Ashley and Rose discuss how divergent the manga and anime of “Revolutionary Girl Utena” are, debate whether the manga is still a deconstruction of the shoujo genre, figure out which Disney prince Utena is, and ponder whether “Kill la Kill” is an homage to “Utena.” Somehow, even though Ashley’s middle name is Rose and she was talking to someone named Rose, jokes about being the Rose Bride don’t happen. Oops?
Ashley and Rose discuss how divergent the manga and anime of Revolutionary Girl Utena are, debate whether the manga is still a deconstruction of the shoujo genre, figure out which Disney prince Utena is, and ponder whether Kill la Kill is an homage to Utena. Somehow, even though Ashley’s middle name is Rose and she was talking to someone named Rose, jokes about being the Rose Bride don’t happen. Oops?
Click here for a transcript of this episode
ASHLEY: Welcome to Shojo & Tell, where we discuss shojo manga, tell who’s hot and who’s not, talk about themes, and just generally geek out. Today, September 16th, 2017, we will be discussing the series Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’m your host Ashley McDonnell and I am joined by Rose Bridges.
ASHLEY: Yo. You’re the guest, so do you want to explain a little about yourself?
ROSE: Yeah. My name is Rose. I’m a grad student. I mainly study music, particularly anime soundtracks. I write for Anime News Network from time to time so you can find me there. I also just finished a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop that will be out in November  called 33 ⅓ Yoko Kanno’s Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack. So look for that if you are at all interested.
ASHLEY: Nice. I feel like you live the dream; you write about music and anime.
ROSE: Yeah. I guess so. It doesn’t always feel like a dream.
ASHLEY: I feel like that is the problem with dreams. You get them and you’re like “hmm, this wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. Okay.”
ROSE: Yeah. It’s still pretty cool. I’m not complaining. It’s not as perfect as I thought it would be. I don’t know if I ever specifically dreamed about studying anime soundtracks. But you know, being paid and getting a degree in writing stuff I really like, I don’t know if it’s not as quite rainbows all the time as maybe I thought once upon a time but I’m still a lot of fun. I’m not complaining.
ASHLEY: Cool. So I am assuming that Utena is one of your favorite shojo series but do you have others to give us some context of your shojo cred?
ROSE: Oh yeah, Utena is probably my favorite shojo — it’s my favorite anime series period. So, there is that. I think my favorite shojo manga, and it’s weird to say this cause I’m still making my way through it, is Fruits Basket.
ROSE: Yeah, and my favorite shojo anime not Utena would be, I don’t know if Princess Tutu counts, Ouran [High School Host Club] definitely does.
ROSE: So yeah, those are some of my favorites.
ASHLEY: Nice. Alright, so I started off all of these with where you can actually read this because I like to promote legal ways to read things.
ROSE: Yup, me too.
ASHLEY: So, Utena was rereleased recently as a hardcover box set by Viz for the 20th anniversary of the series. It’s a little bit more expensive but you can get it for $35 bucks from most places that are selling it. It is very pretty. It’s very sturdy. It’s actually really hard to get it out of the box is what I found.
ROSE: Yeah, it’s what I found too. You have to kind of like tip it.
ASHLEY: You have to aggressively shake it out of the box. Which is really fun. It’s a lot of fun. $35 gets you — the original’s five volumes, then there’s Adolescence of Utena which is a volume plus some side stories. So it’s six or seven volumes of content for $35; pretty good.
ROSE: I got it from Right Stuf in a shipment entirely of gay manga cause it was that one, It was My Brother’s Husband and it was My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. All very good. All would recommend.
ASHLEY: I’ve read My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. I also thought it was really good. The other one is on my big stack of manga pile.
ROSE: Oh, it is so good. So good.
ASHLEY: Yay! Good manga.
ROSE: It’s not as sad as people I think are saying. It kind of hits — it’s accurate without being constant sadness, angst.
ASHLEY: So like the opposite of Fruits Basket?
ROSE: No, I think it’s like Fruits Basket with mix of tones in there. But I think people are like ‘oh it's, you know, really tragic’ especially when they talk about it in comparison with something like Yuri!!! On Ice. Well sure, but I’ve read much sadder gay stories out there.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Yuri!!! On Ice is not sad at all [Sarcastic]. Okay. Cool. I should throw in the disclaimer that my romantic partner does work at Viz so I do financially profit off this company as well. But I have no stake in that game. I don’t work there. I don’t care.
ROSE: I have no connections and I still think you should buy it legally. It’s super nice. It’s a really nice addition, it’s very much worth it.
ASHLEY: Yup. I guess the wrench in this is that there are two new chapters that have come out of the manga.
ROSE: Oh yeah, I heard about that.
ASHLEY: I heard about that. It’s coming out — I think, one’s not out yet. It’s coming out in Flowers magazine. I assume that perhaps we will never have a legal way to read those but they do exist. I don’t know. I did not read them.
ROSE: More impetus for me to learn to read Japanese.
ASHLEY: Right. Go order Flowers magazine so that you can have it, then translate it for yourself. That’s how I recommend this. So what is Utena about? Do you want to try to explain this?
ROSE: It’s a good question. Utena is a new girl at this very fancy school and she is roped into doing these duels where you fence for your — I was going to say fence for your life, I’m not sure where that —
ASHLEY: [Laughter] They don’t kill each other normally.
ROSE: I was thinking of Lipsync for Your Life, I guess; RuPaul. So they have these fencing things for possession of the Rose Bride, who is Anthy, which ostensibly ties into the power of someone called The End of the World who you eventually figure out who that is but not going to say anything yet cause that’s a spoiler.
ROSE: In the manga there’s a lot more school shenanigans type stuff. There is some of it in the anime too. I would say it’s very surreal and really hard to summarize. If you don’t like surrealism then the manga is the version I would say for you. If you like it being maximum trippy then the anime is the version for you.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I really struggle because — we both are going to assume people are more familiar with the anime but I feel like the manga is some sort of mistest of how much you will like Utena. It’s kinda like Utena light version and if you can’t handle that then you definitely not going handle the anime.
ROSE: Yeah. Well, sort of it. It depends on what you like about the anime. I mean like, I think the manga, without going too much into differences, the manga is not as queer as the anime is, generally. So if that is what you are going into Utena for and your told ‘this series is super gay’, like you go into the manga you might be kinda dissapointed.
ASHLEY: That’s true. It’s only like slightly gay.
ROSE: Yeah. I’ll talk more about expectations when we get to spoilers cause I think that was — what people say about the manga versus the anime helped me enjoy the manga more weirdly enough. The way that people can be really negative about it made me enjoy it more.
ASHLEY: Hmm, that’s interesting, yeah. I guess I found that in other things where like negative reviews like really hype up this one aspect and you’re like ‘it wasn’t as bad as you made it seem.’
ROSE: Yeah. The reverse can happen too. People overhype something can make it disappointing if it’s not quite there.
ASHLEY: Yeah. That’s true.
ROSE: Be careful how you hype things, people.
ASHLEY: Yeah, just be a little more — take it down a notch, just one notch. [Laughter] We’ll be good. Yeah, so, just wanted to confirm you have seen the anime?
ROSE: I’ve seen the anime. I’ve seen the movie. I have read the entire manga including the movie manga but I read the movie manga awhile ago cause I got it on it’s own before I got this set. I’ve been rewatching the anime sporadically over the past few months.
ASHLEY: Nice. So I assume you watched the anime like — I think it was more formative for you than it was for me because I’ve only actually more recently watched it, like within the past like three to four years is the first time that I Utena-ed.
ROSE: Well I first watched it four years ago actually.
ASHLEY: Okay, cool. So we have that comparable experience then.
ROSE: It was when I was getting back into anime though. So it was one of the big series that I’ve sort of had on my list to sort of get through, some sort of important formative anime series. I’ve seen a lot of the formative anime series more recently than most people have. Like for someone who just wrote a book on Cowboy Bebop I always feel weird saying I’ve only first watched this show like five years ago [Laughter].
ASHLEY: No, I feel like I had that experience too. It’s been really slow. I’m like ‘oh yeah, everyone likes Cowboy Bebop so I guess I should watch that’ like eh okay I’ve watched it and years after everyone thought it was cool. [Laughter] So Utena was that way for me too. To my great shame I only watched it dub for the most part.
ROSE: Oh no.
ASHLEY: Cause the dub is the only thing that is available on Hulu and I did not realize that Nozomi Entertainment has it both dubbed and subbed legally on Youtube. I only found that out after we watched all thirty-nine episodes and I was like ‘oh, no.’ [Laughter] ‘gosh, no.’
ROSE: Did you still enjoy it?
ASHLEY: I still liked it, yeah. I thought Utena’s voice — some of the voices, like no, that’s pretty good. Then other people like Nanami I’m like ‘oh, god, please don’t talk.’ [Laughter].
ROSE: She seems like she could be a character — I’ve never seen the dub other then a few clips but she seems like a character that could very easily be made annoying.
ASHLEY: Yes, that’s definitely what happened. But I mean, Utena’s voiced by the person who did Misty in Pokémon [Rachael Lillis] and you can definitely kind of hear that but like it fits. I’m pretty okay with that.
ASHLEY: And who ever did Touga, yeah, that’s pretty accurate Touga.
ROSE: That’s Crispin Freeman, I think.
ASHLEY: Okay, there we go. Yeah, like, that’s an accurate Touga. So like some good, some bad. It’s fine. They didn’t, you know, get rid of the music so it’s fine.
ROSE: Yeah. Better then lots of 90’s anime dubs in that regard.
ASHLEY: Right. That’s what I am saying.
ROSE: I was so upset when I first watched Japanese Sailor Moon and I was like there is so much great classical music in here that they cut out of the dub soundtrack. Why would you do that? I mean I know the answer is probably [copy] rights but still.
ASHLEY: [Laughter]. But that answer is no fun so — [Laughter].
ASHLEY: Yeah. So then I assume that also you — reading the manga for the first time was this release from Viz.
ROSE: Yeah. This is my first time reading it, other then the movie manga which I had read a while ago.
ASHLEY: Right. It was actually kind of funny for me because after I watched the anime I was like ‘oh, I wish I could read the manga but of course it is super out of print.’
ASHLEY: And I was like ‘I should petition Viz to re-release it’ and they kind of did that on their own two months later. I was like ‘sweet, it’s great.’ [Laughter]. Yeah, then I guess, I basically wanted to ask what is your favorite thing about the series for anyone who has not Utena-ed and still listening.
ROSE: Series in general or the manga specifically?
ASHLEY: I guess we should keep it manga specific and then if you have a more general thing.
ROSE: Yeah, my favorite thing with the manga I think is probably Chiho Saito’s art style. Like that was the thing that got me to read it in spite of like some of the negative comments I had heard about it in relation to the anime. So it was like, I really like this art style. I can deal with the slightly different story if I get look at how pretty this stuff is. [Laughter].
ASHLEY: Yeah. It is really pretty.
ROSE: Yeah. Also she has some really great — I love like when she does those asides like the end of the chapter where she draws like Ikuhara and Akio in her art style as chibis.
ASHLEY: Oh yeah. [Laughter] ‘What should we do about the anime?’ and she gives an answer and they’re like ‘we’re not going to do that’ [Laughter].
ROSE: She was kind of was left out of the loop in the anime in a kinda crappy way in a lot of — I don’t know the details. That’s what I’ve heard. They often left her out of the loop in kind of crappy ways.
ASHLEY: What I’d also read was that the manga — that they were in production at the same time but the manga started before the anime and then obviously they severely diverged.
ASHLEY: That’s interesting.
ROSE: I mean not totally. I think you can tell they were being made at the same time. It’s not like a Fullmetal Alchemist situation where they go completely different directions after a certain point. You can tell with this manga they were being made around the same time and were trying to meet the same story beats. Maybe like a Game of Thrones situation would be more comparable. Those books are probably doing different things but they plan on meeting the same story beats as the show. That’s sort of what I felt like reading this manga. Like the outline was maybe the same but the details were vastly different.
ASHLEY: Yeah. And entire arcs in the anime are just like relegated to side stories and you’re like ‘oh, okay, cool.’
ROSE: Yeah, like the Black Rose arc are just a side story that is just completely different from how it plays out as an entire third of the anime. And my favorite third of the anime. So that was kinda weird to see it left out but, I mean, I don’t know that it would have worked in this version of the story.
ASHLEY: Well, we can get into that later.
ASHLEY: I feel like my favorite part of the series is Utena herself. I relate to Utena.
ROSE: Yeah, she’s awesome. I find a lot relatable to her of who I was as a teenager too.
ASHLEY: Yeah, cause I grew up and was always like, people were like ‘Ashley, like, you’re not feminie enough, why do you want to play hockey on this boys teams?’ I’m like ‘why? why do we have to be like this? We don’t have to be like this. Because I want to, okay, leave me be.’
ROSE: The way she doesn’t really care about that stuff kinda till people make her care is very relatable to me.
ASHLEY: Yeah, alright. So I’m going to put the official spoiler warning here now we’re going to go hard core spoliers, so if you have not watched Utena or you haven’t read the manga. As we’ve said the anime and manga have a lot of similarities but they do diverge so if you have only seen the anime, things might get spoiled. Might want to read the manga first. So with that.
ROSE: So there are a lot of differences between, I think, particularly on how they deal with a lot of the themes I think Utena is really well known for like gender, sexuality, feminist commentary type of stuff. What do you think about that?
ASHLEY: I mean, it’s like, all of those things are there in the manga at a basic level, especially gender and sexuality but there are certainly things in the anime that go much further than that. Not just with queerness but also with the levels of abuse and sexual violence that happens there is definatly left out of the manga. I think that can be seen as sort of a detriment to its overall commentary, it’s not, but I don’t think it necessary has to be. It’s still doing a pretty good job.
ROSE: Yeah. My thought was kind of like the manga, I feel like, is Utena is a more traditional shojo narrative but even then I’ve been told so much that that is what is was, ‘it’s so straight’ and ‘it’s so typical shojo’ that I feel like I was surprised in the ways in which it wasn’t. Like, I still think it — there’s a lot more heteronormativity and stuff like that in the manga. But I still feel like in general it touches on those feminist themes, less the queer themes but definatly the same feminist themes.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I find it very hard to read this manga and be like ‘this is just straight up shojo.’ I definitely think it’s still a deconstruction of many of the typical tropes of shojo. Again, perhaps to a lesser degree then the anime but definitely not a straight up — like writing this plotline or the outline for this podcast I was like ‘this is so hard cause I made this [Shojo and Tell podcast] for more typical shojo then Utena. So hard to describe this.’ [Laughter]. That’s my test for that, I’m like ‘nope, this is hard.’
ROSE: Yes, definitely not, this is not Marmalade Boy. This is not traditional shojo romance at all. There is still a lot to Utena about it, if you started with the anime and you’re expecting a lot to be just like the anime — it’s sort of like, I would say go in with an open mind particularly know that the queer themes are significatly reduced although not non-exsistant in my opinon. And like you’ll enjoy it more if you came in with those expectations which is what I got and I think that’s why I enjoyed it. I’ve been told it’s much more conventional and much less queer and feminist then it actually was and so I was able to enjoy what I could get out of that rather then be upset. I think expectations play a lot in that. If you’re going in expecting to be disappointed by something and you aren’t, you’ll be really happy. But if you don’t like, if you go in expecting something to be amazing you’ll be disappointed even if the second thing is overall better than the first thing.
ASHLEY: Yeah, my expectations had not been so clearly negative. Like I had heard that many things were different; like that the Black Rose arc was just like not in the manga and I was like ‘okay, interesting.’
ASHLEY: And those types of things, but it wasn’t overall like ‘it’s negative’ it’s just like ‘here are a lot of differences that I have added up.’ I was like ‘how does that play out in the manga then, like I don’t understand.’ But now I do and it’s pretty good. It’s how I feel. And I would say reading the manga, it’s certainly — I mean I normally feel this way with shojo because I’m a girl and I guess that makes sense but, like, there were a lot of things that I was like ‘yes, I relate to this in a lot of ways’ like even the subtle ways in which Wakaba is like ‘no, Utena, I love you and like blah, blah, blah.’ And like girls kiss each other. I don’t know, I was in High School, my friends and I made a game of kissing each other. Oh if you kiss their hand you get five points, if you manage to kiss their face you get like 10 points and stuff.
ROSE: Oh, wow.
ROSE: I wish my friends had played that game. Having gone to High School as a closeted bisexual girl I think I would have figured out a lot sooner.
ASHLEY: Yeah, so I had just thought it was like a pretty fun, like, open exploration of girls’ sexuality that was in a way, like, kind of accurately in it’s over the top deconstruction, like, actually accurately portrays how my life went. [Laughter].
ROSE: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised to still see — I mean it’s mostly subtext in the manga, not text like it is in the anime, and especially in the movie. But, like, there is still a lot of gay between Utena and Anthy, and Utena and Wakaba. So, I was like ‘hey, this is not as straight as I was told it was going to be.’
ASHLEY: I know. I’m like, Chiho Saito has said, like, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t really think about all these things’ and I’m like ‘really you didn’t think about these things? Like, you still had Anthy and Utena kiss and stuff. Like, I don’t know. It’s real hard to believe.’
ROSE: I also felt like it wasn’t rail running her toward a romance with Touga as much as I was told it would. She definitely has their feelings there and that’s a focus but it doesn’t really — it didn’t really end in the place that I expected to end with regard to that. It’s still kind of conflicted about that whole thing as a whole.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Guess I’m trying to think; the movie manga part of it goes a little harder into that maybe but still doesn’t end that way. It’s still like ‘whatever, that was the past, now we must escape.’
ROSE: I remember showing the movie, the opening picture of the movie manga to a friend who had only seen the anime and she was like ‘oh, Touga’s dick, hello old friend.’ [Laughter].
ASHLEY: It’s true. I was like ‘oh, okay, we’re going somewhere else now.’ [Laughter].
ROSE: Yeah. Cause there is way more — the manga is a lot, I think, more safe for work, not the movie manga, but the rest of the manga is. It’s not — there’s isn’t as much implied sex as in the anime. I don’t know — can’t remember — the anime get’s pretty close to having actual sex sceens but most of it is an implication.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I think it’s very, very heavily implied.
ROSE: It does it through symbolism like stop signs and that kind of stuff. Or somebody is shown emerging from bed in a state of undress.
ROSE: Yeah, but that is in the anime. You don’t get stuff like that in the manga, if I remember correctly.
ASHLEY: Yeah, in the anime version of the manga, it’s pretty — I don’t remember anybody being naked.
ROSE: Yeah, in that sense it’s more shojo. It’s more that there’s less sex. But I mean, it’s not most people’s primary drive to read or watch Utena so — [Laughter]. Espcailly considering that sex in the anime is not happy, cuddly sex.
ASHLEY: Oh, it’s definitely not happy. It was actually funny because 20 minutes before recording this Jeff kissed me on the forehead and then was like ‘I assume there is kissing in Utena.’ and I said ‘yeah,I mean, she’s, like, actually having sex with Touga right now’ and he was like ‘wait, what?!’ [Laughter]. And I was like ‘yeah, I mean she kisses the girl too, but I don’t know man, everything happens in Utena, just assume.’ [Laughter].
ROSE: Yeah, and I mean in the anime even the stuff the is some — that is maybe consensual, is not good for anyone. I was just thinking with that silly video on Youtube, the AVM [Anime Music Video], the silly AMV that is Akio/Touga and I’m like, watching this you would never know how [expletive] their relationship is in the anime. Alright, do you want to go through the specific differences?
ASHLEY: Yeah, let’s do that. So, one difference that strikes me right off the bat reading the manga that I think is pretty big is that there is a prologue that tries to explain Utena’s backstory more.
ROSE: I thought was kind of necessary but also — in the general sense, sets the tone for the difference in the manga and it doesn’t try to be as weird and unconventional as the anime were like in the anime the relationship of Ohtori Academy to the real world is never explained. It’s blatantly metaphor world, it doesn’t need to be explained. But they try to explain it in the manga that I think sets the tone for this series, it’s a little more conventional and less concerned with blowing your mind at every opportunity.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s definitely less concerned with that. I also pretty much thought it’s pretty unnecessary. It doesn’t really stick with you as you keep reading. It's also kinda weird. I can't ever not laugh when she calls the Prince Mr. Licky-Lick. I’m like, “is that what is really what is being said here. I can’t accept this. It’s ridiculous.’
ROSE: Both what it implies and also the name also just sounds so childish.
ASHLEY: I’m like ‘okay, Price Lickitung, what’s happening? What’s up? Why?’
ROSE: Now I’m just imagining a Lickitung with a little crown on its head.
ASHLEY: I mean that's basically — I think it's a perfect image for what’s going on here. It’s ridiculous. Yeah, I guess basically this prologue is set up so that Utena lives with her aunt cause her parent’s have died, which is always a thing that’s been established. She gets saved by a mysterious Licky-Lick Prince-man who is always like ‘I’m going to be a Prince.’ And then of course she like — there is a guy who smells like roses and she thinks ‘oh, is he my prince?’ but then he — or she seems him with her aunt who is likes her I guess and she’s like ‘what? Oh, no.’ but then she figures out the secret that he like went to Ohtori Academy and is like ‘I must go there! That must be where my prince is.’ and it’s like ‘okay, interesting backstory I suppose.’
ROSE: It’s weird to me mostly that the backstory mostly gets completely dropped. Like, that’s the thing that bothers me about it most, none of the characters from it show up or get mentioned ever again. Like she had a guy friend at her old school who talks to her and I think had a crush on her but — I can’t remember if it was only implied or if it was stated. He never really shows up again and she never talks about him again that was weird to me.
ASHLEY: Yeah. She definitely doesn’t talk about him. And her aunt, who in the prologue she’s like ‘oh I love my aunt so much she has been everything to me, she has taken care of me since my parents have died, she sticks up for my right to wear this boys uniform’ and all this stuff and she goes off and she’s like ‘nope, never mention that again. I”m like ‘okay, cool.’
ROSE: Yup. Yeah. It made it feel very tacked on. So that made it harder for it to work dramatically for me is that it felt tacked on. It felt like — the fact that she never thinks about these people again is weird.
ASHLEY: It’s especially weird to think of it as tacked on since its at the beginning! Wait what are you talking about!?
ROSE: Yeah. That was perceivably the part that came out before the rest of the anime did.
ASHLEY: Then two chapters into the manga you forget about this prologue because it’s super tacked on. Then you begin to notice two things that become abundantly clear pretty quickly that Juri is straight.
ROSE: Yeah, which was very hard for my brain to wrap itself around. So much of her character in the anime is about her being a lesibian and her feelings for Shiori. Not that there isn’t more to her, but I kinda felt it made her feel like a different person, especially because her personality is somewhat different in the manga too. Like, Nanami isn’t there and I feel like Juri kind of fills the role that Nanami has in the anime which if you seen the anime is like a really strange statement cause they are totally different characters.
ASHLEY: [Laughs] Yeah. Well, that’s what it kind of feels like — there are others, there’s at least one other instance where this character has just taken — like Miki’s sister seems to have taken on parts of Nanami. She’s also not there for that long but she definitely has the brother complex that Nanami is suppose to have and it’s just given to her in the manga.
ROSE: I mean, they have that in the anime — the twins have that in the anime. I feel that their relationship is a little more complicated than it was in the manga.
ASHLEY: That’s only her character trait that was shown. Whereas in the anime she gets a much greater arc than that.
ROSE: Yeah, the manga is much more straightforward, kind of like twin relationship like on Yuri!!! On Ice would be a good comparison for those who have seen that. It’s a more stereotypical example of that in anime. Whereas it’s a lot more complicated in the anime. And how you are supposed to feel about it is more complicated. I don’t know. That plot line is one that I don’t fully understand. It’s complicated. I was talking to a friend who is a twin, and she like ‘yeah, twin relationships are complicated’ I think that’s all Utena is trying to say about it. [Laughter]. She didn’t say all but it is what it’s trying to say about it. It would be hard to explain to someone who isn’t that.
ASHLEY: Okay, wow, interesting. I guess with Juri and Miki and even Saionji it’s kinda of like in the manga sense there is no like middle arc really and a lot of the things that happen in the later arc are very different. All of their development is kinda relegated to this early duelist arc where they all just duel Utena once. And that’s kind of like okay. But yeah, it kinda doesn’t give room to explore characters that much and so you are just left with the — whatever you had with the anime and this.
ROSE: You are sort of left with sort of — I don’t want to say first arc characterization in the anime because I think they are also — like Saionji isn’t awful. He isn’t, I don’t remember him being as cruel in the manga as he was in the anime. They’re all kind of simplified characters and the focus is more on the main characters of Utena, Anthy, Touga, and Akio. I don’t — the other student council members aren’t that complicated.
ASHLEY: Like Saionji is reduced to being like mean person who is like hits Anthy sometimes and is overly aggressive to Utena. So there is the scene —
ROSE: Oh yes, he is mean.
ASHLEY: That part still happens when he’s like ‘I’m going to force you to deul me Utena in an elevator without Anthy and like I have a sword and you have nothing LOL, isn't that cool.’ And then he stabs Touga.
ROSE: Okay, so he’s still a gross worm.
ASHLEY: Yeah, he’s just kinda has a turn face. Like he becomes nice by the end sort of deal
ROSE: Yeah, and I don’t remember him having as much subtest to Touga as in the anime. Like it’s really easy if you look at Saionji’s arc in the anime to sort of read him as gay and closeted and possibly having feelings for Touga that he doesn’t really know how to awknowledge so he turns it into agressive masculenity.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that makes sense.
ROSE: But there is none of that complexity in the manga. He was a jerk and suddenly he wasn’t a jerk. Cause he was a minor character he wasn’t really the focus.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I mean we needed him to be a jerk just because each student council member represents some patricachy sort of nonsense and we need them to be nice at the end because they all realized that they’ve been played and wrong and need to save the world or something. And he’s a good guy or whatever.
ROSE: [Laughter] Yeah.
ASHLEY: I guess, maybe. I love Chu Chu’s hate of Saionji. It gives me great joy.
ROSE: Yeah, it seems like Chu Chu goes out of his way to mess with Saiohji. There is that weird side story it’s sort of similar to one of the anime episodes, I think the curry one.
ROSE: But it’s not exactly the same but sort of similar.
ASHLEY: Well the curry side story is a different side story I think? The one where he finds the statue thing is a different side story and makes all of them tiny.
ROSE: I think in the anime — Well so like, Nanami in the anime kind of takes over the Chu Chu [recording error] thing. Yeah, so that’s what’s similar to what happens to Saionji with Chu Chu having it out for him. But Nanami’s the but of every joke in the anime. She’s basically non-existent here. Do you want to talk about that because you have read this most recently then I did.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I mean really the only part that I remember it being in is a picture with Touga. He and Utena being ‘is this your sister?’ and he being ‘yeah.’ and that’s kind of it. That I remember. She is definitely not a dualist, that’s not a thing.
ROSE: Yeah, and Juri kind of takes over the mean girl who’s in love with Touga role. And is — Kozue she’s like sister that is love with her brother types things.
ASHLEY: Yeah, so they take those, and obviously there’s less fillar so Nanami does not appear in every filler arc to be the butt of some weird magic thing that happens. Or whatever. Yeah, and I mean just generally I’m kind of okay with that. Nanami was never my favorite character.
ROSE: I really liked Nanami in the anime.
ASHLEY: I mean I feel like that could be colored by the fact that I watched it dubbed. It’s kind of why I'm hedging.
ROSE: Yeah, she’s like the [inaudible]. The character that everyone dislikes because of how the dub is, but yeah, I didn’t watch the dub and I love Nanami. She’s one of my favorite characters. Up there with Utena and Juri as my favorites in the anime.
ROSE: I also liked Anthy a lot. Anthy — but Anthy is, I mean, she’s a hard character to relate to emotionally, obviously. But she’s a very interesting character.
ASHLEY: I don’t know. I really like Anthy but yeah, it’s like, I never quite grasped what has — what is up with Anthy. I’m still like reeling two years after watching the anime from the ending. I’m like ‘wait, what? What happened? What is going on?’ I’m still confused. [Laughter].
ROSE: Yeah, it’s definitely Anthy’s stuff in particular benefits from rewatch.
ROSE: My favorite part of the anime was the Black Rose arc. It’s more or less not here, there’s a side story. It’s basically just the beginning and the end of it in the anime. All of the individual Black Rose duelist are not there.
ROSE: Many of them are not characters. Kozue is there but she doesn’t have any role in that the manga. I’m trying of anybody else. I guess, Nanami is not there so her mean girl squad isn’t there. Wakaba is a character I would say but she doesn’t play any role on the Black Rose thing in the manga either, if I remember correctly.
ASHLEY: Oh, yeah, no. The way that I remember the Black Rose thing goes in the manga is basically just like, they find about this place. Utena gets invited to the, whatever, dorm area and people are like ‘oh’ and Wakaba is like ‘no, that’s the place where a hundred people died, a hundred boys died like a gazillion years ago.’ And Utena is like ‘what are you talking about.’ Like Anthy goes there before and then you find out ‘yeah, it’s that guy from a hundred years ago and he feels bad cause his experiment went wrong.’ Like, obviously there are alternate versions of Utena and Anthy and then, yeah, they defeat the men and they disappear which is kind of I guess a summary of the movie. You get eternally trapped in a place. Yeah, then theres no dueling, there’s no plot that he’s trying to do to get out. Cause the plot of the manga — or of the anime one is he is trying to get out of that space, right, like bringing them back to life. So, he’s doing an experiment thing.
ROSE: He is sort of like a male Utena who didn’t quite go far enough. I think that’s what the Black Rose thing is intended to be in the anime. It’s like Nemuro has a lot of similarities to Utena; they’re both in the [inaudible]; they’re both pink haired. And also he is trying to break out of the system. He’s got a character who is of the same gender as him, or so he thinks, who is also a Rose Bride — Rose Groom, I guess, he wants him to be. He’s trying to break out of the system using this. He just doesn’t go quite far enough and he ceases to exist. Anime spoilers.
ASHLEY: Anime spoilers. And he’s like trying to, yeah, in the same way that Worlds End is trying to use all the student council people to duel, like he’s alternatively trying to do that but then like each of them is like everytime they fail there’s a thing, a coffin thing that goes to the netherworld.
ROSE: And Nemuro’s fate is kind of like foreshadowing Utena’s fate but different. Cause, yeah, I don’t want to ruin the ending the anime for people who have only experienced the manga.
ASHLEY: Oh gosh, I feel we should assume that everyone’s more seen the anime than just read the manga.
ROSE: Yeah, yeah. With how Utena disappears from everyone's mind except Anthy at the end, so it’s implied she did actually sort of change the system to some degree whereas Nemuro did not. He sort of just blanked out of that existence.
ASHLEY: I mean, that’s the same end of the manga. Everybody forgets who Utena was except Anthy who kind of becomes Utena. [Laughter].
ROSE: I heard the manga ends not that differently from the anime so it sort of like — it is thinking in terms of situation, like outline is similar but what they filled in is very different.
ASHLEY: Yeah, so should we go into what they filled in with as differences?
ASHLEY: Yeah, so the basic story that we get in the manga, Akio comes, he is set up to be Anthy’s brother and Anthy still has the whole ‘I’d do anything for him.’ The backstory is that Akio and Dios use to be one but then because Dios saved Anthy he like then became a Price and became more powerful than Akio. And Akio is like ‘nah’ so he kills Dios but Anthy saves Dios who lives in the castle that’s above the dueling filed. Then Utena comes and’, obviously has fallen in love with Akio cause she’s like ‘oh, you’re my prince.’ Touga tries to be like ‘no, he’s Worlds End, you don’t want the world to end, that’s bad, you should not do what he says.’ But she gets a little confused cause she’s Utena and she’s in seventh grade or whatever, you get confused then. [Laughter].
ROSE: I forget about that all the time in both versions, that Utena is only supposed to be like twelve or thirteen.
ASHLEY: Yup, I think the manga profile put her at fourteen but that’s still [unsure extended noise].
ROSE: Yeah, she’d be eighth grade, I guess.
ROSE: Yeah, eighth grade does make sense because I think Miki is a year younger and he’s in seventh, so yeah.
ASHLEY: Yeah. So that’s fun. So then she’s like ‘yeah, I’m totally in love with this guy.’ She strays and everybody is like ‘no, you’re wrong.’ So then they grow up and like Anthy is finally explaining her version of the story to Utena and Utena is like ‘ah, I see.’ They do do the freezing people in a coffin thing, like, Saionji’s, whatever, assumption, whatever, gets frozen in the coffin and you’re like ‘oh no, Anthy has magic powers for real.’ And then so, obviously they are trying to stop Akio from actually killing Dios, get there, and he’s like ‘you are a second too late ha ha ha ha ha ha.’ But of course they triumphant and he like — such a convoluted thing.
ROSE: Yeah, I think the main differences are like — the whole Akio versus Dios this is not as straightforward in the anime. I mean, this sort of idea that Akio was once Dios but Dios still exists in some form in Utena’s heart or something like that — I forget the specifics, but there’s never this literal battle.
ASHLEY: There’s never a literal ‘we use to be one now we’re two but we were always kind of two’ thing.
ROSE: Yeah, there is never anything that explicit.
ASHLEY: Yeah cause one of them is supposed to be dark; Akio’s dark and Dios is light or something? Yeah.
ROSE: Akio is basically the devil, in both versions cause he’s named for that, I think, one star that is a symbol of the devil.
ASHLEY: Yeah, right, but he turns Utena into the Rose Bride instead of Anthy. So then Utena is like ‘no, not Anthy! I got to save Anthy.’
ROSE: That happens in both of them I remember, where he tries to make Utena his new Rose Bride and discard Anthy, and she won’t have that.
ASHLEY: Right, I think this is definitely one main difference I remember is that of course Anthy comes back, Utena does save her. As we discussed everybody forgets Utena. But in the anime Anthy stabs Utena or something; there’s a fight there that is not in the manga.
ROSE: Yeah, which I think was more intend with the more complicated themes that the anime was doing with the patriarchy and all that. Like, you know, people who are often afraid, even victims of it are afraid to escape that system which I what I think is Anthy ends up stabbing Utena at the end that that is what that was supposed to symbolize.
ASHLEY: There was definitely something more complicated going on there that’s not in the manga. In all these series of events I would say that also the biggest difference is that the part where Utena falls in love with Akio is much shorter in the manga and there’s no, like, weird sexy stuff.
ROSE: And it’s way — the exact nature of her feelings for him are way more complicated in the anime. It’s implied it’s more — she probably doesn’t feel the way she thinks she feels for him.
ASHLEY: There’s also just less gross stuff between him and Anthy. It is somewhat implied in the manga but definitely not to the extent it is in the anime.
ROSE: Yeah, yeah. There’s way too much incest in that show.
ASHLEY: Yeah, so those are the big differences that I could think of in the end, it’s just less complicated. I did read in one of the interviews with Chiho Saito that she was like ‘yeah, we intend for the manga to be for a younger audience’ and then the movie version of the manga was actually published in a magazine that had a slightly older audience so that’s why maybe it’s more sexy or whatever.
ROSE: Touga’s dick.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s why Touga’s dick is there now. [Laughter]. And there’s explicit sex scenes. And you’re like ‘okay, cool.’ So in those ways that makes sense, and I think that’s like — to me that makes it kind of fair in it being Utena light thing. In like, okay it’s cool that you are introducing these themes to ten to fifteen year old’s instead of older teens like the anime would be.
ROSE: Yeah, it definitely feels like Utena light is an intro for a younger audience is not ready for something that weird yet.
ASHLEY: Not ready for that, has not hit their sexuality yet so may should not go that far. And so, yeah, overall these differences I think lead up to it being a much more simple deconstruction of a prince-princess story rather than it being like a total take down of the patriarchy and sexuality and everything else along with it, it’s just kinda like ‘alright, no.’
ROSE: Yeah, it more nods at that stuff than like, rips it apart.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s not like ‘I’m going to tear about your whole world view’ it’s like ‘I’ll just politely question it.’ And I’m like ‘that’s okay.’
ROSE: It sort of reminds me of — Princess Tutu gets compared to Utena a lot; even though I don’t think that Princess Tutu is dealing with the same set of issues Utena is but it sort of nods at a few of them. I don’t know if you’ve seen that show or not?
ASHLEY: I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of it. I think it is maybe more compared to Utena from an aesthetic perspective, I think, if that makes sense.
ROSE: Yeah, but I’ve seen people compare it’s — it has a lot of fairy tale motifs and it uses that to criticize a lot of the tropes, traditional tropes of fairy tales. Sort of different ones then Utena and it definitely doesn’t go as far though it nods at some similar ideas but it doesn’t dig deep into them. It’s more like you ‘oh, should forge your own path, choose the role you want to be’ rather than, you know, ‘there shouldn’t be these rules, there shouldn’t be this path’ which is more of what Utena is saying. And so I think — I mean not to downplay Princess Tutu, I love it and I think it has a lot to say about other things, it’s more — I would say the manga of Utena is kind of like that in that it’s introducing these ideas in sort of more feminism 101 take on it.
ASHLEY: And, I guess the Utena manga is kind of like feminism — is somewhere between feminism 101 and a higher level, I guess. And then, Utena anime is here is the senior level senior course.
ROSE: It’s much more Radical.
ROSE: Again, the actual definition of Radical Feminism, not what the internet has distorted it into which is like — the actual definition is like the difference between it and mainstream feminism is the radical is more like we have to fundamentally change society to make it equal for women whereas more conventional feminism is more ‘if we change these laws,’ know what I mean? I think Utena in how it differs — how the anime I think Utena difers from a lot of other quote-unqote “feminist” anime and manga is that it is that Radical.
ROSE: Does that make sense?
ASHLEY: Yeah. Cause like, personally for me it’s like growing up I was always like ‘I want to be equal to boys’ that is the equivalent of like ‘I should behave like a boy,’ it’s just idolizing; which is basically what Utena is doing, she always wants to a Prince and whatever. But in the end it’s kinda like ‘oh, yeah no, wait, no, that’s actually terrible’ and what you need to do is fundamentally just be like all of this is nonsense.
ROSE: Yeah, you don’t want to be a Prince or Princess is what it’s trying to say.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I totally talked — it makes it a cyclical process of like Anthy made Dios a Prince basically and then she became a Princess but like that didn’t really work out for either of them. And then Utena is like ‘I want to be a Prince’ and she becomes a Princess and is like ‘wait, this didn’t go as I wanted it to.’ And obviously multiple side stories and the movie being about literally getting out of a box of what you’ve been put in because it's stopped you from progressing in your actual story of being whatever you were suppose to be. Yeah. Utena. [Laughter]. It’s deep.
ROSE: Yeah. So did you want to talk about the movie manga and the movie? Cause it’s been longer since I saw each of those.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I’ll try to do this justice. So, I mean, the basic plotline — people have the debate of whether the movie is like a continuation or an alternate retelling. You could — it could be both. I think it’s mostly an alternate retailing where Utena goes to the school, Ohtori Academy, meets the Rose Bride, blah blah blah, they’re trapped. I guess the biggest new twist is that Touga was actually the Prince that saved Utena, and died when he did that. But Utena doesn’t know that until like halfway through. Whatever. And then that’s the same thing that has happened to Akio, like, so they’re both just — they can exist in Ohtori Academy by Anthy and Utena dreaming them or whatever.
ROSE: Yeah, they’re ghosts basically.
ASHLEY: Yeah, they’re ghosts that are there.
ROSE: Dream ghosts.
ASHLEY: Dream ghosts, sexy dream ghost. [Laughter]. And so of course Anthy is like ‘no, we should stay here.’ There’s the whole backstory of like Anthy got some scar cause Akio was pretty trash and attacked her and did weird sexy things to her. And Utena at the end is like ‘no, we should run away, obviously we should go to the outside world where things are actually real there, we can not be trapped by memories of dead people, that sounds cool, let’s run away for that.’ That’s basically the manga plotline. And I would say the movie plotline is pretty similar except in the fact that in the anime there were far more characters and Juri is queer. And so like there is definitely a heavier focus on Shiori. So Shiori gets a whole, like, pretty big plot in the anime version.
ROSE: She’s non-existent in the movie manga or the regular manga because I mean like she’s there in the anime because Juri is in love with her; there’s no point if Juri is straight.
ASHLEY: Yeah. And I guess at the end, again, the anime is playing with those same ideas but has much more heavy symbolism so the whole ending of the movie is them turning into cars.
ROSE: Yeah, also, once they turn back into humans making out naked.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that happens. You have to one hundred precent know that they are queer.
ROSE: Which people still somehow argue about with the anime series.
ASHLEY: I think it’s pretty clear.
ROSE: Yeah, me too. But people argue about Yuri!!! On Ice; they argue about — there’s always —
ASHLEY: That’s true. They argue about everything.
ROSE: There’s always somebody trying to deny it out there. The movie tries hard not to do that, but because of naked kissing — there is nothing like hiding the kiss. Because in the anime there is a moment where they kiss off screen and the ending theme, the second ending theme, where Utena dips her and I think originally that was supposed to — like there’s an official art of that where they’re kissing clearly but they don’t show that in the anime. They just show her dipping off screen.
ASHLEY: Yeah, the movie version is certainly — it pans up through their naked bodies and them holding each other very intimately and them kissing. I think it’s pretty clear. [Laughter].
ROSE: Yeah, it’s pretty sexy. Yeah.
ASHLEY: I guess the manga version is okay but it’s certainly not as fun as it is in the movie — the actual movie because you get great lines like Shiori being like ‘you thought you were the only one who could turn into a car but I can turn into a car too’ and I’m like “LOL, this is fantastic.’ [Laughter] It’s so good.
ASHLEY: And the whole car metaphor is super over the top. They go through a washing machine and get crushed and rust and it’s all great. It’s so fantastic.
ROSE: It’s over the top. I mean, no one turns into a car in the anime series but there is over the top stuff with Akio and his car. I think Ikuhara has a thing for, like, sexy —
ASHLEY: Sexy cars.
ROSE: Sexy people on top of cars. Like, I mean he also directed a lot of Sailor Moon stuff with Nephrite, who also had a sexy car. And Nephrite also kind of looks like the dudes in Utena anyway. So like, I think that’s a thing for Ikuhara. I can’t remember if cars played prominent roles in Mawaru Penguindrum and Yurikuma; I feel like it might have been one of those. I feel like he maybe got over his car thing by that point but I feel like there was a significant car in one of those but I could be wrong about that.
ASHLEY: Well, I hope there was a car in one of them. Yeah, that’s definitely just like, manga significantly lacks sexy cars and I think that’s sad. I understand but it’s sad.
ROSE: But I think it’s because it’s created by a different person. I don’t think she has the thing for cars that Ikuhara has.
ASHLEY: I mean Akio’s car is there, it’s just not sexy.
ROSE: Also, cars are a good metaphor for adolescence which I think is what they are intended to be, in terms of the high literary version of why they are there in Utena, not just that Ikuhara likes sexy people in cars. They’re a good metaphor for adolescence because most people, not me, learn how to drive a car when they’re sixteen or whatever age it is in your country, which is usually something around there. It’s sort of a metaphor for — and there’s a good moment in the anime where Touga is in the car with Akio and Akio offers to let Touga drive and Touga says ‘I’m not old enough yet.’ And it’s supposed to be a ‘hmm, you’re doing a lot of things you are not old enough yet.’
ASHLEY: [Laughter] Right!
ROSE: And it’s sort of like a weird moment where you remember Touga is a teenager and he's in over his head too and he also being manipulated.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I also agree that the car is a pretty good metaphor. It’s kind of tragic that it’s not in the manga.
ASHLEY: Oh, well. Sad. So yeah, that’s the basic walk through. I guess I wanted to talk about more flower imagery because I do think that’s interesting the inversion of that in how we often talk about like virginity and whatever as flowering a person but the names of manga chapters are very much about, like, becoming a full flower.
ROSE: Yeah, and it’s the different levels of flower growing.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s like till, seed, to bud, to sprout is the five of them. Don’t quote me on that, it’s something like that.
ROSE: I have them right here if you want to know.
ROSE: I brought the manga over to where I’m sitting to do this. So I think the, oh my god, I just love all the gorgeous official art that it opens with, the full color stuff.
ASHLEY: Oh yeah, the full color pages are really cool in the Viz version. So pretty.
ROSE: So it’s To Till, To Plant, To Sprout — that’s the first volume. And then, [flipping through manga] we even got Nemuro with his boy, who is secretly Anthy, like that’s great.
ASHLEY: Well, they basically have the same name. It’s like Mamiya or something is his name.
ROSE: And the last two ones are To Bud, and To Blossom.
ASHLEY: Ah, okay. To Blossom makes more sense.
ROSE: And another thing that’s a side story is, for people who remember the whole Juri-Shiori-Ruka thing in the anime, that’s a side story in the manga too minus Shiori.
ASHLEY: Right, I was like ‘Ruka was in anime but also similarly for like an episode.
ROSE: It’s more directly suggested to be a Juri love interest where as in the anime it’s one sided cause she’s gay.
ASHLEY: Yeah, she was totally in love with him as is like —
ROSE: — yeah, in the manga. Yeah.
ROSE: I just couldn’t remember if he liked her back too in the manga. But it was tragic in someway.
ASHLEY: Oh, I think it’s implied at least cause he comes back and is like ‘I just wanted to her to like become not sad anymore, I wanted her to be really happy.’ Which I took as a ‘yes, I like you back’ sort of deal. And yeah, in the manga it’s supposed to be like, I guess, Juri transferred her feelings a little bit to Touga or something like that.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Well, back to flowers, I also think it means good deconstruction of shojo manga having podcasted on CCS [Cardcaptor Sakura] recently, I’m like, oh my god so many flowers. All over the place. Not used in a sexual way but so many flowers!
ROSE: Maybe they are in Utena; I feel like everything in Utena kind of is.
ASHLEY: Oh, yeah.
ROSE: It’s more of a growing up metaphor.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s more of a growing up metaphor but I like it for it’s inversion of not being negative in the end. Like, not really being about the deflowering. Like, ‘oh, suddenly you’ve lost something.’ Like, ‘you’re not a pretty flower anymore cause you’ve given up this thing.’ It’s like ‘no, we’ve finally come into ourselves, we’ve broken the binary and it’s great.’
ASHLEY: I’m like ‘yay!’ [Laughter]. Yeah, then otherwise I have these pulled quotes from Chiho Siato. There are somethings I disagree with her on. Like the second pulled quote I have was: “I wasn’t trying to do anything specific with male or female sexuality. It’s more a matter of one human loves another human.” And I’m like, okay, we all understand what that means, sort of, but like you kind of had to do by breaking the sexuality so you had to make a commentary on those.
ROSE: Yeah and I also feel like she does treat men and women differently in the manga even if she is grasping for a ‘that shouldn’t be an issue’ thing. And also, in the manga, they’re all basically hetero romances, the ones that are explicit. So I mean, I don’t really buy that.
ASHLEY: Right, yeah. And I’ve heard — I read in a Mary Sue article, that she is — the Mary Sue article made it seems she is actively said homophobic things, which I couldn’t find actively ‘I have gay people.’
ROSE: Well there is — I think a lot of that has evolved over fandom telephone. I think she was — I think the main thing was that she was not a fan of Utena and Anthy as a romantic pairing originally, although she eventually changed her mind. So I think that was what turned into ‘she’s been homophobic.’ I’ve actually never seen her say anything homophobic. I think she just wasn’t into the idea of that specific relationship — of having a lesbian relationship, or that specific relationship in her manga.
ASHLEY: That makes sense. Cause the Mary Sue article did link to one of the — there is a site that has a whole bunch of interviews or whatever, with them translated by the Be-Papas, translated.
ROSE: Is it Ohtori.nu?
ASHLEY: Yeah, that site.
ASHLEY: It was actually from a commentary on the DVD for episode 37 or something, is what they linked to. I didn’t get to read the whole thing. But I tried to Command - F ‘gay’ or something that would come up with it. And the only thing that came up with that was, you know, one of them assurting that ‘oh, it’s really popular in the gay community’ and she was like ‘ha ha, do you want to definitively say that?’ which is kind of just like ‘[unsure sound], okay, that doesn’t seem homophobic, it just seems kind of like mildly questioning.’
ROSE: Yeah, I’m looking over it. I’ve read a lot of those commentaries and I don’t remember seeing anything specificly homophobic, I mean I could be wrong. But I also got this sense from the Utena community that Chiho Saito is viewed as unfavorably by fans to a degree that can be uncharatiable or trying too hard. If that makes sense?
ASHLEY: Well we all know the internet can try too hard sometimes. And certainly fandom can try too hard sometimes. [Laughter]. Fandom. I love you but also you scare me.
ROSE: Yeah, fandom loves to like — I mean, I’ve seen stuff that probably never existed attributed to all sorts of people, particularly over that issue, over LGBT stuff. You say something slightly weird, people decide you’re a homophobe.
ASHLEY: [frustrated noise] People.
ASHLEY: Yeah, one of the other things I pulled was her — what she envisioned the themes sort of being and stuff. So she was like “the theme became one of ‘what struggles do women go through in search for happiness’ because the manga was aimed at a very young age it’s very difficult to present that philosophy directly, so I had to write these themes in a roundabout manner. When I drew the movie adaptation manga, it was in a magazine aimed at an older audience so I could tell the story in a much straighter fashion. I think probably the movie portarties the themes in an even more direct way then my movie manga.” Yes, because it has cars. [Laughter]. You get everywhere faster with cars. Yeah, I appreciate — I think the — her summarizing the theme as ‘what struggles do women go through in their search for happiness,’ that’s a perfect summation. Why, everybody probably really likes this. I don’t know, it was interesting to me to see her commentate on how far or not women had come at that point cause they talk a lot about how Utena was inspired by the The Rose of Versailles, which I have not seen or read or anything so I don’t have a great context for that. Yeah, so then, Saito says “it’s not necessarily true that women are gaining a stronger place in society, it is possible they do not have a stronger position at all. At the very least it seems that time when a woman can decide how to show the world her own feminie beauty and be proud of it.” I think that was specifically in relation to like, Utena’s uniform being, they say its a male uniform but it’s not actually the uniform anybody else wears and it’s still really prominently shows off her legs so Utena is still being a sexual being and whatever. I kind of thought it was kind of a negative comment, like ‘we’ve gained nothing.’ Of course this is from 2000. But yeah, then that got me thinking, since, you know, clearly Utena’s supposed to be an updated version of The Rose of Versailles. I’ve heard talks and can see it myself that Kill la Kill is supposed to be an updated Utena and I’m like ‘do you feel that?’ No.
ROSE: No. I think it shows some influence from it, but I don’t think it’s dealing at all with the kind of issues that — I think it has some aesthetic influence from it but some very broad like thematic imagery, but I don’t know if it’s dealing with the — I don’t know, I’m kind of in the middle of the endless Kill la Kill debate.
ASHLEY: You’re very middle ground on Kill la Kill. Okay.
ROSE: Yeah, I really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really cool looking show. I don’t know if it’s either as — I don’t think it’s a feminist progess work, but I also don’t think it’s horribly degrading as some people talk about it. I think it’s a mixed bag of things. What do you think?
ASHLEY: I really like Kill la Kill. I would put it as one of my favorite anime. That’s definitely largely because I like the main character again. I’m really influenced by main characters. I do think it is one of the few things that has worked on a satirical level for me. I’ve really lost faith in satire as a useful thing for society, largely. Kill la Kill works for me, but clearly because there is such a large debate about it, clearly it doesn’t work as well as I want it to as a satirical thing.
ROSE: Yeah, I didn’t really see it as a satire. I just saw it — I thought it had some elements of that but mostly just throwing fun things at the wall.
ASHLLEY: Kill la Kill is certainly — because it’s definitely more orientated towards being an action anime, I think it definitely doesn’t go as far as to totally destroy your worldview as Utena does. I do think it deals with female sexuality with imagery and overt things in an interesting manner into like almost a level of degree as Utena does. And there’s still like crappy sexual abuse things that Kill la Kill handels worse then Utena but like perhaps it’s trying to do a similar thing, it just fails to do.
ROSE: I felt like it tried to do something interesting with that and it couldn’t really handle it.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s like ‘I don’t actually have time to do this exploration.’ And I’m like ‘[question noise] then you shouldn’t have put it there, cool, great’ No, but yeah, I think Mako is a more over the top of Wakaba, stuff like that. I do — I really hope that Satsuki’s last name being Kiryuin is a nod toward Touga’s last name being Kiryuu. I really want that. I really want that to be a thing.
ROSE: Yeah, I don’t know what the Japanese characters could be for that but maybe. I never thought of that but that’s a good point.
ASHLEY: Yeah, well, I talked it about with Jeff cause I showed him the Kanji and he’s like ‘no, they’re totally different Kanji.’ And I’m like ‘oh, they still sound the same.’ And he’s like ‘oh, yeah, the level that they do in Japan is probably like ‘oh yeah we want Kiryuin to be a nod to that but then we want the characters —’’ He was like ‘the characters mean like demon, institution’ and he didn’t know the middle one or something. So he’s like ‘but they normally just go back and try to find characters that will be significant to whatever their character traits are.’ So he’s like ‘so it’s possible they were like ‘we want it to be that’’ and just made the characters fit for that. I’m like ‘okay, well maybe then.’ I have hopes.
ROSE: The more recent Utena nod that I feel might be intentional is [Michele Crispino] in Yuri!!! On Ice being a twin brother who’s a little too obsessed with his twin sister.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I didn’t make that connection.
ROSE: Because Miki Kaoru in — at least I think in both the anime and the manga he is nicknamed Miki.
ASHLEY: Yeah, he is.
ROSE: I kind of wondered. People have read Utena into everything. I think people were saying — to give another example from Yuri!!! On Ice, like, with the, like, design of the Eros story when Yuri is imagining it, they were like ‘oh, the shadow stuff is like the shadow girls in Utena.’ And I’m like ‘no, I think it’s that there is a more common inspiration for that.
ASHLEY: You’re like ‘actually this is more of a common thing.’
ROSE: Yeah, pre-existing type of art that they are both influenced by. But the Miki thing seems kind of on the nose.
ROSE: With that I kind of wonder if there was some influence there. I would not be surprised if Sayo Yamamoto is influenced by Ikuhara in some way cause she deals with some similar themes in her stuff. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if she came to some of that stuff independently.
ASHLEY: I mean obviously non-anime obvious new thing is like Steven Universe is like upgraded.
ROSE: Oh, yeah. There is no question that they are influenced by Utena. There’s lots of really explicit visual references like in that one episode where Perl duels her evil alter ego robot something. And like they very explicitly mimicking the movements in Utena duels. So that’s — there is no question there.
ASHLEY: No question. Also, Steven Universe is great and everybody should watch it.
ROSE: Yes. Yes.
ASHLEY: Okay, so I think we’ve reached the point where we get really silly which is hard to do with Utena but I'm trying.
ROSE: Yes, there are some episodes in that— in the anime that are pretty silly. Like Nanami turning into the cow.
ASHLEY: That’s tue. That is one that is pretty silly, this is a nod in the movie, that I forgot about, but I hit a pause when I briefly rewatched some scenes a half hour before doing this podcast. I was like ‘oh yeah, this is therej, cool, I love it, this movie is great.’ Yes, so I am trying to do a silly, like, love quiz thing in each episode but I didn’t think that was appropriate for Utena. So, I figured instead we will figure out which Disney prince Utena is because she always really wants to be a prince. And we can take it separately if we just agree on an answer that we think would be appropriate for Utena, or whatever.
ASHLEY: So this is a quiz on ohmydisney.com. I don’t know if that is actually affiliated with Disney, but the quiz is just Which Disney Prince Are You? In the intro text is “If you are a Disney Prince, you are likely to have one or more of the following qualities: impeccable style, an affinity for meggings, an incredibly singing voice, a trusty sidekick, and maybe even an impeccable amount of smoulder. In other words, if you’re a Disney Prince you are an incredible human. Want to find out which Disney Prince you are? Answer a few questions about your royal self and find out once and for all.” Okay. And the first question is “You’re going out for the day to do Princely things, which accessory is a must? A cape. A stylish hat. Meggings.” I don’t know what meggings are. Am I a failure?
ROSE: Man leggings.
ASHLEY: Okay. That makes sense. I’m very — I don’t know style. I’m the least stylish person.
ROSE: I don’t know that much about it either but I think that’s what those are. They do sure wear a lot of leggings, Disiney Princes.
ROSE: I don’t know what Utena would choose. She seems like a vest kind of person.
ASHLEY: I was going to put vest too. I like it. Selected. Okay, next question. “You need to choose a sidekick, which type of animal do you choose? Frog. Horse. Dog. No sidekick for me.
ROSE: She seems — I mean, she doesn’t seem to connect to all the animals in general but she also seems she would be a horse girl. I think Utena went through a horse phase.
ASHLEY: I mean, she seems to warm up to Chu Chu in the —
ASHLEY: She clearly likes little sidekick things. Alright, horse. I’ll agree. “Which song is your favorite? I See the Light. Kiss the Girl. Once Upon a Dream. A Whole New World.” A Whole New World, obviously. Easy answer.
ASHLEY: Done. “Pick a location to sing at. Enchanted forest. Magical castle. Under the sea. City rooftop.”
ROSE: Obviously magical castle. Magical upside down castle.
ASHLEY: Yeah. That you can make right side up if you, whatever. I don’t know. “Which would you rather battle? Dragon. All powerful genie. Sea witch. Soceseror.”
ROSE: Which is the easiest one to stab?
ASHLEY: Not a dragon, proberally.
ROSE: I think he kills that dragon with a sword.
ASHLEY: He does have a dragon in that picture. Definitely not genie cause they are like a wsip.
ASHLEY: I feel like she doesn’t want to kill a witch.
ASHLEY: Cause Anthy is kind of a witch. I think dragon might be the best answer then.
ASHLEY: Alright. Okay. “Where would you rather live? Castle. Palace. Cottage. Tower.”
ROSE: She likes that tower.
ASHLEY: She does like that tower! [Laughter].
ROSE: She could stay there with Anthy. I think that one.
ASHLEY: Done. “What is your greatest dream? True love. Riches. Success. Happiness.” That’s tricky.
ROSE: Not riches or success. Maybe one of the other two.
ASHLEY: It was initially true love but maybe by the end it’s only happiness because —
ROSE: Yeah, I don’t know. She does get both of them I guess. She does get true love with Anthy.
ASHLEY: I love to think she does. That they run away together.
ASHLEY: I will select happiness cause I like that answer better.
ROSE: Okay, since we’re split I’ll select true love and see if I get a different answer.
ASHEY: There you go. That’s right. “What is your best quality? Bravery. Humor. Smolder. Charm.” Bravery.
ROSE: Bravery. Yeah.
ASHLEY: One hundred percent.
ROSE: She’s a Gryffindor one hundred percent.
ASHLEY: “What is prefered mode of transportation? Horse. Carriage. Walking. Ship.”
ROSE: Carriage is closest to car.
ASHLEY: That’s true. Carriage it is. “Pick a Princely catchphrase. Do you trust me? Here comes the smoulder. Perfect day to be at sea. Kissing would be nice, yes.” Now I’m confused.
ROSE: The first one I feel like is something she might say.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s my opinion too.
ROSE: Maybe the last one she might say toward Anthy.
ASHLEY: I’m going to go with do you trust me?
ASHLEY: Okay, let’s see. Of course I got ‘you’re Aladdin from Aladdin.’
ROSE: Yeah, I got that one — I got that one too.
ASHLEY: We’re Aladdin! Okay. “You really know how to wear a vest.” [Laughter]. “You are always wondering if people trust you and the answer is yes, they trust you.” That is correct, I agree with this. “Some people, ahem Jeffar, may underestimate you but they shouldn’t cause you’re smart, kind, and brave.” I agree. “Congratulations, you diamond in the rough you.” I think that’s pretty accurate.
ROSE: That does describe Utena pretty well.
ASHLEY: Yeah. One hundred. We got it. Utena is Aladdin. Done. I love it. Alright. And then my traditional last — second to last segment is usually shipping corner which I feel is very hard for Utena but we can —
ROSE: Yeah, I was sort of thinking I don’t know if Utena is something were I’m big into shipping but I certainly have my opinions on which pairings I like; which pairings do I deeply not like.
ROSE: But luckily I’m feeling the intentional feelings I’m supposed to get, at least from the anime.
ASHLEY: Yeah, the problem is this is much easier with the anime. Because with the manga — because there are not that many pairings in the manga that are made explicit. The only ones I had written down were Utena and Anthy, which is like not very explicit; you're supposed to imply that. Utena and Dios, you are not supposed to like that.
ASHLEY: Anthy and Dios. And Juri and Ruka, which is a side story.
ROSE: Yeah. What about Utena and Touga? I feel like that is in the manga as well.
ASHLEY: That’s true.
ROSE: I don’t like that one either but I think you’re supposed to like it if you’re just reading the manga. I don’t really like it from the anime. I like that he ends up being into her but she can do better.
ASHLEY: That’s true. He is very into her, even in the manga. That’s carries over mostly.
ROSE: He eventually falls for her in the anime. That’s how he starts to realize ‘whoa, this situation is kind of [expletive] up.’ He wants to save her but she ends up defeating him in a dual so he realizes he can’t do that.
ASHLEY: Oops. I guess in the manga he’s just kind of always into her. And always knew that World’s End is a bad thing, Which like, fair, the name World’s End. That doesn’t sound like something you want to happen.
ASHLEY: Nobody questions this. Fine. Cool.
ROSE: Look, he — in the anime, I think he — at least he thinks he’s aware of what Akio is up to. I don’t think he fully understands what he’s up to but he knows he doesn’t really — he doesn’t have the best intentions. I think Touga kids himself for a while that he doesn’t care and he sort of takes pride as being in on it. Being sort of Akio’s right hand man. I think over time he starts to realize ‘this is [expletive] up.’ Particularly when he starts to fall for Utena. I think just in general he starts to realize ‘this is [expletive] up, I don’t really want this system either.’ Touga is an interesting character.
ASHLEY: Touga is an interesting character.
ROSE: I mean they all are but — yeah.
ASHLEY: Every time I look at him I’m like ‘you’re just Allen Schezarr from Escaflowne.’ I try to get it out of my mind but I can’t.
ROSE: All anime boys — all pretty anime boys look kind of similar.
ASHLEY: Especially from the 90’s.
ROSE: Yeah, I always think he looks like Neflite from Sailor Moon except red instead of brown hair.
ROSE: I don’t know. Neflite kind of looks like a cross between Touga and Saionji cause Neflite has that, like, hair.
ASHLEY: Yeah. True. I agree.
ROSE: Pretty anime boys all look similar in the 90’s.
ASHLEY: We grew up since then. We have different pretty anime boy types now. So nice.
ROSE: Yeah, it’s nice how they just keep having new variations of beautiful.
ASHLEY: I love it. I guess the only thing I would say is Utena and Anthy forever.
ROSE:Yeah. What about other characters though?
ASHLEY: I mean it’s hard cause in the manga, I’m like ‘I don’t know, they don’t really need to be with anybody.’
ROSE: Yeah. In the anime, I definitely think that there is something between Touga and Saionji. I don’t know if that would be a good relationship for either of them but I certainly think it would be better than Saionji chasing after Anthy. Or Touga and Akio. Or Touga and Utena or whatever. They could be good if they could get themselves out of the Ohtori system and out of their weird like masculinity competition that they have devised cause Saionji can’t admit his feelings.
ASHLEY: Right, Saionji is like aggressive male stereotype and Touga is more like chivalrous.
ROSE: Touga is like the alpha male and Saionji is the beta male.
ASHLEY: [Laughter]. True.
ROSE: Saionji is like every Nice Guy™ on dating sites.
ASHLEY: Right. I think it’s very funny cause I’m currently reading Her Land by Charlotte Gillion [Perkins Gilman], I forget her name. Yellow wallpaper lady.
ROSE: I have that book on my shelf; I haven’t read it yet.
ASHLEY: But it’s very much like — it’s kind of infuriating cause it’s from 1915 and it all feels too real and I’m just like ‘no! how!’ It’s like three main dudes who are all just like different aspects of masculinity and one of them is just like Southern Chivalry. And the other is hyper masculine Alpha Male. I’m just like ‘no, its too — I can’t, stop, it hurts.’ But it’s fun, but also it hurts.
ROSE: Miki is actually more the analog to nice guys.
ASHLEY: That’s true.
ROSE: He’s like — the whole thing he has in his student council arc episode in the anime is basically that toward Anthy. So he’s the more direct analog. I think Saionji is a little bit more complicated. It’s like he just feels emasculated and he tries to deal with that by being violent and aggressive towards women.
ASHLEY: And they beat him up and that just proves how emasculated he is. [Laughter]. Yeah, so do we have any final thoughts?
ROSE: The manga is good. It is good to know that it’s different from the anime. Particularly in terms of a lot of queerness but it’s still very much worth reading if you like the anime or if you just like shojo manga and want something that’s a little bit smarter than most of them.
ASHLEY: Yeah. If you want a deconstruction if your shojo manga, start here. I would also recommend that if you liked the anime you should probably read the manga. I’m not going to promise you’ll love it to death but it’s worth a read.
ROSE: It’s definitely worth getting the gorgeous Viz sets.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it will look real pretty on your shelf.
ROSE: Yup. I had to — I’ve been — I moved rooms in the co-op that I’m in and I’m like ‘I have to display this promantely.’
ROSE: So pretty.
ASHLEY: I’m like ‘I just have to put is somewhere where it fits, I don’t know, here we go.’
ROSE: At the very least, if you’re bummed out about the fact that it is less gay then the anime, you do get a very gay poster with it.
ASHLEY: You get a super gay poster with it!
ROSE: And lot’s of gay official art at the beginng of both of them.
ASHLEY: Yeah, the gay poster is them naked. So, you’re welcome.
ROSE: Yeah, on a bed. It’s lovely.
ASHLEY: It’s great. Sometimes I’m like ‘I can never hang this up.’
ROSE: My office where I’m meeting my students is vastly becoming an anime shrine. But I’m trying to be careful not to put the really racy stuff up there. But actually no, like, not even mildly racy stuff. I would love to up that posted up in my office but I’m like no, this is crossing a line.
ROSE: I have some Utena fanart up. I have one of Utena, one of Nanami, and one of Utena and Anthy together. It’s very romantic but not sexual. But I can’t put that poster up as much as I would love to have Chiho Saito’s drawing of them together up in my office. I”m like ‘no, it’s a little too far.’
ASHLEY: A tragedy. But you know you can have it, you’ll know you’ll always have it.
ROSE: Yeah, I can put it in my room. In my bedroom.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s what really counts. Alright, thanks for listening to Shojo & Tell. Comments, questions, constructive criticism, concerns, need to gush about your OTP or your favorite interpretation of Utena? I don’t know, whatever.
ROSE: Your no TPs? Got a lot of those
ASHLEY: Yeah, your OTPs. Yeah, definitely should never happen. Oh, boy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org]or leave a comment on shojoandtell.com. I’m also Shojo and Tell on all the social medias like the Twitter and the Facebook. Thanks again for listening. Next time we’ll be covering Cardcaptor Sakura volumes one through six. It’s like that CardCaptors cartoon you watched on the W.B. except where Sakura is rightfully the main character and there’s like way less filler. Until then, bye.