Archive for March, 2008

Shigofumi: “I hate you!” “Well, I hate you MORE!”

“No, I hate YOU more!”
“No, I hate YOU even more!”
“I hate you times infinity!”
“I hate you times infinity PLUS ONE!”

Repeat ad nauseum. Ah, childhood, those long-gone halcyon days…

The conclusion to Shigofumi operated much the same as the other Shigofumi delivery episodes, strangely enough, except this time the focus was Mikawa Fumika and the trauma of a media circus. The result of the trial is left somewhat open-ended, although I presume from the shot of Kirameki in a prison visiting room, that the jury found him quite guilty of child abuse. But what happens to Kirameki isn’t the main point, however; it’s the very tangible tension between Fumi and Mika.

Fumi (the original personality) probably didn’t think about the media storm that would come from her suing her father for child abuse, and, as such, was not prepared for the flurry of reporters swamping houses and the rumor mill grinding away at full capacity at school. It’s obvious mere minutes into the episode that she can’t stand all this attention on her, and it is not long that she progresses close to the breaking point. I would argue that she has it in her mind to punish herself (and not Mika) for the incident three years ago,  and the current aftermath. It’s probably a guilt complex grafted onto her via her father’s abuse–since even her beloved father despises her, the fault must therefore lie with her, and so she is to blame for everything. However, no matter how much she tries, she is ever cognizant of the fact that she is being watched at every turn, and this slowly begins to grate down her defenses.

Eventually, she, of course, cracks under the pressure, and tries to take her own life. Then Mika steps in, and that whole heated exchange takes place. Fumi wants to shoulder the blame by herself, and Mika thinks that she is the one who should be punished. It’s an interesting war between dual personalities who happen not to occupy the same body at the moment  And yet, despite the difference in ability to handle the pressures of living, the two of them realize, somewhat belatedly, that they really aren’t that different at all. Rather than being two competing personalities, they are instead two halves of a complete person–Fumi having created Mika to bear the pain. They both have different maturity levels, and Fumi has missed out on three years of maturing, yet, in the end, as they come to understand while telling the other what they wanted to do in life, they aren’t that different at all. Hence the cathartic breakdown in both of them, each telling the other that they hate them.

They don’t, of course, hate each other–that’s merely the spoken manifestation of their realization. It doesn’t matter who they are, whether or not they are together, or whether they have gone from two into one (they clearly don’t, according to the ED sequence)–it’s now solely about how they, having realized that they can’t necessarily depend on one another, must instead strike out on their own. That, I think, is the true lesson Fumi learns–she isn’t necessarily to blame for the events in her life, and neither is MIka. WIth that, she can finally find the strength to change.

Or so one presumes. I’d like to see a And Three Years Later… OVA episode where we find out what’s gone on since the conclusion of the series, but, alas, that will probably not happen. Unless one happens to be the sort who writes fanfiction…

Thoughts on the series as a whole: Having not seen Boogiepop Phantom or Kino’s Journey, I don’t know how this series stacks up against those two behemoths, but I can safely say that, as a series, it certainly stands out on its own merits apart from those two series. Which is the way it should be, as I’m sure, despite the similarities in comcept between the three, they each approach the concept with a different theme or idea in mind, and develop things in a different manner.

The series was certainly well-directed and well-written, if not consistently spectacularly so. I think the best episodes were, ironically, the ones that didn’t focus on the overall plot relating to Fumika at all (exceptions being the two Kirameki episodes, the one where he took center stage, and the one where we find out the horrors of his abuse), as those episodes were more devoted to telling an episodic story, and as such had tighter scripting and much more dramatic impact. That’s not to say the plot wasn’t interesting (multiple personalities always are interesting, anyway), but I felt that the series shined on these episodes in particular. I can honestly say I quite enjoyed watching the series, and hopefully, if you’re reading this, it means you either a) enjoyed it too or b) stuck with it to the bitter end, and I doubt (b) people will be much interested in reading an entry about the series anyway. Hopefully those in (a) liked it as much as I did.

true tears: The Growth of Noe

Okay, so first off, I have to fanboy it up here: Noe ;_______________________________________________________________;

Good, now that’s off my chest. All those underscores certainly make me feel better!

Although, as a Noe fan, it is extremely tragic to witness the scene in the bus stop, I can’t help but feel that that was the plan all along. Taken one way, true tears is the story of Shin’ichiro’s quest to be with Hiromi. Alternatively, or perhaps concurrently, true tears is about a radical sea change in the personality of Noe. At the beginning of the series, if I remember correctly (it was thirteen weeks ago) Noe was treated as an eccentric oddball at school. No one was really friends with her, no one spent time with her, and there were rumors circulating that those when got involved with her were cursed. Not exactly very pleasant things to say about someone.

She latches on to Shin’ichiro at the very beginning, and that would be where the series starts and the drama begins. Shin’ichiro obviously cares for Noe in a way that is more than friends yet less than lovers (he made that clear enough when he cried as she left), and she latches onto this, for solace from her grief (which I talked about last time) fades away, since Shin’ichiro is actually taking time out of his life to be with her. An attachment forms, and she falls in love, opening a new depth of emotion that she hasn’t felt since her grandmother died.

By the time that we reach the end of the series, it’s clear that Noe is no longer the Noe of the start of the series. She is instead a much stronger, much more independent Noe. As she faces the loss of another loved one in her life (Shin’ichiro) she leaps off the tree, unable to live with the grief. And yet, when she comes to, it’s almost as if she’s had a revelation while knocked unconscious. Maybe there was some head trauma in the fall, but it’s much more likely that, symbolically at least, the fall from the tree signified Noe’s departure from her previous self-generated bindings. She no longer feels obligated to Shin’ichiro. She’s perfectly willing to accept that he loves Hiromi more than he does her.

Yet still, the final scene (the one with Reflectia playing) shows us another part of her growth: in abandoning the very bindings which she imposed upon herself upon the loss of her grandmother and the imminent loss of Shin’ichiro, she’s regained back something much more valuable: her tears. Or, rather, her emotions, which have slowly been returning to her over the course of the series. No longer is she  artificially trying to distance herself from the situation at hand. Instead, she feels sorrow, pain, joy, and other, much more complex emotions. She is now much more of a person than she was. And that, I think, is where Noe fans, such as myself, should take solace in. She may have “lost” to Hiromi, yet, to her, it no longer matters whether or not she has Shin’ichiro. She is now a perfectly capable, perfectly independent human now, able to make friends. It is this growth, I think, that is much more integral to the series than whether or not <your favorite girl> will end up with Shin’ichiro. The series is even named “true tears”, and, as tears are important to Noe, she is the second protagonist (after Shin’ichiro, who only wants to wipe away Hiromi’s tears).

So, therefore, don’t be sad for Noe “losing”. Instead, be happy for her growth as a human. She may have cried at the end, but that is not, in this case, a bad thing. It is, in fact, a very moe thing. And we all know that Noe is very moe indeed.

Project BLUE: Earth SOS: “An Incredible Journey to a Past that Never Happened!”

Yes, the title there is a direct quote from the back of the DVD case of the first disc. Here is another quote: “2000 A.D. The revolutionary G-Reaction engine has changed history, opening endless possibilities for supersonic transport and space exploration!” I can’t make this up, ladies and gentlemen. This is how awesome Project BLUE: Earth SOS is, and the folks at ADV know exactly how to sell it.

Project BLUE: Earth SOS is a recent, six-episode OVA that ADV, in their infinite wisdom, picked up for release. I had a chance to catch a fansub of the first episode a year or so ago, but never really had the time to watch the second episode, and by then it was licensed, so I figured I’d just wait for DVDs. And, yes, they are worth the money.

Earth SOS is the brainchild of Komatsuzaki Shigeru (who I will freely admit I have no idea who he is, aside from a “legendary Japanese artist”; anyone want to fill me in?) and is a daring vision of a 2000 that strangely resembles what people thought the future would look like back in the 30s or 40s. In the first epiosde, Billy is listening to an old-fashioned radio for no other reason than for the animators to draw a really cool looking retro-futuristic radio set. It’s a wonderful setting, as I’m a big fan of things that take place around the turn of the century (I love Victorian Romance Emma and Baccano! for these very reasons) or, in fact, any point in relatively recent history that isn’t the modern world.

The plot itself revolves around an invasion of Earth by mysterious aliens who have really advanced technology. The plot also strongly resembles those of science fiction novels and stories from around the time period that the series drew its visual inspiration from. Fans of sophisticated storylines should look elsewhere–this series is about raw pulp power. Everything about the series is so retro you can’t help but love it. In the second episode, for instance, Captain Clayton takes it upon himself to blow up the alien’s particle beam cannon (note: visibly, he has nothing to blow up a particle beam cannon with at all). When he gets there, he coincidentally runs into the super-awesome pilot James, who just so happens to have a briefcase with a time bomb and six sticks of dynamite with him. Also coincidentally, Clayton just happens to be carrying a stash of hand grenades underneath his jacket (which, by the way, in case you ever forget his name, has CAPT. CLAYTON embroidered on it). With the magic of these six sticks of dynamite and four of Clayton’s hand grenades, the entire island the enemy fortress is on blows up. This is just episode two.

Strangely enough, due to the overall retro feel of the series, this sequence of events, which under normal circumstances would be treated as laughably bad writing, are instead moments where you cry “Yes!” at the television while watching and pump your fist in the air. It’s that awesome.

There was a chance line in episode two (something having to do with the fact that the aliens have all this advanced technology and are simply using it to invade and destroy, rather than applying it to any practical use) that might be a theme for the remaining four episodes, but as I’ve only seen the first two, we’ll just have to wait on that. In the meantime, however, pick up the first DVD of this series and give it a chance. It’s a fun ride, and, hey–it’s got a character named Lotta Brest in it (note: she has none), so it can’t be all bad. And you don’t want to make Billy angry, do you?

Spice and Wolf: The Sandwich Anachronism (Also, THE END)

I have no idea what a sandwich is doing in this fantasy land set in a time period that equates to a time period in our own world long before the Earl of Sandwich came up with the brilliant idea of taking two slices of bread, putting some roast beef and cheese between said pieces of bread, and then egotistically naming this new food concoction after himself because, after all, what are earls if not huge egomaniacs? Maybe in this fantasy land, Lawrence is actually the inventor of this tasty treat and in 300 years everyone in the world will refer to the bread-and-meat combination as a Lawrence.

I think the best part of this final episode was the initial talk between Lawrence and Horo (before they rush off to Defeat the Evil Merchants), although, really, the entire episode was essentially them bouncing off each other, to my great delight (the previous episode had been sorely lacking in this particular aspect of the series, but replaced it with Nora cuteness, so it was fine by me). The other best part of the episode was the final part, because (for once) Lawrence was effortlessly scoring points off Horo the entire time. That brought great glee to my face, and was certainly a great note to end the series on. There’s still the DVD-only episode 7, to go, too, but I have no idea what’s in that at all.

It’s telling of Horo’s character that she thinks highly enough of Lawrence that, despite his general uselessness and penchant for getting into sticky situations, and despite her general tsundere attitude towards him (I hesitate to use the word “tsundere” there, as she’s more complex than that), she still looks out for him, and even goes out of her way to not fight the rival wolf pack, so she could rescue Lawrence from the backstabbing merchants. We don’t know what her attachment to him is, unfortunately, and we can only begin to guess at it (I’m personally thinking “random whimsy”).

End of series thoughts: Overall, I thought the series was a very well-done work of suspense. It isn’t, say, Monster, but that’s setting the bar ridiculously high, since not everyone can be as Usasawa Naoki as Usasawa Naoki is. The fault for any general ambivalence towards it on my behalf isn’t necessarily the fault of the series itself, but with me. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy watching it, but neither can I say I’m gung-ho about how awesome the series is, as a whole.  It delivered exactly what it promised, competently, and so, you can’t really fault the series for much of anything. I’m still looking forward to reading the novels to find out exactly how they’re put together. I don’t know if my wish will ever be granted, though…

true tears: THUD.

I certainly didn’t see THIS coming. Time to play Armchair Therapist again!

First, a list of Bad Things that have happened to Noe:

* Shin’ichiro apparently abandoned her for Hiromi
* Her brother, Jun, confessed romantic love for her (This one came from completely out of left field in one sense, and totally expected in another)
* Hiromi has told her to stay away from her and Shin’ichiro

Short list, yes, but at the moment, the fragile world Noe had constructed for herself has come crumbling down. The world was constructed for the sole purpose of evading the what I can only imagine as unbearable grief for the loss of her grandmother. I don’t think she’s really gotten over that, hence the concept of “I gave my tears away” and subsequent lack of emotion that implies. Now, however, this supposedly emotionless Now is feeling pretty much like she wants to cry, yet she can’t. What’s probably happened here is that the sequence of events listed above have piled on top of the buried grief of her grandmother’s death, bringing it back to the surface, mixing it with all the other tangle of emotions, and resulting in THUD.

I have literally no idea if the last episode will be a heartbreaking and/or bittersweet tale of young love gone horribly awry, or whether it will finish off on a somewhat lighter note (although the note it finishes on will certainly not result in the final scene text overlay being “And then they lived happily ever after…”) The unpredictability of the series is certainly its major selling point. It’s also been written extremely well, although I don’t know how much of that is Okada Mari’s fault (series composition) or whether it’s Nishimura Junji’s fault (director). The world may never know, however, one thing is certain: Okada Mari certainly proves herself to be a much better writer than that stray Kodomo no Jikan series composition credit would seem to imply, but she also worked on Aria the NATURAL and Simoun and Red Garden, so we all knew that she was capable of Good Things. (N.B.: That isn’t a slam on Kodomo no Jikan so much as it is noting that writing of the sort found in true tears is not exactly the sort of writing that you’d see in Kodomo no Jikan, so it’s one of two things: her prowess as a versatile writer, or a case of “well, someone had to write it”. I haven’t seen it beyond the too hot for TV OVA episode, so I can’t be the judge of that)

Next week: We bid farewell to true tears, or, more realistically, sit on it for a month and then watch it again and try to mine the depths of the character’s personalities again. I’m sure there’s a subtext I’m missing somewhere.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: “Not God, but me, by my own will”

Gundam 00 is fast becoming a vast repertoire of memorable quotes.

Setsuna, in his own atheist ways, has a point with that little speech near the beginning of the episode. Regardless of whether or not you believe in a God, ultimately you are the sole person in charge of you and your actions ((unless you’re a Calvinist, of course). Praying might make you feel better, or help you to encourage yourself to accomplish something, but, in the end, it is up to you, the person, to alter your own reality. Whether that urge to alter reality derives from a secular or spiritual source, it doesn’t really matter–you simply have to grasp reality with your own hands and give it a good smack or two and tell it to shape up. Gundam 00 is an extreme example of reality-altering–budding Aeolia Schenbergs take note, organizing a vast and far-reaching conspiracy to bring about some kind of massive change in the world, such as, oh, say, world peace, usually end in massive failure (because, after all, there is only room for one vast and far-reaching conspiracy in the world, and we filled our allotment with the Illuminati a long time ago, so just go join it)–but this lesson has practical, daily use.

So much for Setsuna-chan’s Phiilosophy Corner. On to the main event.

We have witnessed the deaths of quite a few of the main cast of 00 in this episode. Apparently losing Lockon wasn’t enough torment for Felt, so she had to lose her lesbian lover good friend Christina Sierra as well. Since Patrick isn’t dead, according to official rumors of some kind (the cockpit of his GN-X unit was left intact after the explosion, so he may be shaken a bit, but he’s allegedly alive), Christina is the most impactful death of the episode, and, as such, it got the high-class treatment. Like Lockon’s two-episode “hey he’s going to live! Pranked!” death sequence, Christina looks like she is going to make it through the massive explosion, having lost Lichty, the only man she has ever loved (last-minute just-before-death love interest developments are always harsh), but then, of course, we find that she has a shard of the Ptomemaios wedged in her suit, effectively piercing her and killing her.

I already felt a strong upwelling of moe for Felt, far greater than any previous feeling of moe towards said Felt, when she composed the letter for Lockon and her parents, but when she broke down in tears in the normal suit after the death of her second half, I had to sternly remind myself that, no, you cannot hug an anime character, unless one buys the special limited edition $300 dakimakura and somehow finds a pillow big enough to fit in it, and anyway those things aren’t usually meant, strictly speaking, for “hugging”, so it’s kind of a moot point. At any rate, whatever grip Nena Trinity and her Kugimiya wiles might have on me, Felt is currently the strongest female in the series for me, although, given the wide array of 00’s cast, and their respective developments, that’s saying something, I think. For a character who’s had an almost bit role to date, she’s the strongest supporting character, and I can only hope that they expound on Felt’s moe-ness for the second season.

Hopefully the second season won’t have Alejandro Corner piloting a gigantic mobile armor to kick the tattered remnants of Celestial Being around. Especially not after they’ve found their purpose in existence even stronger than ever before. 25 promises to be a spectacular mid-series conclusion. I want it to be Saturday already. :(

Shigofumi: Two Become One (?)

It’s not every day that someone with dissociative identity disorder gets to to physically shoot their alternate self. Or do they?

The implication is certainly heavy in the Department of Shigofumi Fumika Being Quite, er, Dead (for real this time), but we don’t know for sure at the moment. The actual process of implication, however, interested me. When Fumi spies MIka at the top of the shrine staircase, she immediately runs up to hug her, seeking solace and comfort in her very presence. The series handled the dichotomous personalities as aptly as most filmed things do with split personalities (the different personalities talk to each other through the magic of camerawork dividing shots between the personalities) but this scene in particular stood out for me. As Fumi hugs Mika, the two are essentially one, and Fumi is dependent on the presence of Mika in order to be able to cope with the pain of Kirameki’s torturous mockery of love. But, then, of course, Mika tells Fumi the truth: she is the one who shot her father, not her.

At this point, and I believe those in film studies like to refer to this phenomenon as “symbolism”, Fumi breaks her embrace of Mika and takes a step or two backwards (see picture). It is here, of course, that Fumi realizes just how separate Mika is from her, and, upon invitation to, supposedly shoots Mika. At the end of the episode, we are treated to Fumika (the real deal) trooping down to the police station for a questioning on the truth of the shooting incident, whereupon she immediately requests that charges be brought against her father, ostensibly for child abuse, with the declaration that “This time, I’ll be the one to shoot.”

If Fumi really shot Mika back there, then it’s entirely possible that what’s happened isn’t the death of Mika, but rather a symbolic (there’s that word again) representation of the fusion of the two discrete personalities into a whole once again. This is, of course, the Holy Grail of all dissociative identity disorder patients who are cognizant that they suffer from multiple personalities. With Fumi acting much more firm, and unwilling to take any more of her situation, it almost seems to me that this is exactly what’s happened. Maybe not even fusing both personalities into a whole–the act of shooting Mika could also be interpreted as Fumi regaining personal control over her life, also demonstrated by her strictly-business attitude in the questioning.  Whichever it is, I”m sure we’ll find out the thrilling and exciting truth behind everything in the final episode!

The Mysterious Enigma of Why I Like Nena Trinity (when no one else does)


It is a mysterious enigma, though. She’s been compared to Fllay Allster from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, on the basis that they’re both, pardon my French, crazy-ass bitches. Really crazy-ass bitches. The Colossus of Rhodes of crazy-ass bitches. Yet Fllay didn’t get my engine revving in the “oh god this girl” department, and Nena is not only revving the engine, but shoving me out of the driver’s seat into the passenger’s side, disengaging the parking brake, and gunning it full-blast down the street. Yes. That kind of “oh god this girl.”

So why the difference? First, Fllay and Nena aren’t the same kind of crazy. Fllay was meant to be a cruel manipulator of emotions, someone you despised and detested throughout the series. That didn’t stop some people from proclaiming her the best character in SEED. From the perspective of a character, Fllay was effective in being enough of a cruel manipulating bitch to tease out more interpersonal drama all throughout the series. I’d have to watch the series again to be a better judge of how effective the writers were using this for added melodrama power (I seem to remember her plotline getting a bit forced towards the end, but that may just be hazy memory), but I do remember that she very effectively made the viewer loathe every moment she was on the screen. It was like Madoka from Full Moon o Sagashite all over again: every time you see her face, you shake your fish at the screen and shout “Go away!” at the top of your lungs (thereby waking up other members of your household/apartments, because this is without a doubt occuring at 3am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning). She’s a character you loathe.

Nena Trinity, on the other hand, is potentially even crazier than Fllay. I mean, she blew up an entire wedding for no reason, because she felt like it, and it amused her. She, too, isn’t a character you’re supposed to love–but she is one you’re supposed to love to hate. Unlike Fllay, she’s deliciously crazy–she’s extremely impulsive and impatient, she takes great delight in killing (although not as much as the late and [un?]lamented Michael, who was also crazy, but he isn’t a girl, so I don’t care at this juncture), and so forth. The thing is, even though yo’re supposed to hate her, and love hating her, Mizushima still manages to make you feel sorry for her when both her brothers are killed in front of her eyes. Or, well, at least I felt sorry for her; I’m rather biased in this regard, so your mileage may have varied. She isn’t a character without viewer sympathy. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste, but I think Nena is much, much better in the likability department. She’s inhumanly crazy, but that just makes the shock of her brother’s deaths even more horrifying. I have the nagging feeling that Nena wasn’t killed for a deeper reason than Mizushima not wanting to kill off a character voiced by the one and only Kugimeister, but rather to keep her around to redeem her character through her subsequent actions. We won’t find out until this fall, sadly, but as long as she still lives, there’s hope for her to become a better person.

There’s this, and then there’s the fact that I suffer terribly from Kugimiya Disease. There is no cure. Tread carefully in the waters of anime, my friends: it’s highly contagious.

Ghost Hound: Miyako Counseling Peep Show

I can only imagine the sorts of saucy introspective conversation that’s going on at this moment.

Ghost Hound continues to impress. What it may lack in terms of being a crazy screw-you-up-in-the-head series (while I, personally, don’t think it lacks this, some do), it more than makes up for in terms of characterization. I’ve heard it bandied about that Tarou is a bland character, which isn’t really true. He is a rather bland sort, but I think, more than anything else, it’s because of his status as a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder. What’s worse, his traumatic stress came at a very early age for him, and I can only imagine the shock of being kidnapped and watching your sister die in front of you (or be eaten by a giant black blob-man, whatever actually happened) at such an early age would leave lasting shockwaves throughout your entire personality. It’s entirely possible, then, that what is perceived as Tarou’s blandness is actually how his mind managed to cope with the traumatic event of kidnapping. PTSD affects different people in different ways, and it’s possible that, in order to avoid dealing with the horrors that he’d experienced, he generated a bland, lifeless, apathetic personality to evade having to deal with further trauma. He doesn’t show much emotion in the series, either positive or negative, which, to me, speaks of shock more than poor designing on the behalf of the writers.

Masayuki is a much more colorful personality than Tarou, yet even he still has his own issues. Here, rather than confront his own trauma of leading to the death of a classmate, he instead immerses himself in virtual reality. Similar to Tarou, he’s escaping his past, although unlike Tarou he puts on a good front of being completely calm and at ease with his past. Except, of course, for the early episodes, where he was still terrified of heights, the curing of which being the  original purpose the virtual reality games were to serve. There, even the normally calm, suave Masayuki betrays his own inner doubts and fears. He claims to have moved past them, but is that truly the case?

Makoto is still something of an engima at this point, yet episode 14 gave us tantalizing glimpses into his personality. We see him recalling his youth, where he stabs an innocent frog to death, evidently for the sheer fun of it.  His fate is locked in to being the successor to his grandmother, and, resentful of this predetermination of his life, turns to a typical rebellious teenager form of rebellion: rock. I think, however, that the end of episode 14 served to explore further his character, seeing his reactions to the proclamation of Miyako as the successor to his grandmother, his subsequent command to the god resident in Miyako (I can’t remember its name at the moment) for his grandmother to die, and then running home to find his grandmother dead. We don’t know that much about him yet, but obviously there’s something unspoken under the surface here.

Despite the merits I see in Ghost Hound’s story and overall mood, without the characters, I don’t think this would be nearly as good a series as it could have been. I’m not a fan of Ghost in the Shell, as I mentioned before, but Ghost Hound is making me reconsider the abilities of Shirow Masamune in the writing department (but not in the artistry department; I’m glad they hired someone different to do the designs for the series). I still don’t know whether or not I’d like other series in this sort of genre, though, but there’s nothing left to do but try them!

Revolutionary Girl Utena: “For the revolution of the world!”…or, at least, Utena

Behold! Confused Utena! I don’t really know what I can say about the nigh-legendary series Revolutionary Girl Utena, but I’m going to try!

This is my third time through the series as a whole. I first watched it back in 2004 (or, at least, I think it was 2004…) and it was quite the ride the first time through. Then I watched it a second time in 2006, and that was quite a ride, but this time because I watched the entire thing over the span of approximately three days, the latter two-thirds in one day (I swear I didn’t mean to watch the whole thing that day, it just…happened) And here, it is 2008, and I’m rewatching Utena for the third time, and it’s every bit as enjoyable as it was the first time.

The first arc, it seems to me, serves more as setup than as actual plot generation. The arc focuses on Utena rather a lot, as opposed to the focus on Anthy which the later series adopts. The arc serves to mature Utena in the eyes of the viewer, from a girl who is merely trying to imitate the prince of her youth by dressing in a mannish fashion (and thank god for this) to a girl who could arguably be called a prince in her own right. If she were male, but gender never matters in anime.

At the beginning of the series/arc, Utena simply wants to seek out her prince and find him and live happily ever after with him. Instead, she finds herself drawn into the duels of the Ohtori Student Council (who has the best theme music ever: Densetsu – Kami no Na wa Abrazas [Legend – The Name of God is Abraxas]. Yes, for those avid Herman Hesse readers out there who also watch anime religiously enough to follow this blog, the whole spiel in the elevator to the Student Council room is a reference to Derian) . She wins the first of these duels against the vicious Saionji, and thus comes into possession of the Rose Bride, Himemiya Anthy.

As the arc progresses, she finds herself increasingly supporting Anthy’s change for the better, and the two of them become good friends. As Utena fights the other Student Council members for possession of Anthy, she grows ever more sure of what she sees as her mission, which is to free Anthy from the clutches of the dueling game and turn her back into a normal human being.

And then Touga steps in with a malicious plot of his own. Planting in Utena’s mind that he’s the prince she’s long sought after, he tricks Utena into losing a battle against him, giving him possession of Anthy and leaving Utena in a state of shock. The loss of Anthy is more devestating to Utena than she lets herself realize. It is then that she is forced to choose between her desire to help and nurture Anthy, and her desire to be loyal to her prince, who she sees as Touga.

Because otherwise the series would be 13 episodes, she chooses Anthy. And here it is interesting to note that, by choosing Anthy over her false prince Touga, she rejects the grip that the prince, Dios, has held over her since that fateful day in a coffin. She is no longer driven by a desire to emulate the prince in attire, rather, she has become a much more whole emulation of the princely desire. She stands up for what she believes in, even against insurmountable odds and a frightening new power of the Sword of Dios.

In the world of Anthy, however, the effect of this arc is small, but significant for the larger picture. In the second duel with Touga, Anthy realizes that Utena is her only true friend, the only one who likes her for who she is, not the Rose Bride that she represents. By so doing, she cancels the protection and power offered to the Sword of Dios in Touga’s possession. It’s a small spark that will later trigger the much larger concluding scene to the TV series: stepping out of Ohtori Academy by herself.

The series functions primarily as an allegory, which means that the events of the series aren’t to be taken literally Considering the sheer wtf-factor involved in the imagery and setting of the series, and general bizarreness, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Utena is one of my all-time favorite series for a reason, and the depth of characterization stands at or above thelevel of the  directorial wonkiness Ikuhara pulls off. The two function almost at a synergy, the way they should be in any story. Clever direction cannot not stand on its own merits, at least for me, and, while story can stand on its own merits in the absence of good direction, it does require at least competent, average direction to properly work. When the two are combined, however, magic is made. Or, in this case, revolutions. And swirly rose blossoms.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects


March 2008