Revolutionary Girl Utena aired in 1997. When I watched it, it immediately conquered a spot on my list of favorite series ever, and still stands there. After that its director, Kunihiko Ikuhara, put out the Utena movie, and after that things became eerily quiet around him for more than a decade. Once in a while he did a random storyboard, but apart from that he really was strangely absent. So imagine my surprise when it was announced that he’d do another full fledged series again.
Right from the start it’s obvious that these two are from the same makers: this show is chock full of symbolism. Everywhere, the creators stuffed in references, cross references and visual symbols that only became apparent episodes after they appear. At first sight this is just random, but the great thing is that every symbol here has a meaning and place in this series. At first sight this series may seem like it’s complete chaos, but it’s actually surprisingly well structured on hindsight.
And yeah, this show pretty much has the best direction of the entire year. The way it combines the visuals, music and story together: no other show did it better during the past 12 months. The music does an excellent job of fitting within every scene it’s used, the animation really makes the characters come alive, the timing of all of the scenes flows really well. And the acting of the characters is really solid, especially considering the amount of broken characters in this series.
The excellent acting also leads to an excellent cast of characters. Just about everyone develops throughout the series. It also makes use of a ton of flashbacks and flash-forwards, to illustrate this, also giving the cast a ton of background in the process. The cast in this series really is dynamic, and engaging beyond belief.
And then there are the plot twist. This series really likes throwing plot twists, and being as unpredictable as possible. This makes for one heck of a plot. At first it might seem that this series is just throwing around twists for the heck of it, but nearly everything in this series is properly foreshadowed and hinted at on hindsight. The plot of this series is so tightly put together. This is an anime original series, so there is no need to be afraid of rushed endings or stories that just stop in the middle. The ending of this series is amazing and closes off this series wonderfully. This really is one of my top picks of 2011.
|Storytelling:||10/10 – Great sense of timing and bringing out all different sorts of emotions. Really tightly written plot.|
|Characters:||9/10 – Excellent character development, very likable characters, although some take a bit to get used to (Ringo!)|
|Production-Values:||9/10 – Very solid and inspired animation, excellent soundtrack.|
|Setting:||9/10 – Penguin Drum is highly symbolic, and even its setting makes use of this. Because of this, things aren’t made 100% clear, but this is a very interesting way to get its messages across.|