien Nine, Tokyo Babylon, Hades Project Zeorymer: Extinction, Spirit Warrior: Revival of Evil).
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 7 features Ruka and Juri in another of those ludicrous posed embraces in which Utena seems to specialise. This is printed on a plain white background with a blue rose border.