Rough Notes Archive: Revolutionary Girl Utena

Management: Once again, got some requests for some of my original show notes. As before, these aren’t in any way formatted for readers – they’re my notes to myself, containing immediate reactions and anything I thought might be useful for pulling together the motifs and themes of the series. They just go straight through from first episode to last, but of course you can ctrl-f to find the scattered references to any particular topic. The occasional bolded sections are stuff that I thought were key points at the time, or pieces I was sure I’d use for my eventual essay.

Anyway! That’s all for preamble. These are mainly for the crazy few people who are into this sort of thing, so don’t feel obligated to read, there’s no prize at the end. This really is just a whole goddamn ton of Utena notes. Enjoy!

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Top 30 Anime Series of All Time

Yep, I’ve finally put together a top shows list. As I hopefully made clear in part one and part two of my critical biases post, this is obviously my list – it represents the things I think are most valuable in stories in the way I think they’ve best been articulated. It’s also just a list of shows I enjoy – there’s no hard criteria here, so I wouldn’t stress the numbers too much. Also, it’s a bit front-loaded – I only started watching anime seasonally about two years ago, so the last couple years are disproportionately represented. Incidentally, I’m not including movies here either – I think direct comparisons between shows and films are a bit of a stretch, but if they were included, this list would certainly be somewhat different. And finally, I’m absolutely (and thankfully) certain this list will change over time – there are still piles of widely beloved shows I’ve never seen, so I’m sure the current rankings will be filled out in the years to come. So with that all said, let’s get to the list – Bobduh’s Top 30 Anime of All Time.

-edit- I have now created a Top Shows Addendum for shows that have either fallen off or just barely missed this list. Please enjoy these additional almost-top shows!

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Performance, Identity, Eternity: Revolutionary Girl Utena

I’m finding it difficult to come up with a proper introduction for this piece. But that’s not my fault, I’m pretty sure – really it’s Utena’s fault. Because Utena isn’t just one show – it’s closer to half a dozen all at once, though they’re really all sides of the same show, and though its disjointed pieces seem to spire out in all manner of directions, they end up saying many of the same things. And I’m sure none of this is helping to describe the show, either.

Let’s start over.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a good show. One of the best, in fact – I’ve heard it described as the shoujo Evangelion, which is a kind of awkward title, but I can get where that’s coming from. In the most reductive view possible, it does indeed do something similar to Evangelion – cataloging truths of adolescence and identity (as well as gender and perception, its own added priorities) in terms of revolution and apocalypse. But framing it as a simple metaphor denies one of the central truths it’s presenting, and why its choice of vehicle is more than just a grand stage for some grounded revelations.

Although it certainly is a grand stage. Revolutionary Girl Utena is nothing if not theatrical.

Let’s start there – with how the tricks of theater and stagecraft define Utena’s goals, Utena’s world, and the lives of those trapped within that egg’s shell.

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