Revolutionary Girl Utena
The Black Rose Saga
In the liner notes for this, the second of three boxes collecting the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series, director Kunihiko Ikuhata said that these episodes are about the losers, the have-nots, the unchosen.
The duelist in the Black Rose Saga never had the one they loved. They weren’t chosen, and their love has turned to bitterness; suggesting that ’tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
The genius student Mikage runs a series of ‘seminars,’ in which troubled students are isolated and asked to dig deeper into their pain, which often comes from unfulfilled love. Once their hearts have been turned, Mikage offers them a chance to change things.
To ‘revolutionize the world’ is the stated goal of the student council duelists, but it always seemed a vague and impersonal goal. There were always ulterior motives for the original duelists to fight. For the Black Rose duelists, ‘revolutionizing the world’ is the goal in an of itself. It promises a change in the status que, a chance for them to be amongst the chosen.
When a student is inner pain is brought out by Mikage, he gives them a black rose and a duelist ring that once belonged to a fallen duelist long ago. It’s interesting that the unchosen can only fight by co-opting the ‘chosen’ status of someone else. Indeed, the Black Rose duelists get their swords from the bodies of their unrequited loves (much as Utena draws her sword from Anthy), a process which hurts them. The act of fighting to win the person they love causes that person to suffer.
The episode ‘Thorns of Death,’ offers a good example:
In the first box set, we learn that Juri, one of the student council duelists, once had friend named Shiori. Shiori ‘stole’ the boy that was in love with Juri and ran off. As it turns out, Juri was not in love with the boy, but with Shiori herself.
Shiori returns in this second set, no longer with the boy, but still carrying a superiority complex over having stolen him; that is, until she finds out the truth about Juri.
Shiori enters the Mikage seminars. As she’s questioned by Mikage, we find that she loves Juri (if not romantically, then at least as a focus of admiration) but that her love had turned to jealousy. Shiori wanted to take something from Juri; to be, for once, one of the chosen. Finding out that she had not taken anything Juri wanted, and that she had failed to make Juri jealous (in fact, Juri still loved her) drives Shiori over the edge.
When Mikage gives her the opportunity to ‘revolutionize the world,’ she takes it.
The second collection of Revolutionary Girl Utena is just as good as the first. The character development and drama are just as sharp; if anything, the new focus on smaller, more mundane characters makes it more poignant.
The style is getting a little weirder, and the repetitive plot structure and reused animations are a drawback; but in the end, the story and characters more than makes up for it.