Leader of the Pack

Chiho Saito
Revolutionary Girl Utena, book 2

Utena-v-2

Volume 2 is the second half of Viz’s The Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Box Set, which collects all of Chiho Saito’s popular manga, Revolutionary Girl Utena.


Revolutionary Girl Utena Part 2

To Bud

Utena finds herself the target of Akio’s heavy-handed attempt at seduction. Will her infatuation with the dashing Akio distract her from countering the nefarious schemes of the mysterious mastermind World’s End? Akio hopes this is so, for Akio is none other than World’s End! And he has a very special role in mind for Utena.

Comment

Akio and Anthy’s sibling relationship really pegs the dysfunction-ometer. Not that Anthy does healthy relationships.

The emotional notes hit here have moved into the operatic. We are treated to simple exposition (the recitative) like “by the way, your new boyfriend is the very evil genius who has been using us as his toys” followed by grand gestures like an unexpected embrace and kiss (the aria). It’s as if everyone’s emotional repertoire lacks a mid-range; the only options are 0 or 11.


To Blossom

In which the reader finally learns who Akio is, who he was, and what he wants. And whether Utena is going to play the role that her new, sinister, Mephistophelean boyfriend wants to allot her.

Comment

I am not 100% sure that Akio was wise to build his schemes on projected success at manipulating Utena. Her defining characteristic, up to this point, has been moral integrity in defiance of temptation. In his defence, Akio’s methods have always worked in the past. Well, almost always, except for his Fall and the loss of his most precious treasure.


Side Stories

A Deep Azure Shadow

Juri’s mentor Ruka returns after a mysterious absence. Juri is infuriated to find that the fencing master appears much less interested in his former protegée and far more interested in Utena. How vexing! But then Juri has no inkling that Ruka craves the Power to Revolutionize the World! Or why this is so.

Comment

I am pretty sure the Power to Revolutionize the World can only be said with exclamation marks and perhaps bolding as well. Italics. All caps. 18 point fonts. Even when people whisper in this manga, it is at the top of their lungs.

Ruka evidently belongs to the school of thought that prefers grand gestures (which can very easily be misinterpreted) to simple explanations. Nor does he seem to realize that the young woman is seriously infatuated with him. Even I (deficient in all romantic savoir faire as I am) can see it.


The Black Rose Seal

What explains the mysterious teacher’s interest in Utena? And what does it have to do with the fire that killed a dozen students all those years ago? And why has the teacher not aged a day since that tragedy?

Comments

It was my impression that the author was mildly uncomfortable with the gay subtext of the Utena/Anthy relationship. Perhaps I was misreading the author’s views … because this story concerns a (male) teacher taking revenge on his (also male) object of adoration. It’s the revenge that’s bad, not the adoration.


The Adolescence of Utena

This appears to be a manga adaptation of an anime. Once again, Utena is saved by a mysterious stranger and once again this shapes the course of her life. The story (who saved her and what consequences ensue) differ radically from the original manga.

Comments

If you are the kind of person for whom the lack of canonical continuity is stressful, manga and anime will not please. Heck, you should not even be reading comics if you cannot retcon at the drop of a hat.

If the manga series I have so far read are typical, their creators gleefully pen variation after variation of their works. Be happy I am not reviewing Tenchi.


General comments

It irked me that although the table of contents has three sections (the second half of the Utena manga series, the side stories and the anime adaptation), only one of those three sections—the side stories—gets its own section header. I’ve added an additional one in the hope that it will better indicate the structure of the second volume of the omnibus. Not that I’m persnickety or anything. It’s just that I don’t need help making my reviews confusing.

Among other things, Utena is an examination of what happens when you marry godlike power to teenaged impulse control. Not that the single adult we see drawn into World’s End’s little game does much better. None of the kids have the experience to step back and wonder if perhaps simply walking away is the best option. This goes for World’s End himself, whose impulse control issues caused the problem that he spends the series trying to overcome.

The Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Box Set is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

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