Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku

Bryon and I recently sorted through our DVD collections. We culled some stuff and reorganized some stuff. Of course, the primary realization was that we have a lot of DVDs, and we’ll probably need some more shelves if we keep up this sort of nonsense.

Our anime collection is most likely finite now since we do not go seeking new shows, but it is still the largest collection of viewable material we have, even after the culling. There are things in the collection that are clearly not mine ( Devilman Lady, anyone?), and there are things that are not his (original in Japanese Ribon no Kishi), but most of the stuff we both enjoy on a sliding scale toward me or Bryon.

We thought maybe we should rewatch some of this mighty treasure trove. So, we viewed X, which is just as melodramatic as ever. (The music! The feathers! The cherry blossoms!). And we are currently watching Azumanga Daioh, comedic school strip that delights in the truths of adolescence. In between the two of these, we retackled Revolutionary Girl Utena. We hadn’t viewed the Right Stuf re-mastered anniversary edition yet, so…there you go.

At first glance, you might not think Utena complex or worth your time. Certainly, you could watch the first 13 episodes with your children. At the beginning, it’s a simple show about a girl who aspires to be a prince and duels to save a damsel in distress. The art style is not terribly complicated, the show coming fast on the heels of the spare 90s style like Sailor Moon and so on. Nah, it doesn’t look like much.

The next thirteen episodes get decidedly dark, as Utena’s new opponent turns out to be a guy who exploits your deep inner secrets and turns her friends and acquaintances into puppet duelists. Utena fights friends and foes alike as she finds out that a lot of these people have issues. Serious, serious issues. This section also introduces the super creepy Machiavel of the show, and builds indirectly what we are in store for.

And then…well… after the Black Rose saga, I can’t even begin to talk about the darkness of the show. Betrayal, disillusionment, incest, shattered dreams, disgust, it’s got it all. Something for everyone. Our heroine is tempted to be that which she is not by one of the nastiest, vilest anime villains I’ve ever watched.

And…she triumphs…even if she doesn’t survive (not a spoiler here. You’re going to have to decide whether she does or doesn’t.)

This plot has more twists and turns than a Wisconsin state highway. It’s hard to watch. There are painful decisions and painful sacrifices. Loads of symbolism and abstraction. Yes, lit majors do like the show. Why do you ask?

Utena holds up remarkably well in the years that followed its inception. It’s not as melodramatic as X (could anything except Code Geass be as melodramatic as X?), but it is complicated on sooooo many levels. So many of the characters, including our heroine and our villain have soooo many layers. I can’t recommend Utena enough.

Walter Jon Williams, who likes Utena as much as I do, has impeccable taste.


You may wonder what anime we’re watching next? It’s my turn to pick, so I imagine we’ll start in on that new batch of Rose of Versailles that just arrived, also remastered from Right Stuf. This one, I haven’t seen, but have always wanted to. We won’t get to watch the whole series, but we will get a good start.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

One thought on “Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku”

  1. I too am just starting to watch Rose of Versailles! Need to watch the first set (20 eps) by the end of May. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

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