This review is of Revolutionary Girl Utena or Shoujo Kakumei Utena and the movie Adolescence of Utena (which is essentially a loose retelling/reinterpretation of the show). I am not reviewing the Utena manga by Chiho Saito, as I have never read them (well, I tried, but couldn’t make it). By all accounts, the quality is lower and the themes and queerness are erased or watered down. Saito’s homophobic comments don’t impress me either.
These are difficult works to review because revealing the true greatness of the series would require basically spoiling the whole plot. Even discussing specific characters or facets, I can’t do them justice without spoiling everything, but I’ll do my best.
The reason Utena has this challenge is because it’s a series that messes with your preconceptions and subverts your expectations. Nothing is as it seems and every character has layers and issues and complexes that will be peeled back as it goes on. Expect heavy symbolism and heavy concepts.
But what I can say about this series is that it is eminently qualified for being part of this review because the entire premise is deconstructing gender roles, examining and criticizing misogyny and turning ism-filled tropes so common in fiction on their head. Also tons of queer characters and themes and commentary on racism as well. This is not just a deconstruction of shoujo- it’s a deconstruction of myth and fairy tale and human psychology in general, and it’s not just a surface look either. It will make you uncomfortable. And it will revel in doing so. I should also note it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve ever seen that sexualizes men just as much as women are generally sexualized. All in the name of deconstruction, of course.
I genuinely keep forgetting to add this! Also made some minor edits, etc.