February 11, 2008

Revolutionary Girl Utena: Something that Shines

I only recently got the whole Revolutionary Girl Utena series. For a long time, I had only the last two thirds. But I got the first 13 episodes and was finally able to re-watch it. Before I started watching it again, I was afraid it wouldn’t mean as much to me now. It had been at least two years since I saw it last. And though I haven’t personally changed much in that time, I was still afraid it wouldn’t resonate with me the same way. And I was right in a sense, but I severely underestimated the series.

If anything, it means more to me now than it did the first time I watched it. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps, because the series inspired my writing. The furthest I’ve ever gotten in any of my attempts at writing a novel is one where the initial basis for writing the novel was based on a thought that I had when watching the series the first time (and yes I'm still making, admittedly slow, progress). The only real resemblance to the Utena story is that there is a woman who is engaged to the champion of a series of duels, and that the winner is another woman. Or it could be that this time I watched it with the inherently superior Japanese language track instead of the inconsistent English dub (I’ll cover that in more depth in a moment). It could simply be that knowing where the whole thing was heading, being aware of how marvelous the last several episodes of the series were, allowed me to overlook the flaws that irritated me in the initial viewing. Likely, it is a combination of all these things. Because I know the last was certainly a factor.

The first time I watched the series I watched the English language dub, being decidedly neutral on the issue of whether or not the subtitled versions of animes are inherently superior to the dubbed version. Yes, I tend to watch the dubbed language tracks, but that is simply because it is the initial setting, and I usually just don’t care. But Utena, well Utena has the most psychotically uneven dub I think I’ve ever heard. Rachel Lillis, Crispin Freeman, and Josh Mosby, voices of Utena, Touga, and Akio respectively, do fairly decent jobs. They’re a little hit-and-miss at times; they occasionally come off a little flat. But overall I have no major complaints with their performances. Most of the others come off rather flat overall with a few exceptions (the voice of Wakaba is usually solid). But Jimmy Zoppi and Sharon Becker are both maddening, but for different reasons. I said the dub was probably the most uneven I’ve ever heard, and Jimmy Zoppi as Miki is the very embodiment of that insanity. In a space of five lines, he can deliver one perfectly, one solid, two flat, and one simply awful. It is maddening. Sharon Becker as Anthy on the other hand, is just terrible throughout. Admittedly, it is a difficult part but Fuchizaki Yuriko put in an absolutely remarkable performance. Especially when one considers the difficulty of the part.

Now I think I need to find the Movie to see how I would like it seen a second time. The first time, well, I didn’t like it. I don’t think that would change if I watched it again, but it would be interesting to confirm. At first, I was very impressed. It changed the story, but it didn’t bother me. It was interesting, and I have no problems with alternate retellings (as long as they are good). I did not like the change from Utena and Anthy being very close friends in the series to being lovers in the movie. I thought their relationship in the series was one of the strongest things about it. But that change alone wasn’t enough to drive me away. What drove me away, ultimately, was the end, when Utena turned into a car. It was too jarring; too absurd. That is why I don’t think another viewing will change my opinion on the movie. My issues with the series were in the main body of the series. The ending (as in the last six, or so, episodes) was powerful and moving. While with the Movie, the ending was the problem. I know it turns sour for me in the end.

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February 04, 2008

Super Bowl

So that was the best Super Bowl I've seen.  And to make it better, the Patriots lost.  Unfortunately it was the Giants that did it, but I'll take what I can get. 

 

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