PopLurker Reviews: Revolutionary Girl Utena: After the Revolution

If you’d like to purchase your own copy of Revolutionary Girl Utena: After the Revolution, it is newly published in English by VIZ and available for sale from Amazon. (Or wherever your favorite Manga are sold.)

Potential Spoilers. Be warned.

God, what a weird and pointless fucking book.

Let’s start from there and work our way around in a non-linear fashion. Here, I’ll even give it my rating at the top instead of the bottom like I normally do. I give Revolutionary Girl Utena: After the Revolution 3/5 Lurks, because it’s Utena and we have to Lurk at least a little.

It wouldn’t be Utena without a little non-chronological surrealism.

Revolutionary Girl Utena: After the Revolution was published in 2018 in Japan. It was written by Be-Papas and illustrated by Chiho Saito, so all in all, it was made by the original creative team that gave rabid fans the original Utena manga/anime back in the 90s. This story was spewed out in order to celebrate Shoujo Kakumei Utena’s 20th anniversary. I think I can speak for many fans when we say that an artbook or collection of essays about the production of the show would have been just as appreciated compared to a pale, shallow, single layered and predictable.

This manga first came to my attention when a friend online showed off that she received her copy early. I didn’t even realize what the book was at first– I thought it was an artbook. Thus, I went onto Amazon to order my own (because you have to support new Utena media) and due to the $12.99 price point, I realized it was a single issue manga. Therefore, my brain immediately said “What kind of easily digestible trite story could this team possibly come up with after 20 years? I bet it will be a collection of shallow short stories that skirt around all surrealism and all the characters will be stuck with their high school hang ups!”

Bam– right on the nose. In that regard, the story did not disappoint. But where I was “surprised” is that the book took place 20 years after the events of the original Utena story. So, now we have the student counsel and they’re grownups. AKA, bored rich people stuck in a state of arrested development. The book is comprised of three short stories, one about Touga and Saionji getting haunted by the ghost of Akio, one about Miki and Kozue, and one about Juri/Shiori/Ruka. The fact that any of these assholes are still hung up over the shit they were fighting for in high school 20 years later is astounding– I can barely remember the name of the people I had crushes on 20 years ago, let alone anything that gave me the mental woes and isms.

Other than trying to figure out the symbolism, imagery, allegories, and wonderful surrealist layers that is Utena, of course.

Image Credit: Anime News Network

I’ll say this– the art is spectacular. No touch was lost artistically and Chiho Saito picks up exactly where she left off with the original manga. There’s nothing more to say on it that that, and really many of the sets are reused. We visit Ohtori, we are back to the duelist arena in flashbacks and flash forwards, see the church where Touga and Saionji found Utena in the coffin, etc.

Admittedly, it’s been a minute since I’ve watched Utena all the way through. I watched it the first time (and watched it and rewatched it and rewatched it) as a 14 year old, and back then, my ability to understand literary symbolism and abstract ideas was in its infancy– I couldn’t help it; I was 14. At the same time, I watched the cheap stage musical, saw the Adolescence of Utena movie, read the manga, and read the manga version of the Adolescence of Utena movie. I did my best to consume all of the Utena that I could. I watched the show again in my 20s and truthfully, my understanding of all of its layers were still the same! I’ll do another watch of it in my 30s just to make sure my cynicism and chapped asshole-ness hasn’t consumed my ability to feel empathy or roll my eyes a little at some of the conflicts in the show.

GHOST SHORTS!

But trust, some of those conflicts, like the entire Akio/Anthy storyline is still rough, violating, tragic, and horrible.

Which is why, going back to the new Revolutionary Girl Utena: After the Revolution manga, this story made me question my recollection of some of the plot points of the original story. Such as:

  • Wait a second, were Shiori and Ruka betrothed in the original story? Doesn’t that contradict the famous “That’s why I took him from you, and I don’t regret it, you must hate me for what I’ve done”, quote by Shiori? And you’re shoehorning in some crap about Juri wanting to be a prince? Or was that unique to the anime and my brain can’t remember the manga storylines?
  • Wait a second, were Miki and Kozue so overly incestuous the first time around? I remember the Akio/Anthy problem, and I remember Nanami thinking she needed to have a thing for her brother because all of the other girls did, but since when did Kozue have a Miki obsession? I’m so confused. Or was that unique to the manga and my brain can’t remember its storylines? HALP!
  • Okay, so I remember Utena disappearing and everyone forgetting she existed, but why does she keep floating down like some new Rose Prince? Is this what we are alluding to? That’s a cool concept– how about we make a story where Utena is the successor to this nonsense and trapped in a loop as a force ghost instead of her just showing up so we as readers can go OH SHIT IT’S UTENA, I REMEMBER THOSE SHORTS!

And so on we go.

I’m posing the question– why was this manga made? Well, I’m an adult and a cynic and so of course, my brain says “Cash Grab”, duh. Simply put, this story sucks. It doesn’t add anything to the world. You’re back in, but it’s shallow (other than the artwork, which again, is spot-fucking-on). It makes me question, what is your Revolution? What was Utena’s “Revolution”? At one point, Touga says something about “Take my Revolution”, which makes me go “Okay, maybe that verbiage was on purpose and not some broken English after all”, but for a revolution, this manga lacks anything that is truly Revolutionary. Or even hints that the characters are ready for more. Or a fight. Or a dual. Or a ghost. Or a memory. Or Nostalgia. Or anything.

An apocalypse of Utena might truly be the only absolute destiny left. The story was told. The fire is burned. The ashes have the memories. And, did you know, did you know, have you heard the news, word on the playground is that another animated story might be on its way. I’ll always find my way back to Ohtori Academy if I’m allowed to, as will you. No matter how good or bad the adventure. So really, let’s see what happens.

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