DVD Review: Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. 2, The Black Rose Saga
As the first season of Revolutionary Girl Utena ended, Utena had finally finished successfully dueling the members of the student council. She may well have been able to enjoy some peace, if it wasn’t for the sudden appearance of a new set of duelists, each wearing a black rose, pushed forward and aided by Mikage, the leader of a strange seminar. Utena must once more fight duels to protect Anthy, the rose bride. But these new duelists are different. They are not strangers, but people Utena knows. Driven by bitterness and hatred, they fight not to take Anthy away from Utena, but to kill her. The black signet rings they wear were each worn by one of one hundred boys who were rumored to have died in a fire. Why is Mikage doing this, and how is he connected to Akio Ohtori, Anthy’s older brother?
In this season, Utena, Anthy, and the student council members tend to take a back seat. The center stage is instead handed to the minor characters, giving us a chance to see them in a completely different light. Hidden motivations and feelings that we never guessed are revealed, adding a brilliant new dimension to the story. I really enjoyed discovering more about them and their relationships with the main characters. The episodes featuring Wakaba were especially good, and really gave more depth to both Wakaba and Utena.
We’re also introduced to Anthy’s older brother, Akio. While we’re never given full insight into his character, we are given glimpses of just how important he’s going to be for the rest of the series, as well as to his relationship with Anthy.
This also ties in with another huge part of this season: foreshadowing. Much of it is very subtle, only hinting that what little things it was showing us would later become very important. In a way, it became the underlying tone of the entire season. Episodes tended to end on a slightly unresolved note, leaved an inconclusive feeling. The end of the season, in fact, seemed to me to be slightly inconclusive in and of itself. While I did find this a little irritating at times, it worked very well when it came to leading up to the next season.
I do have some complaints, though. The duels were more predictable than the last season, making the episodes far more repetitive, almost to the point of giving the season a “monster of the week” feel. As well as the foreshadowing worked, very little of the plot was actually revealed, which was frustrating, and what plot the season did have was rather confusing. These faults are not unforgivable, but they were still there nonetheless.
I watched this in the remastered Japanese audio with English subtitles. The sounds were very clean and clear, and the voice acting was great. The animation had also been cleaned up, making the colors and lines seemed much sharper. The extras on the DVDs included some fun stuff like interviews with Kunihiko Ikuhara, an old Utena promo, and trailers: not too much, but I enjoyed them anyway. The box-set also came with a booklet filled with interesting extras, such as episode commentary by the director, interviews with some of the staff, and art galleries.
This was a great season, despite its faults, and the remastering made it all the more enjoyable.
Review copy provided by Nozomi Entertainment