Revolutionary Girl Utena Challenges Gender Roles
[Mahou Shojou Corner]
Revolutionary Girl Utena is this week’s focus for Mahou Shoujo. We’re diving into a classic and one of my favorites! Full of allegory, surrealism, and kicking gender roles right out of the window, let’s get into Revolutionary Girl Utena!
The Revolutionary Girl Utena manga was written by Chiho Saito and began serialization in Ciao in 1996, with the anime adaptation beginning in 1997. Though both the manga and anime were started at the same time, the two went in separate directions and the movie, Adolescence of Utena, was released in theaters in 1999, along with a number of stage productions!
Revolutionary Girl Utena, is Utena Tenjou, a teenager at Ohtori Academy whom defies the norm by wearing the male school uniform and making the girls of the school fall for her with her charm and grace. She was impressed with a prince when she was younger and rather than being a damsel in distress, she vowed to be the one doing the saving.
With a rose crest ring given to her by the prince, and his promise that she would see him again, she carried herself with the air of a prince. Upon the start of school, Utena saw Anthy, (the girl who tends the roses) being struck by Saionji, the dueling club captain. Later on, when her friend Wakaba is exposed Saionji’s cruelty Utena stands up to him. He challenges her to a duel and Utena accepts, not knowing what all it entails.
When Utena shows up to the duel, the grounds open up to her because of her ring. Anthy is waiting along with Saionji and prepares them for the duel. Roses in each breast pocket, the first to knock the other’s out is the winner and is the new owner of the Rose Bride. Taunted by Saionji, Utena fights and overcomes him, saving Anthy from his continued abuse. However, she is now faced with the task of continuing with duels as she now commands the Sword of Dios and, along with it, the power to ‘revolutionize the world’.
is a series rife with commentary and references to existing works including, but not limited to, Rose of Versailles, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, the House of Borgia, Paradise Lost, William Shakespeare, Cicero, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It all adds up to a glorious coming of age story that asks a critical question: Can childhood ideals stay true in the face of an enemy who embodies adulthood? If you haven’t watched or read this series…please go do so immediately!!!