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A Revolutionary Box Set

As I said in a blog post from last year blog/28022, I haven't double-dipped on manga before, at least not on an entire series. Well, that has since changed, as not long after Viz's new box set of the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga was announced, I ordered my own copy. I gifted someone a copy of their Nausicaa manga box set some years ago and was impressed by its quality, so I was sure that the Utena one would be something special.

My copy of the set arrived from Right Stuf earlier this week and... wow, it's definitely worth it! Let's take a look, shall we? Note that all of the photos in this review have had some retouching done to them to reduce glare and whatnot, but they still pretty much reflect what you get with this set.

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First off, for those not familiar with the manga, Utena is not a mere anime adaptation, but an alternate take on the story by one of its creators in the group Be-Papas, longtime shoujo mangaka Chiho Saito. As in the anime, the story centers around tomboyish Utena Tenjou who was rescued as a child by a prince, and has since aspired to become a prince herself. She enrolls in Ohtori Academy and soon finds herself embroiled in a series of sword duels against the Student Council to win Anthy Himemiya, aka the Rose Bride, and discover "the power to revolutionize the world". The show is well known for its awesome design aesthetic, heavy symbolism, unique soundtrack, and explorations of the pains of adolescence. Then there's the movie retelling, The Adolescence of Utena, which is even more of a trip. Both are probably the most famous yuri-themed anime of all time, but even if you're not generally into yuri (I'm not), don't let that stop you from checking this out.

The manga cuts out a lot of the more filler-type aspects of the TV anime, which often has a "duel of the week" pacing, and is a bit more straightforward and less symbolic in its storytelling. (Plot-wise, one thing I really like about the manga is its prologue chapter, which takes place shortly before the anime and even introduces a few new characters.) It is also less visually striking, having more of a typical shoujo manga look. However, this isn't to say that the manga's art and layouts are boring. Saito-sensei has a crisp, distinctive style and wonderful draftsmanship. It's an excellent, enjoyable read.

This set contains all five volumes of Revolutionary Girl Utena as well as the one-shot manga version of The Adolescence of Utena in two thick hardcover books, housed in a matte chipboard slipcover with glossy text and trimmings (the Utena and Anthy illustrations are more of a semi-gloss, though). That bit of text on the back is a brief synopsis of the story.

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Said slipcover holds the books in place snugly, which I appreciate, but also makes them a little bit of a pain to get out. Looking at the slipcover by itself, it seems like the front cover is curved in a bit. Hopefully this will settle and straighten out over time now that the set's no longer shrinkwrapped.

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Here's the two omnibus volumes in all their glory. The first's cover features Utena with the Student Council's playboy President Touga, and the second's shows her with Ohtori's playboy Chairman Akio. It was a little disappointing not to see Anthy on either cover, but I suppose showing Utena with these two instead helps them to match (and the Rose Bride is represented on the slipcover, at least). The lettering, characters, and gold edges are glossy, while the roses in the background, and the black on the spine, have a matte finish. Also, note that these volumes don't have dust jackets; the cover art is printed directly on the books themselves.

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The back covers each feature a glossy Rose Seal on a background of roses. Have I mentioned that roses play a prominent role in Utena's imagery?!

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A small poster featuring Utena and Anthy is also included (NSFW): View spoilerHide spoiler
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Next up, and mainly because I like doing this sort of thing in reviews, here's some size comparisons! To the right of the box set's volumes are my copies of the older editions of both Utena manga series. As you can see, the new editions are taller, yet should save a tiny bit of horizontal shelf space.

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Here's the new set's vol. 1 with the first edition of vol. 3. The color work on the newer edition's cover is a definite improvement, not to mention the title design.

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The new hardcover vol. 2 with the first edition of vol. 5. By this point in Viz's history, they had largely switched the formats of their books to be unflipped and in a smaller trim size, as first popularized by Tokyopop and kept around to this day. I was already in the middle of reading Utena at the time, so this change was somewhat annoying. It's really nice to have a completely uniform set after all these years, and one so gorgeous at that.

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And, because I happened to remember that I still have this issue, here's the hardcover vol. 1 with Animerica Extra vol. 4, no. 1 from 2000-- the Utena manga's first official North American appearance! The TV anime had already been available here subbed and dubbed for a few years by that point, and had gained some popularity with shoujo fans, so this was quite the event. Also included in this issue is an article about Saito-sensei and an interview with her and fellow Be-Papas member Kunihiko Ikuhara.

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As far as the new edition's own extras go, there's sixteen full-color glossy pages' worth of illustrations at the beginning of each volume. I really love this extra.

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The manga itself seems to be the same as that I've read a few times over the years. Even its distinctive typesetting is identical! If there's been any editorial changes in the localization, perhaps I'll notice them the next time I read this series.

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The author's notes and similar odds and ends have been preserved as well. As with the older editions, there aren't any translation notes, essays, or anything like that.

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The side stories in each volume-- which include the manga versions of the curry episode and the Black Rose arc from the show-- are organized so that they can be read after the main tale, and The Adolescence of Utena makes up the last two chapters of the second book. The table of contents and end pages are lovely, matching the aesthetics of the covers. However, the first volume's table of contents appears somewhat washed out, as though not enough ink was used. The actual manga parts seem to be fine, though, going by a quick flip through both books, and the paper stock is bright and of a better quality than the one used in many of Viz's standard releases.

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Despite its few flaws, this is a marvelous set, and, seeing as how it's the Utena TV series' 20th anniversary year, a welcome way for this manga to finally come back into print. If you've never experienced Utena before, this set is a fine place to start, and if you're like me and want to upgrade your old copies, it's a worthwhile purchase.

ETA (March 19, 2017): I recently learned that the reason for the delay of the "official" release date for this set was because of a production error with the slipcase. This affected some of the early preorders which went out, including mine. The photos above feature the defective slipcase as I received it, though the error can't be seen in them. I've contacted Right Stuf and hope to get a replacement soon ^^;
1,532 hits • 19 comments

Scores8/10

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Want to go for a ride in Akio's car?

  • 27%OMG, yes plz.
  • 13%No way, are you nuts?!
  • 60%I'd rather drive the Utena car.
  • 52 votesVotes are public

19 comments

0pt
Thanks so much for sharing this super-detailed review - loved reading it!

I collect hardback books so I love it when manga, especially a classic like Utena, gets this kind of luxury treatment. I’d been debating whether or not to order, but seeing your photos of the set in all its glory has won me over. Definitely a worthwhile purchase!
6 months ago
0pt
First of all, Thank you very much for this very detaillied and lovely review. I'm so glad to know this exists. The Utena Vol. 3 cover was magically drawing me in when I was a child and it was my first Manga I ever got. And I fell in love with everything Manga and Anime thanks to Utena and her story. I'm sooo going to buy this. The quality looks awesome and I'm glad the books are printed on directly. I only got the vol.3 and 4 which I got a lot later many years when I could go out and buy them myself. But after that it seemed to vanish from the bookshelves and back then mangas took months to get a new translated issue. I've been thinking of purchasing them second hand,but its very difficult to find the Mangas seperatly. Thats why I'm so happy. I must confess,till now I don't know how the Managa ends because I always itended to read it when I finally get my last volume... well its probably been 15 years now, its about time!

And to your review. I love size comparisen. I think that says a lot about the product. So thanks for that. and I liked it that you introduced Utena for those that don't know the series.
6 months ago
1pt
God, that set is gorgeous. I recently managed to finish my original release of the manga, but I'd love to get this sometime, too. It's just so lovely. ;_; Thank you for taking the time to share this!
6 months ago
1pt
Emillia (6 months ago) #18677465Thank you for this review! I didn't preorder this, but it's definitely on my must-buy list from RightStuf. (I'm just cringing thinking of what the international shipping cost will be for hardcovers). It's so great to see new Utena stuff coming out! Nice to get an idea of what to expect. I only just, last year, managed to finally complete my collection of the small format edition of the Utena manga since vol. 4 and 5 are not easy to find for reasonable prices. But I like to have different editions of things anyway, so I don't mind.


Check to see if your local major book retailer is selling the set. I got mine off of Indigo (a major book retailer in Canada) I know Booktopia has it, my friend found it on there.
6 months ago
0pt
oh my gosh, this is amazing!! i wanted to wait to order this until i saw someone's review, but now that i have i'm really sold. i really love the little poster it comes with too <3 the new covers are way better looking as well. although i'm surprised they made utena's hair pink on the covers whereas in most of the coloured illustrations i've seen from the manga it's mostly blonde if i remember right (but pink in the end), but maybe it's to capitalize on the anime? either way it looks fantastic~
6 months ago
0pt
Thank you for this review! I didn't preorder this, but it's definitely on my must-buy list from RightStuf. (I'm just cringing thinking of what the international shipping cost will be for hardcovers). It's so great to see new Utena stuff coming out! Nice to get an idea of what to expect. I only just, last year, managed to finally complete my collection of the small format edition of the Utena manga since vol. 4 and 5 are not easy to find for reasonable prices. But I like to have different editions of things anyway, so I don't mind.
6 months ago
0pt
Amri (6 months ago) #18675748I got my box set in the mail last week! And let me tell you when you said it was hard to take the books out of the slipcase, the frustration I felt with this set felt validated. When I got mine, I had to shake and wiggle the case for the books to shimmy out. Like that is SNUG.

All in all though, I'm happy with my set and I'm glad you decided to make a review out of it. Gotta get that fan support out for this series!

You know, with the Utena figma coming out (possibly because of the 20th anniversary of the series and GSC starting to pay more attention to their overseas market) maybe Megahouse can be pressured to release the accompanying Anthy figure ITEM #220939 for item ITEM #171481? I don't know though, I can dream, can't I?
Also I wanna see an Anthy figma too!

I had to wiggle the case to get the books out as well. It's nice that the books aren't too loose in the slipcover, but it feels like they went a touch too far in the other direction ^^;

At least MegaHouse announced an Anthy! Sega has yet to reveal an Anthy to go along with ITEM #183793; every time I see that Utena in my display case, she looks lonely. Who knows if they'll ever make an Anthy, but I sure hope they do. Also, I would love an Anthy figma as well. The way I see it, since GSC eventually revealed ITEM #549381 to go along with ITEM #464726, there's hope for her!
6 months ago
0pt
I got my box set in the mail last week! And let me tell you when you said it was hard to take the books out of the slipcase, the frustration I felt with this set felt validated. When I got mine, I had to shake and wiggle the case for the books to shimmy out. Like that is SNUG.

All in all though, I'm happy with my set and I'm glad you decided to make a review out of it. Gotta get that fan support out for this series!

You know, with the Utena figma coming out (possibly because of the 20th anniversary of the series and GSC starting to pay more attention to their overseas market) maybe Megahouse can be pressured to release the accompanying Anthy figure ITEM #220939 for item ITEM #171481? I don't know though, I can dream, can't I?

Also I wanna see an Anthy figma too!
6 months ago
0pt
Wow, what a lovely set! I got into Utena really late (only last year, actually) so I haven't read the manga yet.
6 months ago
0pt
Thanks for the comments so far!

maggie (6 months ago) #18670943Oh man animerica! Brings back memories. I didn't know there was a new set, I'll have to look out for it! I'm a fan of these new versions coming out in a way... but when Ranma came out I was like "NO." XD I do like these hardcover compilations (resisted the Nausicaa set as I have TWO versions already), was very impressed with the Gundam releases though that is a different company.

Thanks for the info and alerting me to this set!

No problem, and I love that these new editions are happening as well! That Nausicaa set is awfully tempting, isn't it? I'm still undecided about double-dipping for that series, though; I have the second edition volumes and they're very nice on their own.

It's great how there's a handful of manga nowadays that are considered "classic" enough to get such deluxe treatments in English. Hope there's more sets like this in the future. Maison Ikkoku next plz, Viz.

IchigoMilku (6 months ago) #18671008This set looks amazing! I preordered it off of Amazon and they aren't releasing it until April for some reason :( Seeing your review for it makes me want it even more now!
Huh, that's odd. Right Stuf is currently out of stock, so maybe restocks will be in April, which will coincide with Amazon's allotment? Anyway, it should be worth the wait :D

Pekola (6 months ago) #18673153No Wakabamobile option? For shame!
Um, I thought about adding the Shiorimobile? ^^;
6 months ago
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Great Figure, Amazing Service, Fantastic Price!

About this blog

 
I don't write blog posts here as often as I should, but at least I'm writing at all!

Posts here generally concern figures and other collectables. For reviews, I often like to highlight items which may have gone overlooked, or are otherwise interesting. In general, I strive for high-quality posts above all else.

I also maintain a blog here which is mostly about video games, and sometimes about manga and anime.

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