Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’

I said I was going to write this post quite awhile ago and now, weeks later, I’m finally getting around to it…big surprise there, I’m sure.

About a month or two ago, I took the time to watch through all of Bakemonogatari. I remember seeing the promotional pictures of it when it first came out…and while it did catch my eye, I’m pretty sure that it was going up against Gonzo’s Shangri-La in the fight for my attention at the time. And…being a lover of Last Exile…the character designs by Range Murata won hands down. It was a fantastic anime, by the ways…slow, but unique, and totally worth my time. I’m still hoping they’ll localize it in America eventually, but not really expecting it, considering how political the show was. Anyways…to get back on track…


One review I read about Bakemonogatari that did NOT rave about how wonderful it was really caught my interest. While the writer made a point of saying that they did not hate the show, they did make what I thought was a valid criticism of the art style. For those of you who have yet to watch this show, Bakemonogatari spends a lot of screen time focusing on characters’ faces while they talk, if not still shots. It also has a habit of spending a lot of time on screens filled with words and no images. Also, if I remember right, there were quite a few scenic shots, all of which were extremely simplistic. So really…when you add it all up…except for a few fight scenes (which were far and few between)…the amount of animation in this show is minimal.

Close-ups, text-filled screens, and simple backgrounds

Not only is the animation simple, but this is also a very “talky” show. And by “talky,” I mean exactly what that sounds like. The show does have a little bit action, but it is mostly comprised of scenes full of the characters’ talking to each other.  While this may be considered by some to be Bakemonogatari‘s weak point, it is also very much its strong point. This is an extremely clever show, full of wordplay and witty humor. The only problem with this is that most of the humor is, as can only be expected, very Japanese. Being able to “get” all of the wordplay requires an extensive knowledge of kanji, and much of the wittier humor is steeped in Japanese culture. In other words…unless you are Japanese, have lived in Japan long enough to be fully integrated into the country and culture, or are otherwise able to be equally familiar with the Japanese way of life…most of the humor in this show is going to go over your head. I know it did it for me. (On a side note, I do have to say that the translators of this show deserve some serious applause for their attempts to get the humor across. Even if I still didn’t get all of the humor, the effort they put into this series was superb.)

Now…to get to the heart of my argument…I pose to you this question: Is this animation style artistic? Or a sign of laziness on the part of the directors and animators? Personally, I don’t think there’s a wrong or right answer to this question (unless, of course, you can hear the answers from the horse’s mouth). I think it comes down more to personal taste. To some the blank canvas looks like a blank canvas, and they wonder why on earth somebody hung it up in a museum. To others, though, it is genuinely a work of art. As one of the people who only sees a blank canvas, I can’t understand why they think it’s a work of art, but I can respect the fact that the piece is speaking to them in some way, even if it does not do the same for me. And while Bakemonogatari is no blank canvas, I think the same ideas can be applied here. On the one hand, some people are going to see this as how far an animation company is willing to go in order to make as much money as possible with the lowest budget. Others, on the other hand, will consider Bakemonogatari to be an incredibly clever work of art that knows how to really think outside of the box.

As for my opinion on what does or does not constitute as artistic by my own standards, I don’t really have a god way of explaining it. There’s no real words that can be used to define what I mean. I can tell you that I tend to like pieces that stand out in my mind as “beautiful.” They can be strange, like M.C. Escher-strange, or even in some cases Salvador Dali-strange, but there must always be some sense of what I call “beauty” about the picture. For example…I would consider the ef ~a tale~ series to be a work of art. There were countless jaw-dropping scenes that just completely wowed me. I’d never seen anything like it before in anime, and, honestly, I don’t ever expect to see anything like it again:

The Art of Ef

Where ef is what I would consider a work of art as a whole, though, there are plenty of series I can think of that have “artistic moments.” Elfen Lied, for example, has an extremely artistic opening sequence that draws inspiration from a real artist, Gustav Klimt:

Gustav Klimt (left) Elfen Lied (right)

Another series I could say has artistic elements would be Revolutionary Girl Utena. This series relies a lot on symbolism and suggestion to get certain themes across to its audience, and it uses the art to do this. One show that I have yet to see (but eventually plan to) is Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, another anime that has a very distinctive art style.

For Bakemonogatari specifically, I guess you could say I think that there’s more to the show than just laziness, but I also think the company utilized the artistic style to save themselves some time and money. I think this was more evident in some episodes than others. There were times where the tendency to focus on the characters’ faces really grated on my nerves…other times, though, I was perfectly fine with it. And I guess the reason I feel that it wasn’t all just the corporate desire to save some money is because when Bakemonogatari broke away from its usual simplicity, it really went all out. There were some incredible scenes in this show that really glued all of the visuals together and made the show stand out. The ending of the main part of the show (prior to the OAVS) especially shows that there was some serious talent behind the art of Bakemonogatari:

Simply stunning...

So, while Bakemonogatari is no ef (though, really, what show is?), it is, in my opinion, an artistic series. Even if it did overdo things sometimes, it did what it did very well. It’s a very memorable show to say the least…one of those that, once you’ve watched it, you can’t entirely forget about it.

Well…that’s all I have to say for today. Please feel free to give me some feedback…I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have any. Otherwise…until next time! 🙂


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So…let’s talk Mawaru a little bit.

When I first began seeing news about Kunihiko Ikahara’s latest brainchild, I had mixed feelings. The plot summaries that were initially released were extremely brief and vague, leaving me with the impression that this show was going to be about cute little penguins. As in…along the same lines as Chi’s Sweet Home is about a cute little cat. So, despite my familiarity with and devoted love for this director’s previous series, I honestly was not sure if this was a show that I was going to want to watch. Penguins are cute, but I just did not see myself enjoying an anime dedicated to the lives of these animals. This all changed, however, once promotional pictures finally began to be released.

The picture that changed my mind...

One look at the characters and I did a complete 180°. All of the misconceptions caused by the vague and uninformative plot summaries immediately disappeared and I found myself intensely anticipating what the director of Revolutionary Girl Utena had cooked up. Now, in all honesty, I did try my best to…and actually did a pretty good job of…keeping my expectations reasonable prior to the airing of the first episode. Yes, the twisted, disturbing, and powerful Revolutionary Girl Utena was what I most associated with this director, but I knew that this same person had also been in charge of my equally beloved and much more light-hearted Sailor Moon. Not only that, but it’s been more than a decade since Ikahura has directed a major project like this, and a decade is more than enough time for any person to undergo some pretty extraordinary changes. Keeping all of these things in mind, I was able to prevent myself from formulating too many ideas about the show before it began.

Now…9 episodes in…Mawaru Penguindrum has had more than enough time to make me establish some thoughts and opinions. And I can tell you…from episode one…I have absolutely LOVED this show. Clearly, Ikahura has not lost his touch, and a decade has proven to be more than enough time for him to come up with a comfortingly familiar, and yet refreshingly original concept. Where do I even begin?!

Oh the details! Ah the symbolism! The complex intertextuality! The literature lover in me is SMITTEN! We have here a series that is, thus far, proving to be very successful at weaving a complex and intriguing plot with depth, developing well-rounded characters, and maintaining a strong, high speed pace that has yet to falter. And then there’s the layered tone. Sometimes sweet, other times bitter, and always chaotic, Mawaru Penguindrum is an emotional roller coaster. By the end of a single twenty-five minute episode, I have found myself laughing, worrying for the characters, and…best of all…left not only wondering, but also thinking. To leave an audience wondering is not always the easiest task, but a strong cliff hanger usually does the trick. To leave an audience thinking, on the other hand…that, my friends, is an accomplishment on a whole different level. Society may define an author’s success by their paycheck, but literary scholars base at least part of their judgments of accomplishment more on the writer’s capability to imprint their words upon readers’ souls. In less fancy language…it really just means that…when a person comes away from a book with more than that with which they approached it, the writer has achieved at least some true success, be it great or small. And while Mawaru Penguindrum still has plenty of time to screw up royally, I am seeing signs that this show has the potential to join ranks with series like Utena.

And just what are these signs I speak of? To be as clear as I possibly can with such vague feelings…the clearest sign that Mawaru Penguindrum truly has something going for it…is the fact that it is bothering me on a deep and very dark level. More simply, there is something about this show that I find deeply disturbing. And the best thing is…I have yet to figure out just what that something is. It’s not like Mawaru Penguindrum has been hiding it’s true nature. The show has been dropping some pretty big hints that this brightly-colored, cutesy anime has something much more serious going on deep down inside. But I have watched and read plenty of serious stories…some quite dark…without feeling disturbed by them. And the fact that I am already beginning to feel hints of these disturbing emotions before it has even dropped it’s cutesy facade says to me that there is some pretty serious psychological stuff going on. Stuff that’s getting to me on a subconscious level. Exactly the sort of stuff that I love.

Oh, and I have to say…this show has GUTS. I have said it before…I am not a fan of vulgar language or behaviora line that Mawaru Penguindrum continuously crosses. But there is just something about it that is genuinely appealing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I really love watching Himari when she takes on this crass, vulgar, and unladylike personality that seems to be as far from her true, innocent self as it can be. My ears burn every time, but the boldness of it is simply FABULOUS MAX!!!

Is she possessed? Or is this the true, repressed Himari?

Alright…I guess that’s all I’ll say about it for now. I’m probably raving on too much about this anyways…it’s still fairly early on after all. Still plenty of time to disappoint. Anyways…guess I’ll call it quits for now. I may or may not post more about this AMAZING show again later. 🙂

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I know, I haven’t posted in forever…and as a result, I’ve got a backlog of news bits. For a couple of them, I’m way behind on schedule, and so you probably already know about it. But I’m going to post about it anyways. So…here’s the first piece of news:

Thanks to Nozomi Entertainment, Revolutionary Girl Utena is making a come-back in the United States. Meaning you will soon be able to own the series without dishing out a hefty five hundred dollars! Whoo! The downside is that you’re still going to have to pay a pretty penny for it. This is because Nozomi made the smart business move of splitting the series into three box sets. Pre-ordered, this will cost about ninety bucks. Not pre-ordered, you’re looking at closer to one-hundred and fifty. Still far better than the five hundred that you would have had to pay if you tried to collect the older individual DVDs from ebay and various other stores. Oh…and for those of you who might be in the position I was in: Take advantage of the pre-order and DO. NOT. WAIT. I kept hesitating on pre-ordering and when I finally got around to it (about a week, maybe two, after they first made ordering available), the price had already gone up. So…while you’re too late to get the first box set as cheap as it gets, keep this in mind for when they start taking orders for the next ones. Also…be aware that Nozomi Entertainment has announced these box sets as LIMITED EDITIONS. There has been zero news about plans for non-limited editions, meaning if you want it, you should probably hop on board while the ship’s still in port.

And now, because it’s too gorgeous not to post, the amazing box art for set one:

Side 1

Side 2

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I hate top ten lists. Not because I don’t think they’re fun to read, create, and what not…but because I have so much trouble choosing only ten favorites, whether it’s for books, movies, anime, and so on. Even when I can figure out which ten to squeeze into that list, I have to place them in order from favorite to least favorite, and that’s just a whole ‘nother bear to wrestle with. So, rather than creating a top ten list, I’m simply going to talk about several of my favorite anime and manga series. They will be in no particular order, though I will indicate if I have a particular interest in a series or author. So here we go…

To give you an idea of what this will probably look like, I’m a big fan of the shoujo genre. Yes, all of those sparkly, colorful comics full of ridiculously disproportioned eyes, sickly sweet romance, and heart-withering happily ever afters found in places like Ribon magazine tend to find my favor. Before you say “shoot, not another one of these,” though, I want to reassure you that this list will not consist entirely of these blindingly-bright manga and anime. While it may show some leanings towards that genre, I can reassure you that after a lifetime of watching anime and reading manga, I have acquired a taste for a wide variety of series. In fact, my interest in such a wide variety is one of the few things I pride myself a tiny bit on, though I realize I probably shouldn’t. In the end, I suppose you’ll just have to see for yourself now, won’t you?

1. My introduction to anime…Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon

Technically I’d been watching anime long before I was introduced to this show, but Sailor Moon is what I have always considered to be the series that really got me seriously interested in Japanese entertainment. Though I do not consider it a must-see or a favorite because of its incredible literary qualities, it is certainly (to me) a classic, and so it will always hold a special place in my heart.


Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Chobits

Following on the heels of Sailor Moon came Cardcaptor Sakura, a series that would introduce me to the famous manga group known as CLAMP. They would become one of my favorite authors and artists of all time. One of the great things about CLAMP is the diversity of their titles. Though most of them fall into the fantasy category, CLAMP has created such a wide variety of series, that just about any audience would probably find at least one title that appeals to them.

3. The Sci-Fi Era: Phase 1

Neon Genesis Evangelion, Martian Successor Nadesico, Trigun, and Cowboy Bebop

After enjoying several more of my narrow shoujo slices of anime pie, a friend was kind enough to open my eyes to the much bigger anime world that I was missing. And thus, I would become interested in what would be my first phase of sci-fi anime. Starting with the classic Neon Genesis Evangelion, I would work my way through pretty much every non-Gundam/Macross/Robotech type sci-fi anime that America had to offer.

4. Hayao Miyazaki


Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro

Once I realized just how big the world of anime really was, nothing could stop me from exploring it from one end to the next. On my journey, Japan’s Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki, would be one of the greatest directors I would ever find. Starting with the famed Princess Mononoke, I would continue watching his films as I found them over the years. And though there are many more I have yet to see, I am far from over Miyazaki and so will continue watching his films.

5. The Slayers


The Slayers

Slayers is the anime I consider my first risk. Looking back, it wasn’t a big risk…but at the time for me, it really was. All of the anime I had watched up to this point were, except for Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, recommended to me by friends. Slayers would be the first anime I would purchase without knowing anything about it, besides the few, brief reviews I read online. Keep in mind, this was still during the time when the average cost of an anime boxset was around $100. And for a ninth grader to spend $100 on one thing that they’re not even sure if they’ll like is a pretty big deal. Fortunately, I didn’t just like The Slayers…I loved it. I would go on to collect the next two seasons of this wonderful and hilarious fantasy series that served as proof to me that risks are sometimes worth taking.

6. Revolutionary Girl Utena


Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a shoujo with some very typical shoujo elements (i.e. sparkles, magical transformations, boys that look like girls, etc.), but it is not your typical shoujo. Though there are many series with female protagonists taking on the warrior role, Utena takes it to another level. Here we have a female protagonist who rejects social norms, wearing the boy’s school uniform and dreaming of one day becoming a prince. (Yes, prince, not princess.) Utena was the tomboy I used to fancy myself being, and yet she never completely abandons her feminine side. She was a strong female, one that I could look up to. In addition to a wonderful protagonist, Utena is a series that has many things going for it. An incredible artistic series, Utena is one of the first shows I watched that actually employed suggestion, symbolism, and other very literary techniques. I remember being impressed because, despite the very dark and mature nature of Utena‘s content, the audience is never explicitly shown much of what is going on. They see enough snippets of what is happening in order to piece it together by themselves, but the full image is never directly presented. And as somebody who does not enjoy anime that is full of nudity and sexual content, this was ideal. I got the point, and I got it better through these puzzle pieces than I ever would have if they’d blatantly shown me what occurred. One of the downsides to Utena (for me) were its tendencies towards shoujo-ai. I am not a fan of shoujo- or shonen-ai, much less their more explicit counterparts. However, after seeing Utena and a few series, I find that I can stomach it as long as it is not a focal point in the story. The main tv series of Utena only suggested such things and so it was bearable. Its manga adaptation suggested even less. The movie, on the other hand, indulged in the forbidden romantic relationship between the female protagonists and so I have never been able to truly enjoy the theatrical film (though it is incredibly beautiful and worth watching simply for the artistic quality):


One of the most beautiful scenes from the Utena movie

Admittedly, Utena is now over a decade old and, thus, a bit dated. Newcomers to anime would probably find it a difficult show to watch. However, this truly is one of the greats, and most certainly a favorite of mine.

7. Yoshitoshi ABe and the Weird


Serial Experiments Lain and Haibane Renmei

Around the same time that I was watching shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the friend who introduced me to sci-fi anime also got me into a series that is infamous for its weirdness: Serial Experiments Lain. I remember when we first started watching it, I was warned to take my time. Trying to watch it all in one sitting was apparently a bad idea. After watching it, I could understand why. Lain is an incredibly unique anime that is abstract, confusing, and…well…weird. It is, however, an excellent anime that, if you can get past the fact that it doesn’t always make sense, is worth watching. This would be an anime that also got me into such shows as Boogiepop Phantom and Paranoia Agent (neither pictured above), more series that would fall into the “excellently strange” category.

To be honest, Haibane Renmei, the next Yoshitoshi ABe series I watched, deserves a category of its own. It is neither confusing nor weird in the same sense as Lain (not by a long shot), but it has all of the qualities that one comes to expect in an ABe series. To be blunt, Haibane Renmei is simply beautiful. It is a wonderful series that truly taps into the potential of what anime can be, and it does it well. Though I said I wouldn’t be able to put together a top ten list, I can tell you without a doubt that Haibane Renmei would be on it. And it would be on it towards the top.

8. Arina Tanemura


Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Full Moon wo Sagashite, Time Stranger Kyoko, and The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross

Today, I will end part one of my favorites list with my all-time favorite manga artist, Arina Tanemura. As you can see from the pictures, Tanemura is one of the most famous artists (if not the most famous artist) of the infamous shoujo genre, complete with sparkles, giant eyes, and all of the other fixings. I could rant and rave to you all day long about why I love Tanemura and all (yes all) of her many works, but to be truthful, it would not give you an accurate depiction of her as an artist or author. For, though I do recognize that some of her series are better than others, as one of her fans (a term I do not use lightly), my opinion is biased to the point that I love every single work she has ever created. If I were to choose a favorite of her series, I would not hesitate to pick Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. Not only was it the first series of hers I ever read, but it is also one of her best (though I’m sure some of you would disagree with me). I love her art style, characters, stories, and so on, and have yet to tire of it.


Alright, that’s it for today. I will continue the other half of the list on another day. Until then!

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