Genre: Surreal Drama / Art Film
Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 16 Apr 2006
This is it. My all-time favorite anime film. The Utena movie is a radical retelling of the television series, but isn’t a film for everyone.
Utena Tenjou has come to Ohtori Academy seeking her childhood prince. Instead, she meets Anthy Himemiya, a strange girl known as the ‘Rose Bride’, and learns of an unusual duelling tradition on campus. These and other secrets will lead Utena and Anthy to their ultimate destiny.
Kunihiko Ikuhara is a genius.
I don’t even know where to begin. Adolescence Apocalypse is nearly impossible to describe without giving away anything, but I’ll give it my best try… not to mention I am incredibly biased because no other anime film can remotely touch this one for me, except maybe anything out of Studio Ghibli.
Watching the television series before the movie is just about a requirement for this movie, not because it’s a sequel (because it’s not), but because from the start, you’re thrown right into the deep end without a floating device. Already knowing the TV series and characters will help immensely in following the storyline… or the closest thing to what you’d call a storyline in this film anyway.
So, why is this my favorite movie of all? To start with, I am fascinated by metaphors, and most of this movie is metaphor, not meant to be taken at face value. Adolescence Apocalypse is a movie meant to be experienced, not watched. In other words, what you’re seeing on the screen is rarely happening in the film’s ‘real world’. That leads to one of the themes of the film… What exactly is the ‘real world’ anyway, and how does it relate to the goings on at Ohtori?
Another reason for my high praise of this movie is its soundtrack, which is impossible to separate from the visuals. Whenever I listen to the soundtrack, I see the film in my mind… they are tied together that closely. In fact, the final eighteen minutes of the movie are choreographed directly to the soundtrack. Throughout the movie are scenes tied to the music which are nearly impossible to describe, and must simply be seen to be believed. The visuals themselves are simply stunning… this film truly is a work of art.
If you are a fan of the Utena series, you must see this movie, especially if you find yourself caught up in its symbolism, as Adolescence Apocalypse is almost pure symbolism. Be warned that there is probably no middle ground on this one, you will either love it and succumb to its power (like me), or hate it because it’s too weird and confusing.
…and to think I saw this before I watched the series! That route worked for me (despite being baffled almost the whole way through that first time; watching it again after seeing the series infinitely increased my appreciation for it), but I wouldn’t recommend watching the film before the series unless you are willing to take that big of a risk on unknown material. This film is incredibly heavy and multi-layered. Even now when I watch it, I usually follow it up with a repeat viewing a few days later just to make sure I absorbed it all.