Utena 2011 Boxset Booklet Commentary

Kunihiko Ikuhara and staff episode and music commentary/discussion 1997-2011 on the anime ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’; discusses origins of ideas and meaning of themes, and video/audio remastering for the DVD box set.
anime, interview
by: Kunihiko Ikuhara, Yuichirou Oguro, Hiroshi Kaneda, Haruyasu Yamazaki, Tomomi Takemura, Hideki Ito, Yo Yamada, Tomokazu Mii, Yoji Enokido, Shinya Hasegawa, J.A. Caesar, Toshimichi Otsuki, Chiho Saito, Sarah Alys Lindholm, C.A.P. 2013-02-072017-09-11 finished certainty: log importance: 1

The fol­low­ing ma­te­ri­als were pub­lished in the 2011 Right Stuf boxset re­lease of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena (1, 2, 3); they were pro­duced at var­i­ous dates from 1997 to 2011. (The book­lets may also be in­cluded in the De­cem­ber 2017 Blu-ray box set.) Trans­la­tion by Sarah Alys Lind­holm (see No­zomi cred­it­s); tran­scribed by C.A.P No­vem­ber-De­cem­ber 2012.

Ikuhara episode commentary


1: “THE ROSE BRIDE” [Episode 1]

Dur­ing the process of get­ting from the plan to the pro­duc­tion deal, I needed to con­vey the im­age of the show to a lot of stake­hold­ers in a way that would be easy to un­der­stand.

So I made the writ­ten plan an “it’s some­thing like this” type of thing. And in fact, it got the gist across, and I think it’s what got us a green light on the pro­duc­tion.

How­ev­er, when we fi­nally en­tered the pro­duc­tion stage, I was plagued with wor­ry. Sud­denly I was brood­ing over what the show’s orig­i­nal­ity re­ally was. Style of ex­pres­sion is key in a TV se­ries. A unique in­di­vid­u­al­i­ty. A mode no one has ever seen be­fore. There was this pres­sure of “I have to make this a show with a spe­cial type of vi­sual ex­pres­sion. That’s the only way peo­ple will want it.”

I de­cided to use “Ab­solute Des­tiny Apoc­a­lypse.” And that prompted a switch to flip in my mind. Within my­self, I could sense that this would be a spe­cial show. But, it was hard to ex­plain that “spe­cial­ness” to the pub­lic dur­ing pre-pro­duc­tion.

I talked about the sto­ry. I ex­plained the char­ac­ters. But no mat­ter how bom­bas­tic I was, no­body un­der­stood me past the level of: “It sounds like an ec­cen­tric show.” So all through­put pre-pro­duc­tion, I had these pangs of guilt, like I was de­ceiv­ing some­one.

And then.

The first episode was given sound at last. It was com­plete.

The im­pres­sion of the first stake­holder to watch it was some­thing along the lines of “Huh? What is this?”


“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first de­stroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.”

, (trans­lated from the Ger­man by Michael Roloff and Michael Lebeck)

When I was in mid­dle school, my class­mate T. rec­om­mended to me a book by Hesse.

He said, “In­side the book is every­thing about me.” I did­n’t know what he was on about.

How­ev­er, that par­tic­u­lar quote stuck with me. One day long after­wards, T. and I met up again after not see­ing each other for over a decade, and I brought it up.

“What was that, again?”

He did­n’t even re­mem­ber the book ex­ist­ed, let alone that he’d rec­om­mended it to me. To think he’d just for­get “every­thing about him­self”… I won­der if Hesse was­n’t needed in the world T. lived in after mid­dle school. In which case, I won­der why I did­n’t for­get. I ex­per­i­men­tally added an­other pas­sage to Hes­se’s:

If we don’t crack the world’s shell, we will die with­out be­ing born.

Smash the world’s shell. For the rev­o­lu­tion of the world.

As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Kaneko [Shin­go] and I dis­cussed An­thy’s char­ac­ter time and again be­cause I was ob­sessed with the idea that whether or not it was “good”, no­body would want to watch a dark and de­press­ing show. That cook­ing smock over gym clothes was the re­sult of our con­ver­sa­tions. And she fi­nally turned fun…no, she turned into a mys­te­ri­ous girl (!).

An­thy is an­other Ute­na. In the ini­tial stages of plan­ning, I thought of the main char­ac­ter as some­one who wants to be a prince, but at the same time also wanted to re­main a princess. How­ev­er, I de­cided to di­vide that per­son­al­ity into two differ­ent char­ac­ters. What did “also want to re­main a princess” mean? I would ag­o­nize over the ex­pres­sion of An­thy for the en­tire se­ries.

3: “ON THE NIGHT OF THE BALL” [Episode 3]

The ba­sic plot of this episode was ready quite soon after plan­ning start­ed. I be­lieve the think­ing was, “We need to bring the mood of Ms.’s manga into this.” But the truth is, you don’t see clichéd plot­lines like this in Ms. Saito’s man­ga. The way Touga [Kiryuu] ap­proaches Utena is al­most un­com­fort­ably stereo­typ­i­cal shou­jo, but thanks to that, we were able to strongly im­press upon the au­di­ence that this was a “shoujo manga ani­me.” Given the sto­ry’s later de­vel­op­ment, episodes like this were ab­solutely nec­es­sary.

Pro­duc­tion-wise, we were in dis­or­der. In the back­ground art meet­ing, we dis­cover that the mas­ter lay­out draw­ing (the base sketches for the back­grounds) that were sup­posed to have been ready were more or less nonex­is­tent. As the ashen-faced staff looked on, Mr. Kobayashi and I sketched like mad. It was an or­deal, but I think that, over the course of deal­ing with it, the two of us were able to achieve a con­sen­sus about the di­rec­tion the art should take for the rest of the se­ries.


“The Sun­lit Gar­den” is a song about the world you can never get back; the nos­tal­gic world you can never re­turn to again. Its true mean­ing will be­come clear dur­ing the cli­max of the se­ries.

I made such a rad­i­cal de­par­ture in the sec­ond half of this that you might as well ask your­self, “Is this the same show?” I did it to so­lid­ify the po­si­tions of Nanami’s and An­thy’s char­ac­ters, but by the sto­ry­board­ing stage, An­thy was be­com­ing even more of a mys­te­ri­ous girl (!). Mean­while, Nanami [Kiryuu] be­came more of an en­ter­tain­ing girl.

Is that all right? Sure it’s all right.

I de­cided to op­er­ate ac­cord­ing to the rule “Never give a char­ac­ter only one per­son­al­i­ty.” I did­n’t want to re­ject “fun” on the grounds of “I can’t get this char­ac­ter to be uni­formly con­sis­tent.”


Around that time in pro­duc­tion, I read an in­ter­view with a cer­tain pair of pop idols in a mag­a­zine I was thumb­ing through at the store.

“Our motto is ‘get hold of eter­ni­ty.’ It’s a bril­liantly glit­ter­ing thing.”

I was a lit­tle sur­prised.

“Get hold of eter­nity” was such an ab­stract phrase, and yet for some rea­son, I read­ily ac­cepted it. It was as if from that sin­gle phrase I could in­di­rectly sense the de­tails that shaped their per­son­al­i­ties; the look of the place where they grew up; what they saw of cur­rent affairs on the TV news; the man­ga, ani­me, and pop­u­lar songs that affected them. Call it the em­pa­thy be­tween con­tem­po­raries, I guess.

When I brought it up with Enoki­do, who was do­ing the screen­plays, he was on­board. Up un­til that point, we’d spent a lot of time ar­gu­ing in the ab­stract about the spirit of the show, but I felt like it was a few words from these pop idols that got us to the heart of the mat­ter.

At the same time, the process of pro­duc­ing this two-parter set of episodes brought home to me again that Utena is a story about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween char­ac­ters. When you get right down to it, this se­ries is a story about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Utena and An­thy. So I de­cided to ap­ply that same style to the sto­ries of the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters, too.

From then on, I would be very con­scious of “get hold of eter­nity” and “a story about re­la­tion­ships” as key mo­tifs of the show.


This episode orig­i­nally went into pro­duc­tion as “Episode 8.” It was “in pro­duc­tion as Episode 8” dur­ing script­ing, sto­ry­board­ing, and even after an­i­ma­tion start­ed. But it got switched in the broad­cast or­der with “Episode 6 (”Cur­ried High Trip“, which broad­cast as episode 8)”, be­cause that episode fell be­hind sched­ule.

Be­cause I al­ways called this “Episode 8” dur­ing the pro­duc­tion process, the im­pres­sion stuck in my mind to this day is: “Curry is Ep 6; the kan­ga­roo is Ep 8.”

It’s a comedic sto­ry, but it shows Nanami’s feel­ings for Touga. This was­n’t just about Nanami; it was also about how we’d present Touga. The orig­i­nal plan was to con­nect sto­ries with a “Touga Episodes” the­me: first in episode 8 we’d show Nanami’s feel­ings for Touga is a comedic way, then in episode 9 we’d show Touga in con­trast with [Ky­ouichi] Saion­ji, then in episode 10 we’d show Touga us­ing Nanami’s feel­ing for him, and fi­nally in episode 11 we’d show Touga fac­ing off against Ute­na.

I’d used a group of three iden­ti­cal char­ac­ters be­fore, in . It was strangely fun, so I tried stick­ing them in this show, too. The staff liked them, too (it was prob­a­bly more like the staff found them con­ve­nien­t), so we turned them into semi­-reg­u­lar char­ac­ters. It’s largely thanks to Ms. Hayashi, the an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor, that the pro­duc­tion trou­bles weren’t re­flected in the qual­ity of the episode. I like how Touga looks so un­nec­es­sar­ily cool dur­ing the cli­max, when he de­feats the kan­ga­roo.


This story came to­gether quickly as a “story about re­la­tion­ships.” “He” and “she” only ap­pear within Ju­ry’s mem­o­ries. The end­ing in the fi­nal script is differ­ent than it was in the first draft. The endgame is still about get­ting a bet­ter idea of who Jury re­ally is; that did­n’t change. But the first draft ended on a “Could it be?” sort of a note. As the script was fi­nal­ized, I de­cided to come right out and say, “She was in love with a girl.”

Ju­ry’s story is “a metaphor of un­re­quited love.” If you watch it from that per­spec­tive, I think it’s an easy one for any­body to un­der­stand. Sh­ior­i’s de­sign ref­er­enced the hero­ine of Ms. [Chi­ho] Saito’s short manga Himegoto no Natsu.1 It’s about a brother and sis­ter en­ter­ing a for­bid­den re­la­tion­ship; I en­joyed the to­tal mis­match be­tween the hero­ine’s sweet pret­ti­ness and the sto­ry’s bold de­vel­op­ment. I think we bor­rowed her looks be­cause we wanted to hide some­thing be­hind pret­ti­ness.


As I said be­fore, this was planned as episode 6. We’d orig­i­nally con­tracted an out­side stu­dio to do it, but a few days be­fore ADR was sup­posed to start, it be­came clear that vir­tu­ally none of the pro­duc­tion was done. We hur­riedly swapped it with episode 8 (broad­cast episode 6) in the sched­ule. The whole se­ries of knock­about in­san­ity that got bandied back and forth there was trau­mat­i­cally in­tense.

I don’t want to as­sign blame and try any­one in ab­sen­tia here, so I won’t say any more about it.

But if you were to ask me whether I hate the episode be­cause of that fuss, I’d say no, not re­al­ly. In fact, there are many parts of it that I’m quite fond of. I think the colos­sal effort the staff put in with their backs against the wall like that sub­li­mated the episode’s cheap­ness into solid hu­mor.

That scene when our hero­ines’ daily lives with their switched per­son­al­i­ties are stung to­gether with snap­shots… I’ve thought for a long time that the au­dio mix was kind of thin there, but in this 5.1 re­mas­ter, it’s fi­nally got nice, lively sound.

Which re­minds me: What had me wor­ried dur­ing pro­duc­tion was this episode’s “cli­max.”

“Which scene is the cli­mac­tic one?!”, I ag­o­nized.

Look­ing back on it now, maybe it was the part when Nanami slipped on the ba­nana peel?

[And then, for Ep 9–12, Ikuhara be­gins to take a more philo­sophic turn to his com­ments… –C.A.P.]


“There was a lit­tle princess, and she was very sad for her mother and fa­ther had died…”

That’s a frag­ment of the myth that we tell in the pro­logue.

“Liv­ing on… It’s just mak­ing me sick.”

We lined up plot de­vel­op­ment and vi­su­als sug­ges­tive of the se­ries cli­max. Our goal was to “get view­ers an­tic­i­pat­ing the se­ries’ fi­nal scene.”

Utena saves An­thy.
Huh, so that’s what the sto­ry’s about.
But what does she saves An­thy from?
That’s the cen­tral is­sue.

Two boys dis­cov­ered an un­usual toy one day.
“You got hold of it, did­n’t you?”
“That’s right, I have it now.”

That’s when the game be­gan.

It often hap­pens that a re­la­tion­ship be­comes sti­fling be­cause of a shared past. Even if you have no par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in a toy, when you find out he has it, you think, “I need it too.”

They say that in that world, only one princess is cho­sen.


When I was a child, the cen­ter of the party al­ways seemed to sparkle.

I was al­ways stand­ing on the side­li­nes, gaz­ing at that sparkle from afar. I thought the side­lines were my place. Surely I could never ap­proach the cen­ter of the room.

But then, I was cho­sen! I touched that sparkle in the cen­ter of the room, and no mis­take. Still, I know full well that it’s some­thing that won’t last for­ev­er. The day the con­tract ends, I’ll turn into an “un­cho­sen girl.”2

So I’ll go back to the side­lines again, eh?

–S­mash the egg’s shell.

For the rev­o­lu­tion of the world.


I tried to live true to my­self.

“You’re just like an alien”, some­one said to me one day. They must have been telling me, “You’re not nor­mal.”

In other words, ap­par­ently “liv­ing true to your­self” means “liv­ing as an alien.” And so I be­came “an alien all alone in this world.”

There’s a cer­tain nat­ural law that goes, “To gain some­thing, you must lose some­thing.” There’s no­body in this world who gains every­thing. Oth­er­wise, there would be peo­ple who could live for­ev­er.

That is some­thing she is blind to.

That’s why she loses what’s im­por­tant to her.

Why did she want to be­come a prince?
Who was it who wanted to be­come a princess?
Do you want to be cho­sen by some­one, too?


Why did I join that bat­tle (that game) in the first place?
Nat­u­ral­ly, I would never for­get that.
And yet.
There’s no sense of re­al­ity to that mem­o­ry.

Who was I, ex­act­ly?

“I’m say­ing this for your sake.” How many times did I hear that as a child?

An “adult” is not some­one who has lived a cer­tain num­ber of years. We call some­one who can ex­er­cise power an “adult.”

A prince is­n’t “some­one who looks cool”; nor, of course, is a prince “a girl who dresses as a boy.”


A “prince” is “some­one who can ex­er­cise pow­er.”

What is that power for?
Who is it for?

I stopped seek­ing to be sought after. That was­n’t be­ing true to my­self.

I want to be­come “some­one who can ex­er­cise pow­er.” I want to be­come a prince.

–For friend­ship, per­haps.


[The user Seen has now pro­vided tran­scrip­tions of parts of the sec­ond chuck of Ikuhara’s Episode Com­men­taries, but for now, only tran­scribed episode 13–18. It should be noted that these notes are con­tained in the sec­ond DVD boxset, nowhere in the first. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, the rest of the episodes in­side the sec­ond book­let will have to be tran­scribed at a later date. –C.A.P.]

This is just be­tween you and me, but when I was four­teen, I saw a UFO.

That UFO tele­path­i­cally told me this prophe­cy:

“When you grow up, you will di­rect an anime about girls rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing var­i­ous things.”

Surely you jest.

“You must not tell any­one about me. If you ever do…”

Wh-What will hap­pen to me?

“Peo­ple will call you a sketchy guy.”3


I saw a cer­tain hor­ror movie when I was in mid­dle school. There was a se­cret mor­tu­ary in an un­der­ground cham­ber, and the dead were elec­tron­i­cally trans­mit­ted (!), still in their coffins, to the “other world”, where they were forced into slav­ery.4

The movie’s story was ut­terly ab­surd, but the di­vi­sion of the world into op­po­site poles of “liv­ing” and “dead” felt real to me, some­how.

Our world has been spo­ken of in bipo­lar fash­ion for ages.

In my stu­dent days, there was a pop­u­lar book that com­pared the “afflu­ent” with the “non-afflu­ent”, and sorted every­thing into cat­e­gories called “loaded” and “broke.” It was the bub­ble era, and the aim of the book was prob­a­bly to get a laugh by say­ing “They call us wealthy, but our lifestyle’s prac­ti­cally in the trash can!”

But for some rea­son, I could­n’t laugh.

Years lat­er, the phrase “the win­ning side” was pop­u­lar in the me­dia. I thought it was hor­rid. And sure enough, peo­ple started us­ing the op­po­site phrase “the los­ing side” as a masochis­tic joke. I still could­n’t laugh, though.

One day, a girl I saw on TV said, “There are only two types of peo­ple in this world: the ones who are cho­sen and the ones who aren’t cho­sen.”

That gave me a start.

“To not be cho­sen is to die”, said the girl.5

I de­cided to try my hand at that.

The Black Rose arc.


This is some­thing that hap­pened quite a long time ago. I told a cer­tain girl that I loved her, but she turned me down.

I’d thought there were good vibes be­tween us.
To think that it was all in my head!


“I love my big brother”, she said.

…That’s a lie. That story was fic­tion.

The rea­son sex­u­al­ity of so often ex­pressed in broth­er-sis­ter re­la­tion­ships in the world of fic­tion is prob­a­bly be­cause there’s the il­lu­sion that “blood re­la­tion­ships are eter­nal.” It’s the dream of the “eter­nal lover.”

Con­tin­u­ing with the lie:

I tried pa­thet­i­cal­ly, re­fus­ing to back down.
I could­n’t ac­cept it. “But you’re brother and sis­ter!”

She de­clared that she was “not a woman.” Then she said, “My brother is­n’t a man.”

So what are you, ex­act­ly?

“My broth­er’s body is a part of me, and my body is a part of him”, she said.


To tell you the truth, I did­n’t know the “Dona Dona” song. While we were meet­ing about the plot, I heard some­one on staff say, “This is ‘Dona Dona’ ma­te­ri­al, huh?”

I found the song and had a lis­ten.


I de­cided to use it. Two ver­sions of it, in fact.

Bring me a blan­ket, some­one, and so-o-o-on…


I fi­nally re­al­ized the truth.

To think that she loved me back! What a mir­a­cle! But…

“The loser in love is the one who lets their heart be ruled by it.”

Every­one’s adopted a provoca­tive at­ti­tude to­ward some­one of the op­po­site sex that they like at least once or twice, to get that per­son to no­tice them. So it’s okay if I do that.

This love will crum­ble if we touch. But when peo­ple don’t touch, the love even­tu­ally dies away.

That’s why I de­cided to keep your love pris­on­er. To make sure that you love me for­ever.

That game will make our love “eter­nal.” I’m sure of it.

We were “lovers lost from the be­gin­ning.”6


When I was a kid, I re­ally liked the (a ’70s idol group). When some­one asked me, “Who’s your fa­vorite?”, I was se­ri­ously torn be­tween and .

When I was a kid, I re­ally liked Pink Lady too.
Some­one asked me, “Who’s your fa­vorite?”

I liked Mie, but for some rea­son I had the feel­ing that I should­n’t say that, so I fudged and said “Well, I don’t re­ally like one more than the oth­er.”

The Can­dies got their big break with the song “Toshishita no Otoko no Ko (Y­ounger Boy)”. It was a song where girls sang about a younger boy, “You drive me crazy, but I love you.”; that lyric made my heart go pit­ter-pat­ter. It was just as if they were say­ing “I love you” to me!

…How delu­sion­al.

Love and delu­sion are only sep­a­rated by a very fine line.

Episode 23: “The Terms of a Duelist”

[The episode 23 & 39 sec­tions are taken from paste­bins which don’t spec­ify the source; I be­lieve they’re part of these episode com­men­taries.]

The cli­mac­tic duel scene. I ag­o­nized over the di­a­logue be­tween Mik­age and Ute­na, and over Akio’s di­a­logue in the last scene. I edited it over and over, right up un­til the eleventh hour, just be­fore record­ing be­gan.

The last scene. The orig­i­nal plan was for it to be Tokiko on the phone with Akio.

“Why hel­lo, Tokiko. Have you thought about what I said? That’s right… about Pro­fes­sor Ne­muro. He was ly­ing to him­self, cling­ing to his past with you.”

It was all an il­lu­sion that Mik­age him­self had cre­ated for his own sake.

“Yes… that dream that he let 100 boys die seems to be an­other lie he told him­self to keep him­self in the past. It’s just like magic is­n’t it? Why do you sup­pose so many peo­ple be­lieved a false ru­mor like that? Per­haps they wanted to be­lieve…that mirac­u­lous power dwells within friends.”

The il­lu­sion Mik­age wanted to see. Were the Black Rose Du­elists peo­ple his il­lu­sion res­onated with?

“While you cling to your mem­o­ries, time stops. Per­haps that was the eter­nity he found, though… Yes… good idea. If you’ll come and fetch him, I imag­ine he’ll be re­leased from the mem­o­ries.”

Tokiko sym­bol­ized the lost “real time” and she said she would come for Mik­age. The time had fi­nally come for him to be re­leased from his il­lu­sion of his lost time.


Was that re­ally all right? I thought it over.

The story in episodes 11 and 12 about the du­el­ing game. Episode 23 picks up where it left off in lay­ing the ground­work for the fi­nal episode.

Was­n’t Mik­age’s fate the same fate that Utena would even­tu­ally meet? In which case, should­n’t it be cru­el­er?

I tried mak­ing the per­son on the other end of the phone line Mik­age him­self.

“The path you must take is no longer pre­pared for you. Now grad­u­ate from this place.”

Those who re­ject that place are, con­verse­ly, re­jected by it as well. This is the na­ture of sys­tems: the mo­ment you re­ject them, you are forced to re­al­ize they’re the very ground you’re stand­ing on. Mik­age no­ticed the trick be­hind the sys­tem, and he hur­riedly at­tempted re­vi­sions. But the adult who’d cre­ated the sys­tem just said, “let’s not”, and uni­lat­er­ally brought the cur­tain down. The sys­tem of il­lu­sion was fin­ished. Mik­age could no longer ex­ist there. That’s why he dis­ap­peared from the mem­o­ries of those who’d in­ter­acted with him.

Peo­ple’s hap­pi­ness or un­hap­pi­ness should­n’t be de­ter­mined by strug­gles over the di­vide called the “Rose Bride”. Utena re­jects the duel sys­tem.


In due course Utena will be re­jected by the duel sys­tem and that place, and no longer be able to ex­ist there. This fore­shad­ows the fi­nal scene of the se­ries.

Episode 39: “Someday, Together, We’ll Shine”

There are two mean­ings to the Japan­ese word utena. One is “the ca­lyx of a flower.” That’s also the mean­ing of the ti­tle, of course. the thing that sup­ports the beau­ti­ful petals; the one with the no­ble heart. And the other mean­ing of utena is “tall tower or pedestal.” We trans­lated his into a vi­su­al: the tower at the cen­ter of Ohtori Acad­e­my, the one with the Chair­man’s room on the top floor. And the du­el­ing arena lo­cated deep in the woods is the same.

In the early stages of pro­duc­tion, when the story was­n’t firmly es­tab­lished yet, this was one of the as­pects I most wanted to vi­su­al­ize and pro­duce for the screen.

A world where demons roam. In its cen­ter, a tower called the “Tower of Rev­o­lu­tion”. Whoso­ever can re­main vic­to­ri­ous in his bat­tles against the demons can reach the pin­na­cle of the Tower of Rev­o­lu­tion, and at the same time re­ceive the power to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the world; the power that changes the rules of the world.

How­ev­er, when he reaches the pin­na­cle, he learns the world’s gov­ern­ing laws.

He faces the ul­ti­mate choice: will he stay nobly, beau­ti­fully pow­er­less? Or will he ac­cept the ug­li­ness into him­self and gain ab­solute pow­er?

He de­sired both.

Or rather, per­haps he could­n’t choose ei­ther.

His mind in an­guish, he di­vided him­self into two. His “no­ble heart”, and the “adult with ab­solute power”.

And so.

With one last wish that the day would come when some­one would awaken him, the “no­ble heart” that had lost its body, in other words the prince, fell into a deep sleep.

Early on in the se­ries’ con­cep­tion, I kicked around the idea of plac­ing some­thing like the above at the heart of the sto­ry. Lat­er, after sev­eral changes, it be­came the tale as you know it, but with­out a doubt, he did reach the pin­na­cle of the Tower of Rev­o­lu­tion.

It was a place where “eter­nity” dwelled.

And “eter­nity” turned out to mean per­pet­ual sleep.

The prince (Akio) who be­came an adult while in per­pet­ual sleep lost some­thing. What he lost was “the power to cre­ate an en­joy­able fu­ture”.

Rev­o­lu­tion means gain­ing “the power to imag­ine the fu­ture.”

The prince chose to sleep on, and the princess chose to wake up. At the top of that tall tow­er, the princess bid farewell to the prince. No—she was­n’t the princess any longer. She quit be­ing a “per­son (thing) ruled by some­one”. The vic­tory bells rang, but there was no “tower (rule)” be­yond them now. She’d learned where free­dom lay. She crossed the thresh­old of that “Door of Rev­o­lu­tion” which had al­ways been closed to her be­fore, and be­gun walk­ing. The “girls’ rev­o­lu­tion” lay in the girls’ fu­ture.

“Wait for me… Ute­na.”

The world (the stage) is free and wide.

Rondo Revolution: Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Thoughts

There were sev­eral forks in the road to the theme song “Rondo - rev­o­lu­tion”.

First I had X, the pro­ducer at the time, play me sev­eral demo melodies. One of them re­ally felt like “the one”, so I de­cided on that one with X (nat­u­ral­ly, the cho­sen one was the melody that would be­come “Rondo - rev­o­lu­tion”, but we also re­leased it sep­a­rately later in a form close to that orig­i­nal one, un­der the ti­tle “Rose&re­lease”).

Next, X set up a meet­ing for us with a cer­tain lyri­cist at a restau­rant in Shibuya. We ex­plained the pro­ject, pre­sent­ing Ms. Saito’s draw­ings, and the lyri­cist seemed re­ally rar­ing to go.


The lyrics that came back to us some days later did­n’t sit well with me.

“They’re just not quite right…” X agreed, and fell silent.

Sev­eral days lat­er, I got a phone call from X say­ing, “She says she wants to do it. I’ll have her call you, so stay put.” This phone call was how I found out that Ms. Okui would be singing the theme song. And that she would be singing the theme song. And that she would take charge of the lyrics her­self, too. Right after X hung up, I got a phone call from Ms. Okui, and we ended up hav­ing a meet­ing.

I’ll dredge up my mem­o­ries of that time pe­riod to write the rest of this sto­ry. This all hap­pened a long time ago, though, so there will be some de­tails I can’t re­mem­ber.

I got a phone call from Ms. Okui.

We started our plan­ning meet­ing on the spot, but pro­duc­tion was still on­go­ing, for one thing, so in terms of the show’s con­tent… I could­n’t tell her a lot of cru­cial things. Nev­er­the­less, she’d thank­fully read sev­eral of Ms. Saito’s works, so she al­ready un­der­stood the “spirit of the work” very well.

That meant that in our meet­ing, we were able to fo­cus on “what we’re try­ing to ex­press” in­stead of on the sto­ry. By their very na­tures, there’s no way to per­fectly rec­on­cile “the world of song” and “the world of anime sto­ries.” But I felt there ought to be a way to bring to­gether the spir­its of “song” and “ani­me.”

“I want you to think of this as a song that will play dur­ing the sto­ry’s last scene.”

That’s what I told her. Like I said, we had­n’t de­cided what the last scene would be yet. Still, I had a vague sus­pi­cion that it would de­pict a “part­ing.” At the time I did­n’t have a con­crete im­age of what kind it might be; there’s-

part­ing with a lover,
part­ing with a dear friend,
part­ing with a beloved sib­ling or
fam­ily mem­ber,
part­ing with the en­tire mi­lieu in which
you live…

Those were my neb­u­lous thoughts.

What could a per­son who’d lost all those things gain in the fi­nal scene…? It would be mag­nifi­cent if that could be cap­tured to a song… Surely the view­ers who watched the se­ries through the end would think, “I see, so the theme song was about this fi­nal scene” …

Some days lat­er, I faxed her a note.

Even if the two of us are torn apart,
the time that we spent to­gether
was­n’t wasted
So I can change the world

I asked her if she could ex­press some­thing along those lines. And I also had the temer­ity to ask her to in­clude a few key­words in the lyrics that ex­pressed the world of the show:

“sun­lit gar­den”
“lose every­thing”
“strip down to noth­ing at all”
“change the world”

Sev­eral days after that, the fin­ished lyrics were faxed back to me. My “gar­den” and “rev­o­lu­tion” sug­ges­tions in Japan­ese were there in Eng­lish. I thought the show’s spirit was ex­pressed bril­liant­ly.

Above the lyrics was a note say­ing, “What should the ti­tle be?” (I think). I also think that “Take my rev­o­lu­tion” was there as a pro­vi­sional ti­tle. And in an­other dis­play of temer­i­ty, I asked if she’d be will­ing to write the kanji for rinbu (“round dance”) but gloss it as “rondo” to ar­rive at a ti­tle of “ron­dorev­o­lu­tion.” She agreed, on the con­di­tion that we in­set a hy­phen and make it “Rondo - rev­o­lu­tion.” (Or maybe the changes went like this: “Rondo - Take my rev­o­lu­tion” → “Ron­dorev­olu - tion” → “Rondo - rev­o­lu­tion”.) I took my in­spi­ra­tion from Ms. Saito’s manga for the word “ron­do.”

Lat­er, even when pro­duc­tion cir­cum­stances were harsh, this song re­ally bol­stered my spir­its. This is only oc­cur­ring to me in hind­sight, but maybe it was able to ex­press the “Utena” spirit so well be­cause Ms. Okui and I were in very sim­i­lar frames of mind at the time

…Nah. It was prob­a­bly just the fruit of Ms. Okui’s tal­ents.

Or on sec­ond thought, maybe it was X’s skill as a pro­ducer after all.

[Now for the first clos­ing. The book I have ac­tu­ally has pic­tures of what Ikuhara’s about to talk about in the last para­graph, so there’s an­other rea­son to get those DVDs while you can… –C.A.P.]

Ending Animation: The Making Of

The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena end­ings were di­vided into Sea­son 1 (episodes 1–24) and Sea­son 2 (episodes 25–38), with a fi­nal episode get­ting a scat ver­sion of the theme song “Rondo - rev­o­lu­tion.”

The first sea­son’s se­quence had ro­man­tic vi­su­als, with Utena in a dress danc­ing with Dios. Utena and An­thy give us glimpses of se­ri­ous looks in their eyes, and in the lat­ter half An­thy ap­pears with Dios as well, in the ex­act same pose as Ute­na. The whole mood of it is mys­te­ri­ous; it makes you think, “This is no sim­ple prince-and-princess ro­mance.”

The end­ing theme song is “truth”. It’s per­formed by Ruka Yu­mi. You can see key art for this se­quence on the next page. Shinya Hasegawa said that he put Hi­roshi Na­ga­hama in charge of it be­cause his sharp style, with its strik­ing sil­hou­ettes, would be a good fit for some­thing with so lit­tle mo­tion. Within beau­ti­ful an­i­ma­tion that projects a no­ble im­pres­sion; the main char­ac­ters dance all dressed up. He’s di­rected them bril­liant­ly.

And start­ing in episode 25, the staff made the end­ing theme song J.A. Cae­sar’s “Vir­tual Star Em­bry­ol­ogy”, and changed the vi­su­als as well. Maki Ue­tani did the vo­cals. It was differ­ent from the choral pieces in the duel sce­nes, and the more pierc­ing ring of the solo vo­cals was pleas­ing. Shinya Hasegawa, Yoko Kadokami, and Hi­roshi Na­ga­hama were in charge of the key an­i­ma­tion for this se­quence. Tall, thin vi­su­als of Utena and the or­na­men­ta­tion be­hind her, drawn in black sil­hou­et­te, climb up into the blue sky as if on an el­e­va­tor. Part­way through, cuts of Utena and An­thy hold­ing roses come in, timed to the mu­sic, and then it’s sil­hou­ettes of the two stand­ing fac­ing each oth­er, with An­thy in her bridal gear. At the end, birds soar up to the cas­tle in the sky, scat­ter­ing feath­ers, and rays of light break through the clouds. There’s also an “Akio Car ver­sion” of this sec­ond end­ing as well, which was on episode 33 of the TV broad­cast. On the LD and VHS re­leas­es, episode 25 also had the Akio Car ver­sion, but on DVD it was only in episode 33. The theme song is the same, but the Akio Car shows up in the video, and no char­ac­ters ap­pear. It shows a scene of the Akio Car zoom­ing along, switch­ing from cut to cut in time with the song’s cho­rus, un­til it fi­nally ar­rives at the du­el­ing are­na. It’s a play­ful arrange­ment that got peo­ple talk­ing even at the time.

Al­so, ap­par­ently a hu­mor­ous, cute end­ing fea­tur­ing Chu-Chu was con­ceived dur­ing Sea­son 2 pro­duc­tion as well. The idea was to have close-up of Chu-Chu’s face that took up the whole screen, with Ute­na, An­thy, and the other main char­ac­ters ap­pear­ing in­side his eyes. To the right are some rough sto­ry­boards drawn for that se­quence by Shinya Hasegawa. Chu-Chu’s fa­cial ex­pres­sion would change de­pend­ing on which char­ac­ters were in his eyes, so the vi­su­als were very hu­mor­ous, with anger and tears and every­thing else. If that end­ing se­quence had been used, it prob­a­bly would have been given a cute song, but if “Vir­tual Star Em­bry­ol­ogy” had been paired with that close-up of Chu-Chu, the pe­cu­liar mis­matched feel of it would have surely sur­prised view­ers.

[And that’s pretty much it for Ikuhara in the book, other than a pas­sage from the LD notes. Now it’s time for a doozy: an in­ter­view with the peo­ple who were in­volved with the HD process. Lots of great Ikuhara sto­ries in this, so we here go! –C.A.P.]

HD Video Remastering: Interview With The Staff

Hi­roshi Kaneda
Film Trans­fer­ring/­Col­orist

Haruyasu Ya­mazaki
Tech­ni­cal Co­or­di­na­tor

To­momi Take­mura
Mas­ter Edit­ing/On­line Ed­i­tor

Hideki Ito
Line Co­or­di­na­tor

Let’s start off by talk­ing about the pro­duc­tion process for HD re­mas­ter­ing. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena (here­after re­ferred to as “Utena”) was orig­i­nally done on 16mm film, was­n’t it?

Ito: We con­vert that to the high­-de­fi­n­i­tion “HD” for­mat, cre­ate new ma­te­ri­als, and then process them to pro­duce a new mas­ter. “HD re­mas­ter­ing” means try­ing to raise the qual­ity of the mas­ter by up­dat­ing it to a new gen­er­a­tion of me­dia.

Please tell us what your im­pres­sions of Utena were when you con­verted the first ma­te­ri­als.

Kaneda: The the­atri­cal ver­sion of Utena was 35mm, and the TV ver­sion was 16mm. Given that this is an HD re­mas­ter, I think first off you can sense the differ­ence in qual­ity that comes from the differ­ence in film type. Al­so, the old TV vi­sion was cre­ated for broad­cast, so only about 90% of the cel art is vis­i­ble after fit­ting it to the TV frame. So if the rest of the cell had stuff in it that should­n’t be there, it did­n’t mat­ter be­cause no­body would see it any­way. But now we have ful­l-dis­play TVs, like LCD TVs for ex­am­ple, and every­thing is 100% vis­i­ble. That meant that when we were first record­ing the HD type, how much of the frame to use be­came an is­sue. Ul­ti­mate­ly, we ended up show­ing every­thing, since that was the di­rec­tor’s pref­er­ence. And so the 10% that was never vis­i­ble be­fore got cleaned up and gen­er­ally cor­rect­ed, and now you can see the whole frame as it was orig­i­nally drawn.

That’s some­thing to be happy about. What about ad­just­ments to the whole screen?

Knd: There were as­pects of the look of that out­er-space back­ground in Utena and An­thy’s dance scene in the movie that did­n’t fit the di­rec­tor’s im­age. He said it needed more depth, more pro­fun­di­ty, so we al­tered the way we trans­ferred the film. We tested three differ­ent cat­e­gories of orig­i­nal film el­e­ments—­pos­i­tive film, neg­a­tive film, and in­ter­pos­i­tive—and used the one that yielded the best im­age.

So he wanted to ex­press more translu­cence and depth, then?

Kn: That was the one scene where we ad­justed the pa­ra­me­ters most minute­ly, to bring out the sense of translu­cence and depth. The di­rec­tor and I went through each in­di­vid­ual cut to­geth­er, with end­less trial and er­ror.

Did he have re­quests about the col­or­ing of the char­ac­ters, too?

K: As an ex­am­ple, Ute­na’s hair is pink, but there’s pink and then there’s pink. You have your red­dish pinks, your yel­low­ish pinks, and all that. For this project there was no or­der chart or other ba­sis for color match­ing in the film, so we started by get­ting per­mis­sion to ex­am­ine ac­tual cels of the main char­ac­ters, and we de­cided to match those. The char­ac­ter that I es­pe­cially felt had the most vari­a­tion in her col­or­ing was An­thy. Her skin was diffi­cult. I think there were prob­a­bly sev­eral differ­ent ver­sions from the be­gin­ning. You see, it was a slightly differ­ent color each time. As we worked, we con­sciously worked to avoid let­ting those color vari­a­tions make any­thing seem off within a given scene. For ex­am­ple, one part of a se­quence of evening scenes abruptly had a more day­light sort of col­or­ing, so we con­sulted the di­rec­tor: “Should we match this bit to the evening hues for con­ti­nu­ity?” And then we ad­justed the skin tones to fit the over­all tonal­i­ty.

Are the col­ors any more vivid than when we watched the show on TV?

K: None of the col­ors got dras­ti­cally more vivid. After all, it’s not good to make them too far re­moved from the video you’ve seen up un­til now. They are sharper now, though. We’ve re­vised them to be clear­er, so I think they’re eas­ier on the eyes.

I see. And after that, you need to clean up any de­fects in the frame, right?

Take­mura: In terms of or­der, first you have dig­i­tal re­mas­ter­ing, and then you set up fil­ter pa­ra­me­ters to do the de­nois­ing. You re­move all of the noise and dis­tor­tions in the frame. Then you bring this processed footage to the edit­ing room and check it with the di­rec­tor.

But when we watch anime on TV, we don’t re­ally think “Look at all that noise!”, do we?

It: Most of the anime shows made in re­cent times were pro­duced dig­i­tal­ly, so there is­n’t any noise, but even though this Utena is a “dig­i­tal re­mas­ter”, I think there’s bound to be a cer­tain amount of noise in it, be­cause the orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als were film. Still, I think this is far and away cleaner than the pre­vi­ous DVD re­lease. It’s not even com­pa­ra­ble. You see, that was a se­ri­ously mad dash to the fin­ish.

Tkmr: To start with, I did about 100 cor­rec­tions per episode.

Ya­mazaki: That was after my team cleaned up each cut, though. We’d re­move the noise, cue and paste things from other places, and gen­er­ally make it look clean. Ul­ti­mate­ly, it’s al­most like com­posit­ing work. Then we’d lay that back to tape again and check it with the di­rec­tor, at which point we’d re­ceive ad­di­tional cor­rec­tions… (laughs)

I: Ya­mazaki would in­put the tape me­dia to a non­lin­ear ma­chine and work on it, and then Take­mura would edit it on tape me­dia, and that would be­come the fi­nal mas­ter.

Ymzk: You were say­ing that to start with the di­rec­tor check would yield about 100 cor­rec­tions, but how many did he give you on the sec­ond half of the work?

Tk: About 300. Be­cause after we’d done one full pass on the show, more cor­rec­tions would come up dur­ing recheck­ing.

That sounds like a lot of re­vi­sions. Is that more than av­er­age?

All: Oh, yes… (laugh­ter)

T: Ba­si­cally you’re do­ing frame-by-frame record­ing of the cels, right? And when there’s lip flaps with lay­ered cels, the noise you end up with ul­ti­mately stands out. That stays in the pic­ture through­out.

I see. And I un­der­stand that when it came to pieces like the on­screen text put in dur­ing orig­i­nal video record­ing, you changed them to dig­i­tal el­e­ments. Could you tell us what that means?

Ym: Things like the fi­nal “to be con­tin­ued” and the eye­catch­ers weren’t on the film it­self, so we recre­ated them. Then there were things like the ro­tat­ing roses in the four cor­ners of the screen.

In the TV broad­cast the move­ment of the roses was jerky. Has that changed now that they’re been re­done?

Y: We tried not to break the at­mos­phere the show’s had up un­til now. Out motto on this project has been, “Try to keep the im­age of the show as in­tact as pos­si­ble.” Still, we did want the au­di­ence to feel like we’d done some­thing, so we tried to get that to show through, but then it was like, “Mmm, no, that’s go­ing too far.” The di­rec­tor and us tossed back and forth var­i­ous opin­ions and ideas as we pinned down the right feel.

There are also some places where the key art is new, am I right? I’m told Mr. Shinya Hasegawa drew it.

T: That’s right. The new ma­te­ri­als are sta­tic im­age data (the dig­i­tal ver­sion of cel draw­ings), so they’re sparkling clean. We take them and blend them in with the tex­ture of the old film. We in­put the new ma­te­ri­als we re­ceive to an edit­ing sys­tem called “DS”, and then com­pos­ite them while adding mo­tion. In the fi­nal stage we add grain to make it fit in with the grit­ti­ness of the film.

Are there any other scenes that changed?

T: The eye­catch that says the show ti­tle is com­pletely new in the HD ver­sion.

Y: The di­rec­tor was very re­spect­ful of the im­age of the orig­i­nal, so we did out best to work ac­cord­ing to the goal of us­ing orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als as much as pos­si­ble, but this part ap­par­ently just did­n’t fit the im­age… There were those sil­ver plates in the four cor­ners of the eye­catch, and the idea was broached that “Maybe these are just in the way”, so we took them out, and it re­ally did look bet­ter. When you look close­ly, the red back­grounds that’s un­folded be­neath the let­ter­ing is differ­ent in the pre- and post-com­mer­cial bumpers, too. The eye­catches took a ton of time, be­cause in the be­gin­ning we had no idea what di­rec­tion to go in. We could­n’t even be­gin to fig­ure out how they’d given the let­ters those rolling mo­tions back then. There’s a cer­tain analog-style awk­ward­ness there, as if it got done by co­in­ci­dence. The idea was to trace that, but it was no easy thing to get that bit done dig­i­tal­ly. Once we had the mo­tion, our next prob­lem was the tex­ture. The orig­i­nal open­ing bumper had a yel­low logo with a bit of gra­da­tion, and there was this sort of green bud thing ro­tat­ing above it. It was quite a vivid eye­catch. But we were asked to make it all gray this time, and to give the tex­ture a crys­tal-clear feel when the let­ters were fin­ished un­furl­ing. So we thought maybe we should make it metal­lic, and we ex­per­i­mented a lot with differ­ent tex­tures, un­til fi­nally we found that that just was­n’t the right di­rec­tion to go in… But you know, the logo in the show’s open­ing se­quence was a sil­very, chic mo­not­o­ne. So we fig­ured we might as well try spin­ning it that way, and then it was like, “This is it!” We could fi­nally see the fin­ish line ahead of us. Ul­ti­mate­ly, we got eye­catches where sil­ver is born from a slightly dark­ened screen, and then when the spot­light hits it, the red of the back­ground rises up and the bud at the top gives off a pink shine. In the end, when the di­rec­tor fi­nally told us “OK!”, there was ap­plause. (laughs)

I: I can un­der­stand the di­rec­tor’s pick­i­ness, since eye­catches are things that ap­pear every episode. With pro­posed re­vi­sions like this, we had Take­mura find the mid­dle ground in terms of how we’d make this all hang to­gether as a fi­nal work. He’s the one who had the most com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the di­rec­tor.

What types of things would the di­rec­tor say to you, Mr. Take­mu­ra?

T: He’d say, “Do some­thing about this part.” But Di­rec­tor Ikuhara is­n’t some­one who just says “Do some­thing about this” and leaves it at that. He’s good enough to ask, “What op­tions do we have for fix­ing this?” When I grope for a few an­swers and pro­pose them, he’ll make a de­ci­sion: “Okay, let’s use this method here.” He re­ally lis­tens to our sug­ges­tions and makes his de­ci­sions after tak­ing them into ac­count. It was the same way with the de­nois­ing. There were some cuts where we were like, “This is a tough one; it might not get clean”, but the di­rec­tor said, “That’s OK.” Well, when some­one tells you that, you think, “I have to do some­thing about this!”

And you had to synch up the tim­ing, too, did­n’t you?

T: You see, the film in use at the time was al­ready gone. That meant the video and au­dio did­n’t synch up, so we had to bal­ance the ac­counts at both ends, so to speak. And the scenes in the du­els when the prince de­scend­s—­some episodes did­n’t have any­thing that re­ally fit, and we had to ad­just them in edit­ing.

I see. So all of you lis­tened to the di­rec­tor’s var­i­ous wishes and put them into prac­tice.

Y: In the be­gin­ning I was­n’t di­rectly dis­cussing things with the di­rec­tor. But when things came to cri­sis point, he said “Let’s walk this path to­gether”, or some­thing along those lines. At first, I thought he meant we’d have a talk every week or some­thing, but we started email­ing back and forth on the prin­ci­ple that “That’s nowhere near enough!” And I’ll tell you some­thing… he replies re­ally quick­ly. Dur­ing the eye­catch thing, I’d mes­sage him with “How about footage like this”, and im­me­di­ately I’d get back some­thing like “I want to see an ex­am­ple of this pat­tern, too.”

Could you all sense the di­rec­tor’s en­thu­si­asm?

Y: Ab­solute­ly! If he’s like this with a re­mas­ter, I won­der what he’d be like if he de­cided to do some­thing new.

I: His en­thu­si­asm is amaz­ing.

T: He’s a pas­sion­ate per­son, is­n’t he? We talked about var­i­ous things in our spare mo­ments on the job, and I can tell you one thing: he watches all kinds of stuff. I mean, if it’d been a week since you’d last got­ten to­geth­er, he’d tell you about this movie or that DVD that he’d seen in the mean­time. I thought he must be try­ing to ab­sorb into him­self any­thing and every­thing good that might be out there.

I: Yes, he was al­ways watch­ing things with cu­rios­i­ty: “How did that scene in that show come out?”

T: Like, “That was beau­ti­ful, huh? How do you they did it? Can we do that too?”

He’d talk about those things even in the stu­dio with you, then.

T: When he does checks, he has his eyes glued to the screen the whole time, and I think he con­cen­trates pretty in­tense­ly, so he prob­a­bly gets worn out. He’d spend over three hours on one episode of Utena, so we’d usu­ally take a break after each one.

Mr. Kaneda, can you share any im­pres­sions of the di­rec­tor or hap­pen­ings dur­ing pro­duc­tion?

K: He’s picky down to the last de­tail. I only no­ticed this as I was work­ing, but—you know how there were all those scenes of the Akio Car speed­ing away? There was a point when there were three peo­ple in the car, but in the speed­ing-away shot, only two peo­ple were there. We fixed things like that at his re­quest. But fun­da­men­tal­ly, even when we were re­do­ing things, he would al­ways say he wanted to faith­fully con­vey the im­age of the orig­i­nal, from back when it was first made.

I: It seemed like he wanted to do the things he could­n’t do back in the day, the things he wished he’d done, the things he had a chance to do over now.

K: Yes. Ba­si­cally he wanted to get it that much closer to per­fec­tion.

What about you, Mr. Ya­maza­ki?

Y: I think I’ll just be re­peat­ing the other two, but in the stu­dio with us he had a “Let’s do this as a team!” men­tal­i­ty, and that in turn made us think “I want to do some­thing to make this good!” He keeps get­ting more and more of the peo­ple around him on his side. He has that kind of charm, I think. “Look how much love he gives to his works!”—that much was plain as day. And that’s ex­actly what makes us start think­ing, “We’ve gotta do this thing!” This is­n’t the nicest way of putting it, but there are sort of “hired di­rec­tor” types in this world, you know? He’s not like that at all. He’s the po­lar op­po­site. His type of di­rec­tor is rare these days.

I: He’s a man among men. Be­cause he hates dis­hon­esty and un­rea­son. Can it be done or not? If not, he won’t do it. But if there’s a chance it can be done, he goes all the way with it.

Y: Be­fore he de­cides whether some­thing is pos­si­ble or not, though, he’ll try var­i­ous things. Right now we’re done with the show it­self and we’re work­ing on the DVD menus—and he re­fuses to com­pro­mise about them, too. For him this is­n’t just about the work called “Utena”; right now he’s try­ing to cre­ate the work called “The Utena DVD Box Set.” That’s the sense I got.

That’s so true; I can see you’re all striv­ing to­gether as one to make “The Utena DVD Box Set” hap­pen. Thank you for tak­ing the time to speak with me to­day.

5.1 Audio Remastering: Interview With The Staff

Yo Ya­mada
Sound En­gi­neer­ing/Di­rec­tion

Tomokazu Mii
Sound Effects

For this DVD box set, the sound has been re­done in 5.1, the for­mat where you get sound out of six differ­ent speak­ers. Could I ask you to tell us about that process?

Ya­mada: In gen­er­al, we did­n’t re-record lines. Among other things, the ac­tors’ voices will have changed after eleven years. The thing you’ll no­tice the most when you lis­ten to the new au­dio mix is the sound qual­i­ty. For ex­am­ple, in the sound sources of those days you got a lot of lip smack­ing and other mouth nois­es, so the first thing we did was a sort of cleanup to clear that stuff away phrase by phrase. And then we re-recorded just those lines where the nu­ance was off in the orig­i­nal.7 Places where the sched­ule con­straints of the day meant that the ac­tors had to record be­fore the art was ready; things like that. I think the di­rec­tor felt frus­tra­tion at the time, too. Other than that, since this is a 5.1 track, we needed sounds that could be heard out of the back speak­ers, not just the front. In terms of how we gave the mix a three­-di­men­sional feel us­ing this sys­tem, we added things like walla (crowd nois­es) to get sound with breadth. We did re-record those things. In 5.1, you can hear par­tic­u­larly clearly the sounds that give a sense of mo­tion or po­si­tion­ing.

What are these six speak­ers that are used in 5.1?

Ymd: In front you have L,C, R (the left­-front speak­er, the cen­ter, and the right), and then there’s Ls and Rs (the left and right-rear speak­er­s), and fi­nally there’s the sub­woofer, which does the low fre­quency sounds.

So, is the goal of switch­ing to that for­mat pro­duc­ing a “you’re right there with them” feel­ing? I know the sound in the duel scenes in more three­-di­men­sion­al.

Mii: To be­gin with we had in­struc­tions from the di­rec­tor to make all the whin­ing sounds, like the swoosh­ing of the swords, sur­round. The orig­i­nal au­dio was al­ways there comes from the front speak­ers, but new sounds we added in are com­ing from the rear as well. Peo­ple with 5.1 se­tups at home with hear those new sounds com­ing from be­hind them. Those are newly recorded effects, but they ap­pear in al­most every episode.

Then you made new record­ings of the sound effec­t-type things for this re­lease. Do you get a differ­ent sense of pres­ence when the “swooshes” are lay­ered like that?

Yd: Yes. It packs more punch, and since you get the vwoosh com­ing in from be­hind when the swords are drawn, you feel like you’re in the mid­dle of the ac­tion. The di­rec­tor was very par­tic­u­lar about the ac­tion scenes. Al­so, there were some things that we al­tered dras­ti­cal­ly: the sound of the bells that ring be­fore each du­el, and the sound of the Akio Car. We were act­ing on the di­rec­tor’s in­struc­tions for those changes, and they’re quite differ­ent now.

What was the di­rec­tor’s im­age of the bells’ ring­ing like?

Mi: He ba­si­cally wanted to broaden it. He wanted the au­di­ence to hear weighty sounds com­ing from the front and back. To tell you the truth, the new sound does­n’t match the vi­su­als at all. You only re­ally see four or five bells, but we put a huge num­ber of them in the sound­scape… The low boom­ing sort of ring does­n’t catch your ear right by it­self, so we put in higher sounds as well. There’s all kind of bells ring­ing that aren’t at all like the ones on the screen.

The choral songs start up in the duel scenes that fol­low, too, so that seems com­plex.

M: When you have mu­sic and SFX (sound effects) to­geth­er, the SFX can eas­ily be over­whelmed so that you can’t hear them. When the di­rec­tor lis­tened to the SFX by them­selves he said they sounded great, but when we com­bined them with the mu­sic they weren’t au­di­ble, so that was a diffi­cult is­sue. What’s more, there would even be di­a­logue on top of that some­times.

Y: What do you pull back? What do you bring out? And where? One con­straint is that you re­ally have to be able to hear the di­a­logue. In a sit­u­a­tion where you want to bring out the di­a­logue and you also want peo­ple to hear the mu­sic, it be­comes a mat­ter of fre­quen­cy. In terms of the duel sce­nes, the di­rec­tor was also par­tic­u­lar about the part when the sword comes out of An­thy’s chest.

M: He had the im­age of the movie’s sword-draw­ing in his mind, and the movie was 5.1 in the­aters, so the sound came in from back to front. But the TV se­ries was­n’t made that way. It has SFX, but they’re al­most en­tirely cov­ered by the mu­sic and you can’t hear them. So, in the mo­ment that the sword comes out of her chest, we’ve added a boom­ing sound. There’s also light pour­ing forth in the video dur­ing that se­quence, so we put in some “whoosh.”

I see you were very per­fec­tion­is­tic about the duel scenes.

M: This time around, the SFX can carry the scene by them­selves, even with­out the mu­sic. That was­n’t pos­si­ble dur­ing the TV se­ries. And it’s one of the dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures of 5.1, re­al­ly.

The choral pieces con­tinue all through­out the duel sce­nes, don’t they? And the lyrics are very sig­nifi­cant, so I im­age it was diffi­cult to blend them with the di­a­logue and the SFX for the swords.

Y: Di­rec­tor Ikuhara re­ally wants the vo­cals to come through, you know? He wants the viewer to be able to hear all the lyrics. We changed the edit points of the songs a lit­tle, too. Things that weren’t tied to­gether smoothly at the time can be edited smoothly now. In cases where the du­els were shorter than the songs we cut up the songs to tie every­thing to­geth­er, but where the edit­ing was choppy be­fore, we’ve now smoothed every­thing out. We’ve tried not to change the im­age of the orig­i­nal, but I think peo­ple who no­tice that kind of thing will know what I mean.

Do you bring down the song vo­cals a bit dur­ing the di­a­logue and bring them back up again when the char­ac­ters are fin­ished?

Y: That’s the way it was bal­anced dur­ing broad­cast, ac­tu­al­ly. But with 5.1 you have a lot of speak­ers, so you dis­trib­ute the sound in such a way as to mak­ing every­thing au­di­ble. For ex­am­ple, if the di­a­logue is hard to hear with just the cen­ter speak­er, you put it in more speak­ers.

That makes sense. Mov­ing on to the next thing, you men­tioned that new au­dio was cre­ated for the Akio Car as well. How did you make that?

M: The orig­i­nal en­gine sounds were high­-pitched. That’s not such a bad thing for a sports car, but the di­rec­tor said a lower sound would fit his vi­sion bet­ter. He said that he’s also like to con­vey a real sense of rid­ing in the car through a low roar while it was in mo­tion. So first of all we made the en­gine noise it­self low­er, and then while peo­ple were rid­ing in the car we had a con­tin­u­ous su­per-low drone in the sub­woofer. That gives you an oom­ph, so you re­ally feel the car.

Y: We were try­ing to re­pro­duce the con­di­tions of when you’re ac­tu­ally in a car. Like you’re feel­ing the ve­hi­cle’s vi­bra­tions.

Be­fore the Akio Car comes into view, there’s a scene where he revs the en­gine, is­n’t there?

M: He puts the key in, revs the en­gine once. The en­gine goes vroom, and then he revs it one more time. This whole en­gine se­quence has been re-recorded from scratch. You see, the orig­i­nal sounds were never what the di­rec­tor had en­vi­sioned. Since we were re­do­ing the show’s au­dio any­way, it was only right that we take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity to re-record this part.

You’re giv­ing it sounds that fit a spe­cific men­tal im­age, rather than sounds that fit the type of car that ap­pears in the show, right?

M: That’s right. It’s not re­al­ism. It’s a ques­tion of whether the sounds have the right im­age and feel good.

Y: We had com­par­a­tively more time on this re­lease, so we would first put in sounds ac­cord­ing to our own men­tal im­ages, then get de­tailed in­struc­tions from Mr. Ikuhara, and then sub­mit the fixed au­dio the fol­low­ing week. I’m told that for the TV se­ries they had no time, so they al­ways had to record the au­dio be­fore the art was done. That meant there were parts where the tim­ing did­n’t fit, and we made it all fit this time.

M: Ap­par­ently there were times where the viewer would ex­pect a sound and there would­n’t be one, or where the en­gi­neers thought there’d be cer­tain video go­ing on and so they’d put their all into adding sound there, only to dis­cover later that the video they ex­pected was­n’t ac­tu­ally there. We’ve re­moved the effects from those places.

I hear the li­brary scene in episode 4 re­ally sounds like a li­brary now.

M: The di­rec­tor wanted to have the sounds of chairs and foot­steps and such—in other words, to have sounds that con­veyed hu­man move­ments with­out any­one speak­ing. At first, we de­signed the sound with a cer­tain amount of soft but present crowd noise, like peo­ple mum­bling to each oth­er. But the di­rec­tor said, “That’s not right.” He wanted to have the au­di­ence feel the hu­man pres­ence not through peo­ple’s voic­es, but through the sounds of peo­ple mov­ing.

Y: After all, you gen­er­ally don’t talk in li­braries, right? So we ex­press peo­ple through coughs and things. The TV broad­cast ended up hav­ing (crowd noise) in it.

There are also scenes with ele­phants and such; do those spots have more of a sense of pres­ence now, too?

M: Yes. When phys­i­cally large things ap­peared, we got the woofer go­ing so that you’d have low sounds at floor lev­el.

Oh, I see. I’ve heard that the di­rec­tor was also par­tic­u­lar about the part in episode 6 when Nanami gets hit in the face with the ball.

M: Orig­i­nally that had a man­ga-like sound, like a bo­ing or a thwack. The di­rec­tor said “Maybe a realer noise would be more comedic to peo­ple now.” So we made it a much more painful sound.

Y: It took us a long time to get there, did­n’t it?

M: There was the sound of the ball hit­ting, and that came from the rear speak­ers. Then we put it in the front ones as well, and then we added a bone-jar­ring noise.

In­ter­est­ing. Speak­ing of sound, in the be­gin­ning of episode 9 when Saionji and Touga have a kendo match, there’s a strange, play­ful trick where the voices of fe­male stu­dents seem to be com­ing out of the bam­boo swords. How is that now?

M: We could­n’t re­ally grok that at first. “Walla that makes it look like the swords are talk­ing? What’s the deal with that?” But when we lis­tened care­ful­ly, the swords re­ally move in time with the girls say­ing hooray. Then we got it: “Oh! That ac­tu­ally is the swords talk­ing!” So we ad­justed the po­si­tion­ing of the sound. In the end, that’s the game he was play­ing, us­ing the sound. The scene was orig­i­nally cre­ated with that nu­ance, but the di­rec­tor wanted to pur­sue that even fur­ther in 5.1. He must have wanted to clearly ex­press that nu­ance through the sound this time, since it might not have got­ten across to the au­di­ence be­fore.

Ah, I see. And in the Mik­age episodes, the sounds in the con­fes­sional leave an im­pres­sion.

Y: You could say that was when the sound effects re­ally needed to step up to the plate. Low sounds… We were very par­tic­u­lar about the sounds of the el­e­va­tor, too.

M: When it starts or stops, it makes a jerky thump. And when it’s mov­ing there’s the whine of a mo­tor, but in 5.1 if we made the sound come in from the rear and spread, it was over­whelmed by the mu­sic. The di­rec­tor told us, “I can’t hear it from the front.” The trade­off for spread­ing it was that it lost its core. So we cranked up that noise in the front speak­ers and spread it to the rear, giv­ing it the same bal­ance as the orig­i­nal broad­cast. Al­so, we re-recorded the walla in those scenes. Be­cause there was a drum­ming sound like some­one kick­ing a tree there in the SFX, but the di­rec­tor said, “I want di­a­logue.”

Y: We rounded up dozens of men to re­take those male moans.

M: Where they get out of the el­e­va­tor and come into that room with the coffins, right?

Y: That was bru­tal work.

Lis­ten­ing to you talk about it, it sounds like a newly re­born, de­fin­i­tive ver­sion of the show. Well, to wrap up the in­ter­view, could you tell us your im­pres­sions of Di­rec­tor Ikuhara?

M: The di­rec­tor was more knowl­edge­able about au­dio than I ex­pect­ed. He has a 5.1 setup in his own home, and of course he watches all kinds of movies, so a lot of his in­struc­tions were very clear, which made things easy for us. He would tell us his vi­sion: “I’d like to hear this sound from this di­rec­tion in this way”; things like that. When we were do­ing the duel scenes we learned the di­rec­tor’s way of think­ing, so after that we made every­thing ac­cord­ing­ly.

Y: I’ve been priv­i­leged to work on three shows: , , and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena. Out of the three di­rec­tors of those shows, Mr. Ikuhara is the clos­est to me in age, so he was easy for me to un­der­stand. In my mind, it’s easy to work with some­one who grew up in the same age I did, and it’s more ex­cit­ing. Be­cause the anime and dra­mas that we watched as kids are the same, and I can see those el­e­ments pop­ping up. So I ask him about it, and we both get pumped up talk­ing about it: “I used to watch that one! Yeah, and this one!”

Ah, you un­der­stand the im­age he has of things.

Y: Right. If I say that to our young as­sis­tant, he does­n’t get it. There’s a deeper mean­ing there, though. (laughs) Al­so, you could say the di­rec­tor’s fi­nal word was a bit scary: he’d say “Well, I think this is my fault, but…”—and the re-record­ing would be­gin all over again. (laughs) But you know, it was­n’t okay to just give up. I could see his point, and think “Yeah, he’s right.”

M: Yes, hear­ing his opin­ions I could see how maybe we should try it again. On this pro­ject, I was fired up enough to want to give 100%, even 120%.

I’m very much look­ing for­ward to hear­ing the fi­nal au­dio.

Y: Even on nor­mal TV speak­ers, there will be more sound than be­fore, the di­a­logue will sound cleaner than be­fore, and the mu­sic will have a differ­ent sense of pres­ence, so I think you’ll be able to en­joy it in stereo as well.

M: But it’s even more awe­some with a 5.1 se­tup, so I hope you’ll lis­ten to it in 5.1 if pos­si­ble.

This con­ver­sa­tion has cer­tainly made me want lis­ten to it in 5.1. Thank you for speak­ing with me to­day.

Revolutionary Girls: Girls’ Manga

There’s a type of anime which tar­gets a “girl” au­di­ence, maybe through be­ing based on shoujo man­ga, or maybe through hav­ing an out­look on the world that’s in­formed by a girl’s per­spec­tive. Orig­i­nal­ly, the main trends were ti­tles based on pop­u­lar shoujo man­ga, like and , and mag­i­cal girl ti­tles, like and . As a group, they were gen­tle works in which the sub­tleties of hu­man emo­tion were de­picted in de­tails or dan­gers were es­caped via the fan­tas­ti­cal ac­tions we call “mag­ic.” And then, in 1992, Pretty Sol­dier be­gan, and the tides changed. Girls ac­tively used their phys­i­cal skills to de­feat evil. Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara, a Sailor Moon di­rec­tor, once com­mented that “See­ing girls be vi­o­lent is plea­sur­able to view­ers now.” Vi­o­lence: what every­one had thought girls wanted to avoid at all costs up un­til then. It’s a world with very neg­a­tive as­so­ci­a­tions, but it’s true—in the show, Sailor Moon and the oth­ers punched and kicked their en­e­mies. What’s most im­por­tant, how­ev­er, was not that our pop­u­lar im­age of girls had fallen so low that we could see them as vi­o­lent; it’s that even when they had ac­tion scenes like that, the hero­ines were still beau­ti­ful. That’s what in­spired the girls’ long­ing;—even ac­tion scenes that only come across as vi­o­lent with male he­roes turn cute and cool when girls do them. Maybe that was what peo­ple in­trin­si­cally de­sired even more than fight­ing boys. And so there was no longer any need for a setup in which the girl is pro­tected by the boy. In that sit­u­a­tion, what Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara cre­ated next was Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena. It was a show that flew right in the face of the “prince fan­tasy” se­tup: the prince who saves the princess is a girl. The world of Utena was a log­i­cal ex­ten­sion of the fight­ing girls you saw in Sailor Moon: what you could call the con­sum­mated form of that world. And there was this theme that you fought the male prince as an out­dated ide­al.

Given these el­e­ments, some thought that Utena called into ques­tion the whole con­cept of a “women po­si­tion in so­ci­ety = gen­der.” Some­thing that shook up and over­threw the re­la­tion­ship be­tween men and women. It’s true that un­der­world hu­man re­la­tion­ship taboos are buried within Utena as some­thing like a foun­da­tion for that re­for­m—anom­alous breeds of re­la­tion­ships like ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and in­cest. It’s not diffi­cult to in­ter­pret these things as re­flect­ing psy­cho­log­i­cally un­cer­tain times, when the types of re­la­tion­ships that fol­low pre­ex­ist­ing rules are ap­proach­ing their lim­its. Di­rec­tor Ikuhara’s work is often de­scribed as hav­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties to the shoujo manga of the 1970s, and there was a sim­i­lar shakeup in re­la­tion­ships then, too. There was , who drew fe­males who dressed as males in Rose of Ver­sailles and , as well as manga artists like and , who drew . Keiko Takemiya has said that she drew same-sex love out of a de­sire to de­pict a pure form of love; those who har­bor feel­ings strong enough even to over­come a lack of ac­knowl­edg­ment from any­one else need to in­vent their re­la­tion­ship. A re­la­tion­ship just for the two of them, a world with only the two of them. The in­ven­tion of a new re­la­tion­ship is dra­mat­ic, and whether it comes to fruition or ru­in, it’s backed by a mad ro­man­ti­cism. The read­ers are moved by the main char­ac­ters’ at­tempts to break free of the strong, walled-in feel­ing that smoth­ers them.

How­ev­er, in truth the im­age of girls that Utena held was­n’t probed to the ex­treme in just a sin­gle di­rec­tion like this. An­thy car­ried a heavy bur­den, but she fre­quently gave us glimpses of a tem­pera­ment that was hard to pin down as ei­ther ec­cen­tric or ven­omous, and Utena was a lively girl who did what her feel­ings dic­tat­ed. When faced with a prince her heart raced like a girl’s, and she en­joyed her­self; she was very hu­man. In that sense, she was­n’t “the an­ti-man”, and though she loved An­thy, she was­n’t a les­bian. She was­n’t a sym­bol formed from gen­der ide­ol­o­gy: she was freer. Hu­mans are mul­ti­fac­eted be­ings. And Utena and An­thy were filled with com­plex hu­man na­ture like that. Their char­ac­ter­i­za­tion had breadth. View­ers were heart­ened and alarmed in turn by the var­i­ous facets of Utena and her friends, and that was what made them so en­ter­tain­ing and so rich in nu­ance.

What is the fun of shoujo man­ga, re­al­ly? “It’s adorned with beau­ti­ful things”, “It de­picts ex­pres­sions of emo­tion in de­tail”, “It pur­sues hu­man re­la­tion­ships.” Women look at peo­ple with sharp eyes. The mas­ter­pieces of shoujo manga are those works that have a nar­ra­tively which can with­stand their power to stare right through peo­ple. Utena had such el­e­ments. For in­stance, take Miki and Kozue’s sib­ling re­la­tion­ship: the long­ing for lost mem­o­ries, and the strong de­sire for the one you love to care for you even when sul­lied. And then you have the sad re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ju­ry, who seals away her im­pos­si­ble love and there­fore be­comes un­able to es­cape, and Ruka, who merely wishes to free his beloved’s heart with­out seek­ing any­thing in re­turn. Utena bril­liantly por­trayed the type of story shoujo manga has pur­sued, the type that de­picts del­i­cate emo­tions. And on top of that, Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara added a new plea­sure sought after by girls. No mat­ter how deeply you’re trou­bled, no mat­ter how much your heart is stirred, the cli­max of those feel­ings is de­cided with a du­el. As he’d once said about Sailor Moon, “It was­n’t the ro­mance that was such a hit with girls; it was the part where the main char­ac­ters used their sure-fire tech­niques to de­feat their en­e­mies.” This time he made the fi­nal cathar­sis for all the sub­li­mated emo­tional tur­moil the bran­dish­ing of swords in a du­el. He took the high­light scene that up un­til now shoujo manga had en­livened with dra­matic stag­ing and beau­ti­ful di­a­logue, and he changed it to the beau­ti­ful yet cool ac­tion called the “duel”. There view­ers had the fun of en­gross­ing them­selves in the pro­found psy­cho­log­i­cal por­tray­als girls have been read­ing for many years now, com­bined with the newly dis­cov­ered plea­sure of bat­tle. This was quite the dra­matic in­ven­tion in its own right. Surely this ac­ro­batic turn­about is the true thrill of Utena, and a crown­ing achieve­ment of con­clu­sively por­tray­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary im­age of girls while plumb­ing the depths of shoujo manga in an or­tho­dox way.

Laserdisc Liner Notes: From The Japanese Archives

When the pack­aged re­lease of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena first be­gan, DVDs did­n’t yet ex­ist. VHS and LaserDiscs (LD) were put out. LDs in par­tic­u­lar were large and packed real vi­sual im­pact, and the book­lets en­closed were well worth see­ing as well. Those printed ex­tras were com­posed of writ­ten con­tri­bu­tions from the staff, in­ter­views, reprints of orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als from (Tokuma Shoten Lt­d.), etc. And just like the world­view of the show it­self, the staff’s ways of view­ing Utena were brim­ming with sur­prise and mys­tery. It was high­-volt­age con­tent. Yuichi­rou Oguro, a mem­ber of the orig­i­nal cre­ators, BE-PAPAS, served as ed­i­tor him­self. One of the prime sources of this rich­ness of con­tent was the fact that he per­son­ally saw to the mag­a­zine ma­te­r­ial and the struc­ture of the lin­ear notes. Here, we’ll con­vey the essence of those LD liner notes to you through se­lect ex­cerpts.

A boy’s spirit of romantic adventure in a girl’s heart


While I was prepar­ing Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena, I thought about a lot of things. One of them was “Ro­man­ti­cism.” That was be­cause I wanted to make this show a show brim­ming with that spirit of Ro­man­tic ad­ven­ture. But what is Ro­mance, ex­act­ly? What’s the differ­ence be­tween the Ro­man­tic and the ro­man­tic?8 For ex­am­ple, say there’s a boy stand­ing in the bat­ter’s box at an am­a­teur base­ball game. That boy can only see the ball the pitcher throws. To him, in that mo­ment the one thing with ab­solute value is hit­ting that ball. You could go so far as to say that the ball he’s pitched is his world. For him, to hit that ball is to make a stand against the world. He swings the bat, and hits a home run. At that in­stant, he can feel a eu­pho­ria that goes all the way to his core. And that’s be­cause he’s just made a stand against the world and come out vic­to­ri­ous. I think that feel­ing of core-deep rap­ture must be what we mean by “Ro­mance.” Think­ing some­thing’s kind of won­der­ful, or feel­ing your heart pound—those things aren’t Ro­mance. A eu­pho­ria so in­tense it can’t be com­pared to any­thing else, be­ing deeply moved by some­thing you con­sider the most mag­nifi­cent thing in this world—that’s Ro­mance. Per­haps Ro­mance means mak­ing a stand against your per­sonal “world.” When that boy reaches adult­hood, he’ll find out that get­ting a home run is­n’t the most mag­nifi­cent thing in this world. And then even when he hits a home run in an am­a­teur base­ball game, he won’t be able to feel moved so deeply. That’s how peo­ple lose Ro­mance as they age. Of course, I’m sure there are girls out there who have Ro­mance, and ro­man­tic boys, too. Still, it’s boys who are most suited to “the courage to make a stand against the world.”

I think Ro­mance prob­a­bly be­longs to boys. And ro­mance be­longs to girls. Utena Ten­jou, the hero­ine of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena, is a girl who wears boys’ clothes. She boldly chal­lenges a love with a won­der­ful man, her own des­tiny, and the world it­self. She’s a char­ac­ter who has at the same time both the ro­mance of a girl and the Ro­mance of a boy. That’s why Utena cross-dress­es, to cap­ture a boy’s Ro­mance while re­main­ing a girl. To make a stand against the world.

The Sunlit Garden—Etude

Se­ries Struc­ture

So what is this show’s sce­nario dri­ving at?

Aw, come on, don’t ask me that. I’ll blush. The cage may be one that you can slip out of one day with­out even know­ing. How­ev­er, the mo­ment comes when, quite by chance, you no­tice the ex­is­tence of that “labyrinth.” There comes a time when you re­al­ize you’ve lost sight of the path you must take, and now you’re lost. Maybe it’s when you hap­pen to visit an old build­ing, and you see the light fil­ter­ing in through its sky­light. Or maybe it’s when you hear a ci­cada chirp­ing in the woods one sum­mer at dusk. There comes a time when you feel some­thing the word “nos­tal­gia” alone can’t en­com­pass; some­thing heartrend­ing that you feel through­out your whole body. “Ah, that’s right, I re­mem­ber this sen­sa­tion. It’s nice, is­n’t it…” It’s not like you want to board a time ma­chine and go back to your past, but you do long to sa­vor past plea­sures one more time, to ex­pe­ri­ence them vic­ar­i­ous­ly. No, that’s not right. What I want to say here is­n’t that there are mo­ments when you wish for some­thing like that; it’s that the yearn­ing to vic­ar­i­ously re-ex­pe­ri­ence those times from your past is present in all hu­mans on a fun­da­men­tal lev­el. That there are mo­ments when you be­come aware of that fact. Our phi­los­o­phy of love, our ideal of the fu­ture—I won­der if those things aren’t largely rooted in that “yearn­ing for vic­ar­i­ous ex­pe­ri­ence”; if that yearn­ing is­n’t an­other fac­tor be­sides the ge­netic in­for­ma­tion coded into us from birth. Set­ting aside the ques­tion of whether that’s most prop­erly called a learned mo­tive, a de­sire for the sense of om­nipo­tence we once had, or some­thing we can write off more sim­ply with the word “sen­ti­ment”, the point is that there comes a time when it’s brought home to you that the “yearn­ing for vic­ar­i­ous ex­pe­ri­ence” is some­thing you have within your own heart as well—a force al­most like grav­i­ty. “The same tone as my lit­tle sis­ter’s…” Miki blurts in a whis­per. “That sun­lit gar­den… I’ve found it. My ‘shin­ing thing.’” And we in­stinc­tively know that it’s dan­ger­ous. There’s noth­ing in­her­ently wrong with sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty, of course. Sen­ti­men­tal­ity is a tool that can, and should, be used. How­ev­er, be­cause hu­mans are fun­da­men­tally be­ings which live into the fu­ture, if we are ruled by sen­ti­ment, we lose the mo­men­tum to keep flow­ing for­ward and be­come stag­nant. That’s why we this a “labyrinth.” By the way, labyrinths are sym­bols of growth and death. After be­ing hurt emo­tion­al­ly, peo­ple often set off on jour­neys into a labyrinth-esque de­vice. The labyrinth of the mind has no phys­i­cal form, so it’s hard to grasp with the sens­es. And so you “solve” the prob­lem by syn­chro­niz­ing your men­tal labyrinth with a vis­i­ble one: you wan­der across a phys­i­cal dis­tance or through a phys­i­cal course, and if your wound heals you’ve reached the cen­ter. But when a man ar­rives at the cen­ter of a labyrinth, he is no longer the man he was be­fore he en­tered. Growth means the death of the per­son you were up un­til that point. The labyrinth called “life” has no phys­i­cal form, ei­ther. Out “way of life”, known as “cre­ation”, can per­haps be thought of as the for­mal­iza­tion of the un­seen into the eas­ily un­der­stood.

So what is it you want to por­tray, ex­act­ly?

Mik­i’s lament of “Why can’t I find some­one to be my ‘shin­ing thing’?” Miki Kaoru’s “shin­ing thing” sym­bol­izes the de­sire for vic­ar­i­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, of course. The white house on the hill, the greener grass on the other side the hill, and the cas­tle in the sky. It’s not just lim­ited to the de­sire for vic­ar­i­ous ex­pe­ri­ence—the mo­tif of “the hap­pi­ness on the other side” comes up over and over again in Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena. For some rea­son, we al­most never de­pict a “sam­ple” of hap­pi­ness it­self. Even the “Utena” in the ti­tle is­n’t the flower it­self: it’s the ca­lyx9 on which the flower rests.

The “shin­ing thing”, the de­sire to vic­ar­i­ously re-ex­pe­ri­ence times past. I don’t wish to gain­say that. (That sun­lit gar­den is too beau­ti­ful for me to gain­say it al­l.) I don’t wish to merely show off its beauty ei­ther, though. (If you’re sim­ply ruled by sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty, you can’t even main­tain the ca­pac­ity to truly ex­pe­ri­ence beau­ty.) Per­haps all I’ve re­ally done here is to briefly point out the theme within the story of “The Sun­lit Gar­den”, and this whole piece of writ­ing has been noth­ing but an étude I’m play­ing in prepa­ra­tion for a story I have yet to write. The sight of some­one who is aware that he is be­ing ruled by sen­ti­men­tal­ity to­ward the past even as it is rul­ing him, and who in time ma­tures into effec­tively wield­ing such sen­ti­ment as a tool in his ar­se­nal, and the frame­work of this world, which is set up to let that hap­pen—I’m sure that’s what I want to por­tray. It’s what I feel I should por­tray. The fact that we’re loved by the world. The fact that that we can still love the world. Be­cause when you get right down to it, I think what I ought to con­vey through this form called screen­writ­ing is a love let­ter. (Ac­tu­al­ly, I think all cre­ative works should be love let­ter­s.) And the “most im­por­tant thing” about a love let­ter is­n’t its style of ex­pres­sion, so we must­n’t com­mit the folly of striv­ing for tech­ni­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity to the ex­clu­sion of all else. (Tech­nique alone won’t make you elo­quent. You need pas­sion! Pas­sion!) Not that any­body ever kindly tells me “Your lack of per­fec­tion is your strength.” (laughs)

The Shape Of The Job

Char­ac­ter De­sign
Shinya Hasegawa – [BE-PAPAS]

As I’m writ­ing this, there are only two months left on the pro­duc­tion of Utena.

We’re run­ning out of money fast, so you’d think I’d op­er­at­ing at peak volt­age, but I’m ac­tu­ally aw­fully com­posed; in fact, in my ninth year as an an­i­ma­tor I’m work­ing more calmly than I ever have be­fore.

Back in the day, I felt a sense of ex­hil­a­ra­tion and ac­com­plish­ment at each new thing, un­der each set of cir­cum­stances: when my name first ap­peared on tele­vi­sion as an in­-be­tween an­i­ma­tor, when I learned key an­i­ma­tion tech­niques by ex­am­ple, when I took part in a video or the­atri­cal pro­ject, and then when I be­came an “An­i­ma­tion Di­rec­tor”, when my il­lus­tra­tions were pub­lished in mag­a­zines or prod­ucts… But that lasted only about three years. After you’ve more or less ex­pe­ri­enced all the stages, you can bet­ter imag­ine the fu­ture. In due course you come to see what you could­n’t see be­fore. I felt my in­ter­ests (or mo­ti­va­tions) shift based on trends go­ing on around me, my own po­si­tion, and closely fought bat­tles there.

In terms of my char­ac­ter de­sign job for Utena, I did­n’t have much in­ter­est in the re­sults them­selves.

The is­sue is what shall I make the de­signs like, can I make them, what should I do in or­der to make them, how do I use them effec­tively once they’re made…? It’s bor­ing if you’re just sit­ting there mak­ing them and that’s all. What I’m after is­n’t the col­ored cel­lu­loid film or the print; it’s the process as­so­ci­ated with those things.

As an anal­o­gy, is noth­ing but a po­tent fuel to pro­pel you to the re­sult of get­ting drunk and mak­ing a scene, but it’s only when you drink it calmly and with self­-con­trol that you can first sense the “depth” of sakè that en­com­passes its sub­tle fla­vor, its aro­ma, and the process of its pro­duc­tion.

I don’t re­ally have any in­ten­tion of go­ing on about the fi­nal re­sults; I’m sure I’d just end up grum­bling, and at my­self not least of all. I don’t let feel­ings that things did­n’t go as well as I wanted turn into pes­simism; they’re my dri­ving force for my next go-round.

I might not be able to get the re­sults I want for a while, but I think that’s just fine.

Be­cause when I reach that point, it’ll all be over.

Deliberate Mismatches

Yuichi­rou Oguro – [BE-PAPAS]

BE-PAPAS is a plan­ning and story con­cep­tion group that Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara brought to­gether to cre­ate Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena. It’s made up of five peo­ple: leader Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara, Chiho Saito, Yoji Enoki­do, Shinya Hasegawa, and me, Yuichi­rou Oguro.

Right now I’d like to talk about the plan­ning of this show as well as its dis­tinc­tive fla­vor.

The ba­sic con­cept of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena is “a ro­man­tic ac­tion show star­ring a pretty girl who wears boys’ clothes.” There’s also the el­e­ment of “Takarazuka style.”

_Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Ute­na’_s plan­ning be­gan when Di­rec­tor Ikuhara saw an il­lus­tra­tion by Ms. Saito in a book store and fell in love at first sight. Would­n’t a pret­ty-girl ac­tion show that made the most of Ms. Saito’s ro­man­tic qual­ity as a manga artist be in­ter­est­ing? Di­rec­tor Ikuhara and I im­me­di­ately asked Ms. Chiho for her co­op­er­a­tion in plan­ning the pro­ject.

To show off the bril­liant mood of Ms. Saito’s manga to its great­est ad­van­tage, the main char­ac­ter be­come “a pretty girl who dresses as a boy.” The de­ci­sion to make it a “school show” was set­tled early on, too. Ideas like the “Rose Bride” and the “du­els” came much lat­er.

After Ms. Saito joined us, the plans kind of fluc­tu­at­ed—okay, more like jolted back and forth enough to give a man whiplash—­for a while, and then the story and setup were largely set­tled. In other words, the plan­ning was fin­ished.

Ms. Saito’s manga se­ri­al­iza­tion started up, the TV broad­cast deal was closed, and the real pro­duc­tion work started at last.

Dur­ing the plan­ning stage, Di­rec­tor Ikuhara had de­voted his pas­sion to find­ing the best way to bring the world of Chiho Saito’s work to life in anime form, but at this point he started re­ally adding his own fla­vor to the show. The stage-like lay­out, the shadow girls, J.A. Cae­sar’s choral songs, and all the rest. With the in­jec­tion of this Ikuhara fla­vor, the show fur­ther ex­panded in leaps and bounds.

Now that the manga and anime have been both started up, Ms. Saito has been pulling Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena in a more ro­man­tic di­rec­tion, and Di­rec­tor Ikuhara has been pulling it in the di­rec­tion of his own tastes. And even as he aids both of them in their tug-of-war, Yoji Enokido in­cor­po­rates his tastes as well. It’s fair to say that the ba­sic fla­vor of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena is formed from the in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties of those three peo­ple: Ikuhara, Saito, and Enoki­do.

The in­ter­est­ing thing is that Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara is both “orig­i­nal cre­ator” and “di­rec­tor.”

In other words, he planned Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena as a “-style ro­man­tic story”,10 and now that pro­duc­tion has started up, he’s taken that “Takarazuka-style ro­man­tic story” as the base text, di­rected it, and steadily fleshed out the show.

Around the time we started plan­ning Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena, he and I had a con­ver­sa­tion about how per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing works had “an el­e­ment of mis­match, but in a good way.” If it’s a mis­match for Ms. Saito to draw a pret­ty-girl ac­tion piece with ec­cen­tric cos­tum­ing, it’s cer­tainly also a mis­match for Di­rec­tor Ikuhara to di­rect a “Chiho Saito ro­man­tic ac­tion piece.”

We’re do­ing that on pur­pose.

In Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena, Di­rec­tor Ikuhara de­lib­er­ately set up a twofold mis­match and then made a suc­cess out of it. It’s the kind of elab­o­rate strat­egy you’d ex­pect from the vil­lain of a ful­l-blown de­tec­tive nov­el.

That twofold mis­match is what pro­duces the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena ani­me’s mys­te­ri­ous fla­vor.

Animation And Music: Secretly Androgynous

Com­poser & Lyri­cist of the Choral Pieces

A dim place some­how steeped in mys­tery; the per­fect sort of place for mys­te­ri­ous Chi­na­men to make back­room deals in. That’s the sort of place Dy­nasty, the cafè by the east exit of , was. In De­cem­ber of 1996, I [J.A. Cae­sar] met with a young ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer from King Records there. His name was Mr. [Toshimichi] Ot­su­ki.11

Ot­suki: The di­rec­tor in­sists that he needs your mu­sic, so here I am, and—the truth is, our anime Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena airs this com­ing April, and we’d like to ask you to do the mu­sic for it. Well, the mu­sic for the main char­ac­ter Ute­na’s duel scenes. What do you think? Nat­u­ral­ly, we’ve al­ready cho­sen some the­atri­cal pieces of yours that we’re fa­mil­iar with to use: “Ab­solute Des­tiny Apoc­a­lypse”, “Seal Spell”, “The Pa­le­o­zoic Era within the Body”, “An­gel Cre­ation, Namely Light”…

Ap­par­ently the whole thing was al­ready planned out in the di­rec­tor’s mind.

So, what’s this di­rec­tor’s name?

Otsk: Oh, of course. It’s Di­rec­tor Ku­ni­hiko Ikuhara. The same Di­rec­tor Ikuhara from Pretty Sol­dier Sailor Moon.

That’s mag­nifi­cent.

Ot: What?

I’m a Sailor Moon fan my­self, ac­tu­al­ly.

O: Aha­ha­ha­ha…

Still, I’m sure the con­ven­tional thing would be to put to­gether the sce­nes, the sto­ries, the back­grounds, and all of that, and cre­ate mu­sic that fits the im­age. So why would he want to use my choral works for the­ater, which are al­ready done, and more­over have en­tirely differ­ent themes?

O: Di­rec­tor Ikuhara tells me he ag­o­nized over that as well—but I be­lieve he found some­thing in your songs that would let them over come those ob­sta­cles. He says, “Right now I’m the only one who can use Cae­sar’s songs, and I think this is the per­fect chance to un­leash his songs on our present era. I’m plac­ing a bet here. I want to cre­ate the work this way in or­der to cre­ate some­thing new, some­thing you might call ex­per­i­men­tal ani­me.” Please, I en­treat you to sup­port us.

I close my eye­s—I was sens­ing now the same “over­throw­ing of my­self” that I’d sensed when I met . A record of some­where, a tech­nique into the past. A means of try­ing to set a trap of imag­i­na­tive power di­rected at a so­ci­ety ruled by un­avoid­able in­evitabil­ity and locked in con­flict with in­ex­ora­bil­i­ty. A gam­bler’s dra­matur­gy. And above all else, a drama­ti­za­tion with an aleatory struc­ture… Wag­ner and … Wag­ner and Ni­et­zsche… Once upon a time, in a place far, far, away, there lived me… a strat­egy of new in­tel­lect… rev­o­lu­tion… U-ten-a

They say that mu­sic that’s left the nest to stand on its own two feet shall meet many new friends, heal more than one heart, up­lift, and some­times even be­come a liv­ing hu­man be­ing. It was in my apart­ment late that night that I re­al­ized this was equiv­a­lent to the mean­ing of “an­i­mate”, the root of the world “an­i­ma­tion.” An­i­mate: to breathe life in­to, to in­vig­o­rate. to up­lift. live­ly. vivid. brisk…

An­i­ma­tion and mu­sic: an­drog­y­nous Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Girl Utena and “Ab­solute Des­tiny Apoc­a­lypse”: an­drog­y­nous

Sud­den­ly, I found my­self re­mem­ber­ing these words: “Cruel and wild works sig­nify a re­lease from all in­junc­tions.”

Unknown interview excerpt

[Taken from an anony­mous paste­bin.]

Ikuhara: In the be­gin­ning, the Shadow Girls scenes stuck out like a sore thumb, but at this point, it’s like the other scenes are the sur­real ones.

[Chi­ho] Saito: It’s true, the Shadow Girls scenes seem al­most heart-warm­ing some­how. It’s shock­ing what we hu­mans can get used to… The point­ing fin­gers to­wards the end of the sec­ond sec­tion of the show [episode 20] were in­ter­est­ing, too.

Ikuhara: Weren’t they just?

Saito: Was there some mean­ing to them?

Ikuhara: Oh yes. We’re us­ing an epoch-mak­ing tech­nique there. (laughs) Or­di­nar­i­ly, view­ers sense for them­selves what about the show is in­ter­est­ing and why, but with those fin­gers, the pro­duc­tion team is also sup­ple­ment­ing their un­der­stand­ing, “This is the in­ter­est­ing part!”

Saito: So that’s the deal… (laughs) I thought maybe there was some re­ally pro­found sig­nifi­cance to them, like they were clues to un­rav­el­ing a mys­tery, or some­thing.

Ikuhara: They have in­trin­sic sig­nifi­cance too, nat­u­ral­ly.

Saito: Re­al­ly? Okay, then why were there more cats out­side the win­dow?

Ikuhara: Well, you see, that first cat met a pretty young thing and fell in love. And then, time went by, and chil­dren came.

Saito: So those things are in­di­cat­ing the pas­sage of time, then?

Ikuhara: You’re as sharp as ever. (laughs) All of them have some­thing to do with the pas­sage of time, yes.

Saito: Was “time” the theme of the Black Rose arc then?

Ikuhara: Hm­mm… It was­n’t a theme ex­act­ly, but “time” is quite cen­tral to this show as a whole. “Mem­ory” and “time”.

Saito: All right, then, what’s the theme of this fi­nal third?

Ikuhara: Cars. (laughs)

Saito: Re­al­ly? Cars are se­ri­ously the the­me? (laughs)

Ikuhara: But of course. The sports car Akio Ohtori dri­ves is the theme. Is­n’t that why we’re do­ing this in­ter­view while we go on a dri­ve?

Saito: What are you sym­bol­iz­ing with the sports car? Men? Au­thor­i­ty?

Ikuhara: You see, when I was a child, there was some­thing called the “ boom”12. Which might ex­plain why even now, to me, cars like that grat­ify child­like de­sires in the adult world. That’s the kind of thing they look like to me. When you grow up, there are fewer and fewer “toys”. Dur­ing child­hood you want plas­tic model ro­bots and stuff, but once you grow up, there are fewer and fewer ob­jects of de­sire like that, right? Sure, maybe you think “I want a house” or some­thing, but that’s not quite the same thing as want­ing a toy. The im­age I per­son­ally have of cars is that they’re more or less ex­actly “adults’ toys”.

Saito: Huh. And what does it mean for Ohtori to drive one?

Ikuhara: That’s about sta­tus. In the end, toys are things you can buy be­cause you’ve got the breath­ing room to do so. Peo­ple who own high­-s­ta­tus brands of cars ex­em­plify the sym­bol of the “adult with breath­ing room”. That’s one as­pect of it.

Saito: Adult fun, adult toys.

Ikuhara: Right. It makes you think “he’s re­ally liv­ing large”. …


Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­duc­er: Shawne Kleck­ner
Pro­duc­er: Kris Kleck­ner
As­sis­tant Pro­duc­er: David Olsen
Trans­la­tor: Sarah Alys Lind­holm
Ed­i­tors: David Olsen and Lisa Cooper
De­sign: Greg Hills­man

  1. Is this ti­tle cor­rect? Nei­ther Wikipedia nor Google list any manga that seems to cor­re­spond to this ti­tle or plot de­scrip­tion. –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  2. See also Mawaru Pen­guin­drum. –_Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  3. Ikuhara has told at least two other ver­sions of this UFO sto­ry: in one, it also warns him to stop be­ing a stalker after be­ing turned down by the girl he liked and in an­oth­er, it in­ter­rupts a ra­dio pro­gram to ques­tion him on whether di­a­monds, canned peach­es, and beau­ti­ful mem­o­ries are eter­nal. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  4. Ikuhara was born 1964; this movie is prob­a­bly the 1979 Amer­i­can hor­ror film , which seems to have been re­leased in Japan the same year, when Ikuhara was ~15. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  5. The user Seen points out the strik­ing sim­i­lar­ity of this story with parts of Ikuhara’s later 2011 anime (par­tic­u­larly the “Child Broiler”). –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  6. This is a ref­er­ence to a film that has never been re­leased in the U.S.; a film made in 1971 en­ti­tled Araka­jime ushi­nawareteita koibito­tachi yo (Lost Lovers), /. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  7. Some of the di­a­logue for this re­lease was freshly re-recorded by Tomoko Kawaka­mi. The staff all thought, “We prob­a­bly won’t get the same voice she had back in the day”, but she stunned every­one around her with a voice that sounded ex­actly the same.↩︎

  8. In Japan the dis­tinc­tion be­tween “Ro­mance” as the genre of lone he­roes, wild na­ture, and grand ad­ven­ture and “ro­mance” as the genre of love sto­ries still ex­ists to a greater de­gree than it does in the US, though of course there’s over­lap be­tween the two. A story like is ro­man­tic in the sense that it’s a sweep­ing story about a grand ad­ven­ture in na­ture, and a story like is ro­man­tic in the sense that it’s about love and hu­man re­la­tion­ships. The for­mer is as­so­ci­ated with boys and the lat­ter with girls.↩︎

  9. This is a ref­er­ence to the Japan­ese mean­ing be­hind Ute­na’s name, that be­ing “ca­lyx.”↩︎

  10. For more back­ground, see “The Takarazuka Ex­pe­ri­ence: Rurouni Ken­shin. –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  11. Ot­suki re­mains at King Records and was closely in­volved in the ori­gin of Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion 2 years be­fore as well. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  12. The “su­per­car price boom of 1987 to 1990”? –Ed­i­tor.↩︎