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

DIRECTOR ’S
EPISODE COMMENTARY: PART 1

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?”

2: “FOR WHOM THE ROSE SMILES” [Episode 2]

“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.

4: “THE SUNLIT GARDEN—PRELUDE” [Episode 4]

“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.”

5: “THE SUNLIT GARDEN—FINALE” [EPISODE 5]

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.

6: “TAKE CARE, MISS NANAMI!” [EPISODE 6]

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.

7: “UNFULFILLED JURY” [EPISODE 7]

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.

8: “CURRIED HIGH TRIP” [EPISODE 8]

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.]

9: “THE CASTLE SAID TO HOLD ETERNITY” [EPISODE 9]

“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.”
“Real­ly?”

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.

10: “NANAMI’S PRECIOUS THING” [EPISODE 10]

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.

11: “GRACEFULLY CRUEL—THE ONE WHO PICKS THAT FLOWER” [EPISODE 11]

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?
Or–?

12: “FOR FRIENDSHIP, PERHAPS” [EPISODE 12]

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.”

Oh.

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.

EPISODE 13

[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

EPISODE 14

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.

EPISODE 15

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!

Why?

“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.

EPISODE 16

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.

Nice.

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

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

EPISODE 17

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

EPISODE 18

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.

But.

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.

How­ev­er.

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.

But.

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”
“rev­o­lu­tion­ize”
“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

ORIGINAL STORY, DIRECTOR
KUNIHIKO IKUHARA - [BE-PAPAS]

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
– [BE-PAPAS]

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 9 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

Plan­ning
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”. …

NOZOMI ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION STAFF

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.↩︎