Revolutionary Girl Utena (both the manga and anime) focuses on Utena, a strong, dynamic heroine who’s vowed to become a prince; charging into battle and rescuing those in need. The Utena story centers around her adventures at her new and very mysterious school where students are fighting secret duels over a “prize,” a girl named Anthy. The Utena story takes many of the familiar manga tropes-è powerful girls, secret power struggles, and complicated romance– to a rather dark and mysterious place. It can also be very confusing, because the reader (or viewer) never quite gets a complete picture of what is going on or why.
This particular manga is a one-shot based on the Utena movie (cleverly named Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie). The movie, aimed at a slightly older audience, is separate from both the original anime and manga. The movie is also rather strange. Stranger, in fact, than the anime and that’s saying a lot. A lot. (WIKIPEDIA has a rather comprehensive Utena entry which may be helpful to those looking for more background.)
In my experience people seem to either enjoy Utena’s strangeness or be driven batty by it. Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena is a great manga if you’re looking for the text that finally encapsulates the movie, anime, and everything into one package. It gives a much clearer depiction of what happened, why it happened, and where the characters are going afterwards.
As someone who’s dabbled in the Utena universe for a long time, these explanations were things I’ve been hoping to receive from the Utena universe for ages. However, I’m not sure this manga will be that satisfying for folks new to the Utena world. The manga goes through many of the canon’s major plot points very rapidly and doesn’t put a lot of time or detail into explanations. Also, key character details, revealed over time in the original texts, are thrown in quickly and then left behind. This doesn’t seem like a very effective way to bring someone new into the Utena insanity. This version of Utena’s story also contains some heavy subject matters and dark sexual themes, though nothing too graphic.
Ultimately, this manga seems to be something intended for existing fans and not a new audience. Perhaps it would give new readers a nice, broad overview that would make the anime and movie less confusing — or perhaps it wouldn’t. However, if you are an existing fan and, like me, you’ve dealt with the confusion for ages, I encourage you to check this manga out.
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena
by Chiho Saito