This week sees three anime series of note being pulled out of mothballs: two that are just awesome and one that’s awesome in a can’t-look-away sort of way. Here’s a look:
“Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Student Council Saga” (eps. 1-12 / RightStuf) – After “Cowboy Bebop” drew me back into the world of anime more than 10 years ago after years of ignoring it beyond “Battle of the Planets” and “Voltron,” my friends decided to mess with my head and show me “Revolutionary Girl Utena.” At its simplest, it’s a high school drama with a good dose of mysticism and lesbian overtones. But there’s nothing simple about “Utena.” Is it good? That’s highly subjective. Did I enjoy it? Yes, in a way. It’s just so bizarre (in looks and content), it’s hard not to watch once you get started. And you’ll get a good laugh out of it, though not necessarily in a funny-ha-ha way.
Here’s the official description: “When Utena was just a child and in the depths of sorrow, she found salvation in those words. They were the words of a prince, who wrapped her in his rose-scented embrace and bestowed upon her both a ring and the promise that it would lead her to him again. She never forgot the encounter. In fact, she was so impressed that she aspired to be like the prince and also help those in need. Now a spirited teenager, Utena attends the prestigious Ohtori Academy. However, her strong sense of chivalry soon places her at odds with the school’s student council and thrusts her into a series of mysterious and dangerous duels against its members.”
It’s not my favorite of these three, but it’s the one that’s seen the longest gap in re-release, so it’s first.
“Last Exile: The Complete Series” (Funimation) – This was one of my favorite shows when it first came out, and, looking back, I still think it’s a pretty great achievement. Here’s what I wrote about it back in 2004: “From character design to ship design to use of CGI, ‘Last Exile’ remains the new standard for other series to follow. The colors and backgrounds are gorgeous, and the character animation far above average. The dub voice work is mostly strong too, though the actor who voices Dio … doesn’t have the same ethereal quality as Japanese voice actor Jyunko Noda. The intricate mix of personal and political, along with intriguing characters and these high production values, make this a series that should rest on every anime lover’s DVD rack.”
Here’s the official description: “It’s the dawn of the Golden Age of Aviation on planet Prester, and retro-futuristic sky vehicles known as vanships dominate the horizon. Claus Valca, a flyboy born with the right stuff, and his fiery navigator, Lavie, are fearless racers obsessed with becoming the first sky couriers to cross the Grand Stream in a vanship. When the high-flying duo encounters a mysterious girl named Alvis, they are thrust into the middle of an endless battle between Anatoray and Disith, two countries systematically destroying each other according to the code of chivalric warfare. Lives will be lost and legacies determined as Claus and Lavie attempt to bring peace to their world by solving the riddle of its chaotic core.”
“Fruits Basket: The Complete Series” (Funimation) – This is another favorite that has never left my DVD shelf. And the manga was great. For those uninitiated, it’s the story of orphan teen Tohru Honda. Temporarily displaced from her home with her grandfather, she’s camping out in the woods. But it turns out she’s on the property of the Sohma family, and she winds up living with a couple of its members. But the Sohma family is cursed. When under great stress or if embraced by a member of the opposite sex, some of them turn into animals from the Chinese Zodiac. Hijinks, as they say, ensue.
It’s a delightful series with a great dub. It’s just full of charm. Tohru can be a bit annoying at times, but it doesn’t detract much for the show. It’s one of those you’ll-laugh-you’ll-cry shows with plenty of humor and heart. I really wish they’d follow it up with more since the manga took it much farther.
According to Funimation, this set includes a new commentary track for episode 24, plus a new translated booklet. Other extras from previous releases are also included.