It would be very easy to
write this movie off completely as big budget Manga gone wrong. However, if
you have the patience, closer inspection reveals a movie that is spectacularly
surreal, has some fantastic scenes with obvious voyeurism and Sapphic intent,
as well as a couple of slices of reasonable martial action. On the down side
the plot is transparent to the point of being 02, but if you are going to
enjoy this film, don't even bother following the plot, it is obvious,
contrived and in the end just gets in the way.
(Basic) plot is thus:
Utena, dressed far too much like a man from the batty boy Gestapo, starts the
movie in a classroom full of students and a short skirted female student walks
straight up to her. Said student gives out some serious body language action,
but not saying anything flirty. From this first scene it's hard to determine
if Utena is a teacher or student, and this isn't clearly revealed later in the
plot either. From here, an introductory tour scene is created with a quick
meander through the school.
This is clearly designed
to show off the nifty moving white walls, staircases and buildings. (Not sure
which of these came first, but this idea reminds me greatly of the moving
stairs within the halls of Hogwarts magical school in Harry Potter??.)
We are introduced to two
other characters the head of the female fencing team nicknamed "prince" and a
guy who looks like a girl. From here Utena sees a red haired, hawk nosed,
goofy looking male across the courtyard and a dramatic running scene ensues
where she ascend staircase rounds corners and puffs. Boring, but nonetheless
it gives the chance for us to realize that she knows this man, and he also
knows her (see what I mean about the
plot??) they catch up,
phrase their language mysteriously, and then he disappears just after Utena
sees a white rose amongst a very large plot of red roses. The white rose gives
her a ring which her red-haired-Axl-rose-wannabe-man also has one of. One
scene further on we meet a hot looking girl called Anthy (rose princess) who
is watering the rose bush and another 80s reject male, who wants to fight
Utena. Utena wins with a sword drawn dramatically from Anthy, and the
weirdness get weirder. It seems that once you win a duel for the rose
princess, she will make herself a willing sex slave. Utena rejects Anthy's
overtures which Anthy doesn't understand. It also turns out that the people
who have these special rings that can fight for Anthy are called duelists.
(Seeing as how the duelists are fighting in a rose bed for the rose queen, I
straight away thought of the Rose duelist from Yu-Gi-Oh?..)
More fight scenes ensue,
then blatant scenes of school girls in mini skirts, then a few more blatant
camera pans up and down the tight bodies of
the amazingly mature
school girls and we get to the crux. The red haired
Axl Rose wannabe is
actually dead, and he knew Utena when they were both in school together. He
goes off back to the dead, and we find out that Anthy is imprisoned in the
school, so they both break out after some pretty trippy, but beautifully
created scenes which are definitely worth a look.
Movie then ends with
Anthy and Utena finally succumbing to their lust for each other.
So there are one or two
things that deserve a mention about this. All the way through the film this is
a small narration from two school girls on what is supposedly the school
radio. This in itself is quite amusing as it is the voice of sanity in this
film, and also helps bring some of the scenes into focus.
Secondly, no matter how
surreal some of the scenes are, there are some that make this DVD worth
watching. Like the very opening scene, where there are a multitude of steel
framed chalkboards gently traveling left and right creating a dreamy collage
All in all, an
interesting diversion from mainstream Manga, and one that has its gems if you
can dig deep enough.
16:9 here widescreen here and it's all nice and clear. A
good transfer and nothing significant to comment on.
Dolby; English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0. English subtitles if
required. All things said and done it was a bit odd that the sound wasn't in
surround sound however all sounds are very clear and easy to make out.
picture gallery, madman propaganda trailer, a trailer about the English voice
over process and a brilliant little extra in this called Utena Trivia. Utena
Trivia is a game, where you are shown a scene and you have to answer a
multiple choice question about that scene.
The doco on the English
voice over process was amusing as the American voice over people make the
process as complicated as possible on themselves when they do the voice-overs
in my opinion!