TITLE: Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box Set
YEAR: April 2017 (original release was 1996-1997)
COMPANY: Viz Media
Story & Art by Chiho Saito
Story Concept by Be-Papas
Back in 1996, mangaka Chiho Saito created the manga series “Shojo Kakumei Utena” (Revolutionary Girl Utena). A story based on a concept by Be-Papas.
Serialized in “Ciao”, an anime adaptation would be created in 1997 featuring 39 episodes, while only five volumes of “Revolutionary Girl Utena” were published.
So popular was the anime series that it won “Best TV Animation Award” at Animation Kobe in 1997 and the popularity spread worldwide, leading to many to discover the manga series but also leading to stage productions as many people applauded the series for its borrowed visuals from Takarazuka theater and it being a unique douseiai-style (same sex/gender love) shojo manga.
For those not familiar with this term, in Japanese, Class S refers to strong emotional bonds between schoolgirls and in Japanese culture, depicted as female crushes during adolescence and not true homosexual behavior. Douseiai-style refers to people of the same sex.
And now the manga series including its side stories are now included in Viz Manga’s “Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box Set” featured in two hardback, large omnibus style books.
The story begins with an introduction to Utena Tenjou and how she lost her parents at a young age and was raised by her aunt. Always trying to be strong for her aunt and keep a happy face, one day she nearly fell in a river but was rescued by a mysterious man.
And now as Utena is a teenager, beautiful, athletic and also bold in the fact that she prefers to wear a male outfit instead of the standard female school clothing, one day she receives a letter that says “This year, finally, we will meet” and it has a scent of roses which reminds her of her mystery man that saved her, whom she refers to as a prince. She is also given a ring with the emblem of the rose on it.
When circumstances lead to Utena nearly falling in the same river trying to rescue a girl, once again, the mysterious man appears. And when her good friend investigates the letters she receives each year, he finds out that the letters are a puzzle featuring a photo of Ohtori Private Academy. And Utena makes a decision to attend the school.
As a popular athlete and beautiful student, she attracts guys and girls. But one day, while walking through the Private Rose Garden of the Student Council, she sees a student named Saionji slapping a girl named Anthy but was stopped by the Student Council President, Touga Kiryuu.
When Saionji embarrasses Utena’s friend, Wakaba, by posting her love letter for the entire school to read, Utena is upset and he challenges Saonji to a duel.
But what Utena thought was a regular duel is actually quite complicated as the members of the Student Council are duelists and they follow the “Rules of the Rose Seal” and that is the will of “World’s End”. Whoever is on top of the duelists, wins Anthy who is the Rose Bride and is the possessor of the Sword of Dios.
And during her duel with Saionji, when Utena wins the duel and the sword, an image of a man shows up and it is Dios and activates in Utena’s hands.
And now because Utena won the duel, others on the Student Council will be targeting Utena to duel and to win the Rose Bride but also become possessor of the Sword of Dios.
But what is the World’s End? What is the Sword of Dios? And why is Anthy being forced to become the top duelist’s bride?
All will be answered in “Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box Set”.
Back in the ’90s, I was a person who discovered “Revolutionary Girl Utena” through the anime series and I have to say that the series managed to captivate not just myself but many people who watched it as Utena Tenjou fights for Anthy’s freedom. Not knowing why people are dueling and what the World’s End truly is or what the Sword of Dios is. She’s doing it to be a friend and help Anthy discover her own true freedom.
There are significant differences between anime and manga. Where the manga wasn’t too long and had extra side-stories, the anime had the opportunity to extend the story (as it lasted 39-episodes) by including four primary arcs, the first that dealt with the Student Council, while the stories involving a Black Rose Saga featuring Souji Mikage, a counselor who uses his powers of persuasion to send students to fight Utena (which is based on one of the side stories).
Also, the anime series featured Utena having to fight the Student Council who have gained new abilities until settling into a story that is in the manga series and that is the introduction to Anthy’s brother Akio.
So, for those watching the anime series and then went to the manga series, may feel disheartened that the additional stories and characters featured in the anime were not in the manga series.
As mentioned, there are side stories. Such as ChuChu the monkey adding hot and spicy ingredients to Anthy’s cooking to make it test better for Utena. Another story features Utena and Anthy switching bodies.
Another story features Juri’s mentor, the best swordsman in school named Ruka Tsuchiya, returning back to school. This is an emotional story spotlighting on Juri.
A really interesting story features Souji Mikage wanting to kill Anthy and so he can install a sick boy, named Mamiya Chida as the Rose Bride in order to save him from his sickness.
And all this and more side stories are included in “Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box Set”. Meanwhile, the story is captivating and the artwork by Chiho Saito is magnificent. Also, the set comes with a slip case for both books and also comes with a poster.
Overall, if you are a “Revolutionary Girl Utena” fan, may it be for the manga or for those who only watched the anime and have never read the original manga series, will no doubt find “Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box Set” truly worth owning.