Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Adolescence of Utena [movie]

I definetly have to agree with all those Utena pros out there that this movie makes WAY more sense if you've seen the series first. Which I had - I saw the series first - the only reason I was able to understand a lot of the symbolism was because I'd seen the series. Technically, and according to the creators, the movie is not in any way related to the series. Which is true as far as the plot goes. The characters have the same basic essences for the most part but their lives as we glimpse them are only distantly related to their incarnations of the series.

The first thing I noticed about the movie is how beautiful it is. I know Japanese animation quality goes from (in order of lesser to greater) series, to OVA (Original Video Animation), to movie. And for the most part I've just been watching serials. Utena is a "liney" anime - it has lots of thin, flowing lines to it. And to see it animated in a high quality with just... MORE... it was gorgeous! The designs for the entire thing are just astonishing - I adore the architectural complexity of their world. And each shot was framed so nicely; nothing was ever wasted.

The music improved, as far as my tastes go. I'd already downloaded the "love theme" Toki Ni Ai Wa (At Times Love Is…) and it was used so gorgeously in the nighttime dueling platform dance scene between Utena and Anthy.

Where the series ran way too long, the movie ran too short for me in terms of character development, particularly as far as Anthy goes. Although I think they tried to balance this by making the characters overal WAY more emotional than they were in the series. Where in the series we can only guess at Anthy's emotions, in the movie we get to see right away that Utena's princely behavior resonates with Anthy in Utena's first fight with Saionji.

Speaking of Anthy and Utena.... The tension between the two of them was at a low but usually consistant level in the series, though often rendered into subtext for season 2 and of course obliterated in season 3 with the whole Akio thing. The movie had it ramped way up which I both liked and almost disliked. I could of DIED, the tension was so delicious in the scene between Utena and Anthy in Utena's room after the duel with Saionji -- and on the dueling platform before their dance together. And the drawing class bit was good -- but I felt like we lost any motivation for Anthy after she was "won" from Saionji.

Spoiler warning here
I dunno... I only saw the movie all the way through once and a half now, so I'm forgetting things. I guess the car ending was what really threw things off. Neither the series or the movie gives an absolute end, and though we are more certain of Anthy and Utena's destiny together at the end of the movie, I felt like the drive for the two of them to WANT to be together was much lower than it was in the series by the last episode.

The ending... I understand the car thing completely, but only because of watching the series. I HATED the damn car metaphor in the series. Watching several episodes in a row with so many reused scenes really drove that one into the ground, ugh. I thought the car chase was a bit drawn out and predictable in the movie. I'm not a big car chase fan, so that doesn't help. Heh, I actually was TOTALLY lost as to why the hell Shiori was the one chasing Anthy in the Utena car because I didn't understand at first that Shiori was the girl who Touga tried to save.

So, oddly, that combines some elements from the series, though I'm confused as to how this all works. It seems that Utena was dating Touga. Juri wanted Shiori, Shiori had some pissy moment with Juri or something and to get back at her, tried to get Touga to go out with her? And then Shiori ended up in the river and Touga died trying to save her.... uh... I forgot why Shiori was pissed off at Utena for that, though. Grr. Remind me? END OF SPOILERS

Anyway. All in all, I like it a lot. It's a completely different feel from the series, different story, so if I want to relive the series, the only real way to do that is to actually WATCH the series, which is a hefty chore. :\ I'm going to have to find myself an episode guide and figure out what the highlights are and just watch those. :D

Edit to add: The manga version of the movie is a good way to summarize some of the story elements in a non-surreal way, though it has a slightly different story from the film as far as a few key relationships go.

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