- Out-and-out brilliance 8/4/2001 12:00:00 AM by himitsu
In an alternate universe retelling of the Shoujo Kakumei Utena story, this movie blows the already great TV series out of the water. Tenjou Utena is new to Ohtori Academy, having recently broken up with Kiryuu Touga. Upon arriving, she sees him again, and meets Himemiya Anthy, also known as the Rose Bride. Utena is forced into a duel with Saionji Kyouichi for the possession of the Rose Bride. She is bewildered by the events taking place in the academy, but starts to figure out what life is all about and where it doesn't happen. The plot is fresh while still holding on to certain elements of the original storyline from the TV series. The characters, while many have done 180s with their personalities, are still as captivating as ever. The music, supplied once again by the wonderful J.A Seaser, is just as good as anything in the TV series, if not better. Finally, the animation is more beautiful than words can describe. If nothing else, watch this movie for the animation. Many people, Utena fans and not, don't give this movie a fair shake, claiming a number of things they don't like about it which were exactly what they liked about the TV series. Though it is much easier to understand the movie if you've seen the series in full, the movie is still a masterpiece to behold in any right.
- It was a mistake to think you're the only one who could turn into a car--now I'm a car too! 12/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by General_Changs_eyepatch
Consider yourself warned that this movie operates on the assumption that viewers are familiar with the TV series. If you aren't already aware of the relationships between the characters (as I'm not) you're outta luck, because very little of it is explained here. And from what I've heard, things are a bit murky even then.
What makes this movie great is that it really doesn't matter. Utena is a visual smorgasborg--the backgrounds alone warrant it a high rating, impossibly lush and frequently reminiscent of art nouveau. The characters are equally wonderfully drawn. Visually, it's brilliant; the floating castle that seems to constantly rearrange itself is an astonishing feat of fantastical architecture. All in all I'd have to say this is the most gorgeous animation I've ever seen.
As for the plot...I've seen this three times now and still don't entirely get it. I have some vague theories about what's going on and why, but without the series' background I can't verify anything. The movie operates on a very surreal, symbolic level--and it's full of the eccentricities of anime, as well (not that that's a bad thing, just different--a giant car wash machine that rises out of a field of roses figures prominently in a later scene). If you go into this expecting cut-and-dry western cinema (doubtful, as by and large I expect only anime junkies would even hear of it), you're up the creek without a paddle. Even granted the contextual uncertainty, though, there is clearly a resolution. What it means is certainly debatable, but the point is that there IS a narrative here discernible in the end, if that actually matters. In this case, I don't think it does. The movie exists in its own world and can't be expected to always adhere to our rules.
Utena is awe-inspiring in its visual beauty and imagination. As a would-be fantasy writer myself I found my mind spinning off on dozens of tangents after watching it. And for one work of art to inspire another to create is perhaps the highest recommendation there is.
- Those darn teenage years... 6/17/2005 12:00:00 AM by IkuharaKunihiko
Utena Tenjou is a girl dressed like a boy. While studying in the Ohtori academy she was challenged to a duel by the arrogant Saionji. She won not only the duel, but also the "Rose bride", Anthy...
I think that "Utena-the movie" is a little bit weaker than the series, but it's still a pretty fine anime. Till date I'm still not sure what to think about the weird and puzzling series, not to mention this movie which tells an almost different story. My main grip is that the whole plot is symbolic and works only on that level. Based on that, I think there are 4 theories on what "Utena" is trying to say: 1. Prostitution and it's problems ( at least I got the impression that Anthy, as the "rose bride", has to do everything to please her master and that Utena is trying to save her ). 2. Utena's difficult realization that she is a lesbian ( in the movie she really kisses Anthy ) 3. Incest and it's consequences ( it's clear that Anthy has been molested by her brother Akio and that she is weird because of that ) 4. Growing up and abandoning your ideals from the world of childhood.
Now, you can say I'm insane. But, then again, I could just be right on this because it's so darn suggestive. I admit that some of the scenes were funny ( Nanami in a guest appearance as a cow while "fighting" with Chu-Chu )but after listening to Kunihiko Ikuhara's audio commentary on DVD I have to question some of his choices. For example, he didn't say a word about incest in the scene where Akio drugs Anthy and sleeps with her( instead he was just quiet ), he didn't want to explain anything so that "the story's interpretation wouldn't narrow" and claimed that many people didn't want to draw the end in which Utena turns into a car which is driven by Anthy. Despite being a little more cohesive in his commentary than in the series ( there he didn't remember what all the symbols mean! ) Ikuhara didn't pleasantly surprise me. And then again, maybe that isn't that important since the movie is good.
Both "Utena's" are a weird ride that were different than his previous work, "Sailor Moon", and there for not for everyone's taste. But I still can't wait to see what Ikuhara is going to do next. These days, after 6 years, he finally published a new fantasy Manga called "The world of S & M". Needless to say many will be very interested to see the anime realization.
- Exquisite film with one major flaw. 5/29/2000 12:00:00 AM by utena-3
Adolescence Mokushiroku is the New Testament to the TV series's Old, a welcome addition to the concept's canon, and a work that is sure to be hotly debated by Utena fandom for some time to come. It is director Ikuhara's third theatrical film, and his first completely original work. It is a devastatingly beautiful, state of the art, intensely kinetic film.
Adolescence has a powerful pedigree of luminous craftsmen behind it: Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, who brings it all together, was awarded the Kobe Award of Japan for up-and-coming best new anime talent of 1997, the same year the Utena television series took the Kobe for best series. Chiho Saito, upon whose manga the film was based, has a distinguished career as a girl's comic author. Souchiro Kobayashi was not only the art director for the original series but also of the cult-classic OAV "To-Y" as well as the legendary Mamoru Oshii art film "Angel's Egg". Character designer Shinya Hasegawa is widely renowned for his work on Shin Seiki Evangelion as well as the original Utena; screenwriter Yoji Enokido was also a formative figure in the development of Evangelion and the original Utena television series. These are literally some of -the- most current and talented creators in the Japanese animation world brought together; their names alone should ensure this film a place in anime's hall of fame.
It's clear that the film had a large budget and that every bit of it ended up on screen- its flowing imagery is both oddly erotic and beautiful, creating a luscious feeling of being enclosed in sensuality. Sound too is exquisite in the film, grounding the surreality of its visuals in crunchy actuality; swords sound like real swords, and each strike of weapon against weapon resonates like thunder. Every ping, every detail is precise. Music too is exquisite- at least the background musics. This reviewer finds the duel themes disappointingly hollow and flat. Still, there's plenty of instrumentals and some choice vocals by Masami Okui that more than compensate.
As any good story should, Adolescence hits the ground running, with a dazzling display of the 'new' Ootori Gakuen, and it doesn't stop to take a breath (or let the audience breathe) from there. The movie creates its world from the first frame, and never falters in its vision. However, like a perfect jewel with a single splitting flaw, Adolescence Mokushiroku relies too heavily on exploiting its audience's presumed knowledge of the storyline of the television series. This brings the film closer to the realm of a brilliant fanfiction rather than an original, all new work; I'm not sure the creators intended, or ever wanted it to be such. But I think any writer could attest to the fact that it's nearly impossible to step outside one's work and view it with 'new' eyes; this may be an unavoidable flaw. It is also the only -major- flaw in the film's design.
The film is tongue-in-cheek in places, bordering on self-parody, but also sincerely earnest and heartfelt. Ikuhara and company went in saying that their intent was to strip some of the mystery from the original storyline, and to make their point clearer, to lay the underlying truths bare with this film. Indeed, some mysteries from the series are explained away clearly within the story. Other, newer mysteries cause the long-term viewer to squirm, forced to consider the entirety of the canon in a new light.
None of these changes are bad; Utena's 'flaws' in this film may actually make her more sympathetic to those viewers who originally found her 'too perfect' and 'inaccessible' in the TV version. Other characters have also been tweaked, notably the erstwhile Rose Bride, Himemiya Anshi, the Student Council President, Kiryuu Touga, and the Fencing Club captain, Arisugawa Juri. Other characters have only minor onscreen time or are completely omitted.
The final sequences of the third act have the potential to be the most misunderstood part of the film. Yet these sequences are also the most innovative and emotionally engaging part of the movie. Just when you thought they couldn't find another way to make an essentially psychological conflict interesting beyond the Duels, they do it- and do it well. However, the sheer spectacle of it was enough to make audiences laugh with disbelief at the several fan-screenings that followed the film's release on video.
Is Adolescence Mokushiroku ultimately a good movie? Yes. Is it a brilliant film? In the swiss watch precision of its design, and its tightly compressed execution, yes.
Can it succeed in the international market, leaving its comfortable world of Japanese fans and US niche market supporters to revolutionize the global animation community? That remains to be seen.
For all its numerous strengths, Adolescence Mokushiroku can not escape its own demanding nature; it may simply ask too much from those that are not already familiar with Ikuhara's style. The movie probably will acquire a cult status- much like the original series itself. For any Utena fan familiar with the whole series, however, this film is a long-awaited resolution, reward, and release. It makes clear many aspects of the original story, while opening up a new horizon of mysteries to ponder in the future.
- Excellent film for anyone who's seen the series 12/13/2000 12:00:00 AM by arielview
Having never seen any anime before Utena, except for the nauseating dubbed versions of Sailor Moon and Pokemon, I became immediately hooked. The series is a must-see, and the film is excellent, but it will confuse the heck out of anyone who hasn't seen the series. This series and movie are definitely for adults, simply because of the complex themes and symbolism. Even if you don't understand what's going on however, you can appreciate the eye candy in the film. The artistry is spectacular, and the film is a deep examination of the themes in the series. Definitely one of my favourites! Highly recommended viewing, but don't skip the series!