Revolutionary Girl Utena
|Name:||Revolutionary Girl Utena|
(少女革命ウテナ Shoujo Kakumei Utena)
Chiho Saito (manga)
Kunihiko Ikuhara (anime & film director)
Yōji Enokido (anime writer)
|Date(s):||1996 – 1997 (manga)|
1997 (TV anime), 1999 (film)
|Medium:||manga, TV anime, anime film|
|Country of Origin:||Japan|
|External Links:||Revolutionary Girl Utena on Wikipedia|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Revolutionary Girl Utena (少女革命ウテナ Shoujo Kakumei Utena) is a project by the group Be-Papas, consisting of a 1997 anime directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara and a 1996-7 shoujo manga by Chiho Saito. The franchise contains yuri and elements of the magical girl trope and is widely considered one of the most influential works in the shoujo genre. The anime and manga were created simultaneously, but, despite some similarities, they progressed in different directions.
The franchise later expanded into a live-action musical in late 1997, a video game in 1998, and an animated movie in 1999. There are multiple versions of the story in the various media.
After meeting a traveling prince who consoled her after the deaths of her parents, Tenjou Utena vowed to become a prince herself. The prince left Utena only with a ring bearing a strange rose crest and a promise that she would meet him again some day.
A few years later, Utena attends Ootori Academy, where she is drawn into a dangerous game. Duelists with rings matching Utena's own compete for a unique prize: the Rose Bride, Himemiya Anthy, and her mysterious powers. When Utena wins Anthy in a duel, she realizes that if she is to free Anthy and discover the secrets behind Ootori Academy, she has only one option: to revolutionize the world.
Revolutionary Girl Utena blends surrealist imagery and ideas with complex allegories and metaphors to create a unique coming-of-age story with themes including idealism, illusions, adulthood, and identity.
Early Fandom and Distribution
The English dubbed and subbed versions of Utena were released to VHS in the US in 1998 by Central Park Media under their Software Sculptors label. These same episodes were released to two bilingual DVD volumes in 1999 with six or seven episodes each. However, after releasing the first 13 episodes to VHS and DVD, Central Park Media failed to secure a license for the remaining episodes until 2002, creating a huge gap between the release of episodes. While fansubbers mostly eschewed releasing those first 13 episodes, the rest of the series remained available by fansub.
Much of the fan activity took place in usenet newsgroups and YahooGroups mailing lists at the time of release. One of the by-products of of this activity was the creation of Yuricon and ALC Publishing.
In November of 2002 the Utena fansite Empty Movement launched. It has become one of the longest running, still active, fansites within the fandom. In 2006 Empty Movement went on to open a forum, In the Rose Garden, which quickly become a central hub for Utena fans.
20th Anniversary Retrospective
In Febuary of 2017 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Utena, Giovanna and Yasha, the administrators of the Empty Movement, wrote a retrospective on how the fandom had evolved over the years. Some extracts include:
Over the years, the community moved from newsgroups and mailing lists to Livejournal, then to our forum, and now, like most fandoms, it's concentrated on Tumblr. In a few years, it will be elsewhere, and wherever that is, people will still be debating whether Utena was being selfish or not by fighting Touga a second time in the first story arc.
What has changed most over the years are the viewpoints from which people experience Utena, and like the best stories, that constant reinterpretation is what has kept it young. We like to think Empty Movement, by its content or simply its permanence, has encouraged that. Utena grew up, so to speak, and it now demands more from its newcomers than ever before. Once, you could enjoy Utena because it was Sailor Moon's darker half, and you managed to beat the odds by obtaining the series at all. But twenty years later, the whole show and movie are readily available, and most watch them on particular recommendation. Since it's a work that makes itself so personal, it would be hard to examine Utena without also examining yourself, and that is ultimately where its longevity comes from.
Would you believe that in the beginning, Akio used to be seen as something of an aspirational figure? It's true! You could tell who the dudes in the fandom were because they often liked him, while most of the girls dismissed him easily. Now, people are less likely to write him off as either a cookie-cutter villain or power fantasy. His character is uncomfortable, requiring a depth of consideration you might not give a story that hadn't stood the test of time. As for Anthy, the universal tendency early on was to see her as powerless, sometimes mindless, barely even a person at all. Way back then, she was just a poor useless creature whose main purpose was to prove Utena was a Prince. That perspective seems to have died with the maturation of the fanbase. People are more willing to attribute some strength to Anthy and see her with nuance.
It's been awesome to see Utena appear in other shows, like Steven Universe and Kill la Kill, because it tells you that people you've never even spoken to have felt the impact of this show deeply. As an anime, Utena was its own proof of concept, that the medium could be valid, long-lasting, and universally relatable. Utena creates its own mythos with the Dueling Arena and the Prince and all that, but frankly, those elements just add spice and surreality to a work that draws most of its context from familiar feelings and relationships that cross cultural barriers.
Due to the yuri nature of the show and it's focus on Utena and Anthy's relationship, femslash/yuri dominates the fandom shipping activity. Unsurprisingly, this has made Anthy/Utena the juggernaut pairing of the fandom. For many fans, Utena/Anthy was their first femslash ship, or their first ship altogether. For the same merits Juri/Shiori is also another popular ship.
- Seinen Kakumei Utena by gorgeousshutin, “The Revolution succeeded; it crumbled afterwards only because those whose lives got revolutionized did not follow up on the revolutionary success,” said the Bride, her words setting their closed hearts aflame. “This time, will you help us help you?”
- On September 22 fans released a translation patch for the Revolutionary Girl Utena game on the SEGA Saturn, making it available in English for the first time.
Communities and Archives
- Utena and Utena crossovers at FanFiction.net
- Shoujo Kakumei Utena | Revolutionary Girl Utena fanworks at AO3
- roselinedcoffin, a general Utena LiveJournal community
- utena_inscribed, a fan writer community
- utenadrabble, a drabble community
- utena_hush, a wordless icontest
- utena_choir, utena_chorus, and utena_lyrica, lyrical icontests
- utena_awards, shoujoku_awards, and sku_awards, icon award communities
- Empty Movement
- Utena thread at AnimeSuki
- Revolutionary Girl Utena (TV) at Anime News Network
- Shoujo Kakumei Utena at Baka-Updates Manga
- Revolutionary Girl Utena (archived) at the Fan History Wiki
- Shoujo Kakumei Utena
- VHS 1 - Crest of the Rose by Justin Sevakis. Date unknown.
- 20 Years of Utena Fandom with the Ultimate Superfans by Giovanna and Yasha. Posted Feb 15th 2017.
- English Translation of Utena game (Itsuka Kakumei Sareru Monogatari)